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Plum Guide's Favourite Things to Do in Essex

Canoodle in Colchester, explore Epping and dance around Dedham Vale. Here are our top things to do in Essex.


National Trust Centre, Flatford, Dedham Vale, Suffolk

Insert comment about fake tan, white heels and bawdy fashion. The county is more than a certain utterly terrible TV show lets on, we promise, and there is a big old list of things to do in Essex. From the beautiful isle of Mersea, 350 miles of coastline and oh-so-cute villages and market towns. On top of all that it has one of the country’s mildest climates and the least amount of rainfall, so a rainy British Summer holiday is slightly (yes, we said slightly) less likely. Our Plum Guide experts have bravely gone ahead of you to find the best things to do in Essex.

Mersea Island

This is the definition of the Great British Seaside. Famed for the freshest and best seafood in all the land (near enough, anyway) and a beautiful beach to boot, Mersea Island is a haven for families visiting Essex and those looking for a chance to pretend they don’t have jobs they hate. Take the utmost care when walking the Strood, the island's main causeway as it is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a Roman soldier. Mersea Island is so lovely we've included it on our list of top places to visit in Essex.

Dedham Vale

Riverside walks, picturesque towns and cosy pubs: a few days spent around Dedham Vale will leave you so relaxed you won’t have to see your masseuse for a month. It’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, along with the Stour Valley, sits bang in the middle of Constable Country. So called because John Constable captured the landscape in his 19th-century paintings. It’s as calming now as it must have been then. Bucolic beauty, darling.

Go seal spotting

Essex is one of the top spots in the UK to spy these slippery guys in their natural habitat. Head to Hamford Water National Nature Reserve for a tour that takes in twelve miles of the coast. Wallasea Island is a maze of creeks and inlets for walking and wildlife spotting, and a favourite hangout spot for seals.

Wallasea Island, Essex | Image M W Pinsent is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wallasea Island, Essex | Image M W Pinsent is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Talliston House and Gardens

This is certainly one of the more unique things to do in Essex. All hail John, the owner of Talliston House and Gardens. He took an ordinary ex-council house and using his bare hands created an astounding we-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-it. Explore its thirteen rooms, each set in a different time and place. Wander through a 1920s study into a Moorish bedchamber before stumbling across a New Orleans kitchen. John, we salute you.

A Barn to Remember, Plum Guide home in Essex

A Barn to Remember, Plum Guide home in Essex

Looking for a characterful place to stay in Essex of your own? Look no further than A Barn To Remember, full of vintage furniture and surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Audley End House and Gardens

Amble around the grounds of a Victorian stately home and forget about the home you actually live in. Audley End House and Gardens is a spectacular monument to a bygone era and whoever is in charge of the plants and stuff really know what they’re doing. They host special events throughout the summer where people dress up as rich people and their servants. If you plan your outfit well enough you will blend in, so take your best Lord/Lady of the manor attire. Alternatively, stay in a spacious Essex home of your own, like A World Together.

A World Together, Plum Guide home in Essex

A World Together, Plum Guide home in Essex

Explore the coast

Phwoarr, 350 miles of coastline, you’re bound to find a spot where there is nobody to photobomb your holiday snap. Good luck. From the art gallery of Martello Beach to the longest pleasure pier in the world at Southend, the coast of Essex is chock full of gems. Pack your bucket and spade and start dreaming of the overpriced ice cream now.

Southend-On-Sea Pleasure Pier, England UK

Southend-On-Sea Pleasure Pier, England UK


History! Architecture! Markets! Castles! World-class zoos! Lots of things to do! We’ve actually written up some of the great things to do in Colchester already so we won’t bother repeating ourselves.

Field in Colchester, UK

Field in Colchester, UK

Walk the Oak Trail of Epping Forest

Epping Forest is a wonder of 4000 acres stretching from Greater London to the market town of Epping. We don’t suggest you walk the whole thing, instead take the Oak Trail (go on, guess why it is called that) which is a gentle six-mile ramble under the canopy. Keep your eyes peeled for deer and take some time to hug the trees to get the full benefits of being in nature. There are rumours of wolves after a trio were released in 2017, but we think you’ll be safe.


That’s right, you must eat regularly. And you will do it very well when in Essex, we assure you. It’s not all cockles, eels, shrimps and winkles, though you can definitely find that if you want. The coast provides a bounty of seafood and the folk inland know what to do with it. Find award-winning restaurants scattered across the county.

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