The coast near Canterbury holds three of the ancient Cinque Ports, a confederacy of ports along the southeast seaboard whose heyday lasted from the 12th through the 14th century. These towns, originally five in number (hence cinque, from the Norman French for "five")—Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney, and Hastings—are rich in history and are generally less crowded than the other resorts of Kent's northeast coast. Sandwich has no major sights but is very picturesque.
In Saxon times Sandwich stood in a sheltered bay; it became the most important of the Cinque Ports in the Middle Ages and later England's chief naval base. From 1500 the port began to silt up, however, and the town is now 2 miles inland, though the River Stour still flows through it. The 16th-century checkerboard barbican (gatehouse) by the toll bridge is one of many medieval and Tudor buildings here; Strand Street has many half-timber structures.