48 Hours in Essex: What to See, Do and Eat

walking on beach

Chesterton’s detective, Father Brown, may have found only ugly trees and uncivilized lamp posts along the edges of the flat Essex coast, but you are sure to find much more than that during your 48 hours in this county.

Maybe you are coming from abroad to visit London and want to know what nearby regions are worth a look at. Maybe you live in the UK and are looking for weekend trip options — good alternatives to the usual routine of staying home, watching films, playing games, and betting on UK casino sites (or going mad trying to entertain your kids).

Whatever the reason, if you’re considering spending two days in Essex, here are some ideas that will help you have a fun and interesting time here.

What to See in Essex

Essex has a truly long history, and some remarkably well-kept buildings have borne witness to it. It also has beautiful natural places worth exploring.

Historic Buildings

hedingham castle

Hedingham Castle

The outer walls and the rest of this Norman fortification are gone, but the castle keep is still there — and it’s one of the best-preserved in England. Visiting it is a great opportunity to take a mind-trip back into a harsher but more heroic era.

Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall

Among the oldest nearly intact churches in England, this chapel stands in the fields of Bradwell-on-Sea. It was built in the 7th century and is still being used for religious services fourteen centuries later. This, and the contrast with the wind turbines in the background, can help usher in a liberating meditation on time and eternity.

Ingatestone Hall Manor House

If you come to Essex between Easter and September, it’s worth checking the days when this beautiful 16th-century manor house is open to visits. Ingatestone Hall has two priest holes — secret hiding places created during the turbulent times when Catholics were persecuted by the government.

Natural Beauty

rhs garden hyde hall

Epping Forest

Covering an area 19km in length and 4km in width, this ancient woodland (existing at least as far back as the 16th century, and probably dating back to the 12th) offers a variety of natural elements to the rambler. Forests and pastures, lakes and ponds, and a wide range of animals can be admired during a hike or a horseback ride. This is an excellent place to spend time with adventure-loving children.

Mersea Island

This tidal island has been a holiday destination since Roman times, and with good reason. For the nature lover, Mersea Island is an excellent place for birdwatching. To other pleasure-seekers, it offers beach huts and holiday parks, leisure boating, a 7th century church, and even military observation posts from the two world wars. Just make sure you don’t try to come over the Strood causeway at high tide!

What to Do in Essex

walking on beach

Visit Adventure Island Amusement Park

If you’re in Essex with your young children, and they are into theme parks, this is definitely something they’ll want to do. Tidal waves, carousel spinners, a Ferris wheel, pirate vessels — there’s no shortage of options. True, the park sparked controversy in 2023 with an age-inappropriate drag act, but management has guaranteed that will not happen again, so it seems a solid and fun option for parents with kids.

Stroll Around Historical Towns

There are beautiful historical towns in Essex, and if you are looking for some quiet time in urban settings, you should definitely take the opportunity to stroll around one or two of them.


This Saxon town from the 10th century has a beautiful seaside promenade, quaint houses, and historical churches. The tugboat Brent, one of only four left of her kind, is moored in Maldon and open to visits on the last Sunday of the month, weather permitting.

Stansted Mountfitchet

The toy museum will probably interest your children — if they are old enough to accept the fact those toys are not to be played with. Mountfitchet Castle is a reconstruction of a Norman fortification that houses a living history museum.

Saffron Walden

Market Square and Castle Street have plenty of lovely old buildings. Audley End House, a large mansion set within beautiful grounds, is open to public visits. Meanwhile, you will find local sellers trading their products in the market.

What to Eat in Essex

Essex has great restaurants, of course, but you can find recommendations for those elsewhere. Instead, here we want to introduce you to two types of local food products you can buy and take home — and in so doing, discover authentic Essex tastes, support local businesses, and take something of your vacation with you.

Epping Forest Honey

This 100% natural, raw honey is produced in apiary sites throughout the Epping Forest area. Its colour and taste are variable, depending on the time of the year it was produced, but it’s always delicious and healthy. You can also buy other bee products, such as honeycombs, pollen, propolis, and beeswax candles.

Traditional Marmalades

In Essex, you will find farms producing marmalades, preserves, and spreads according to old recipes and artisanal methods. Take the opportunity to stop at one of them, taste the products, and buy a few jars. You will enjoy local food that is naturally tasty and free from preservatives and artificial colours and flavours.

Discover Essex Your Own Way

There’s much to see and do in Essex, and at the end of the day, your choices should be made according to your convenience, personal interests and tastes, and the company you’re in. The above are just a few suggestions for experiences you can live during your Essex holiday — now it’s up to you to dive deeper and draw your own amazing holiday plan!

This article is a paid partnership.

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