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Things to do in Essex: great outdoors, top shopping and the world's longest pier

Found yourself in bustling Essex for the day? Our Local editor Amanda shares her knowledge of the county which has far more to offer than TOWIE-style fake tan.

essex beach hut

Essex is a beautiful county with a huge amount of countryside. You can go from being in a busy, thriving town to a small rural community in just a short drive.

Essex has so much history: the oldest recorded town - Colchester, the world's longest pleasure pier in Southend, Chelmsford was the birthplace of radio and we're graced with the beautiful Constable Country in Dedham.


If the family need some energy before setting out for the day, where should we go for a snack?

Grab a coffee and a scone whilst the children play at the outside play cafe at Longmead House in Writtle. There is a mud kitchen, water games and story telling to keep the little ones amused.


Right - let's go. Where can we continue to enjoy the great outdoors?

epping deer

For a family day out, Epping Forest is great. The forest covers around 6,000 acres. Two thirds of the forest has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). 

Another option, at the other end of Essex, is to take a stroll along the Flitch Way. Much of the route can be explored on foot, bicycle or horseback taking you through wildlife-rich railway cuttings, past Victorian stations and over embankments with views across impressive farmlands, villages and woodland. 


And if the weather turns, where can we shelter with some retail therapy?

Well, I'd have to say Lakeside, Thurrock - it has it all. Clothing, food, shoes, technology, they're all available here. Children's activities are also run during school holidays so they won't get too bored. You might even see a few celebrities!


If we're strapped for cash, where should we head for some free entertainment?


Essex has many beautiful areas you can view just driving through the county, however if you have time to spare you could spend an afternoon at Abberton Reservoir. Tens of thousands of ducks, swans and geese visit each year.

Or perhaps Colchester's Castle Park is more your scene. The Victorian park surrounds the castle and has many areas to play in. There are playgrounds and grass areas (should you wish to take a picnic). You can also see the historic castle from the outside. 



And if we have money to splurge, where can we enjoy a brilliant day out?

Colchester Zoo is a full on day out. Whatever the weather everyone will enjoy getting close to the amazing animals. You can even feed some of them.

Alternatively, you could visit Adventure Island then visit Southend Beach or the Pier. You can walk the pier and back again (for a small cost) however there is also the option to take the small train (again a small cost) which runs the length of the pier. Once at the end take a break at the coffee shop with a slice of cake and a [brew].


If we manage to lose the kids for a night, where should we head to?

If you're lucky enough to have some child-free time, why not visit Le Talbooth in Dedham. With it's large local backing and high recommendations from all over the county, Le Talbooth is a good choice for a night without children. 


As the Local Editor, do you know of any secret spots you can point us towards?

Essex has many hidden gems - one of which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a short walk (eastwards) from Burnham on Crouch and you will be in the Dengie Peninsula. The Peninsula is formed by the River Crouch to the south and the Blackwater to the north.


What do other locals think?

"I asked some locals where they'd recommend and the outright winner was Mersea Island. Just a short drive from Colchester, Mersea spilts into East and West. West Mersea is similar to a small town whilst East Mersea is much more rural.

Whilst there, you have to visit The Company Shed to taste the local produce at this family run business. Do check the tide times before your visit, though, or you'll be stranded either side of the island for an hour or so!"

There's so much to do - what if we never want to leave?

Should you be looking to move to Essex there are so many towns and villages to choose from. Our Local talk boards have information from other members in the area, so do take a look.

My personal opinion is that if you are looking for a town which is small, has excellent schools and a local community spirit, then Coggeshall (just outside Braintree) is a perfect place to live.



Last updated: over 3 years ago