12 of the prettiest beaches in Essex
PUBLISHED: 08:07 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:17 20 November 2018
Andrea Simmons Abbott
Of all Britain's coastal counties, Essex can surely claim to be one of the best. With more than 350 miles of shoreline to choose from, the Essex coast is very much what you make of it, so even on those days when you're planning a little run out to the seaside and want more than just the beach, Essex has the answer
Known locally as the beach with the art gallery, this blue-flag awarded location is backed by a Napoleonic war-era defensive structure that gave its name to the immediate surroundings. Located next to Clacton-on-Sea, this sandy beach is within easy walk of a number of different holiday parks.
From a distance, the martello tower has the appearance of a benign robot’s head, poking up out of the grassland, making it a welcoming place for families. Inside, the curved walls offer space for local artists to display their work.
For a more peaceful look at history and culture, but also on a Blue Flag award-winning beach, take a trip to Walton on the Naze. Dotted along the beach are WWII pillboxes and gun placements that, due to rapid erosion, are now in the water at high tide.
The historic, 86ft Naze Tower is home to an art gallery, tea room and museum. At the top of the 111-step spiral staircase is a viewing platform, affording spectacular panoramic views of up to 30 miles, on a clear day. To the north that’s as far as Orford Ness lighthouse in Suffolk and the Kent coast to the south.
The most central of the many beaches in and around Southend, this stony beach is popular with families for its easy access to many amenities including cafes, amusements, fun fair, and, of course, the pier – possibly the main reason why many would visit the beach in the first place.
At 1.3 miles long, Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world. So much so that it even has its own mini trains to bring visitors from the pier head back to the shoreline. Having been extended to its current length in 1897, to cope with demand, the pier instigated a popular tradition with the locals and something of a rite of passage, literally, for day-trippers — an invigorating stroll to the end, to enjoy the unrivalled 360˚ views.
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4) Thorpe Bay
A quieter alternative to the urban hustle and bustle of City Beach, this sand and pebble beach has spectactular views of the Thames Estuary, some pretty beach huts and lots of boats bobbing around serenely in the waters nearby.
Located within easy walking distance of the Southend promenade, it is another Essex beach that has achieved Blue Flag status for its cleanliness. If you’re a fan of watersports, the Beach Club offers sailing, windsurfing and kayaking from here.
Without the distractions of amusements or other modern coastal attractions, you are really able to appreciate the old-fashioned, untouched feel of Frinton Beach. With free parking on or near the esplanade, it’s incredibly convenient to drive up, find a bench and enjoy this long stretch of sandy beach.
Further adding to the atmosphere are huts placed just up from the sand that run for large stretches of the beach while grassy areas provide a lovely spot from where you and the family can enjoy fish and chips or a picnic.
A popular country park located in Mersea Island, its 100 acres are made up of grasslands, meadows, children’s play areas and, what you’re all here for, a sandy beach.
Down on the sand you’ll be able to search for ancient fossils in the eroding cliffs, explore the remains of WWII emplacements and batteries, see the remains of a 16th century fort and enjoy views out towards Point Clear and Brightlingsea.
After visiting Cudmore Grove, you could take a walk down towards West Mersea town for a bite to eat at Dukes Seafood before taking in the nearby beach. A much-visited spot for local photographers due to its dramatic, changeable scenery, it’ll be worth visiting in various seasons to experience how different it can be.
Its colourful beach huts are one of the most frequently snapped features of the beach but turning the lens 360 degrees will also give you cracking shots of sailing and fishing boats floating on the Blackwater Estuary.
It might not be the largest beach on this list but it makes up for its lack of size through its quiet coastal feel and many photo opportunities. As well as views over to Mersea Island and the Colne Estuary, Bateman’s Tower is easily seen from the beach.
Parts of the area are also dog-friendly so you can bring the pup along to enjoy the sea air and quaint selection of beach huts. If you’re after a small slice of Old England then this could be just what you need.
When you think of the typical English seaside resort, your mind may well go straight to Clacton. Even though the main beach can be as busy as you would stereotypically expect, if you head a little further away from the pier you’ll find lots of immaculately clean, quieter spots.
You can walk for miles along wonderful golden sand - all the way to Walton-on-the-Naze if you wish – and you’ll constantly be surprised by what you discover around each corner of the coast.
10) Shoeburyness Beaches
Whether it’s the Common Beach or the East Beach, you’re guaranteed a coastal experience in the same vein as Thorpe Bay or Brightlingsea. Neither are particularly large but a walk from one to the other will keep you occupied just as much as the miles of beach boasted by Clacton.
During a stroll that will take you around the corner of Shoeburyness you’ll pass a number of military emplacements including Gogs Berth and an anti-submarine boom. If you need a rest after walking the pebble and sand beach, head slightly inland to one of the many pretty green spaces.
Bracing Bradwell on Sea is delightfully unspoilt. The coastal landscape is a mixture of mud flats, salt marsh, farmland and beaches. This latter fact is little known, making it a terrific destination for those who like to escape the crowds and get closer to nature and history.
As you stand on the beach, behind you will be the romantic 7th century chapel of St Peter on the Wall, the oldest church in England. Founded by St Cedd under the orders of Pope Gregory, the chapel is also a fine example of early recycling, as it used stones from an earlier Roman fort located on the site.
Many people may be put off from visiting the area because of Harwich’s industrial reputation but that’s their loss and we’re happy if this one remains relatively unknown. Pretty seaside properties are fortunate to have views of this clean stony beach and lighthouses which you can get up close to when the tides are out.
As you sit on the far end of the beach you’ll have cracking views of the port in the distance as well as of the curving coastal landscape up to Cornwallis Battery and Beacon Hill Fort.