Places to Visit in Essex: Explore the Best of the County

A rugged coastline, historical market towns and seaside villages: prepare to be pleasantly surprised by Essex

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Southend on Sea, Essex, UK

It’s not all rowdy pub crawls and bleached blonde hairdos in Essex. It's also attractive countryside, delightful seaside towns and a rich history just waiting to be recounted to bored friends. Of all the places to visit in Essex, we’ve rounded up only the most intriguing and photogenic spots. So ignore the stereotypes and explore the South East’s playground. You’re also in luck: there is a veritable treasure trove of Plum Guide approved homes to rest your weary head in. Don't say we don't spoil you.

Osea Island

A rich history of rehab-seeking celebs, music studios and raves make Osea Island an intriguing spot. Nowadays you’re more likely to see an abundance of wildlife rather than a badly dressed frontman avoiding the paparazzi. There’s a vibe of ‘anything goes’ on this privately owned island and its eclectic collection of accommodation only adds to it. Make the most of it and gather your favourite people for a stylish group holiday at this seaside abode. Rent a bike and explore the 400 acres of countryside and keep your ears out for the hoot of an owl. This is the only spot in the UK that is home to all five of our owl species. If that is what gets you going, fair enough.

A World Away, Plum Guide home in Essex

A World Away, Plum Guide home in Essex

Old Leigh 

As the name suggests, this section of fishing village Leigh-On-Sea is, er, old. Watch the fishing boats bringing in the day’s bounty then find yourself a cosy spot in one of the pubs and raise a glass to yourself and the fresh cockles you’re munching. Find handmade gifts and pieces of pottery you will one day wonder why you bought at the Old Leigh Gallery. If you really want to go wild, immerse yourself in maritime history at the visitors centre. Belinda on Tripadvisor says ‘the public toilets smell really awful’ so best to avoid them, thanks Belinda. Lunch at The Old Boathouse won’t disappoint (and the toilets are probably better).

The Broomway 

If perilous walks are your jam and danger your middle name get away from us, right now then a visit to The Broomway is in order. Running six miles off the coast of Essex the Broomway leads to the impeccably named Foulness Island. Robert Macfarlane is a big fan and mused on it rather romantically, hence the flurry of visitors in recent times. Make sure you wear your best wellington boots and please do pay attention to the danger and warning signs.

Southend-on-Sea 

For a big old dose of traditional Great British Seaside, Southend doesn’t disappoint. Long the destination of daytrippers from London in search of a blast of sea air, the area has recently attracted the hip and happening from the Big Smoke looking for a more permanent residence. The result is an influx of creative industries, artistic and music events and the eateries that pop up with it. It isn’t a quaint, picturesque seaside village, but it is a whole lot of fun.  

Southend on Sea, Essex, UK

Southend on Sea, Essex, UK

Waltham Abbey

The market charter of this traditional town was granted by Richard the Lionheart. Makes you wonder what kind of titles would be given out in modern day; Richard the Viral Influencer, Richard the Sourdough Afficianado. Not quite as good. Anyway, Waltham Abbey has pretty 16th-century timber-framed buildings, an impressive abbey and plenty of things to do in the area. Copped Hall and Epping Forest are on the doorstep and are great places to visit in Essex.

Waltham Abbey, Essex UK | Image © Steve Day/Flickr

Waltham Abbey, Essex UK | Image © Steve Day/Flickr

Maldon 

Forget all about your screaming inbox and take a trip to Maldon, famed for its sea salt production (yes, that Maldon) and home to bobbing barges and cracking pubs. If you time it right, you could partake in the Maldon Mud Race – or, if you time it right, you could avoid running across quicksand for ‘fun’. You couldn’t feel further from the big city in this cutest of cottages called A World Apart. For a really heartwarming tale, research the Maldon ‘Taxi Day’ and try not to have a tear.

A World Apart, Plum Guide home in Essex

A World Apart, Plum Guide home in Essex

Epping Forest 

A walk through ancient woodland soothes a frazzled soul and makes you feel so young compared to those old, gnarled trees, right? It is practically an anti-wrinkle cream. Epping Forest is home to Grade II listed Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge and the remains of Iron Age hill forts (see? Ancient). A day out can include white water rafting or simply wafting around the countryside before stopping at a cafe for a big chunk of cake. The options are endless in Epping Forest – make sure you pop it on your list of places to visit in Essex.

Mersea Island 

Make like an Enid Blyton novel and adventure your way around Mersea Island for the day. For Essex locals, the ritualistic seafood-run to Mersea is a family tradition and a not so closely guarded secret. The Company Shed is renowned for the freshest and best crab, lobster and mussels. Work up a fishy appetite with a sightseeing trip around the bay and a trip to Mersea Island Vineyard and Brewery. The crew there produce a cracking selection of English wines.

Chelmsford 

A mere 30 miles from the capital and you’ve made it to Chelsmford, complete with the racecourse, fancy stately homes and green spaces. There are many things to do in Chelmsford, so many in fact we wrote a whole journal article about. Chelmsford is the birthplace of radio. What an accolade we hear you cry! Guglielmo Marconi opened the first wireless factory here in 1899 and they’ve been talking about it ever since.

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