A-Z bucket list of things to do in Essex this summer

PUBLISHED: 15:25 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:49 05 May 2020

Tollesbury Wick Marshes (c) worldoflard, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Tollesbury Wick Marshes (c) worldoflard, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

chrisballard.org 2012

Summer has officially arrived here in Essex, so it’s time to grab your picnic blankets and sunglasses and begin ticking off your bucket list…

A…Adventure Island

If you're prepared to hold on to your tummies, venture to Southend-on-Sea's Adventure Island, a theme park that is bound to satisfy any adrenalin seeker. With everything from exhilarating roller coasters to Formula AI Karting, a trip here promises to be a fun-filled day. Tickets for the park, along with further information regarding opening times, are available online here.

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B…Essex Beaches

No summer is complete without a trip to the beach, so why not make the most of Essex's beautiful coastline and try out some of the many beaches on offer? If you want to try your hand at sand-castle-building, Frinton-On-Sea is arguably one of the nation's best sandy beaches. Mersea Stone Beach is another must-visit; with dogs welcome too, this beach is an ideal location for a family day out.

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C…Colchester Castle

Sample a piece of history right here in Essex by visiting Colchester Castle, home to the largest keep ever built by the Normans. Alongside interactive displays to capture the minds of visitors, you can try your hand at building a Norman Archway and even explore the ancient Roman vaults. Adult tickets to enter the Castle cost £10, and child tickets are £5.25.

D….Take your Dog to High Woods Country Park

If your walk isn't complete without your four-legged friend, head to High Woods Country Park in Colchester. Featuring beautiful woodlands, open spaces and wildflower meadows, this is a perfect location for taking your dog to on a summer's day. Dogs are also welcome to roam off the lead in many places - to find out further information, visit their website.

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E…Epping Forest

As London's largest open space Epping Forest is the perfect spot for a bit of peace and quiet, perhaps accompanied by a good book. It is the site of Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge dating back to 1543, which visitors are invited to explore free of charge. The nearby town of Epping is also a place well worth visiting, with its wealth of independent shops and cafés making it a great place to do some shopping.


For a fascinating snippet of culture, you can head to Firstsite Gallery where you'll find an array of visual arts that are bound to grab the attention of visitors young and old. Exhibitions include the work of both locally and internationally renowned artists, and are hosted by a spectacular building designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly.

G….Gosfield Lake Resort

Whether you want to try your hand at waterskiing or you'd prefer to sit peacefully by the lake with a picnic, Gosfield Lake Resort will keep the whole family happy. The resort offers a huge selection of activities including fishing and banana boating, and as well as permitting BBQs it also has its own restaurant. Information regarding entrance fees can be found here.

H…Hyde Hall Gardens

Step into paradise by visiting the RHS Hyde Hall Gardens in Chelmsford. Here you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views at what are perhaps some of the finest gardens in England. Forming part of a 145 hectare estate, these gardens feature a vegetable garden as well as a café where you can enjoy a delicious slice of cake.

I…Ingatestone Hall

Built in 1541 and with fifteen generations of the Petre family residing here right up until the present day, Ingatestone Hall is a country house rich with history. This beautiful property is situated just one mile away from the nearby village of Ingatestone, and is home to the Summer House Parlour where you can book to have a full high-tea. Tours of the property are also available dependant on visitor numbers.

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J…Tiptree Jam Museum and Tea-Room

Since Essex is home to the legendary jam company Wilkin and Sons of Tiptree, a visit to the Tiptree factory and museum this summer is a must. Here you can sample fruit jams and preserves before boarding a tractor for a tour of the farms to see the fruits growing. Even better, there is the option to have a traditional afternoon tea at the café, of course complete with none other than Wilkin and Sons jam!

K…Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker

Don't tell anyone, but here in Essex is a top secret nuclear bunker that you can explore…Find out about its three lives as it moved from being first a RAF ROTOR station, then a civil defence centre, and finally a Regional Government HQ. Following its decommissioning in 1992, visitors can now explore inside and imagine what it might have been like making plans for the country in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Information regarding entry fees can be accessed online here.

L…Layer Marney Tower

Get those leg muscles working and climb the 99 steps to the top of Layer Marney Tower, where you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the River Blackwater and beyond. Occupying a spot originally used as a look-out point at the Battle of Maldon in 991, this Tower has a fascinating history. It has a claim to fame as England's tallest Tudor gatehouse, so for this reason alone it is a must see.

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M…Mersea Island

Venture out to the most easterly inhabited point in the UK and visit Mersea Island, an area of 7 square miles located to the south-east of Colchester. Accessible by car, this beautiful island has a wealth of things to do that will keep the whole family entertained. Why not have a browse in one of the farm shops, or take a ride on the locally owned Lady Grace boat? You also won't be short of places to eat with the plethora of restaurants and pubs on offer.

N…The Naze Tower

Casting a dramatic impression due to its cliff-side positioning, the Naze Tower is an 86-ft tall octagonal tower that has played a continuously important role in maritime history since its construction in 1720. Situated in Walton-on-the-Naze, this tower has 8 floors and 111 steps to climb, so you'll need to be feeling energetic if you want to see the amazing views from the viewing platform at the top! Luckily there is a tea-room to provide refreshments once you reach ground level again. Entry prices can be found online.

O…Old MacDonald's Farm

For budding young farmers, Old Macdonald's Farm is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Alongside the chance to meet over 30 different species of animals from alpacas to chipmunks, there is also a soft play area and even a selection of roller-coasters for the more adventurous. Tickets and further information can be found here.

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P…Southend Pier

Built over 100 years ago and as the longest pleasure pier in the world, it is no surprise that Southend Pier is one of the most famous icons of the Essex coast. There are a plethora of activities to do on the pier, including fishing and visiting the RNLI Life Station, before heading to the piers very own 'Salt' café. If you don't fancy walking all the way down the pier, there is even a train to give you a lift!

Q…Go on a geocaching Quest

Try treasure hunting with a difference and give geocaching a go; using GPS devices to locate hidden 'geocach' containers, this fun new activity will put your detective skills to the test. With hundreds of geocaches to find in Essex, hire your devices from cycle centres at both Thorndon and Great Notley Country Parks and get searching! Further information is accessible online.

R…Rossi's Ice Cream

An ice-cream is the perfect addition to any summer's day, and arguably there aren't many better places to find one than Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour in Southend. The first ever shop was opened here in 1932 by Massimiliano Agostino and Anna Rossi, and it has stayed in Southend ever since. With a huge selection of ice-cream flavours on offer, this is sure to be a pleaser for all.

S…Saffron Walden Museum

History-fans are bound to love a visit to Saffron Walden Museum. With a huge variety of exhibitions, spanning from Ancient Egypt and Greece to local archaeology, there is something to satisfy all imaginations. Its location beside the ruins of the 12th century Walden Castle makes it a great picnic spot, too. Entry information can be accessed here.

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T…Traditional Afternoon Tea

A scone with cream and jam is the perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon, so why not try out some of Essex's many tea-rooms? If you want a moment of tranquillity, head to the Tea Rooms nestled in the Beth Chatto gardens, or for something that bit different, board the historic sailing barge Hydrogen for an afternoon tea with a twist.

U…Ufford Park Hotel

With its beautiful grounds and stunning location in the Woodbridge countryside, Ufford Park Hotel is the ideal luxurious retreat. The spa, health club, restaurants and bars are all open to both residents and non-residents, so treat yourself this summer by making the most of this hotel's fantastic facilities. Or if you're a golfing fan, bring your clubs and have a go on the 18-hole golf course.

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V….Take in the Views of the Essex Coast from Maldon

Head to the ancient town of Maldon and discover one of the most picturesque spots in the county. The oldest part of the town sits on a hill overlooking the Blackwater Estuary, providing stunning views and beautiful coastal walks. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also explore the waterways via canoe or rowing-boat, or you can find your inner angler and try your hand at fishing.

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There is no better way to enjoy the beautiful Essex countryside than by heading out on a walk. For a fairly easy four-mile walk, head to the scenic village of Roxwell near Chelmsford and take a path around the boating lake. For the more intrepid, test yourself on a section of The Essex Way which spans from Epping to Harwich, or if you really fancy a challenge, do the full 82-miles!

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X…eXplore Thorndon Country Park

Split in to two separate parks, Throndon North and Thorndon South, this beautiful area offers both woodland and open parkland. For younger walkers (…or older ones!) there is the famous 'Gruffalo Trail' where you can discover first hand the magic of the 'Deep Dark Woods'. You can also set up your own BBQ at one of the many picnic spots.

Y…Have a go at Yachting

Whether you're an established mariner or only just finding your sea-legs, venture out on the waters with Premier Sailing at the RYA Training Centre. With its location on the River Crouch in Essex, there are sheltered waters which are perfect for learning to sail a yacht. The centre runs a variety of courses with the option of renting a boat, or you can even bring your own! Have a look at their website to find out more.

Z…Colchester Zoo

Discover your wild side by spending a day at Essex's famous Colchester Zoo. Over 260 species of animals await you including lions, tigers and monkeys, so this is a family-fun day not to be missed. Feed the giraffes and elephants, or even have a go at being a zoo-keeper for the day, a perfect treat for the animal-lovers amongst us.

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