To launch its staycation campaign for 2023, the county’s tourism board, Visit Essex, has created a bucket list of things to see and do in Essex. The list, which comprises of stays in glamping retreats to oysters and wine tasting tours, aims to promote the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destinations as well as showcase major attractions, which all contribute to Essex’s £2.4 billion¹ tourism economy. 

Cllr Mark Durham, Chair of Visit Essex, explains: “Essex is blessed with so many great things to see and do, as well as great places to stay. From the iconic red lightship at Tollesbury to pretty beach huts, plus picturesque gardens and villages as well as top attractions, such as Colchester Zoo and Adventure Island in Southend-on-Sea. This year we’re encouraging people to explore Essex, book a short break, staycation or glamping retreat and tick off a few places on our bucket list.”

Bucket List of Things to See and Do in Essex

  1. Explore Essex’s 350-mile coastline and estuaries

2023 is the Year of the Coast, so why not explore Essex’s vast coastline. Visit the county’s top seaside resorts or head off the beaten-track and wander around the county’s estuaries. Step on the Maritime Walking Trail in Harwich, see Grayson Perry’s ‘House of Essex’ in Wrabness, go fossil hunting on Mersea Island or take insta-worthy pictures of pretty beach huts. Paddleboard by inlets and creeks and explore the swirling saltmarshes and iconic lightship at Tollesbury.   

  1. House and Gardens

Take a trip to Audley End House and Gardens, near Saffron Walden, and step back in time. Wander around the grounds, experience life upstairs and downstairs and discover more about Essex’s history. The county is also home to historic gardens at RHS Hyde Hall near Chelmsford which boasts ornamental horticulture, wild woodlands and majestic meadows, or visit Beth Chatto’s inspirational 1960s dry garden near Colchester.

  1. Visit Southend

Southend-on-Sea is one of the UK’s latest cities and there’s plenty to do. Ride a rollercoaster at Adventure Island, catch a train to the end of the world’s longest pier, take in culture at the Focal Point Gallery and enjoy an ice cream at Rossi’s Ice Cream Parlour on the seafront.

  1. Tasty Essex!

Essex is renowned for its seafood, visit authentic cockle and oyster sheds along its shores and tuck into freshly caught local produce. Treat yourself to a traditional cream tea at Tiptree tearooms across the county, or head to Galvin Green Man in Chelmsford, voted the nation’s best pub! Essex is also home to a growing number of vineyards, sip the best on a wine tasting tour in the Crouch Valley or north of the county for award-winning vintages.  

  1. Sail upon a Thames sailing barge

Hop on a traditional Thames Sailing Barge from historic Maldon and take to sea! The barges are still a familiar sight along the coastline and used to ferry goods from the county to London and further afield. Once the sails are up, you can also take in the local wildlife! The shorelines are home to migrating birds and seals can also be spotted along the Essex coastline.

  1. Roman Colchester

Colchester was Britain’s capital in Roman times and there’s lots of historic artefacts to explore around the city. Walk by the Roman walls that run through the city and are lit at night and take in stunning mosaics, or tour the Roman Circus visitor centre. Colchester Castle, the largest Norman Keep in Europe, is built on the grounds of a Roman temple and has many historical artefacts inside.

  1. Take a trip to Lakeside and city centres

With over 250 shops, restaurants and leisure attractions, Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock is the ideal place to bag a bargain. Or head into one of Essex’s cities to pick up style on the High Street. Chelmsford is home to Bond Street Shopping Centre where you’ll find lots of retail outlets, restaurants and entertainment complexes, whereas Colchester boasts big brands and a range of independent shops, plus a Fenwick’s in the High Street.  

  1. Visit Colchester Zoo

A must for animal lovers and families alike, Colchester Zoo is home to 180 species across 60 acres of parkland and lakes. Children love to feed the giraffes and elephants, visit the petting zoo, ride the train to visit the ring-tailed lemurs and watch the lions roar behind their glazed enclosures.

  1. Picturesque towns and villages

For scenic, postcard-worthy views, explore the villages of Essex. Dedham is located in the heart of Constable Country and offers independent shops, pubs and walks by the river. Finchingfield is another must with its picturesque duck pond. Also explore the ancient Flitch towns of Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow and Thaxted, famed for their spired churches, mediaeval architecture, market squares and quaint traditions – check out the Morris dancing and flitch of bacon customs!

  1. Experience rural Essex

Explore Henry VIII’s old hunting grounds in Epping and Hatfield Forests. Get on your bike and head over to Hadleigh Country Park, which played host to the mountain biking events at the London 2012 Olympics. The county has so much space and big skies to offer making it a paradise for walkers.

Essex is also home to a growing number of glamping destinations. Stay up an ancient oak tree at Coleman’s Farm near Epping. Head over to Teybrook Orchard, near Colchester, and glamp in an enchanting woodland, or try out a handcrafted Mongolian Yurt. Lee Wick Cottages and Glamping, near St Osyth also offers a stunning mix of stylish cabins and pods.  

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