Whitstable is famous for its oysters, which have been collected in the area since at least Roman times. The town itself dates back to before the writing of the Domesday Book. Whitstable's distinctive character is popular with tourists, and its maritime heritage is celebrated with the annual oyster festival. Freshly caught shellfish are available throughout the year at several seafood restaurants and pubs in the town.
In 1830 one of the earliest passenger railway services was opened by the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway Company, and in 1832 the company opened Whitstable harbour and extended the line to enable passage to London from the port. The railway has since closed but the harbour still plays an important role in the town's economy.