Best days out in Essex

Essex is the perfect location if you are seeking fun days out with your loved ones. Now that the warm weather is just around the corner, you’re going to want to make plans to enjoy the gorgeous Essex coast. If you have your eyes on Essex but are not sure what to expect, don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Before we begin, we want to thank Visit Essex for partnering with us to show us how incredible their county is. We can’t stop raving about how great Essex is, and we recommend it to everyone who wants a mixture of countryside, great activities, delicious food and fantastic attractions.

Essex is the place where a number of talented artists call home, such as Depeche Mode, Alison Moyet and The Prodigy. It is also one of the most affluent parts of Eastern England, and it’s just one hour away. With so many things to do in Essex, many come from all over the country to enjoy the perfect Essex days out.

Get ready because there’s lots to see and explore. From enjoying the coolest watersports on the Mersea island, through eating your way through the Essex coast, to hunting for the most incredible fossils on the beach. Let’s explore the best days out in Essex for you and your family.

Fun day trips to Mersea island

One of the coolest days out in Essex is a fun trip to the Mersea Island. The name of the island comes from Old English “meresig” which means island of the pool. The Mersea island is ideal for beach loving families who want to relax on the beach. Younger kids will love it here as there is a fun atmosphere during the summer. Photograph the colourful beach huts, get an ice cream and lounge for the rest of the afternoon. Now, make sure you organize your day well, as there are times when the tide is high enough to make Mersea island completely cut from the mainland.

Mersea island with its colourful huts

For a great family day by the sea, walk on the waterfront of the West Mersea Beach and sit down at one of the many glorious seafood restaurants there.

Eat lunch from the Coast Inn, a nautical themed restaurant that serves incredible fish based dishes. Try their whitebait and scampi followed by a delicious and scrumptious dessert.

Essex has long been known for its oysters so what better place to indulge in fresh oysters then right here on Mersea island. Visit The Company Shed or the West Mersea oyster bar. Both are fabulous.

The coast inn in Essex

Have you ever tried paddle boarding? Here on Mersea island is the perfect place to try. As part of a great day out in Essex, rent equipment and paddle your way into the marshes. It’s one of the most relaxing moments to be surrounded by quiet, nature and birds. We recommend prebooking your experience with Mersea Island Watersports as during the summer or school holidays, they can get fully booked.

The fact that Mersea island is so popular, shows how great the Essex coast is!

Cory kayaking in the quiet marshes

Essex family days on a treasure hunt

For your next adventure, you must make your way to Walton on the Naze. See the Naze education and visitors centre, marvel at the Naze Tower, an important 18th century 8-story tower with a great rooftop viewing platform, then head for the beach.

This is no ordinary beach as the Naze Beach is perfect for the kids days out. Go on scavenger hunts with your little ones and try and find fossils which are millions of years old. You can visit the beach year round and the visitor centre will show you what to look for.

You’ll be able to find shells which are 2 millions years old or even shark teeth which are over 50 millions years old. For great days you can organize special events for your family here as children love hunting for fossils.

Fossil hunting in beautiful Essex

The Essex countryside

Everyone loves a day out in the countryside, and the good news is that Essex has plenty of trails for everyone. Take a self led trail and discover the magic of the deep dark wood at the Gruffalo Trail in Thorndon Country Park. This park offers 500 acres of beautiful woods and parkland with meadows and ponds. The trail takes about 45 minutes and along you’ll spot wildlife and meet hand crafted characters along the way.

If you want a day out in Essex with lots of history, then you need to add a medieval castle to the list. Visit the stunning Colchester castle park and discover centuries of history. There’s much to learn in the area as well. Colchester’s Keep is the biggest ever built in the United Kingdom, and is the largest that remains in existence throughout Europe.

Furthermore, did you know that Colchester is Britain’s first city and former capital of Roman Britain?

The Weald Country Park is also ideal for the whole family. Take the stick man play trail for a great family adventure. The famed stick man trail covers two kilometres with seven play areas to enjoy en route. See deer, ducks and water birds. Catch your breath with some refreshments at the coffee shop Wiggly Bush. There is no entry fee for the Weald country park, but there is a small fee for the parking.

The beautiful estate for a cooking class in essex

Stay and dine in a Grade II listed building

No Essex day out is complete without a restful night of sleep…in an epic Grade II listed building. Stay at Le Bouchon, a recently refurbished hotel that offers stunning and comfortable rooms in a 300 year old Georgian building. Le Bouchon is located in the heart of Maldon making it the ideal base for your family adventures around Essex.

For a special and romantic time in Essex, book the junior suite as it comes with a standing bathtub as well as a rainforest shower. For ideas on where to eat in Essex, we can’t recommend Le Bouchon enough.

Standing bath in Le Bouchon hotel

Select your favourite food from the a la carte menu or go for the tasting menu. The hotel welcomes smart casual dress code, ideal for a romantic meal with your loved one. The service is fast and attentive, and the food is out of this world. As a comparison, the quality of the food was to that one a 2 Michelin start restaurant Onyx in Budapest.

We recommend the Eton Mess for the dessert as it tasted exceptional. Ask for a gin menu and select the Gin Mare which comes with special Spanish olives as a garnish. Love wine? Le Bouchon has an extensive wine list. Go for a delicious Italian Primitivo if you love a good velvety red, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for a crisp and fruity white.

Breakfast is included with your stay at Le Bouchon so make sure to order your favourites in advance. Start with your favourite cereals, followed by pastries or a hot full English.

Book your stay for Le Bouchon here.

Eton mess at Le Bouchon essex

Family day in Southend on Sea

Coastal Essex is such a gem and the perfect day out for the whole family. Most people come here for Adventure Island, a superb amusement park withy fairground rides and water slides. Who doesn’t like a theme park with themed events? This sure is one of the best attractions for families with children who want to have lots of fun by the sea.

After many adventures in the rollercoasters, make your way to the Southend pier, the longest pier in England. The pier is serviced by a small train and has a museum at its shore end. Good to know: the west entrance has ramp access and automatic door, making it wheelchair friendly.

Southend on sea longest pier in Essex

Bike Riding on the canal

You decided to stay at Le Bouchon, great choice! The good news is that you can rent bikes directly from the reception. Since the Blackwater canal is just 2 minutes away from the hotel, you and your loved ones can get straight to the water for a fun afternoon. Le Bouchon also offers sail packages if you prefer a boat trip aboard the Elver, an old Welsh coal boat. The trip runs to either the Heybridge Basin or Beeleigh weir and back, and it’s exclusively for hotel customers.

At the Heybridge Basil, sit down and have a picnic with a view or, alternatively, head to one of the local pubs for a lovely pint of real ale.

Beautiful ship at Blackwater estuary

The Great outdoors in the marshes

Essex is one of the best counties for outdoor enthusiasts. With so many green spaces, you can see why many come to Essex for a long walk on the beach, by the river Stour or to see some outdoor top attractions like Epping Forest, the Blackwater canal or, our favourite, the Blackwater Estuary.

The Blackwater Estuary is the estuary of the River Blackwater between Maldon and West Mersea in Essex. It is a 5,538 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. Not only does it look stunning and it’s perfect for a long walk, but it’s a place of historical importance too. Oysters have been harvested here for more than a thousand years. There are remains of fish weirs from the Anglo-Saxon era. At the head of the estuary is the town of Maldon, which is a centre of salt production.

Flat footpaths run for about 13 miles along the river estuary, with delightful views of wildlife. Make sure to bring your binoculars with you to spot the little tern, ringed plover, Pied avocet, dunlin and Hen Harrier.

Marshes at the black water estuary

Go fruit picking

Who doesn’t want to fun picking their own fresh produce? Luckily, Essex has plenty of such locations where visitors can have a proper British day out in a local farm. Support local farmers and enjoy your time hunting for the best fruit in the gardens.

Before you decide which venue to visit, make sure to check with them if they are welcoming visitors. This is because some places specialize in certain fruits and are only open at specific times of the year.

Visit the Cammas Hall Fruit Farm, a family owned and run fruit farm on the Essex-Hertfordshire border. They offer strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, and gooseberries.

Go to the Park Fruit Farm for plums and raspberries, or buy freshly picked pears and apples from the farm shop.

Alternatively, try Lathcoats a family farm in Galleywood, known for its many varieties of apples. Visit to pick your own strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and plums.

Fruit picking in Essex

See the cute villages in Essex

Drive around in Essex, and you’re bound to find a delightful, quaint village with adorable cottages. Saffron Walden is a great example of such a wonderful place in the heart of Essex.

Saffron Walden is a market town just 43 miles north of London. It retains its rural charm and some buildings of the medieval period. This is the time to take your camera out as you won’t be short of adorable locations perfect for your instagram.

Since you’re hunting for picturesque places, head to the medieval Chequers Inn, a classic 15th century medieval pub located in Goldhanger. Walk along the main street and see lovely cottages. Cherry trees and leafy greens adorn the gardens, making the place looking even more picture perfect.

The medieval and stunning Chequers Inn in Essex

Museums for rainy days

Not all days out in Essex have to be out and about. If it rains, there’s plenty more to see. Essex has many indie shops and cafes for a great afternoon tea with the family. But if you want to take the children out as well, why not head for one of the museums in Essex.

Head to the Canvey Island Transport Museum, a fun place to visit, built in 1934. It houses and showcases several classic cars from makers like AEC, Bedford, Bristol, Guy, and Leyland, plus legendary body builders like Eastern Coach Works, Duple, Harrington and Massey Brothers.

For the jam lovers out there, you must have heard of the classic jam Tiptree. Visit the Tiptree jam museum located in Colchester, Essex. Sit down in the tea room and enjoy a perfect lunch with local produce and delicious jams.

There are plenty more museums to keep occupied, like the Harwich Redoubt the Colchester castle museum, the Royal Gunpowder Mills or the Chelmsford City Museum.

Tiptree jam at the jam museum in Essex

Take a cooking class with a view

Some days out in Essex are all about walking and relaxing in nature, while others are about enhancing one’s skill. Our next recommendations combine the love for nature with great food.

Head to the beautiful Braxted Park and have a comprehensive cooking class with one of the head chefs there. You must book your cooking class in advance and allocate at least half of day for this, as you’ll be learning many new recipes.

The beautiful estate for a cooking class in essex

The class takes part in the gorgeous Grade II listed country house in Queen Anne style set in a landscaped 2,000 acre park. That’s right, you’ll be cooking with gorgeous views of the British countryside.

Originally from the estates of the Countess of Pembroke, Braxted Park is the largest walled private estate in the county.

Fun fact: The Only Way is Essex was also had parts of the series shot here.

Classes go fast, so make sure to reserve yours in advance.

Taking a cooking class in Essex

Eat your way around Essex

Essex has an array of gastro pubs with British classics, fantastic seafood restaurants and excellent brasseries dotted all around the county. Some of the best food we’ve had in England was in Essex, so we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for foodie days out.

Eat at the Hoop Inn, a traditional pub serving hearty meals in a 15th-century building with brick fireplaces. Order their fantastic sourdough followed by the soup of the day and a fish-based dish. Wash it all down with their award-winning selection of real ales. Cosy up by the fire with a delicious dessert.

Fantastic starter at The Hoop Inn

There are plenty of seafood restaurants by the sea but we specifically recommend The Coast Inn for their whitebait and scampi. Fresh, delicious and so good! The Coast Inn welcomes you with its friendly atmosphere and tranquil views of the estuary. You’ll love the interior too as it features wooden floors and nautical decor.

Whitebait starter at the Coast Inn

For a pick-me up snack, head to The Company Shed and purchase some oysters on the go. You can also sit down to enjoy a variety of freshly prepared shellfish. It’s one of the best seafood restaurants in Mersea!

Oysters ready to be ready and eaten in a bowl

For a proper special day out in Essex, book your table at Le Bouchon. You’ll want to allocate the whole afternoon/evening for your special tasting menu with their well-chosen wine pairing. As mentioned above, their food deserves a Michelin star, it’s really that good!

Delicious dinner at Le Bouchon - starter that looks magical and tastes so delicious

For breakfast we recommend Le Bouchon or, if it’s brunch that you’re after, go to the Pier Hotel, located in Harwich, the international ferry port. This bright nautical-themed hotel offers delicious brunch choices including perfectly poached eggs on sourdough or fluffy pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Sheer perfection in a plate.

Poached eggs at the Pier Hotel

Final Thoughts

There are so many Essex days out to be enjoyed, you won’t run out of places to see and enjoy. This county is full of surprises, whether you are after country walks, oysters by the beach or family days at the museum. Being just one hour away from London, Essex is also an obvious choice for those who wish to enjoy a more relaxed weekend away from the hassle and bustle of the capital city. Essex is perfect year round for day trips or for longer stays with the whole family to explore all its riches. Add Essex to the wish list, it’s a perfect choice for your next staycation by the coast.

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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