Published: 11:45, 19 July 2021
| Updated: 08:39, 20 July 2021
If anyone has made the trip to Margate on a warm and sunny weekend, then reaching Birchington is a sign that the classic seaside resort is just a few short miles ahead.
But as you sit in a hot car slowly winding your way along the A28 eager to get to Margate's arcades, candy floss and theme parks then you could be missing one of the county's great seaside locations.
Swing a left down and through Birchington's village centre and keep following the round to the coast and there lies a quintessential English day out.
Minnis Bay is almost a hidden gem. It has a tucked away feel to it as you wind your way through residential streets before emerging to discover a promenade and a sweeping sandy beach.
There are brightly coloured beach huts, a rather pleasant pub, a café, bike hire shop and outlets where you can snap up that all important bucket and spade, or an ice cream.
In short, it is a perfectly self-contained destination which relies on the day-tripper just wanting a nice fun day out rather than requiring the twinkling lights of an arcade or the screams of fairground rides.
On the other side of the sea road are an enclosed playground, a recently restored sea shelter and even a football pitch - complete with bald-as-a-coot goal mouths where the grass has long since been worn away to leave what looks more like a golf course bunker than anything you'd find at Wembley.
Stroll along the beach and there are rock pools to explore, sprawling out in front of chalky cliffs.
In short, there's a little bit of something for everyone here.
And as temperatures started to rise at the weekend, it was clearly a place many intended to top up their tans. By 10.30am the place was already busy and the sea road a mass of parked cars.
But there is a slight hitch. And it's a problem anyone who lives in this part of sunny Thanet will be only too aware of. Seaweed.
The beach itself is divided by a concrete wall sea defence - and today it is keeping the green slimy stuff off the central part of the Blue Flag beach. The remainder is coated in it.
For those who live in and around Birchington, no summer is complete without relentless discussion about the pong seaweed can generate. The argument normally goes: "The smell of seaweed is absolutely disgusting" followed by a "if you don't like the smell of seaweed you shouldn't live here".
Which, in truth, is rather missing the point. Because, boy, it can smell.
There are bays a short stroll along the coast where the seaweed settles on the chalk bed and then rots in the sun, releasing as it does so, hydrogen sulphide gas.
It is hard, in truth, to get across how vile this can be on occasion or how far its whiffy tentacles can reach - let's just say plenty of people were pleased they had a face mask to hand last summer when it reached a peak.
Today, however, there is only the slightest smell of the stuff - and fortunately it is just in that 'smell of the sea' category rather than the less-bearable 'overpowering smell of rotten eggs'.
The beach is almost entirely made up of families - hastily nabbing a spot and briefing the kids ("remember," says one probably over optimistic mother, "no wearing shoes in the tent or it will get all sandy," as she pops-out the pop-up beach tent in the hope it will provide a little shade as the sun continues its climb higher in the sky).
Remarkably too, perhaps, there are a lot of people having a paddle.
The water isn't quite that 'bath water' temperature of the Mediterranean, but for a July day it's on the bearable side of chilly.
I dip in a toe and then leave the splashing to the increasing numbers of youngsters and parents.
I say remarkably because a few weeks ago those lovely folk at Southern Water managed to empty a load of raw sewage into the sea between Margate and Broadstairs after a lightning strike at its Foreness pumping station.
The result was a warning which stretched as far as Minnis Bay urging everyone not to swim or enter the water for fear of coming face to face with something which would make a jellyfish seem like a preferable option.
But let's not get bogged down, pardon the pun, in past problems. We are reliably assured the beach and water are now back in rude good health.
Taking a stroll back up the beach, the Shepherd Neame pub - the imaginatively titled Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie - is a tempting proposition.
It has, in recent years, undergone considerable refurbishment and is now a very fine looking site - with terraces and balconies allowing you the opportunity to sup your drink of choice while admiring the views. And those views allow you to easily spot Reculver Towers looming to the left. It also has an extensive restaurant (the pub that is, not the ruins of Reculver Towers).
Which is another big plus for Minnis Bay. You can walk or cycle all the way along the sea wall by following a coastal path which, if you wanted to, would take you all the way round to Whitstable in one direction or to Margate and further into Thanet in the other.
You could, if the mood takes you, hire a four-seater bike allowing a family to pedal (hard) along the paths (you probably won't want to go too far in one) and annoy all those coming the other way. It's a fun little excursion but prepare to be drenched in sweat and vowing never to do it again by the time you return the machine when your hire time runs out.
In short, Minnis Bay packs an awful lot of punch for the day-tripper. It is family-friendly, relaxed, and well worth a visit.
MINNIS BAY, THANET
Activities: Great for the classics - just don't expect arcades or rides *****
Toilets: Public loos lurk in the car park behind the pub ***
Cleanliness: It is a bit seaweedy and that sewage spill last month is off-putting (although it is, apparently, all fine now) so this is just a temporary score **
Parking: Lots of free on-road and paid-for car parking spaces *****
Refreshments: From fizzy pop to a pub pint ****
Scores out five
Address: The Parade, Birchington CT7 9QP
Lifeguard service: Yes
Dogs friendly? Dogs are banned from beach during the summer
Public transport: Local buses or a 15-minute walk from Birchington train station
Disabled access: Yes