The East has miles, 117 to be exact, of beautiful coastline to explore but hop on a sailing boat and the experience becomes even better.
Writer Abby Knight, shares her advice for sailing the Essex Coast…with your dog
There’s nothing like the freedom of seeing some of the finest coastal and river villages on the East coast and there’s lots for dogs, too, here’s what we found when we set off with our Borderpoo pup, Bob, in tow.
When the weather looked set fair for a week last summer, my hubby Chris and I packed up picnic supplies as well as Bob’s favourite treats and set off on our boat Poseidon from our home birth in Fambridge Yacht Haven, Essex. It’s a great place to go for a leisurely walk at any time of year across the salt marshes and along the river path.
The River Breeze Café Bar in the marina has a dog friendly deck and marquee and there is always someone there for Bob to share a bone. We stopped off for breakfast but just outside the marina, the 600-year-old The Ferry Boat Inn has been recently refurbished with a barn-style conservatory serving great food and cocktails with dog-friendly sitting available too.
Along the River Crouch there’s plenty of wildlife to see including the Shell Duck, Grey Heron and if you’re lucky enough as we were, at the Yolkesfleet Creek – the point where naturalist Darwin set off on one of his epic tours in HMS Beagle – some friendly seals, often tame enough to swim around the boat.
Bob, our Borderpoo, is just two and, although a little timid on the first couple of trips we made, now firmly has his sea paws and once we’re happy he’s safe in his lifejacket, we let him peer over the side – he loves watching the paddle boarders go by – especially when they have their dogs with them.
First stop on our August tour was the sleepy marina at Bridgemarsh; very reasonable to moor for the night. The facilities are fairly basic but the staff are friendly while the main attraction is the Crouch Ridge Vineyard that’s just a short uphill walk to the marina. Read our guide to the best vineyards in the region.
Serving fabulous tapas style platters as well as afternoon tea, this real jewel on the East coast has become very popular over the last year and owners Ross and Samantha, fifth generation farmers, also put on events and tastings of their most popular wines, pairing with locally caught oysters. We left Bob on the boat but took him for a long walk around the edge of the vineyards later which sweep down to the river and reminded us of our trips to Tuscany seeing the grapes in the sunshine.
The next morning we made the short hop downriver to Burnham Yacht Harbour for brunch. Already a firm favourite for a staycation, Burnham-on-Crouch has a bustling river front with lots of great places for dogs to enjoy. The Crouch Vale Park makes for a great early morning walk, then you can stop for coffee at Bistro on The Quay or wander up to the town itself to one of the many dog-friendly locations for lunch or dinner. We chose the Oyster Smack which serves some of the best fish and chips I’ve tasted as well as local beers.
We decided to walk into Walton-on-the-Naze for dinner; a real family seaside town, it was great to see people on the wide-open beaches. In addition to all the traditional places to eat and drink, we were lucky to find a seafront café that served tasty seafood supper complete with Sex on Walton Beach cocktails and Bob even got his own mini burger in a basket!
Chris and I had a spent a weekend away with friends on a Dutch barge in Pin Mill, Suffolk, a few years back and really wanted to visit again. The nearest marina is Woolverstone Marina and Lodge Park on the River Orwell. Five hundred years ago King Henry VIII gifted the riverbed to the people of Ipswich to help with trade. It’s close to the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, while the popular Loch & Quay restaurant welcomes dogs on the large deck.
We walked through the woods with Bob the short distance to Pin Mill itself; a favourite place of author Sir Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons’ fame who set his book ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea’ in the pretty hamlet. It really is a place where time has stood still. A little brook runs through the village that Bob was happy to take a dip in and there is a pretty café and art gallery to visit.
Highlight for us is the Butt & Oyster Pub, at exceptional high tide it can get cut off for a while and the stone flag bar has been the same for hundreds of years. We had a great seafood inspired dinner while Bob enjoyed his own bowl of freshly cooked sausages. A short walk back through the wood, the torch on this time, we were back on board.
One of the nicest things to do in a boat is to anchor up in a bay or sheltered area and have a picnic. We did this on our way back along the River Orwell, anchoring up in a sunny spot with busy Felixstowe Docks on the horizon.
Lots of other boaters had picked the same spot and Bob enjoyed watching people jump off their boats into the cool water while we fixed a picnic with some of the wine we’d bought at Crouch Ridge.
To get back to Brightlingsea, our last birth before returning home. You have to cross the North Sea – a bit lively even on a summer’s day, we had to put the covers up for a while to avoid the splash but once back in sheltered waters, Bob and I were back on deck.
Brightlingsea is another coastal gem to visit. Still a busy fishing village, there’s always a fresh catch in on the harbour wall and there are plenty of pubs to enjoy lunch and dinner. We discovered The Rosebud, a pretty pink coloured pub with a lovely garden that slopes down to the open sea. We sat outside with Bob and enjoyed some tasty sea bass.
If you’re looking for a longer stay on land The Belvedere luxury boutique apartment on East Street was originally The Royal Hotel, built in 1875, famous for its glamorous clientele including Joan Collins. The retro lift that takes you up to your room is an original feature and the viewing tower at the top gives you amazing views of the sea.
As the sun set on our sailing adventure, it was time to wander back down to the marina for one last drink. Number 1 Harbour Square has a real Mediterranean feel and is always busy. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and dogs are welcome on the sheltered terrace.
Waking up next morning and preparing to come back to Fambridge, we reflected on the great time we had. Our East coast has so much to offer and there’s always a warm welcome for our furry friends, too.