Head off the beaten track this year to uncover some of Essex’s lesser spotted landmarks
There are so many beautiful hidden places to explore in Essex. With 2023 being the Year of the Coast Essex has some famous seaside resorts to explore, but also plenty of beautiful coastal towns and villages tucked away on the shorelines, waiting to be discovered. Visit Essex, the county’s tourism body, takes us through the best off-the-beaten-track spots to experience this year.
Views by the coast
Burnham-on-Crouch is a quiet riverside town with a quayside full of old-world charm. You can head down to the marina and watch the boats coming in or walk along the seawall to take in stunning panoramic views of the River Crouch. There are also plenty of pretty listed buildings and traditional boat-building yards to amble by. The town hosts the internationally famous regatta, ‘Burnham Week’, every August, where you can watch boats compete against each other in nail biting, full sail action. For land lubbers, there’s a gentle 4.5-mile circular walk that starts and ends at Burnham Railway Station.
If you head round to Wallasea Island, a beautiful haven for wild birds and marine life, you can see Burnham-on-Crouch from the other side of the River Crouch. Go for a stroll along the seawalls and view the saltmarsh, mudflats and lagoons all alive with birdlife, or catch a glimpse of Common Seals in the river.
Further south is the riverside town of Wivenhoe. Known for its artists and creative writers, it’s also the perfect place to go for a great riverside pub lunch or a walk along the River Colne, with winding paths along the riverbank and through woods and fields. You can also reach Wivenhoe from the water, with a pub lunch cruise that runs from Brightlingsea Harbour.
Visit filming hotspots
You may have spotted some Essex coastal locations in the Apple TV series, The Essex Serpent, starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, which aired last year. The calm backwaters of Alresford Creek provided the backdrop for the fictional parish of Aldwinter, while the swirling pattern saltmarshes at Tollesbury were featured dramatically as Danes and Hiddleston wandered through the estuarine landscape.
The historic maritime town of Maldon, famous for its sea salt, was also featured in the series. You can explore the quaint high street with buildings that have unique belvedere designs, or head over to Promenade Park, where Danes and Hiddleston were spotted strolling through. Maldon’s quay is also the perfect place to view Thames sailing barges sail along the river Blackwater – you can even book an adventure on one of them with Topsail Charters!
See country parks and head out into the countryside
The expansive landscape of Cudmore Grove Country Park on the east of Mersea Island was also a filming spot for The Essex Serpent. Get a feel for the path the stars walked down by having a picnic overlooking the sea and oyster beds, with views all the way to Brightlingsea across the water. You can take a ferry from Cudmore that takes you across the river Colne and lands you right at Brightlingsea, and it will bring you back again.
For a biking adventure, head over to Hadleigh Country Park, the site for mountain biking at the London 2012 Olympics, and be put through your off-road paces whilst having views across the Thames Estuary.
For an inland adventure, head out into the beautiful Essex countryside and explore Henry VIII’s old stomping grounds at Epping and Hatfield Forests. At Epping Forest, you can see Queen Elizabeth I’s Hunting Lodge, which was built for Henry VIII, or take a stroll through the ancient woodland of Hatfield Forest, where there’s a wild Fallow Deer herd.
Explore picture-perfect countryside villages
For Insta-worthy views, the villages of Essex have a lot to offer. Dedham is located in the heart of Constable Country with independent shops, historic pubs and scenic walks by the River Stour. The charming village of Finchingfield is another must-see with its picturesque duck pond and local pubs to stop off and enjoy a hearty meal.
There’s also plenty to explore in the ancient Flitch town of Saffron Walden, which hosts a superb market on Saturdays with antiques and oyster stalls next to the fruit and veg. The village of Thaxted also has its own special tradition. You won’t want to miss out on the Thaxted Morris Men, who dance throughout the year with a big celebration in June.
To discover more, see visitessex.com