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Twenty things to do in Essex before you die

There are so many wonderful places all around the world, but why not start with your surroundings? There are fantastic things to do in Essex, writes Andreea Szasz

  1. Osea Island

Essex has more islands than any other UK county (35 in total). However, Osea Island is the most special and idyllic get-away in the Blackwater estuary, just off the coast of Maldon.  The island offers a vast range of accommodation such as the island’s 400 year old cottages, the Manor House, Captain’s House or modern apartments. The journey to the island itself is an experience, travelling along a 1-mile Roman causeway on the sea-bed.  It featured in ‘The Woman in Black’ film and in a previous life was also a Rehab for celebrities including Mark from Take That and Amy Winehouse. The island can only be visited twice a day at specific times because of the tide..

  1. Mersea and Maldon oysters

Mersea Island is where our native Mersea oysters are harvested from. They are served fresh daily at The Company Shed, The Oyster Bar and The Coast Inn, where you can try them with a little vinegar and tabasco sauce. Our Maldon oysters are just as good too, and served in top restaurants all over the world.

  1. Wilkins & Sons of Tiptree

Essex is also home to the famous preserve makers Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree (by appointment to her Majesty).  There are around 10 tearooms throughout the county where you can enjoy an Afternoon Tea served with their Little Scarlet strawberry jam (a fruit grown in very few places in the UK, aside from Tiptree). What’s more, now they even produce Little Scarlett Strawberry Gin too, the perfect accompaniment for your afternoon tea popped in a glass of fizz.

  1. Chelmsford City Racecourse

You can spend  the day at Chelmsford City Racecourse Ladies day. It is the only racecourse in the UK with an all-weather track, and plenty of indoor viewing areas if it rains or gets a bit chilly.

  1. Lee Valley White Water Centre

Did you know that this centre is the only purpose built venue for the Olympics, and where Team GB won the canoe slalom in 2012? You can now go and challenge your sportive-self there.

  1. Southend Pier

Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty totally love it, as they are filming for a whole month on it in September. Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the World– it’s 1.3 miles long. If you want you can take a trip on the train to the end and back again, or if you’re feeling energetic, you can take a leisurely stroll or sprint.

  1. Fish & Chips and Rossi Ice Cream

And whilst you’re in Southend you can’t leave until you’ve had our legendary fish and chips, followed by a Rossi ice cream – hand-made to an Italian recipe since 1932.

  1. Leigh-on Sea

Just a little further along the coastline you’ll find Leigh-on-Sea, the nearest coast to London where you’ll find the cockle sheds as well. Nothing beats a sunny day in Old Leigh, sitting by the sea with a bowl of cockles.

  1. Colchester Zoo Keeper for the Day

In Essex you can step into the boots of a Zoo Keeper for an amazing day. Colchester Zoo is one of the largest Zoos in Europe and Essex’s most visited attraction. It will allow you to feed the meerkats, elephants, giraffes, penguins, sea lions, tigers and primates – so quit ‘monkeying around’ and get yourself down to the zoo!

  1. The Naze

The country’s oldest and largest mammoth’s tooth was found recently at Mersea Island. So, hunting for sharks teeth and fossils dating back to the Ice Age is the next ‘must-do’ on our list.  The Naze is a wondrous part of the Essex coast, and whilst there, you have to climb the wonderful Naze Tower too, where you’ll be treated to stunning views over the Walton backwaters, countryside and coast.

  1. Seal Watching

You can not only see the beautiful landscapes from the Naze Tower, but you can also spot seals from the top. However, the Walten backwaters and Foulness Island- where you can venture out by boat from Burnham-on-Crouch- are another two beautiful places where you can see the playful seals from.

  1. Nightingale’s Song

Ever heard the ‘call’ of a Nightingale? Essex Wildlife Trust’s Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve has one of the largest concentrations of these amazing birds in the country, and there’s nothing better than listening to their sweet song.

  1. Dedham Vale

You can actually ‘Walk in (John) Constable’s Footsteps’ and sit in the exact spot where he painted ‘The Haywain’ – regarded as his most famous painting – in the beautiful Dedham Vale, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The scene today is exactly as it was back in 1821 when he painted it, a stunning area of the county which should not to be missed.


  1. Grayson Perry’s ‘House for Julie’

Designed by Essex’s very own sculptor, artist and cross-dresser, the stunning ‘gingerbread’ style house, sits in the middle of a field with fabulous views over the unspoilt countryside and Wrabness beach. You may not be able to afford to stay there, but you can certainly take a peek for free.

  1. RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Talking of fabulous views, nothing beats those from the RHS Garden Hyde Hallone of only four in the UK. A stunning garden set in the heart of the Essex countryside, with views for miles over the south of the county and beautiful planting throughout, including ‘a first’ – the new Global Veg Garden due to be completed this year.

  1. New Hall Vineyard

Newhall Vineyard near Chelmsford is the oldest vineyard in the UK, and was the first to grow and produce wine from the Pinot Noir grapes. A tour and tasting of award-winning wines may leave you feeling slightly dizzy, but also very happy.

  1. Stow Maries World War I Aerodrome

Not far from Newhall is Stow Maries WWI aerodrome – the oldest one surviving in the World. Experience the ‘silent wilderness’, which is usually highly commented and attend an event where you get to watch an incredible vintage aircraft fly in.

  1. English Heritage Audley End House & Gardens

Visit this place with your whole family where  history ‘comes to life’ and it is just spectacular.  Admire the interiors of what was once one of the largest and most opulent houses in Jacobean England. You can also wander the impressive great hall, magnificent state apartments, intimate dressing rooms, libraries and 18th century gothic-style chapel. The gardens are the creations of the most famous and influential designers of the 18th century.

  1. The Sugar Hut TOWIE

TOWIE fan or not, you can’t take a trip to the county without at least taking a peek, even just from the outside, at the original TOWIE ‘hang out’.  Brentwood folk and Taxi drivers are used to be being asked as to its whereabouts. You definitely should not miss Amy Child’s Beauty Salon either on the High Street.

  1. Hot Air Ballooning

And finally, no point in travelling to Egypt to experience flying in a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings, when you can take to the skies and fly over the beautiful Stour Valley in Essex (at a fraction of the cost too), and to every corner of the county for that matter!






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