Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024: The ultimate guide

Find out all about Whitstable's oyster festival, from the history behind it to all your FAQs.

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Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024: The ultimate guide

Whitstable has been well known for its superb oysters for hundreds of years, ever since the Romans invaded Britain and realised how delicious Kentish oysters were. The seaside town has become synonymous with the high-quality molluscs, but there was a time when oysters were not considered a luxury and were as cheap as pennies. How we wish we could go back in time...

Luckily, we can just go to Whitstable instead, and feast on fresh oysters all day long – perhaps not as inexpensive as they were in Victorian times, but definitely as delicious. The Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival is a festival of mollusc-related fun and revelry, welcoming locals and tourists to celebrate the humble oyster, which has brought much fame and wealth to the Kentish harbour town.


Our handy guide will give you the complete rundown on everything you need to know about the festival, from where to eat to what to do in between all that eating, and even how to get there. You can trust us to answer all of your important questions about the seafood festival which should be taking over the quaint harbour town this September.

Whitstable often tops best lists for being a popular seafood destination. Plus, royals have been known to pop in on occasion, so if you’re ready to celebrate in real luxury, you’ll want to join in on all the fun. Head on down to this popular oyster festival in Kent this summer for a truly unforgettable experience with friends and family.

We've thought about everything that you will need to know for the three-day festival down in Whitstable and of course, some great restaurants for you to check out too. Read on to answer all your questions about the new oyster festival.


What is the history behind Whitstable's oyster obsession?

Whitstable Oyster Festival history and traditions stretch back to the Roman Empire when Julius Caesar invaded Britain and the Roman soldiers discovered a taste for the Kentish delicacy. The native oysters have been much-feted since the 1980s when the modern annual festival began. The coastal town was also celebrated in Norman times by fishermen feasting in the name of St. James of Compostella, the unofficial patron saint of oysters. Many of the traditions stem from the ‘Holy Day’ which saw people of the town feasting, dancing, playing games, and competing.

Whitstable has been a prominent coastal town for oyster catching and eating throughout the centuries. During the Victorian era, they were so cheap and accessible that they were considered a poor man’s staple food – a stark contrast compared to the luxury status oysters have now.

Although the details have yet to be announced for this year, we expect there will be a similar selection of brilliant oyster-based activities on the line-up for 2024!

Where to eat at the Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024

The festival is all about oysters, and there are some smashing restaurants in the area that celebrate the native mollusc, as well as offer other delicious seafood. Being so close to the harbour, it’s no wonder that foodies from all over the world come to Whitstable to try the food. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the restaurants in Whitstable, from tapas to posh gastropubs – just make sure you get there in good time or book ahead.

First off there’s Michelin-starred gastropub The Sportsman on Seasalter beach, which has won much praise for its laid-back charm. The Sportsman also offers an epic tasting menu, in which oysters are served with poached apple, seaweed, pickled cucumber, and caviar. Wheeler’s Oyster Bar is another well-established Kentish establishment, having been around for hundreds of years, delighting patrons with its superb seafood bar, hearty platters, and sharing plates. For a Spanish take on British ingredients, why not head to Harbour Street Tapas for traditional and creative small plates, plus a very good wine list, or go to Birdies for a French-inspired experience.

Family-run bistro Samphire is another great option, featuring exemplary farm (and sea) to table cooking, with its modern take on British food. Jojo’s is also worth a try; the food is heavily influenced by Mediterranean cuisine and is great value for money, given the high level of quality and service. Last but not least, it’s worth checking out the Harbour Food Fair for a more casual, grazing-style affair.

What to do at the Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024

Image: Whitstable Oyster Festival

If you've never been to Whistable before, you are probably wondering what will actually happen this year, aside from the obvious. Well, when you’re not indulging in amazing food and delicious native oysters, there are plenty of activities and events to get involved with throughout the day. The organisers haven't yet announced the activities planned for 2024, but if you want a small taster of what to expect, you can read about some of the activities that took place last year:

Check out The Cuban Brothers

Everyone's favourite trio The Cuban Brothers were back last year. For those who don't know, The Cuban Brothers offer a genius blend of funk and soul, jaw-dropping b-boy dancing and knee-slapping comedy that has to be seen to be believed.

Book an oyster experience

From shore to shuck, learn about Whitstable's oyster heritage with a two-hour masterclass! 

Learn how to make gelato

Join a group at a local gelateria to learn how to make (and consume) gelato. In 2023, tickets cost just £10 each and the session lasted between 4pm and 7:15pm. 

Head to The Lobster Shack

Totally free to join, head to The Lobster Shack for plenty of live music, food and drinks from the bar. Last year, music came courtesy of The Native Oyster Band.

Head to The Grading Shed

There's always a stellar line-up of entertainment and activities on at The Grading Shed. Las year's acts included Tom Cole, Jasper Price, House of the Rising Funk, Fred Clarke, Matthew Brooks and High Tide.  

Go crabbing

Get your competitive side out with the crabbing competition held up on Horsebridge Beach. Last year, there were prizes and awards for all the weird and wonderful crabs of the day – the judges traditionally decide which ones are the biggest, prettiest, and even angriest looking. You can purchase crabbing kits and bait on the day too typically.

Get involved with the community events

The local community normally hosts loads of fun activities over the festival period, from pirate pottery to the famously muddy tug of war on the beach, to kite flying on Tankerton Slopes. You can even help clean up the beach with the local environmentalists or get arty with a spot of chalk drawing if this year is anything like previous celebrations.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024?

The dates for the Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024 have yet to be released, although in 2023 it took place between Friday 15 September to Sunday 17 September. Keep checking in here to find out when it's set to take place - we'll keep this page updated with all the latest information.

Do I need tickets to Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024?

Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival tickets tend to sell out fast, so if you’re keen to see certain acts make sure to get tickets. Otherwise, entry to the actual festival itself was free last year, and there were quite a few community events too.

How do I get to Whitstable Rocks Oyster Festival 2024?

Driving is not advised due to the lack of parking available in the small town, meaning public transportation via bus, train, or coach is recommended. The main station is just a few minutes’ walk from the harbour too. If driving is a necessity, you can reserve a space at the 'park and ride' outside of the village.

Why not prepare yourself for all of the festival goings-on by checking out our pick of London's best seafood and fish restaurants?

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