2021 is the year of the staycation, and there’s plenty of hidden treasures to uncover whilst exploring areas just a short hop from your doorstep. This winter acquaint yourself with some of the best spots on the Essex coast.
Autumn and winter are a wonderful chance to take a short break in Essex. Watch the local harvest, enjoy local foods and tour the areas growing vineyards.
What to do in Brightlingsea
It’s hard not to adore the delightful little seaside town of Brightlingsea. There’s only one road in and out of Brightlingsea and that fact maybe explains why this place has been unaffected by the glitzy glamour that defines Southend and Clacton. Walking past the rows of beach huts on the promenade and popping into the town’s last remaining lido in Essex, it’s easy to feel part of the community. The lido is open until the end of September and is well worth dipping your toes in.
Visit the beach at Brightlingsea
A collection of small beaches run from Bateman’s Tower to the mouth of Brightlingsea Creek, and you can spend many happy hours with an ice cream in hand watching boats sailing by and teams of rowers practising their strokes in traditional rowing boats. Bateman’s Tower, a folly built in 1883, is an ideal spot for crabbing, so discover your inner child and pick up a line and bait from the local shops.
Boat trips at Brightlingsea Harbour
Brightlingsea Harbour is home to a hive of waterside activity. The town has a proud maritime history and is the only Cinque Port north of the Thames. The town earnt this title by supplying ships and men for the service of the Crown and played a role in defeating the Spanish Armada.
At the harbour you can catch the foot ferry to Mersea Island, where you can take a stroll along the coastal path to pick up some fresh oysters from local fishermen. Also on offer are boat trips around the harbour, plus a river cruise up the winding river Colne to Wivenhoe, where a delicious pub lunch awaits. The harbour is also home to The Paddle Hut where you can learn to kayak and paddleboard, or hire the equipment and paddle down the creek and pass the moored yachts.
Take a walk
Ramblers will also feel at home in Brightlingsea. The town has a 26-mile network of easy to walk footpaths. Walking the sea wall from Bateman’s Tower to Alresford Creek, is a popular five-mile trek; following the Colne estuary, you’ll wander past saltmarshes, secluded beaches and vineyards. The walk is also alive with birdlife, everything from barn owls, waders, geese and songbirds.
Once you discover Brightlingsea and its surrounds you will always return. The nearby Wivenhoe Park Hotel is an ideal base for a weekend exploring Brightlingsea and is close to the Colne estuary.
Visit Harwich, Essex
It’s difficult to think of Harwich without focusing on it being a major port full of cruise ships, ferries and boats cum pirate radio stations. However, Harwich does have a life away from the port terminals and it is well worth investigating.
The old town of Harwich is steeped in history and there are plenty of reminders of the connection with The Mayflower. The ship that delivered the Pilgrim Fathers to America was built in the town and captained by Harwich man, Christopher Jones, and his home in Kings Head Street is celebrated by a plaque. Elsewhere in the town you can find the circular Redoubt Fort built during the Napoleonic Wars, the iconic Harwich lighthouse, the house where famed diarist and one time MP for Harwich, Samuel Pepys lived, and the Electric Palace, the oldest, unaltered purpose-built cinema in the UK whose patron is the actor Clive Owen, who lives locally.
Hotels in Harwich
Conveniently located on the quay in the old town is the Pier Hotel. The stunning boutique hotel overlooks the historic waterfront and provides visitors with a panoramic view of the seafront, plus vessels on the water and the fresh fish being landed at the quay, before heading to the hotel’s seafood restaurant.
The Ha’penny Pier next to The Quay, is also the place to depart on seal watching trips, which leave all year round and is a fantastic way to see these mammals, and birdlife, up close.
If you are looking for an outdoor activity, Clacton Kayaks based at Dovercourt Bay in Harwich, can offer training sessions for kayaks and paddleboards, as well as equipment hire. The beach at Dovercourt Bay has recently been voted one of the top 10 beaches in the UK and it retains its blue flag each year, so it’s well worth a visit.
To discover more, visit www.visitessex.com