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Finding the best Essex beaches

PUBLISHED: 17:02 22 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:29 23 May 2013

Eating fish and chips, paddling in the sea, sunbathing beside beach huts or seeking thrills on a traditional seaside pier are favourite summer activities of the British holiday maker, and along the Essex coast you will find all this in abundance. Every year, millions of visitors are drawn to Essex by the array of picture postcard coastal towns and beaches which never cease to delight.

So it’s not surprising that according to a LocalPeople Poll, nearly eight million people are planning to holiday at home in the UK this year and many of them will be sun seeking in the South East. According to a survey by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), increasing numbers of Brits are opting to holiday here. ABTA’s report shows in 2012 there was a 23% rise in the number of travellers booking domestic holiday packages in the UK, compared with a 12% rise in 2011.

And did you know that Essex officially has some of the best beaches in Britain? In 2012, the county received eight Blue Flag awards, more than either Suffolk or Norfolk, which were awarded in recognition of the high quality of the beaches’ water and environment. And along with 11 Quality Coast Awards (QCA), Essex has a great variety of beaches, which few other counties can match. Here is just a snapshot of what is on offer…


Brightlingsea has been awarded a Blue Flag on numerous occasions and is the perfect destination for families, with its open-air pool, boating lake, skate park and toddler-friendly sandy beach. Many of Britain’s top sailors have trained at the only Cinque Port north of the Thames and if you fancy a sail yourself, it’s only a short ferry ride to Mersea Island, where you can eat some of the best oysters in the world or stroll around Cudmore Grove Country Park.

Insider’s Guide:

‘I love Brightlingsea; it’s one of my favourite places. My children enjoy swimming in the sea and the outdoor swimming pool. Everything is quite close by, so now they are a bit older, I don’t mind them doing their own thing, as long as they are in sight.’

Sarah Corkhill, a mother of three from Harlow

Clacton on Sea

If it’s fun for your family you are looking for, then look no further than Clacton’s Martello Bay which also currently holds a Blue Flag and a Quality Coast Award (QCA). Children love to frolic in the surf and make castles in the sand and it’s a good way to entertain little ones while adults can lay back with some candy floss and enjoy The Clacton Air Show, a must-see event taking place this year on Thursday, August 22 and Friday, August 23.

Insider’s Guide:

‘The sun always seems to shine in Clacton. I love laying on the beach or strolling along the promenade.’

Marie Ward of Brentwood

Walton on the Naze

Another gem further up the coast is Walton on the Naze, which has a QCA, Britain’s second longest pier, a sandy shore and beach huts that are available to hire for the day. Walton Community Project has also just launched four new walks offering something for everyone. The Explorer Trail is especially designed for children while the History, World War II and Wild Life trails are for those interested in past times or spotting a wading bird or a seal.


If you follow the coastal path north by Hamford Water you will come across Dovercourt, a hidden treasure of Tendring. It is well known for being the actual location for Maplins Holiday Park in the BBC sitcom Hi-De-Hi and retains a sense of history and charm through a pair of ancient lighthouses which tower over this Blue Flag beach offering undisturbed peace and tranquility.

Frinton on Sea

If a more traditional day at the seaside is just up your street, head for Frinton on Sea, which has an immaculate sandy beach and maintains memories of its Victorian heyday. Along with a colourful array of beach huts, Frinton offers some fine boutiques, antique stores and charity shops, as well as the recently refurbished Connaught Avenue.

Insider’s Guide

‘Frinton has a lovely sandy beach and it doesn’t have the distractions of some resorts. It’s also a great place to fly a kite.’

James Bentley of Manningtree.

Southend on Sea

If you are in the south of the county, Southend on Sea has one of the cleanest seven-mile stretches of sparkling shoreline in the UK and boasts numerous Blue Flag awards and QCAs. With its eclectic mix of traditional and modern attractions, it’s easy to see why it is popular with thousands of holidaymakers each year. It has everything you could ask for, including the Sea Life Aquarium and Adventure Island fun park, the longest pleasure pier in the world, an historic train and a new, £3m Cultural Centre. Three Shells Beach includes Southend’s famous pier as well as, showers and a climbing frame while the Marine Parade on Jubilee Beach is very popular for its amusements, shops and eateries.

East of central Southend is Shoeburyness, which boasts two award-winning beaches that are particularly popular with jet skiers and windsurfers. Meanwhile, volunteer lifeguards watch over Chalkwell Beach at weekends in the summer, making it an ideal beach for swimmers.

Insider’s Guide

‘Southend is superb. You can park up and have breakfast in the Westcliff arches and then walk right down The Esplanade. The Pier is fantastic now it’s been refurbished. My family also enjoys all the fun at Adventure Island.’

Carol Ford of Braintree


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