THE seaside town of Whitstable has long been popular with foodies, thanks to its reputation as one of the best places in the UK to eat oysters.
Its proximity to London – just an hour and 20 minutes on the train – means crowds of tourists descend each weekend and school holiday, for beach time, boutique shopping and seafood.
But it was given an extra boost earlier this month, when a video branding Whitstable in Kent a “must visit for seafood lovers” attracted almost 1.5 million views on TikTok.
The nine-second clip – which was posted by influencer Jenny, who goes by the handle @the.wanderlust.blonde and has more than 180,000 followers – encourages Londoners to hop on a train down to the coastal town to check out its array of restaurants.
Beginning with a clip on a train captioned, “this is your sign to take a one-hour 20-minute train from London to…”, it goes on to show a montage of different locations in Whitstable, including the sea, harbour, pebbled beach and various eateries.
And the fresh publicity sparked by the post has subsequently seen visitors flock from all over the country to visit the seaside resort.
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Locals in the area say they love the impact the tourism and social media attention has had.
Decorator Dave Marshall, 69, has lived in the town 25 years and says the attention is “fantastic”.
He said: “It’s London by the sea. We love the tourism and how it’s driven by Tiktok. It’s very special.
“It’s great to be able to help out tourists who maybe don’t know where they are. I’ve lived here 20 years and it never used to be like this. It’s just taken off and become huge. It’s amazing seeing people from all over the world visit.
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“I reckon we get more people to the town than leave it. There used to be nothing here – now it has everything going for it.”
Whitstable, which has a population of around 33,000 people, is renown famous for its famous oysters.
But its seaside charm and quintessential English nature has seen it become a huge hit on social media in recent years.
Last summer the seaside town made headlines when Hollywood actor Aaron Paul spent time chilling there.
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The Breaking Bad star stayed in the area and was seen flying a kite and relaxing.
James Bond star Daniel Craig and his Hollywood actress wife Rachel Weiss have also been spotted enjoying long lunches at the Whitstable Oyster Company.
Mark Stubbs, executive head chef at Wheeler’s Oyster Bar – the town’s oldest restaurant – said the attention on social media has created a “tidal wave” of new visitors.
The 48-year-old added: “It’s fantastic. It’s created something really special.
“The town is iconic and it’s amazing it’s getting all of this attention. It’s the sort of people who might not usually come down here.
“We survive on the back of tourism so think it’s tremendous.
“The town has a real buzz. It’s a great atmosphere. Everyone loves it. It’s special having people taking photos of the restaurant and seeing them go for it online.
“It takes some getting used to but it’s great. We’d welcome more influencers.”
It's not only the seafood that has people raving about Whitstable either, with a famous pub overlooking the sea also making headlines.
The Old Neptune is described online as an "intimate Victorian inn with period decor" that offers "pub-grub, plus live music".
The Neppy, as it's known to locals, sits right on Whitstable beach, meaning people can order themselves a cold pint, while sitting looking out to sea.
Customers love the unique experience it offers, with one even comparing it to holiday hotspots further afield.
In a review on TripAdvisor, one wrote: "This is the best pub in England by my mark!"
Another added: "We watched the sunset and it felt like we were away abroad!"
The pub is far from the only thing to do in Whitstable, with crabbing at the harbour a popular family activity, as well as Whitstable museum and castle.
A night in the town can be booked from £26.50 per person, although camping pitches can be found from £10pp per night.
Psychotherapist Julia Donovan, 62, said the summer months and created a “real buzz” in the area. She said: “It’s great. It’s become a crazy place to be in a good way.
“It gets quiet in the winter but in the summer it’s very alive and thriving.”
Her partner Melvyn Carlisle, 66, said he hoped more influencers would visit.
The festival organiser said: “The sky is the limit. Maybe we could get A-listers all the time? It’s possible.
“People definitely see it as London by the sea and that’s amazing. I love it here. I’ve been living here two years. It’s a very special place.”
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