things to do essex

Last Updated on: 3rd July 2024, 11:31 am

If you’re looking for an amazing destination that offers a diverse range of activities and attractions, look no further than Essex. Located in the southeastern region of the United Kingdom, Essex has something for everyone, from stunning beaches and nature reserves to historical landmarks and vibrant shopping centres. Whether you’re a culture aficionado, adrenaline seeker, or just looking for a relaxing day out, Essex won’t disappoint. So, let’s dive in and explore some of the best things to do in Essex, UK!

Essex is a county full of diverse attractions and activities. Whether you’re exploring the historical sites in Colchester or enjoying the vibrant cultural scene in Chelmsford, there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there are plenty of exciting experiences waiting for you in Essex, from exploring ancient ruins to indulging in delicious cuisine. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best things to do in Essex, UK that will have you planning your next visit in no time.

Things to do in Essex, UK

1. Explore the Rich Heritage

If you want to discover Essex’s fascinating history and cultural heritage, like small castles and their rich histories like the ones in the York Museums, there are plenty of heritage sites and historical landmarks waiting to be explored. This beautiful county in the southeast of the UK boasts an array of magnificent castles, stately homes, and ancient ruins that offer a glimpse into its illustrious past.

Heritage Sites Essex

Heritage Sites in Essex

Site Description
Colchester Castle A Norman castle built on the foundations of the Temple of Claudius, now a museum of local history.
Layer Marney Tower An impressive Tudor palace with stunning views over the Essex countryside.
Coggeshall Grange Barn A beautifully preserved medieval barn in the charming village of Coggeshall.
Hylands House A neo-classical mansion set in an expansive park and gardens, open for tours and special events.

Be sure to check opening hours and ticket prices for each site.

Historical Landmarks in Essex

Essex is also home to numerous historical landmarks that evoke a sense of the county’s rich cultural heritage. These include:

  • St. Peter’s Chapel, Bradwell-on-Sea
  • Thaxted Guildhall
  • Chappel Viaduct
  • Writtle Church

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a day of exploration, Essex’s heritage sites and landmarks make for a fascinating trip back in time. For those interested in history, Colchester offers a wealth of historical sites. Discover more about what Colchester has to offer here.

2. Enjoy Nature’s Beauty

As someone who loves the peacefulness of the great outdoors, I highly recommend exploring Essex’s stunning nature reserves. One of my favourite reserves is the RSPB Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve, where you can spot a variety of bird species and even watch seals basking in the sun.

Another must-visit for nature enthusiasts is the Epping Forest. With over 6,000 acres of woodland, it’s perfect for long walks, cycling, or simply relaxing amid breathtaking scenery.

If you’re craving something a bit more coastal, take a stroll along the Southend Pier, which stretches an impressive 1.33 miles into the Thames Estuary. Alternatively, head to the Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve to explore the stunning salt marshes and mudflats.

No matter your preference, Essex’s outdoor activities offer a great escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

nature reserves essex

3. Uncover Coastal Delights

Essex boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. With its pristine coastlines and picturesque coastal towns, it’s the perfect place to indulge in a day of seaside fun.

If you’re a fan of water sports, then Essex won’t disappoint. You can try your hand at surfing, windsurfing, or kiteboarding at some of the county’s most popular beaches.

If you’re not an adrenaline junkie, sunbathing and building sandcastles is always an option. Take a stroll along the promenade and visit one of the many charming caf├ęs and eateries that line the waterfront.

For a more secluded beach experience, visit one of Essex’s nature reserves where you can relax and soak up the sun in a serene setting.

Coastal Towns Essex

If you’re looking to explore the charm of coastal towns, Essex has no shortage of beautiful destinations to choose from. Visit Southend-on-Sea, a seaside resort town that offers exciting attractions such as Adventure Island, the longest pleasure pier in the world, and traditional seaside entertainment.

Another popular coastal town to visit in Essex is Walton-on-the-Naze. It boasts a beautiful sandy beach, stunning panoramic views, and fantastic walking routes that showcase the town’s natural beauty and allow parents to do fun activities with their children.

No coastal tour around Essex’s towns and beaches is complete without visiting Leigh-on-Sea. It’s a picturesque town with an impressive reputation for fantastic seafood restaurants and bars. Enjoy a day by the sea in Southend, known for its lively pier and fun attractions. Learn more about things to do in Southend.

beaches essex

Whether you’re looking to enjoy water sports, sunbathing, or exploring quaint towns, Essex’s coastline has something for everyone. Plan your next day out and explore the delights that await you.

4. Experience Thrilling Adventures

Looking for some heart-pumping excitement in Essex? Look no further than the adventure parks and adrenaline activities that are sure to get your blood racing. At the Adventure Island, located in the seaside resort of Southend, you can challenge yourself and your friends with thrilling rollercoasters, arcade games, and water rides. If you’re looking for a more natural adrenaline rush, head to the Epping Forest, where you can hike or bike through the stunning woodland trails.

For those who want to take their adventure to the next level, the High Ropes Adventure Park in Clacton-on-Sea offers an exhilarating aerial experience, with ropes courses and zip lines that soar above the treetops. If you’ve got a competitive streak, try paintballing at the Delta Force Paintball in Billericay, where you can test your marksmanship skills with family and friends.

Whatever your preference, Essex has a wide range of adventure parks and adrenaline activities to suit all ages and tastes. Plan your visit today and get ready for some hair-raising fun.

5. Delight in Cultural Gems

When it comes to arts and culture, Essex has a lot to offer. The county boasts a thriving creative scene, with many museums and galleries that showcase a diverse range of exhibitions and collections.

For art enthusiasts, a visit to the Firstsite gallery in Colchester is a must. With its ever-changing exhibits and impressive architecture, the gallery features contemporary art from local and international artists.

Another notable art venue is the Beecroft Art Gallery in Southend. The gallery features several permanent collections, including works by 20th-century artist and designer Eric Ravilious, as well as temporary exhibitions by local and national artists.

For those interested in history and heritage, the Chelmsford Museum is an ideal destination. The museum showcases a wide range of exhibits, from archaeology and natural history to the local history of the city.

Another historical gem is the Red House Museum and Gardens in Christchurch. With its impressive collection of artwork, furniture, and ceramics, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of past residents.

museums essex

Whether you’re an art lover or a history buff, Essex’s museums and galleries are sure to delight and provide a great cultural experience.

6. Discover Family-Friendly Fun

Exploring Essex with your little ones will never be dull as the county offers an array of family activities and kids attractions to suit all interests. From outdoor adventures to hands-on learning experiences, families are spoilt for choice in Essex.

Theme Parks

Let your kids enjoy a day full of excitement and thrill with popular theme parks in Essex. One such attraction is Adventure Island in Southend-on-Sea. This seafront amusement park is packed with rides and attractions, suitable for all ages. Another popular theme park is Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park in South Woodham Ferrers, with plenty of animals to meet and greet, rides, and a splash area.

Animal Encounters

If your little ones are animal lovers, there are many opportunities for them to get up close and personal with their furry and feathered friends. Colchester Zoo, voted as one of the best zoos in the country, showcases over 270 species from across the world. Another must-visit attraction is the Sealife Adventure Aquarium in Southend-on-Sea, featuring an underwater tunnel, interactive rockpool and a seal hospital.

Attraction Location Activity Type
Adventure Island Southend-on-Sea Theme park
Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park South Woodham Ferrers Animal encounters, rides, splash area
Colchester Zoo Colchester Zoo, animal encounters
Sealife Adventure Aquarium Southend-on-Sea Aquarium, interactive exhibits

Creative Workshops

Unleash your child’s creativity by attending art, pottery, and cooking workshops, which are perfect for a rainy day. In the heart of Chelmsford, Artshed offers a range of art and craft activities for all ages. Children can also learn pottery skills and create their own masterpiece at Eastnor Pottery in Colchester. For the mini-Masterchefs, head to Blackberry Cottage Cookery School in Chipping Ongar, where they can learn to prepare delicious treats.

Family Fun in Essex

Adventure Playgrounds

Essex has many outdoor play areas that offer adventure and fun for all ages. High Woods Country Park in Colchester boasts several play areas, a wooden fortress, and an adventure course. Hainault Forest Country Park in Chigwell is another popular destination with a large adventure playground, an animal trail, and a mini railway.

Science Centres

Feed your child’s curiosity by taking them to science and discovery centres in Essex. Wonderland in Telford offers hands-on science experiments, interactive exhibits, and workshops. The award-winning Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society also hosts workshops, lectures and hands-on activities for children.

  • Essex offers an array of family activities and kids attractions.
  • Popular theme parks include Adventure Island and Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park.
  • Animal lovers can visit Colchester Zoo and Sealife Adventure Aquarium.
  • Unleash creativity by attending art, pottery, and cooking workshops.
  • Adventure playgrounds, such as High Woods Country Park, offer outdoor fun.
  • Science and discovery centres, such as Wonderland and Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society, provide educational experiences.

For families, Bromley offers a range of activities from parks to indoor play centers. Check out our guide to family-friendly activities in Bromley.

7. Indulge in Retail Therapy

If you love shopping, Essex is the perfect destination for you. With its diverse retail offerings, the county offers a unique shopping experience that caters to all needs and desires. Whether you’re looking to explore bustling shopping centers, discover unique boutiques, or browse vibrant markets for local produce and crafts, Essex has it all!

Shopping Centers

Essex brims with shopping centers offering everything from luxury brands to eclectic mix of shops to suit all tastes and budget. With high-street favorites like The Mercury Mall in Romford and Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock Essex, you can shop until you drop.


For those who enjoy shopping for one-of-a-kind finds, Essex has an abundance of unique boutiques and independent stores. Trendy shops like The Keeper’s Daughter in St. Osyth serve up clothing, accessories and homewares sure to wow shoppers with their distinctive charm and appeal.


Markets in Essex offer a wealth of locally sourced produce and artisanal crafts. Take a walk through Chelmsford City Market and be inspired by the array of offerings, from fresh fruit and vegetables to handmade jewelry. Colchester Market is a not to miss spot, combining contemporary traders with a fascinating history stretching back over 800 years.

So come and shop until you drop in Essex!

8. Sample Delicious Cuisine

If you’re a foodie like me, Essex is the place to be. The county is home to some of the best traditional food in the UK, as well as a variety of international cuisine. Whether you’re looking for some hearty pub grub or a fine dining experience, Essex won’t disappoint.

One of my favorite restaurants in Essex is The Oyster Smack Inn in Burnham-on-Crouch. This beautiful, traditional pub serves up delicious seafood dishes, including their famous oysters. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make for a memorable dining experience.

If you’re in the mood for some Italian food, look no further than Sapore Italiano in Brentwood. This authentic restaurant offers a range of pasta dishes and pizzas, all made with fresh ingredients. Don’t forget to try their tiramisu for dessert!

Restaurant Location Cuisine
The Oyster Smack Inn Burnham-on-Crouch Seafood, traditional British
Sapore Italiano Brentwood Italian
The Lemon Tree Colchester Modern European
The Blue Boar Abridge Pub food, traditional British

These are just a few examples of the many incredible restaurants Essex has to offer. Other notable options include The Lemon Tree in Colchester, which serves up delicious modern European cuisine, and The Blue Boar in Abridge, a cozy pub with tasty pub food.

When it comes to trying out traditional food in Essex, you can’t go wrong with a classic roast dinner. Many of the county’s pubs and restaurants offer this quintessential British dish, which usually consists of roasted meat, potatoes, vegetables, and gravy.

Overall, whether you’re looking for classic British fare or international cuisine, Essex has something for everyone. So be sure to visit some of the county’s top restaurants to indulge in delicious cuisine and satisfy your taste buds.

9. Experience Vibrant Nightlife

When the sun goes down, Essex comes alive with its vibrant nightlife scene. From bustling bars to buzzing clubs, and live music venues, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re in the mood for a sophisticated cocktail or a night of dancing, Essex has you covered.

Name Type Location
The Sugar Hut Bar/Club Brentwood
MooMoos Bar/Club Southend-on-Sea
Chinnerys Live Music Venue Southend-on-Sea
The Ale House Pub Chelmsford

Some of the most popular bars in Essex include The Sugar Hut in Brentwood and MooMoos in Southend-on-Sea. These lively venues offer a vibrant atmosphere, great music, and a variety of drinks to choose from. For those seeking live music, Chinnerys in Southend-on-Sea is the place to be, featuring local and international bands. If you prefer a more laid-back experience, The Ale House in Chelmsford is a cozy pub that serves a variety of beers and traditional pub food.

“I had an amazing time at The Sugar Hut! The cocktails were delicious, and the music was fantastic. Can’t wait to go back!” – Sarah, Chelmsford

So grab your friends, put on your dancing shoes, and experience the vibrant nightlife scene in Essex. With a range of exciting and enticing venues, you’re sure to have a night to remember.


After exploring all that Essex has to offer, it’s clear that there are plenty of things to do in Essex, UK. From its rich heritage and cultural gems to its outdoor adventures and family-friendly fun, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach or an action-packed day at an adventure park, Essex has got you covered.

So if you’re wondering what things to do in Essex, UK, look no further than this beautiful county. With its stunning coastline, picturesque towns, and vibrant nightlife, Essex is the perfect destination for your next adventure. So pack your bags and come explore all that Essex has to offer!

Don’t wait any longer to experience the wonders of Essex. Book your trip today and get ready for an unforgettable adventure. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

If you’re looking to venture a bit further, Sussex offers stunning landscapes and plenty of attractions. Find out more about things to do in Sussex.


What is the nicest part of Essex?

Some of the nicest parts of Essex are Dedham Vale with its picturesque countryside and charming villages, and Leigh-on-Sea known for its beautiful seafront.

Where to take a child for a day out in Essex?

Take your child for a fun day out at Colchester Zoo or Adventure Island amusement park in Southend-on-Sea, or explore Eureka Science Museum in Chelmsford for interactive exhibits. For outdoor adventures, visit Weald Country Park or Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park in Essex.

What to do on Sunday in Essex?

On Sundays in Essex, you can explore local markets like the Colchester Market, enjoy a leisurely walk along the Promenade in Maldon, or visit historic sites such as Layer Marney Tower for a relaxing day out.

Where is the best place to live in Essex?

Popular places to live in Essex include Chelmsford for city living, Brentwood for a vibrant community, and Dedham for picturesque countryside. Other desirable areas are Leigh-on-Sea for coastal charm and Saffron Walden for historic character.