If you find yourself in Essex and you’re wondering what you can do to make the most of your time, this guide looks at the best places to visit in Essex.
When you travel to a new place it can be frustrating finding things to do. This can be even more problematic if you’re on a tight budget. The great news is there are plenty of interesting places to visit for people of all ages in Essex.
Let’s discover the best places to visit in Essex.
Battlesbridge Antiques Centre
Battlesbridge is a village near South Woodham Ferrers that is almost exclusively made up of antique stores. The shops contain all manner of antiques, curios and home-crafts with a perfect gift for people of all ages.
The Old Mill houses a range of antique stores across multiple levels. If mobility is an issue, you can still enjoy the open courtyard of antiques shops.
Exhausted after hours perusing antiques and artifacts? There are several cafes and coffee shops to put your feet up and admire your latest find.
Festival Leisure Park – Best Places to Visit in Essex
Known to locals as BasVegas, Festival Leisure Park hosts a range of restaurants, a bowling alley and amusement arcade and a large cinema. It is also the home of Basildon nightlife with clubs to keep you entertained until the early hours.
For families with little ones, 360 Play is a multi-level soft-play area with Sprinkles (Desserts) next door. Festival Leisure park also has a well-equipped gym for anyone looking to burn a few calories.
Lakeside Shopping Centre
If you want to shop till you drop, you can’t go wrong with Lakeside Shopping Centre. The shopping mall itself is the 11th largest in the UK and when you consider the surrounding retails parks it boasts enough shops to keep you busy for an entire day.
The shopping centre takes its name from a lake which is flanked by a boardwalk that has a Cinema and restaurants. The mall can get busy on the weekend, so if you want to avoid the crowds visit midweek or make use of the late-night opening times with shops closing at 10pm on weekdays.
Freeport Designer Outlet Village
Freeport Designer Outlet is the best designer outlet in Essex. It has a range of high street shops intermingled with high-end designer shops, making it the perfect shopping destination for all budgets.
You can expect Armani, Boss, Hollister, Le Creuset, Tommy Hilfiger and many others. Alongside the prestigious designer stores are great shops like TK Maxx, Whittard, The Body Shop.
For those with a sweet tooth, Haribo and Cadbury have retail space and there are a full host of restaurants ranging from fine dining to fast food.
Wat Tyler Country Park – Best Places to Visit in Essex
Wat Tyler Park is a nature reserve and public park that sits on the Thames Estuary. It also hosts a visitor centre, café and a small selection of artisanal shops.
There is a large playpark for children with a separate playpark for infants and toddlers. If you get tired of the playparks you can utilise the open spaces to play ball games or explore the woodland and nature reserve on foot or by using the Wat Tyler train.
Admission: Adult – £11.95, Child – £6.75
The city of Colchester dates back to before the Roman times, although it was more of a settlement back then. Colchester Castle is a Norman castle built by William the Conqueror in order to secure his foothold in England.
It has an interesting history and was laid siege to during the Baron’s War of 1216. There are also event days that take place throughout the year, although these cost more than the general admission fee mentioned above.
For video game buffs, Colchester is also featured heavily in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
If castles and history is not your thing, Colchester is home to Colchester Zoo, a wonderful wildlife attraction suitable for all ages.
Hadleigh Castle – Best Places to Visit in Essex
Hadleigh Castle is a ruined medieval that overlooks the Thames Estuary. While the remnants of the castle itself are not very interactive, there are plenty of walks around the castle and along the Thames Estuary.
In fact, you can even follow the public footpath from Hadleigh Castle across the Benfleet Marshes all the way down to Wat Tyler Park. It is a reasonably demanding walk and will take around 3 hours to complete.
Large beaches in Essex like Southend-on-Sea and Clacton-on-Sea get very busy. Both make for excellent days out though so if Frinton is a little slow-paced for your liking don’t despair.
Frinton-on-Sea is a typical quiet beach town with retirement properties lining the coast. The beaches are sand covered and perfect for quiet sunbathing on hot summer days and the town is ideal for exploration.
If you want a picnic and maybe some kite-flying, atop the cliffs are well maintained lawns that stretch for miles.
Dedham Village – Best Places to Visit in Essex
Essex is mainly a post-industrial county with most towns incorporating a few historic buildings with 1960s architecture. With that in mind, picturesque isn’t the word that springs to mind when describing Essex.
Dedham however is picturesque and aside from modern conveniences (like roads, toilets etc.) it is a parish village frozen in time. It has a lovely river to picnic beside, walk along or even try your hand on the punting/row boats.
The village itself has a lot of period properties and the shops have all been incorporated considerately into the traditional framework. Dedham can get very busy during the summer months as tourists flock to this idyllic sleepy village, but outside of summer, it is quiet, peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable.
Chelmsford Escape Rooms
Admission: from £22.50 per person
The Chelmsford Escape Rooms are the most expensive attraction on our list, but they promise a diverse range of challenges that promise fun and teamwork. Some of the challenges are more popular than others and to avoid disappointment it is always a good idea to book well in advance of your trip.
You should budget a few hours for a visit and afterwards there are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore in the City of Chelmsford which has multiple malls and retail parks. Planning is key both in the escape rooms and outside, Chelmsford gets congested with traffic so be sure to plan your routes to get about with ease.
East Anglian Railway Museum – Best Places to Visit in Essex
Admission: Adult – £8, Child – £4 and under 4s Free
The East Anglian Railway Museum is a charming attraction for all ages. The steam engines are prime for sparking the imagination of young ones and some of the trains on display will conjure up memories for older folk.
The museum has a fairly open layout and is relatively good for disability access. What’s more it is a niche attraction so it never gets overly busy, allowing you to take your time and enjoy learning about the heritage and engineering of trains in Essex.