Dover, UK, Destination guide, things to do

Top Things to do in Dover

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by Hertz - 23 January 2020

Dover is often referred to as the gateway to England. As the main port from mainland Europe and beyond, travellers have watched its famous white cliffs come and go for centuries.

With so much culture and history to experience, you could easily spend several weeks driving your rental car through every tourist hotspot Dover has to offer. If you’re a little short on time, however, here are the top things we recommend you do during your stay in this fascinating coastal city.

White Cliff Walk

For exhilarating clifftop walks and unrivalled views across the English Channel, stroll along one of the most iconic landmarks in the UK. The White Cliffs of Dover have numerous walking trails to enjoy - either with a guided tour or by yourself. The tour leading from the Gateway Visitor Centre to South Foreland Lighthouse is one of the most popular.

The Visitor’s Centre on Langdon cliffs provides the perfect opportunity to stop and enjoy a coffee and light lunch while overlooking the lapping tides of the Channel.

You’ll come across many treasures on your walks along the cliffs, including the Victorian South Foreland Lighthouse, an underground hospital and WWII military tunnels.

If heights aren’t your thing, head to the beach and enjoy the sight of the cliffs themselves from the shore below.

Dover Castle

Dover Castle

This 11th century stone castle is a must-visit for history buffs. With incredible views over the Channel and countless medieval tunnels to explore, you could easily spend a day wandering through Dover Castle.

Pass under the ancient stone archway into the castle courtyard to step back in time. Many of the castle’s rooms, which are still accessible to the public, have been set up as they would have been when the castle was originally in use.

Hop from one historical period to another as you explore the castle grounds in search of the Anglo Saxon St Mary’s Church, Roman lighthouse and WWI fire command post.  The castle also has an entryway to the hidden WWII tunnels and underground hospital.

Sea Safari

The English Channel is full of much more than ferries and cargo ships. Drive down to the coast and set out on a sea safari on a high-speed catamaran. These tours offer a great chance to get an alternative view of the cliffs and coastline of Dover. You should be able to spot other famous landmarks, like Dover Castle, jutting out across the landscape too.

Power through the waves while keeping an eye out for seals. You might even catch a glimpse of some whales and dolphins. Looking back towards the shores, you’ll see coves full of migrating birds and natural wildlife.  With the sea breeze in your face, there is no better way to experience the Dover coastline.

Samphire Hoe Country Park

Samphire Hoe Country Park, Dover

Two miles west of Dover is Samphire Hoe Country Park. Follow the A20 towards Folkestone from Dover centre to reach this tranquil nature reserve in around ten minutes. The park is bursting with wildlife. See how many of the 200 species of plant you can find and look closely for the rare early spider orchid. The reserve is also home to around 123 species of bird, including peregrine falcons, and 30 species of butterfly.

The park was built using 4.9 million cubic metres of rock excavated during the construction of the Channel Tunnel and now covers 30 hectares. Pack up your rental car with a picnic and eat lunch with the cliffs behind you and the sea stretching out in front of you.

Roman Painted House

Dover is steeped in history, with many of its historical locations exceptionally well preserved. The Roman painted house is one example. Glimpse into the past of Dover with a visit to this 200AD Roman villa. It’s packed with the largest collection of Roman wall art in the UK, including 26 panels depicting art related to the Roman god of wine – Bacchus.

The building, which sits outside the Classis Britannica naval fort, was originally used as a hotel for travellers arriving from across the Channel. Part of the villa was demolished as the naval fort expanded, but three rooms from the original building were found relatively unharmed under the foundations.  Visitors can head into these rooms to admire the stacks of artwork there and get a taste for what the Roman travellers would have seen during there stay.

Deal Castle

Travel 11 miles north of Dover - along the A258 – for the medieval town of Deal. Walking and cycling trails wind through miles of natural beauty and famous spots here.

The intricately designed Deal Castle is yet another example of Dover’s historical importance. The castle, commissioned by Henry VIII, was designed to double up as a stately home and coastal defensive fort due to its location by the sea. Today, visitors can explore every inch of the castle - from the bastion to the ancient storerooms.

Wander the grounds surrounding this Tudor Rose-shaped castle and follow in the footsteps of residents from a time gone by. The fascinating interactive exhibits are a must and really bring history to life for visitors both young and old.

Kearsney Abbey and Russel Gardens

Kearsney Abbey and Russel Gardens form one of the most peaceful and tranquil spots in all of Dover. Two and a half miles separate the park from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and crashing sound of waves. It’s the perfect spot to get away from it all and relax.

If you fancy a picnic but aren’t a fan of sandy sandwiches, load up the picnic basket and lounge on the grass for an alternate lunch spot to the beaches and clifftops. Take a stroll around the lake trying to spot the local wildlife. Whatever you choose to do here, you can do it surrounded by lush greenery and the Grade II listed features of the park.

Dover is a fascinating coastal city with a rich history that still forms a large part of the local identity. Ensure you get to explore as much of it as you can with Hertz car hire in Dover.