Top 5 Things to Do in Dover Cruise Port (+ Port Guide)

Dover harbour, UK

Welcome to Dover cruise port!

Located in England’s southeastern county of Kent, at the English Channel’s narrowest point, Dover is a coastal town and a gateway to England known for its rich history and natural beauty. It is one of the busiest ferry ports in Europe as it’s the departure point for ferries and cargo ships between the UK and France (Calais).

In this article, read about:

  • Dover cruise port (cruise terminal, local transportation, getting around the port)
  • Top 5 things to do in Dover cruise port & best shore excursions

Check out today’s cruise deals from Cruise Critic!

Dover Cruise Terminal

Cruise ships dock at Admiralty Pier in the Inner Harbour, located on the western side of the port of Dover (Western Docks). Two cruise terminals can accommodate up to 3 cruise ships at a time, depending on the size of the vessel: Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Port Dover map
Port Dover map. Source: google.com/maps/

Dover cruise terminal 1 is located at the former “Dover Marine” railway station. The railway station building was transformed into a passenger terminal building where today passengers can find facilities including a tourist information desk, restrooms, luggage handling, phone booths, check-in desk, lifts, lounge area, exchange office, cafeterias.

Dover cruise terminal 2 is located further out along the pier and is designed to accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships. It features a large state-of-the-art terminal building where you can find ATMs, toilets, a tourist information desk, lifts, cafe bars, and all other facilities for cruise passengers.

For cruise schedules and detailed port info, check out https://www.doverport.co.uk/

Even though the buildings are fully wheelchair friendly (with wheelchair-friendly ramps and walkways), guests with walking difficulties should be aware that there is an approximate 5 – 7 minute walk to get outside the terminal (depending on your walking speed).

Guests can inquire about wheelchair assistance at the Guest Services desk onboard the ship or they can consider this extra walking time, especially if you are taking an organized excursion.

The view of Dover from Dover cruise port
The view of Dover Castle from Dover port. Image by Bella.

Local Transportation

The port of Dover is located next to the city center and can easily be reached on foot in approximately 20-30 minutes walk.

Cruise lines also offer a convenient shuttle service for a nominal fee (around £5 round trip ticket) per person, and the ride takes 5 minutes. The shuttle includes two stops: one in the city center (Market Square on King Street) and the other at the bottom of Dover Castle. Tickets can be purchased onboard the ship using your cruise pass card or directly on the bus (cash). Guests should re-confirm the drop-off locations onboard the ship.

Taxis are also available outside the terminals and are metered.

The public buses are reliable and well connected. Check out the official website for additional info on timetables and fares https://www.stagecoachbus.com/

Trains depart from Dover Priory Railway Station, located 5 minutes drive from the cruise port (or take a shuttle to the Market Square and then walk 10 minutes to the railway station). You can also reach the railway station on foot directly from the port and the walk takes around 25 minutes. The trains are operated by https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/

Currency

The official currency in the United Kingdom is the British Pound (£). The exchange rate is approximately 1.38 US dollars for 1 GBP. Currency converter

Cruise lines normally offer exchange services for this currency onboard the ship. There is also a currency exchange bureau inside the terminal buildings.

Hotels in Dover

Hotels in Dover nearest to the cruise terminal are Best Western Plus Dover Marina Hotel & Spa and  Travelodge Dover.

See more Dover hotels on Booking.com, Agoda, Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, Expedia

Top 5 Things to Do in Dover Cruise Port

Before I share with you the list of top things to do in Dover on a cruise, I invite you to sign up below and get my exclusive, insider Shore Excursions Guide for FREE!

1. Dover Castle

This impressive medieval castle sits atop the famous Kent White Cliffs overlooking the English Channel. Built in the 11th century by Henry II, the castle was England’s primary defense stronghold often referred to as “Key to England” due to its excellent strategic location. For many centuries, the English troops were based here protecting the coast from potential attacks coming from Europe.

Dover Castle
Dover Castle. Source: Pixabay.com

Roam around the castle grounds and visit Arthur’s Hall, the Great Tower (medieval court of Henry II), Stone Hut, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and Queen’s Regiment Museum, and over 1900 years old Roman lighthouse – the first building ever built on this site.

Explore inside the Secret Wartime Tunnels used by the English during the threat of Napoleon in the 18th century and the outbreak of World War II. You’ll see the elaborated communication center with the latest technology of that time, the command centers used to coordinate the defense against the German attacks, and the underground hospital.

The Castle also offers fantastic views of the English Channel and during a clear day, it is possible to see the coast of France which is only 23 miles away from Dover.

There are several cafes and eateries at the Castle, and you can also bring your own food if you wish to organize a picnic within the picnic area located on top of the White Cliffs overlooking the English Channel. Shops and a free car park are available as well.

Wheelchair access is available within the grounds. Great Tower has access to the ground floor only.

The entrance fee to Dover Castle is £11.55 for adults and £6.95 for children 5-17 years old. Family tickets are also available (£18.50 for 1 adult + up to 3 children; £30.05 for 2 adults + up to 3 children). Check out more details on https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

How to Get to Dover Castle from Dover Cruise Terminal?

To reach Dover Castle you can take the cruise line shuttle service that will drop you off at Castle Hill stop, from where you’ll need to walk around 10 minutes to the entrance to the Castle.

A taxi will take you much closer – right where you need to get the entrance tickets. The taxi fare is around £7 and the drive takes only 5 – 6 minutes.

You can also reach the castle on foot and the journey from the cruise terminal should take approximately 40 minutes.

Check out Dover Castle tours and activities on Tripadvisor and Viator

2. The White Cliffs of Dover

Visit one of the most iconic landmarks in the United Kingdom that played an important role in British history – the spectacular White Cliffs of Dover! During wartime, troops could easily spot invaders due to the extensive views over the English Channel.

The best way to experience the White Cliffs is to take the coastal hike all the way to the top so you can enjoy nature.

Dover White Cliffs, United Kingdom
Dover White Cliffs and South Foreland Lighthouse. Source: Pixabay.com

There are in total 16 miles of trails, however, to get the best scenic views you can take a 5-kilometer (3 miles return) walking trail to the South Foreland Lighthouse, a scenic spot overlooking St. Margaret’s Bay and offering the most spectacular views of the cliffs. This Victorian lighthouse sits atop the cliff and was the first lighthouse to use electric light. Besides learning about the history of the Lighthouse, you can also enjoy a traditional cup of tea at their tearoom. The entrance fee for adults is £6.00, kids £3.00, and families £15.00. Find more information on South Foreland Lighthouse on https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Along the way, you will see the cute Exmoor ponies also known as Celtic ponies, a horse breed native to the British Isles.

You can also make a stop at the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, the complex of tunnels that were built to keep soldiers safe during WWII.

It is quite windy at the cliff so it’s a great place to fly a kite which you can borrow at the lighthouse.

Wheelchair users and those with walking difficulties can take a short walk along the boardwalk to a viewpoint offering panoramic views of the English Channel, the coastline, and Dover Harbour. The Lighthouse is partly accessible (ground floor).

Useful Tips: If you are considering taking the trail please note that the walk can take a little more than an hour each way. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear, bring a bottle of water, and very importantly – bring a light jacket/raincoat, as the weather in the UK can change at any given time.

Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items

How to Get to White Cliffs from Dover Cruise Port?

You can take bus 80 from Pencester Road bus station in Dover downtown (5 minutes walk from the shuttle drop-off location) to St Margaret’s at Cliffe Bay Hill. The bus ride takes 15 minutes and once you get off at Bay Hill, you need to walk another 20-25 minutes to the lighthouse. The bus fee is around £4 per person. 

Alternatively, you can take a 12-minute taxi ride from the cruise terminal to the White Cliffs and you should expect to pay £12 – £16 per vehicle one way.

Check out White Cliffs tours and activities on Tripadvisor and Viator

3. Leeds Castle

Considered the loveliest castle in the world, Leeds Castle is situated in the heart of Kent in the village of Leeds, only 40 minutes drive northwest of Dover (around 58 km; 36 mi).

This fairytale castle was built in the 12th century after the Norman Conquest, and in 1278 it became the Royal Palace for Edward I and his wife Eleanor who decided to transform it into a more beautiful site.  During WWII the castle served as a Red Cross hospital and became home to Dutch and French prisoners of war.

In 1926 the castle was bought by Lady Baillie, the last owner of Leeds Castle until she died in 1974. In 1976 the Castle was open to the public and ever since visitors can enjoy and explore this magnificent place.

Leeds Castle - UK
Leeds Castle. Photo courtesy of Cristina Madrid.

Explore the castle grounds, beautiful gardens, and the palace staterooms including Lady Baillie’s bedroom where you can find her favorite Louis Vuitton travel trunk. Take a journey into 900 years of castle history at the Gatehouse Exhibition and visit the unique Dog Collar Museum where you can see an extraordinary collection of dog collars dating back to the late 15th century.

The castle also offers other attractions for the whole family like The Maze, Adventure Golf, Knight’s Stronghold Playground, The Falconry, and a walking trail around the estate amongst others.

The admission fee ranges from £25 – £28 for adults and £16.50 – £19.50 for children 4- 15 years old.

The majority of the castle grounds are wheelchair accessible. For safety reasons, only 2 wheelchairs are allowed inside the castle at once. There is a mobility bus free of charge near to the ticket office and service runs throughout the day. For more information, check out Leeds Castle’s official webpage.

How to Get to Leeds Castle from Dover Cruise Terminal?

If you want to go to Leeds Castle, it’s highly recommended you either book a shore excursion/a private transfer or take a taxi, because the journey by bus or train will take you more than 1.5 hours each way.

The taxi ride from Dover cruise port takes around 40 minutes and prices per vehicle vary between £75 to £95 each way.

Traveling by train: Take a train from Dover Priory Railway Station to Hollingbourne, a village in Maidstone district. The trip takes approximately 1 hour, including 1 change at Ashford International, and the ticket prices start at £19.10 per person. Trains run only once per hour. Once you arrive in Hollingbourne, you can either walk to Leeds Castle for about 35 minutes or take a 5-minute ride to get there. Find timetables at https://ticket.southeasternrailway.co.uk/

Traveling by bus is complicated as it requires changing multiple buses. There is an option to take a train from Dover Priory railway station to Ashford International and then switch to bus 10X. This trip takes over 2.5 hours and it’s not recommended for cruise passengers due to the ship’s limited time in port.

Check out Leeds Castle tours and activities on Tripadvisor and Viator

4. Canterbury

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated in the southeast of England, only 35 minutes drive north of Dover (32 km; 20 mi). Considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the country, the city is filled with historic and cultural experiences that attract visitors worldwide. While visiting, don’t miss out on these Canterbury highlights:

Canterbury Cathedral – Admire the magnificent medieval stained-glass windows and unique gothic architecture of the impressive Canterbury Cathedral. Founded in 597 AD, the Cathedral was completely rebuilt in the 11th century. It is one of the oldest Christian churches in England and home to the headquarters of the Church of England and its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There is a charge to visit the Cathedral grounds unless you are attending service. The entrance fee is £14 for adults 18 years and older. The entrance for children 17 and younger is free (maximum 2 children per paying adult). Timed entry tickets must be pre-booked online on the official website www.canterbury-cathedral.org

Not all areas of the Cathedral are wheelchair accessible.

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral. Source: Pixabay.com

St Martin’s Church – Not far from the Cathedral you will find St Martin’s Church, the first church founded in England. Dating from the late 6th century, this quaint little church is one of the world’s oldest churches still in use.

You can also visit the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, one of the oldest monasteries in the United Kingdom founded in 598 AD.

Canterbury Castle is another landmark located close to the city center. This Norman Castle was built around the 11th century and served as one of three Royal castles in Kent until the 13th century when it became a county jail. It remained to be a prison until 1609.

While in the city, you should visit the Canterbury city walls originally built by Romans, and repaired in the 14th century. There were originally 7 medieval gates to the city but only West Gate remains now. It is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks and houses the Westgate Towers Museum.

Another popular attraction in the city is the Canterbury Tales, where you will enjoy an interactive exhibition of Chaucer’s famous collection of tales.

You can also experience the beauty and history of the city from a different perspective, from the water. Take one of the many punting or river tours along the River Stour, and discover the hidden secrets of Canterbury.

How to Get to Canterbury from the Port of Dover?

You can take the direct train from Dover Priory to Canterbury. The train runs every hour and the ticket price starts at £9.10 per person. The trip takes around 30 minutes.

You can also take bus 15 from Dover Priory directly to Canterbury. The ticket prices start at £5.70 per person and the journey can take between 30 – 40 minutes (subject to traffic).

A taxi ride from the Dover cruise port to Canterbury takes around 25 minutes and expect to pay between £35 – £50 one way.

The cruise lines usually offer a convenient transfer service which normally includes an onboard escort that provides general information, a tour, and a tourist map of Canterbury.

Check out Canterbury tours and activities on Tripadvisor and Viator

5. London

If you are adventurous and would like to explore the big city of London, the first thing you need to consider is your time in port, because the ride takes approximately 1 hour 40 minutes each way (125 km; 78 mi).

If you are visiting London for the first time, my suggestion is to get on one of the open-top sightseeing buses to cover the city’s main attractions.

  • Buckingham Palace – The official residence of the United Kingdom sovereigns. You can tour the palace’s private chambers and opulent staterooms and watch the changing of the guard. https://buckinghampalace.co.uk/
Buckingham Palace Gardens, London, UK
Buckingham Palace. Photo courtesy of Rene Cicero.
  • Big Ben – The 16-story neo-Gothic clocktower is located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. The 316 feet (96 m) tall tower is the most famous clock in the world and the national symbol of London. https://www.parliament.uk/
  • Westminster Abbey – The medieval Gothic church was constructed in the 11th century and has been the site of many coronations, burials, and weddings including the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton in 2011.
  • The London Eye – A gigantic observation wheel allowing visitors to get a spectacular panoramic view of London. https://www.londoneye.com/
  • Tower Bridge – Located next to the Tower of London, the 800 feet (240 m) long Tower Bridge across the River Thames is one of the world’s most famous bridges offering stunning views of the city from its high-level West Walkway. https://www.towerbridge.org.uk/
  • Piccadilly Circus 
  • Trafalgar Square
Tower Bridge in London
Tower Bridge. Photo courtesy of Rene Cicero.

How to Get to London from Dover Cruise Port?

I suggest you check with your onboard Shore Excursion Team for any organized transfer to the capital city, as this will take away a lot of pressure because they guarantee your return to the ship in the unlikely event of heavy traffic. If you book a transfer-only option, you are normally provided with a set meeting time and location for your return to Dover port. You will get a certain amount of hours for free exploration of the city.

Suggested article: Pros and Cons of Booking Cruise Ship Shore Excursions

If you are decided to explore London on your own, consider taking the train from Dover Priory to Central London. The journey takes a little more than one hour and ticket prices start at £14.00 per person one way. There are around 3 train departures per hour. Check carefully the timetables, as some trains are direct while some include 1 change (and the journey takes from 1.5 to 2 hours one way). Check the timetables and fares on https://ticket.southeasternrailway.co.uk/

You can also book a taxi, a private transfer, or a shore excursion through a reliable tour operator (make sure they are aware of your ship’s departure time so they can bring you back at least half an hour before All onboard time).

Check out the tours from Dover to London on Tripadvisor and Viator


To Wrap Up

If you are planning your cruise to the British Isles and Dover, make sure you plan your day accordingly to your ship’s schedule as the travel time to some attractions may take a couple of hours. For exclusive tips, make sure you sign up below and get my FREE Shore Excursion Guide!

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

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