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By Katie Wilson

When it comes to holidays on the Kent coast, you’re probably more familiar with the seaside towns of Whitstable, Margate and up-and-coming Deal. But a little further south near the less-visited expanse of Romney Marsh, exciting things are happening.

Boutique hospitality brand CABU was the first to spot its potential and opened its debut outpost CABU by the Sea there in 2019. These eco-conscious Scandi-inspired cabins by the coast are made from sustainable timber and boast super-efficient insulation.

Designed to impact the land as little as possible, these self-catering cabins exist in harmony alongside the vast beaches, woodland and wetlands beyond. Add to that a heated swimming pool, hot tubs and sauna and you don’t even need to leave the site unless you want to.

Such is their success, a CABU by the Lakes opened in 2020 on the shores of Lough Oughter, County Cavan, the heart of Ireland’s Lake District. A third site, CABU in the Cotswolds, is earmarked to open soon and looks to be the most luxurious yet.

While we wait for the new site to open, The Boutique Handbook team checked into the original CABU for some much-needed vitamin sea.

CABU By the Sea Review

GETTING THERE

CABU by the Sea communal area
The Scandi-style cabins are by Romney Marsh in Kent. Credit: CABU

CABU by the Sea is around an hour from London if you’re travelling by train. St Pancras International to Ashford International is the nearest main station and takes 37 minutes on the fast train. Grab a taxi from the rank the other end (around £45) and you’ll be there in 25 minutes. Entry is via secure gates off a main road.

If you want to explore while you are there – Folkestone, Dover, Dungeness, Rye and Camber Sands are nearby – you are best coming by car as the area is pretty secluded and taxis have to be pre-ordered. Parking is free and there are plenty of spots. Helpfully, there are luggage trolleys, including ones for kids, which are ideal for the walk from the car park to your cabin.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

CABU Corner at CABY By The Sea Kent
The reception doubles as a grocery and lifestyle store. Credit: CABU

The cabins at CABU by the Sea are a Scandi lovers dream. All dark timber, they are reminiscent of the beachfront at Hastings dotted with moody wooden fisherman’s huts. Check-in is at the similarly styled CABU House, a central meeting space where you can book add-ons during your stay such as picnics or enquire about local attractions. The chic space also doubles as a grocery and lifestyle store. If you like any of the homewares in your room, you can buy them here afterwards.

After a swift check-in from friendly staff who are on hand until 9pm and then contactable by phone if needed, it was a short walk to our cabin which faced the sea. Although you can’t see the water because of the sea wall (it’s only just behind), it was a treat to sit on the decking and look out at those dreamy Kent skies. You might also spot local wildlife, such as rabbits, at night.

THE ROOMS

Cabin at CABU by the Sea
Every cabin has a cosy log burner. Credit: CABU

All of the cabins at CABU by the Sea are designed for year-round use and come with deck chairs and outdoor tables for summer and cosy log burners to snuggle up around in winter. Some are dog friendly.

They range in size from Beach Hut Studios to one-bedroom Loft Houses, perfect for couples. Bigger Beach Houses, where we stayed, are good for families or friends as they can sleep four to six people. For added luxury book the fanciest cabin, the Beach House with Hot Tub. This is the only cabin on site where you get access to unlimited bubbles. More on that later.

Like the exteriors, furnishings are Scandi-inspired. Walls are light making the space feel airy, there are oak floors, high ceilings and Crittall doors. Our bedroom, with king-sized bed, opened out on to the expansive decking, as did the living room.

hot tub cabin CABU Kent
One of the cabins has a private hot tub, others can be booked on site. Credit: CABU

Furnishings come in muted neutrals and comfort here is key. Our cabin, which had a double room and a bunk bed room sleeping four altogether, had two sofas in the living room with plenty of squishy cushions and blankets. There was also a dining table, plus a table to pop outside for alfresco dining and deck chairs if you get good weather.

You won’t find any freestanding baths at CABU by the Sea (you will if you book a luxury cabin at CABU by the Lake in Ireland), but bathrooms have roomy rainfall showers and toiletries by Dr. Bronner’s. Dressing gowns and towels are complimentary, as are blue and white beach towels left in rooms for guests to use on the beach or round the pool.

Other home comforts include a Smart TV with Netflix and other streaming apps if you fancy a movie night, coffee table-style books to read and a selection of games to play. There is also a home bar and cocktail shaker for whipping up your own creations.

FOOD AND DRINK

Sitooterie CABU by the Sea
The Sitooterie area has an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and BBQs. Credit: CABU

Our cabin had a smallish kitchen just off the living room area. Cooking facilities are on the basic side with a hob and a microwave that doubles up as an oven, but it is small so you wouldn’t be able to cook much in it. We’d advise making something hob-based if you can. Takeaways can also be ordered to the site and there are fish and chip shops and a few pubs and restaurants within a short drive or around a 15-minute walk.

As CABU by the Sea is completely self-catering, make sure you bring supplies with you or purchase some from the on-site shop, which is fully licensed so you can stock up on booze too. We were left a few basics such as tea, coffee and sugar, but there was no butter or oil to cook with. You might want to bring things like kitchen roll and a tea towel too as it wasn’t provided.

Outside of the cabins, there is a communal Sitooterie area. Here you’ll find an outdoor kitchen where guests are invited to make use of the pizza oven and BBQs, a table tennis table, plus plenty of seating areas, including some which are heated.

EXTRAS

swimming pool CABU
The heated swimming pool is open late March to late October. Credit: CABU

CABU by the Sea takes it to the next level with its very own heated swimming pool, open from late March through to the end of October. There are also stripy seats and parasols, deck chairs and cabanas for guests to sunbathe on in the warmer months.

Whatever time of year you visit, you can book a one-hour slot in the two private hot tubs, which are covered so it doesn’t matter if it rains. There is also a sauna and a cold water bucket shower should you want to cool down after.

WHAT TO DO IN THE AREA

CABU by the Sea lies on a private stretch of land next to the seafront. Directly in front is the impressive St Mary’s Bay, while the desolate but beautiful Romney Marsh is a 20-minute walk away, although the cabins are within the Romney area. On the walk down grab a morning coffee from Mulberry Coffee Co, an independent coffee van open 8am to 12pm Monday to Friday (weather dependent) serving locally roasted brews.

If you’d rather get about by bicycle, they are available to hire on site and excursions and activities such as water sports, boating, golf and local wine tasting tours can be arranged with staff at CABU House.

If you’ve got a car, definitely take a day trip to Rye or Camber Sands, around a 30-minute drive away. Folkestone, around 25 minutes in the other direction, is another seaside town worth visiting for its Creative Quarter and burgeoning foodie scene.

OVERALL VERDICT

CABU by the Sea is a welcome coastal escape for couples and families alike and the beaches are so expansive and desolate in places, there is something quite enchanting about them even when it rains. If you can, stay midweek for better rates.

Prices start from £310 for a two-night stay for two

Book a stay at CABU by the Sea here

Read next: How to spend a weekend in Rye

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