How to be a Sustainable Tourist in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable

21st July 2022

Responsible tourism is changing the way we travel and inspiring hospitality businesses to do their bit to help the environment. 

We appreciate it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to making more sustainable travel choices, even with the best of intentions! 

So we’re sharing some of our top tips for sustainable stays in Canterbury, where the countryside buzzing with biodiversity meets ancient streets and blue-flag beaches. With so much of the natural world on offer, there’s no better place to plan a sustainable stay than this well-connected and beautiful corner of Kent. 

1. Plan Your Stay

You can reduce the environmental impact of your trip by researching and planning ahead! Whether it’s timing your travel around commuter traffic, using public transport during off-peak times, taking scenic walking and cycling routes to get around, and finding the best eco-friendly businesses, a little extra time goes a long way to making a positive difference.

Canterbury has oodles of easy-to-find information to help you plan the best trip possible in the most eco-friendly way. The Visitor Information Centre is a great port of call if you're searching for accommodation and travel tips, and try out the Plan Your Visit page. 

2. Stay a While and Embrace Slow Travel

Rather than trying to fit everything into one or two days, take a more leisurely pace and avoid the rush hour. You can visit key attractions outside of peak times, avoiding the crowds and reducing pressure on local transport and infrastructure. 

But slow travel is about more than the practicalities. By staying a while and slowing down you can really take the time to get to know Canterbury’s city, coast and countryside, its people, culture, food and music. Best of all you can travel more sustainably as well as having a lovely time. 

3. Cut your Carbon Footprint and Choose Public Transport 

Our corner of Kent boasts an excellent rail and bus network, along with fantastic walking and cycling routes. With rail links that can get you from London to Canterbury, Herne Bay, Whitstable and all the other surrounding towns - and various ways to save - Southeastern trains offer a fast and enjoyable way to reach us. 

And once you’re here, it’s just as easy and handy to get around by train or bus. Why not download the Stagecoach app for live bus times, local maps and mobile tickets? What’s more, if you sign up for their rewards scheme you can get discounts for a great day out. 

If you’re driving to Canterbury, the Park and Ride lets you park up outside the city centre and get the bus in, reducing congestion and improving air quality at busy spots. And, if you own an electric car, Canterbury has plenty of electric charging stations.

Canterbury is a relatively small city that’s absolutely jam-packed with fantastic attractions, which makes it extremely easy to explore by foot. If you fancy a morning spent taking a leisurely stroll or bike ride, you are only a walk or cycle away from the coast, while the countryside is even closer.  Many attractions are also accessible for wheelchair users, including nature paths like The Great Stour Way. 

Our top tip: Take in the natural beauty of Kent and Canterbury by exploring the trails of the North Downs Way, an eco-friendly activity that will help you to reconnect with nature and discover the local wildlife.

4. Choose Wisely and Consider Green Accommodation

Lots of hotels, bed and breakfasts and self-catering accommodation providers are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, and for some this has become a key priority. With some research, you can check out the green credentials of where you plan to stay, and if you have any burning questions, you can always pick up the phone and chat with the owners - our hoteliers are a friendly bunch! 

Our top tips: Great Field Farm - you can stay in a selection of eco-friendly barns and lodges which boast a number of sustainable features. This luxury accommodation is rurally but centrally located, and is an excellent base for walkers and cyclists, being near the North Downs Way and close to many signed walking and cycling routes.
Palace Farm Hostel and Campsites - Another option is Green Tourism Gold Award winners Palace Farm Hostel and Campsite, who are members of the Green Tourism Business Scheme. Located in the North Kent Downs AONB and near a quiet rural village, the hostel and campsite provides eco-friendly facilities in a beautiful setting.

5. Make a Positive Impact with Volunteering

Volunteering is a wonderful way to have a positive impact on the local environment while you travel - and it can be a great way to meet people and have fun too! If you’re interested in wildlife and conservation, volunteering with local environmental organisations and charities can help you learn new things, and you get to enjoy beautiful surroundings as you work too - win, win!

Our top tips: Help conserve wildlife with The Kent Wildlife Trust.
Volunteer around Canterbury with Kentish Stour, who conserve, enhance and promote the countryside and urban greenspace of the Stour Valley.

6. Respect, Protect & Enjoy

Looking after ourselves, one another, our businesses and the landscape around us when we travel is so important if we want to preserve everything that’s great about the Canterbury district. 

Keep waterways, coastline, countryside and city streets clean. Always remember to ‘leave no trace’, collect up any rubbish before you leave and respect the local wildlife by leaving natural features as you found them. 

By reducing our impact on our surroundings when we travel we can make sure Canterbury continues to be there for others to enjoy, have fun and make memories for years to come...

7. Experience Something New with Eco-Tourism

Walking groups, cycling, bushcraft, canoeing, eating like a local, cooking or foraging courses, volunteering with a wildlife trust… Whatever the experiences and activities you choose for your trip, make them eco!

Our top tips:

  • Natural Pathways - Immerse yourself in the culture, myth and folklore of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with Natural Pathways, who can teach you foraging, wild cooking and bushcraft.
  • Kent Wildlife Trust - Be led through some of the finest local wildlife reserves by a knowledgeable guide, discover secluded spots, and see what curious creatures you can discover lurking along the way on a nature-spotting safari.
  • Canoe Wild - Located on the River Stour, Canoe Wild offers the perfect opportunity to make the most of Canterbury’s extensive waterways through kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding. With Canoe Wild there isn’t a boat engine in sight, which means you can go wildlife spotting and explore Canterbury’s countryside in a low-impact and relaxing way.
  • Hiring a bike - Offering cycle hire for all ages and more extended routes, Kent Cycles makes it easy for you to travel by bike or hire a Brompton Bike at Canterbury West station. The perfect way to enjoy yourself while keeping carbon emissions low!
  • Salt Marsh Walking Company - enjoy wandering along the coast, strolling through ancient woodland and the chance to explore the countryside of Whitstable, all with the help of a local guide. With the promise of a picnic full of locally sourced produce and plenty of historical points of interest along the way, this is an eco-friendly and pleasurable way to spend your day.

8. Eat Local Produce, Right from the Source

Eating locally is not only a wonderful way to support local businesses and make your trip more sustainable, it’s also pretty tasty too! When choosing where to eat, seek out homegrown produce, local wineries, in-house bakers and locally sourced ingredients - you’ll never regret eating fresh and local! Check out our blog on local markets to get your hands on the freshest produce around 

Our top tips:

  • The Veg Box Cafe - One of the easiest ways to live in a more eco-friendly way is to cut down on meat, and with restaurants like the Veg Box Cafe around, this needn’t feel like a deprivation! Providing veg-box delivery services and a fantastic vegetarian menu, The Veg Box Cafe is based in the centre of Canterbury.
  • The Goods Shed - A farmers market, food hall and restaurant located just outside the Canterbury West railway station, The Goods Shed is a Canterbury institution. With stalls bursting with local veg, artisanal British cheeses, breads baked on-site, fresh pasta, charcuterie, wines and speciality ingredients, the market is a true treasure trove of fantastic food that doesn’t come with hefty food miles. And what’s more, the restaurant uses the produce found in-store to whip up seasonal meals in cosy surroundings.
  • Wonky Parsnip - Set on two acres in the leafy and quiet countryside around Chartham, this small farm runs a veg box scheme with an unusual variety of beautiful locally-grown produce, while also hosting supper clubs, pop up kitchens and take-outs. Click here to find out more!
  • Vita Stores – Hop over to Whitstable to enjoy the seaside and Vita Stores, an entirely plastic-free shop which provides eco-friendly and packaging-free products and food items.
  • Whitstable Produce - A long-standing champion of Plastic Free Whitstable, Whitstable Produce’s takeaway service includes sandwiches, soups, cakes and more created from produce sourced from over thirty Kent-based suppliers. They also sell Kent-made bread, biscuits, honey, jams, oils and vinegars, free-range eggs, wine and ales, and locally roasted coffee. Grab their generous hampers for a reminder of Kent when you return home, or as the perfect gift for the foodie in your life. As part of their commitment to the local area, they support local social enterprises by raising funds for the Social Pantry Project.
  • Umbrella Café - The Umbrella Cafe is a welcoming eatery that shares a beautiful community garden with The Umbrella Community Centre. As a not-for-profit, eating here is a wonderful way to give back to the community you are visiting, and their menu operates on a ‘pay what you can’ basis, with a guide to help you decide. Like Whitstable Produce, they also support the Social Pantry Project, which helps those who may be struggling to access nutritious food.
  • The Wallflower Cafe - Serving vegan, locally produced soul food on Herne Bay’s High Street, at The Wallflower Cafe you can enjoy delicious toasties, Buddha Bowls, burgers, curries, dahls and cakes (to mention a few) - safe in the knowledge everything is totally plant based!
  • Raw Bar Herne Bay - Another great spot for vegan food, Raw Bar is also an excellent spot for eco-friendly refills and products like toothbrushes, washing powder and more.

If you aim to travel in a responsible way, we hope that this guide has given you plenty of pointers on how to make the most of Canterbury while caring for the planet.