Louisa Bay is tucked away in a sheltered spot. Image: M Smith
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Tucked away around the corner from Broadstairs' busy main sands is a charming little beach called Louisa Bay. Sheltered nicely by the tall cliffs leading to the Western Esplanade, it offers protection from the North sea winds and a quiet spot away from the crowds. In high summer, the surrounding cliffs begin to cast shadows by mid afternoon and those needing to take refuge from the hot sun often make their way round from Viking Bay to enjoy the cool shade.
Louisa Bay tidal pool and rocks for exploring. Image: E Duffy
As a holiday beach, Louisa Bay is just perfect. Nestled under the towering chalk cliffs, it's a small, sandy bay that is fully covered at high tide. It doesn't take long for the sea to recede enough to get a good swim and the water is nice and deep just a few steps away from the promenade. As the tide goes out further, seaweed-adorned chalk and flint rocks with dozens of crystal-clear rock pools are revealed, a delight for young and old alike. At low tide you can quite comforably walk round to Viking Bay and you will also find the tidal pool. More for the fun of crabbing and shell collecting than actual swimming, it keeps the kids amused for hours on end.
Crystal-clear rock pools at Louisa Bay. Image: E Duffy
In 1850 famous local engineer Thomas Crampton donated a wrought iron bridge which he built across the precarious wooden steps at Louisa Gap as it was known then. Broadstairs born and bred, Crampton wanted to give something back to the town and named the Louisa Gap Bridge after his youngest daughter.
Crampton's original wrought-iron bridge in the 1960's, already a century old then
Louisa Gap Bridge was eventually replaced in 1994 due to safety issues, but luckily the historic name remained. It links the Viking Bay cliff-top promenade to the Western Esplanade that heads towards Ramsgate, stunning panoramic sea views all along the way.
The modern Louisa Gap Bridge over the beautiful approach to the bay. Image: M Smith
Louisa Bay has always had its own cafe, long before the concrete promenade was built in 1968 even, to save you having to traipse round for ice-creams from Viking Bay. The excellent Louisa Bay Cafe is open each season from early morning to late afternoon and does a roaring trade for beach-goers, promenaders and dog-walkers in need of refreshment.
The very popular Louisa Bay Cafe is open each summer season from early morning until late afternoon
The Viking Bay lift is just on the other side of the lower promenade that connects the two beaches, so that Louisa Bay is accessible to all. You can take a stroll to Dumpton Gap or go even further to Ramsgate itself if you are feeling energetic, either along the beach at low tide or by the lower promenade that will take you the whole way.
When the tide is out, you can walk all the way to Ramsgate. Image: M Smith
Because the cliffs above Louisa Bay are so high, the views across Broadstairs seafront and out to the North Sea are breathtaking. It's not surprising that a Victorian entrepreneur built a luxury hotel right above Louisa Bay. Now the Grand Mansions apartments, the impressive Grand Hotel commanded enviably spectacular views for its guests to enjoy. Built in 1882 the classy hotel boasted 110 bedrooms, beautiful gardens as well as reading rooms, a billiard hall and a sprung-floor ballroom.
The Grand Hotel, circa 1900
Later on an outdoor swimming pool was built in the Grand Hotel gardens next to the ballroom and lived on into the 1980's. Although both were demolished to make way for the development of modern sought-after seafront properties, many a Bradstonian will regale you with fond-remembered stories of visiting the pool and the ballroom alike.
The Grand Hotel, now Grand Mansions apartments, commands spectactular views. Image: M Smith
Talented local artist Peter Day has depicted Louisa Bays' cliff-top views beautifully in his painting 'Broadstairs from Louisa Bay.' He says: " I think the view from the top of the chalk cliffs over Louisa Bay looking towards the Jetty and small harbour on Viking Bay, Broadstairs is the best view there is. And if the weather is warm and sunny what more could you wish for? It was nearly high tide with the rock pool just about covered. People on the beach and swimming in the warm sea. The Clock Tower overlooking the scene on the chalk cliffs of Preacher's Mount. Plenty of beach huts of course."
'Broadstairs from Louisa Bay.' Image with kind permission of Peter Day, artist.
Wouldn't Thomas Crampton have been proud at how popular the quiet little beach named after his daughter has become? The views are as beautiful as when he first built the eponymous bridge, very fitting indeed for his youngest child. For now Broadstairs beaches remain quiet while we all sit out the Covid-19 restrictions. Broadstairs Apartments is very much looking foward to welcoming you back in due course!