When I grew up in Essex I already knew it was one of the best counties in Great Britain for family parties, so it was very nice to make this list of family trips to Essex. Besides my own experience working with the Finns, 4 and Isobel 1, I also contacted friends and family and my colleagues at Essex to find the best days in Essex for families in 2020. It was an excellent reminder of the many places, events and sights in Essex, many of which are less than an hour’s drive from London. Actually, my office started with 25 things, but I couldn’t narrow it down, so choose from 32 brilliant events in Essex in 2020.
Family days in Essex: 32 days for children in Essex
For our readers: Of course, many of our activities allow reasonable social distance and the companies selected by us have made reasonable efforts to comply with the new rules for social distance according to KOVID-19. Before you plan your relaxing days in Essex, you can indicate which direction or location you would like to visit.
1. Epiping Ongar Railway, Northern Forest
Steam Engine on the Epping Ongar Railway (Photo: Mark Seton)
If you have a small (or large) train station in your family, the Epping Ongar Railway is the longest railway line in Essex and the nearest steam train to London. In addition to the traditional steam train tours through the beautiful Essex countryside, the train also hosts special family events, including visits to Peppa Pig, the Papal Patrol and Grandpa’s Christmas. For older children the Real Ale Festival or the Oldtimer Steamer Rally is a fun day out. One more remark: there’s a Halloween scare.
2. Classic days in Essex: Mineral yacht on Mercy Island
Rainbow Beach Cabins (Photo: UltraBoban)
This beautiful island at the mouth of the Blackwater, just eight miles from Colchester, has been a well-kept secret of Essex for many years. The island is connected to the mainland by a one-lane road (Stood) and is completely cut off at high tide. Before you travel, check out the tides here] Mercy has recently gained popularity in the countryside with its delicious freshly caught shellfish, especially oysters, which have been fished in the rivers around Mercy since Roman times.
(Photo: Gerry Lawford)
For children, the attraction of mercy is old-fashioned family fun. Leave the pier, mock the ice and hunt for fossils around the rocks on the east side of the island. Fossils from 300,000 years ago, such as a monkey, a bear, an elephant tusk and a buffalo, have been found here, so bring a magnifying glass. If you want to go to the beach, go to the West Merse, where the sand is soft and the waves are flat enough to paddle. There are many beach cafes, fish and chips stalls and oyster bars (such as the famous West Mersea Oyster Bar), as well as a large playground and candy-coloured beach huts. If you plan to stay all day, you can rent one of these little beauties at the Petite Plage cabin, but overnight stays are not allowed.
days a week Essex
3. Healthy days in Essex: Fruit picking at Halsted
Year-round fruit harvesting in Essex (Photo: Rob Bertolph)
During the pandemic, harvesting fruit and vegetables was a great way to spend time outdoors, maintain social distance and support local businesses. It is a novelty for the children to pick the fruits of the tree themselves, and let’s be honest, it is much more fun than going to Asda. When I was little, I loved picking strawberries, and it’s still one of my favorite memories.
Spencer’s Farm Shop is open from June to September and also offers special events for Halloween and Christmas. In this beautiful farm you can taste strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries, larch, blackberries, plums, cherries, green beans, corn and PYO-courgettes. The large playground has a sandpit, mast and outdoor attractions and cafes. All you have to do is plan what you want to bake with your loot – a cherry pie for everyone? spencersfarmshop.com
Essex Family Days
4. Observe the seal in Walton-on-Boot.
Pressure observed off the Essex coast (Photo: Simon Ingram)
Walton-on-the-Naise is a great place for a family holiday in Essex, with a beautiful beach, crab fishing and the historic Naise Tower, a historical monument, an art gallery and an observation platform that you can climb (£3 for an adult, £2 for a child, up to 4 years free). For something different, book a boat trip and see the local seal colony gather on the muddy shores of Hamford Water Nature Reserve. The famous boat trip of Tony Haggis, Karina, is the best choice*, the charismatic Tony shows us the local wildlife, the birds and of course the cute seals. Adults – £14.00, children – £8.00 (summer months only). If you’re looking for a real experience, Tony doesn’t even have a website. Call him on 07806 309460 or 07596 597615 to make a reservation, but note that he does not answer his messages.
5. Southend platform and train journey
Southend Sunshine Day (Photo: Adrian Scottow)
Known as the longest marina in the world, the Southend Pier is so long that it has its own train that takes guests all the way to the end. You can walk 1.3 miles if you feel like it (2.6 miles back), or you can walk in one direction and take the train back. The cost of a return ticket for two adults and two children with a family ticket is £13.80. The price of a one-way trip for an adult is £5 one-way or £5.50 one-way in the opposite direction.
Southend Pier doesn’t have as much fun and arcade as other piers like Brighton Palace Wharf, but it’s a fun way to take the family out on the water and get some fresh air without having to resort to a boat!
Southbound beef/St. Pierre
6. Adventure Island and South End Promenade (Essex’s Teen Days)
Strong and proud on the Southend promenade: Adventure Island is an amusement park with 40 attractions and rides. There is no entrance fee, but attractions cost between £3 and £10 each. The blue bracelet for the whole day costs £32 in the park (but you can buy it in advance online to save money, and they currently have a good offer for £22.50 according to Covid) Our favourite attraction is the vortex, but the classic seaside attraction, Helter Skelter, is also nice. Adventure Island is at the top of the list of Essex’ Teen Days!
The promenade offers a choice of beaches, cafes and gardens, and the sandy beach closest to the pier is Jubilee Beach (the three-shell beach next to the pier is much busier and less pleasant). YOU KNOW: This southern Na Lake is considered one of the warmest and driest places in all of Britain. Perfect for a beach holiday, don’t you think?
7. Setting sail for Brightlingsea
Find your sea foot (Image: Mark Grant Jones)
Brightlingsea is a beautiful seaside resort, located east of Colchester on Brightlingsea Cove, and one of Essex’s most entertaining days. Water sports are the main activity here, with a wide range of possibilities, from swimming at Brightlingsea Lido to rowing on calm waters, swimming in the sea, fishing and sailing. The Brightlingsea Sailing Club offers sailing courses for beginners (adult beginners and juniors from 10 years of age) up to advanced courses for advanced sailors with some experience. Tastings are possible, but if you just want to spend a day on the water, you can sail with an experienced skipper who does all the work for you.
8. Crab fishery in Maldon
Scratching is what we used to do when we were kids and it is one of the easiest, funniest and cheapest days in Essex. The Maldon Boardwalk Park is a great place for crab fishing with many families and a nice atmosphere. The most popular locations are around Lake Boat, at the mouth of the river and on the Hight Waterfront, and in the nearby Habridge Basin. All you need is a rope (20 feet), a weight (pick a big stone from the beach), bait (bacon or canned sardines work well) and a bucket. Buckets and rope are for sale at the Parkway Park shops if you don’t have time to make your own buckets.
Fill the bucket with water from the estuary, add rock or seaweed and bait so the crabs can hide and eat. Hang your line for five minutes and lift it gently to see what you’ve caught. You plant more crabs if you have a kid’s fish net – but that’s fraud! If you catch one of the babies, put him in a bucket so as not to hurt him and always put the crabs back in the water before you leave!
9. Tendring Cycling
Beautiful bicycle routes (Photo: Andy North)
Sometimes the days in Essex are a bit like in California, where you can cycle along the coastal path on a hot summer day. The Tendring Peninsula is the top of Essex’s sunny coast and you can cycle all day or part of the day from Frington to Jaywick. This route is ideal for families or for those looking for a bicycle, because it runs along the beach and the path is flat and wide. You can make a detour by sea to the Netherlands (we’ll come back to this later) and stay for a well-deserved lunch in Clakton or a short break on the beach.
If you like our Essex Days guide, take the time to enjoy us on Facebook. Your social media support keeps our website up and running.
We are also on Twitter and Instagram
10. Follow the Gruffalo Trail, Torndon.
Can you find Gruffalo? (Photo: Rose Davis)
If you raise a young reader, he will certainly know the books of Julia Donaldson, and Gruffalo is a big favorite. Experience the Gruffalo Trail adventure in Thorndon Country Park. This beautiful guided walk features characters and environments that children know from the book, while Country Park is across the street from the Deep Dark Forest. The route takes about 45 minutes and winds through the forest to find hidden characters carved in the forest. It’s easy for adults to follow, but pick up a children’s card at Thorndon North’s Countryside Centre, which makes the trip even more exciting for children. This is definitely one of our favorite days in Essex.
11. Investigation into the trail of a man with a stick, Forest.
After the success of the Gruffalo Trail you can also plan an adventure in search of the stickman! In Vald Country Park, near Brentwood, is the play trail of the stick man. As the story goes, Stick Man had many adventures when he returned to his family tree, and now you can follow in his footsteps. This permanent course is about 2 km long and includes climbing frames, slides, swings, the stickman’s pedigree and a large swan’s nest, so older children will also be happy.
The Stick Man playground is free, but parking is charged. The entrance fees contribute to the preservation of the park (which is very good) and to the protection of the surrounding game. Theme events take place throughout the year, so keep up to date with the latest news on visitparks.nl.
12. Stone jumping on the Rabbit track, Langdon.
Peter’s rabbit has always been a cheeky rabbit, so he didn’t want Gruffalo and Stockmann to have fun. On the occasion of the 150. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of the most famous heroine Beatrix Potter, the Essex Wildlife Trust opened the Peter Rabbit™ Forest Trail in Langdon Nature Reserve near Basildon.
This beautiful nature walk includes six beautiful solid wood sculptures with earthenware figures hidden in forests, meadows, lakes and hills. Help your children, Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Fisher. Meet Tiggy Winkle, Nut Squirrel, Tommy Brock and Jemima Puddle-Duck and pose with the gang for fun. The idea behind these literary paths is to bring the stories to life and encourage children to discover nature and the beautiful outdoor spaces that Essex has in abundance in Britain.
**ATTENTION: The Pottery Trail is currently under construction until the autumn of 2020, while the new Natural Research Centre is being renovated, which may be delayed by Covida-19. Details of the reopening can be found here: essexwt.org.uk/peter-rabbit
13. Check Colchester Zoo
Picture with funny faces : (Jason Paddephatt)
We are taking Finn to Colchester Zoo since his first birthday and one of our favorite days in Essex. The zoo, which covers an area of 60 hectares, has 220 animal species and is a day of entertainment and education for the whole family.
The exhibition presents many interesting facts about animals from all over the world, from Komodo dragons to white rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, zebras and kudu. There is also an excellent zoo for toddlers and an aquarium for walks (a Finnish favourite). For an additional fee, the zoo offers interactive activities such as feeding elephants and giraffes, which are really fun and ideal for a special occasion. During this pandemic period, prior notice is required on the Colchester-zoo.com website.
TOP TIP: A visit to the zoo in winter saves on entrance fees. It’s a bit colder, and some aspects of the outdoor activities are closed in case of bad weather, but (especially if the children are younger) they get the same at the zoo for half the price. We also found that Colchester Zoo offers much better value for money all year round than London Zoo and is only 90 minutes by train from London.
14. Driving a tractor on a Mars farm, Helmsford
Another of Essex’s funniest family days, and one that is very popular with Finns, is the Helmsford Farm Walk. There are large stables with conventional farm animals, feeding facilities and daily demonstrations by dog handlers, as well as a zoo. Finn loved the tractor ride, the tractor ride, the big adventure playground and the soft game. When we arrived it was raining, but a light drizzle didn’t stop the fun and nobody seemed to care. There was also an absolutely maniacal indoor show that got the kids excited – although the parents might want to bring earplugs?
La ferme du Marais organises special events throughout the year, such as the Children’s Bubbles and Bop Festival, Halloween and Christmas.
15. Alpaca walking on Bryantree
So it’s clear that alpaca walking is one thing, and what could be nicer than riding a fluffy, friendly alpaca around a farm? An alpaca hike takes about 90 minutes and includes safety tips and a training hike in the pen to get to know your alpaca. Then take a leisurely walk around the farm, past dwarf goat pens and along the beautiful Blackwater River. There are many opportunities to take pictures and cuddle these friendly animals, and sometimes even Elvis Bantam pretends to be one. Experience for two people sharing an alpaca, £37.50
16. Try cheesecake in a blue strawberry pie at Hatfield Perel
This list contains a lot of weather related events, so how about something that doesn’t need sunshine and can be enjoyed indoors (well, this is Britain after all!). After one of those pleasant days in Essex, especially after a walk on the farm with your stuffed friends, you might need some sugar, and there aren’t many places in the area that are more condescending than the Blue Strawberry Bistro. The famous chocolate cheesecake is a creamy piece of paradise to take with you if you feel like a small farm to sit in the chic dining room. Besides, we’re not sure why it’s spelled with a T…
17. Beach in the Netherlands by sea, Clakton
Essex is a sunny coast (Snapshot: Cozy61)
The Costa del Clacton can be very busy in summer, but east of Clacton is a sandy beach called Holland by the sea, and that’s our insider’s secret! Holland-on-Sea is one of our favourite beaches in Essex, with golden sand and a beautiful promenade with beach huts, picnic areas, beach bars, stalls and toilets. The Netherlands by the sea is less crowded than the main beaches of Clakton, but only half an hour’s walk from the Clakton Pier (proclaimed National Pier Society of the Year in 2020). And if you can stay until sunset, there are also epic sunsets on the beach.
18. Palace picnic, Saffron forest
Gardens in Audley End House (Photo: Clive A Brown)
Early 17th century. Odley End House, built in the late 19th century, was considered an Art Nouveau palace with impressive architecture, snake gardens and breathtaking views. Now you can explore the house and the stables and taste the delicious dishes from the organic kitchen in the garden. You will be pampered with a selection of 120 apple varieties, 40 pear varieties and 60 tomato varieties. Who knew there’d be so many! On the grounds there is a large picnic area, a children’s playground, a café and a shop.
A family visit to the house of Audley End doesn’t end without a teddy bear picnic on the Audley End Railway. You’ll also find the fairy walk and the enchanted elves. Search for the little fairies and elves who live in their handmade wooden houses, scattered along the path using a spy book available at the Visitor Centre. Beware of Antony Gormley Troll – he lives under a bridge and legend has it that he can be very grumpy.
19. RHS Hyde Hall, Helmsford
Another of the best picnic spots is the RHS Hyde Hall, a beautiful public garden in the Essex countryside near Hlemsford. Sometimes all you need for a family outing in Essex is a blanket for a picnic and beautiful surroundings. Hyde Hall’s peaceful and colourful gardens are ideal for a cold day on the lawn with friends and family. The dry garden, an area with drought resistant plants, fascinated me enormously (I took some advice because I forget to water most of my greenery!). If you are a member of the RHS (£48.75 a year with two children free), admission is free. Otherwise the daily entrance fee for the garden is £13.50 for adults and £6.75 for children).
20. Oberwald study
Colouration of the Epping Forest (Photo: spicy green)
The London Underground Forest appears to be an oxymoron, but in reality there are two forests in Essex that are accessible via the London Underground Network, Hainaut Forest and Epping Forest – both on the central line. The Epping Forest is an underestimated (but not entirely hidden) jewel on the outskirts of town. The 6,000 acres (12 miles) of almost untouched forest is the largest public open space in Greater London, where you can hike, play, cycle, horseback ride and follow historical trails. In fact, the Epping Forest is so vast that it has four visitor centres!
Our favourite destination is the High Beech Visitor Centre in High Beach, near Epping itself. It’s named after a tree, but I’ve also seen it on official sites called High Beach, so I’m not sure what’s going on there? From there, follow the accessible and inaccessible paths that lead through the forest. The Visitor Centre also has an educational area with special events (free of charge) throughout the year. One day we stumbled upon a lesson about wild animals, and it was great! The staff is very friendly and there are curious exhibitions about natural history and wildlife, including birds, butterflies and mammals.
21. Camping London to Debden House
I hardly want to tell you about this campsite in the country, which is so close to London that you can get there by metro! An overnight stay in Theydon Woods and a short taxi ride will take you to Debden House, a beautiful little shelter that has existed since Saxon times. Actually, the name Debden comes from the Saxon word for deep valley. Camping Debden House has seven large pitches, including four pitches with fireplaces (pitches 2, 5, 6 and 7) and more than 300 pitches, many of which have electric hook-ups for caravans and mobile homes. In Theydon Bois there is a Tesco shop where you can buy basic food, while at the campsite you can buy firewood and basic camping equipment. Even if you do not want to spend the night, day tickets are available and groups are welcome.
22. Walk on the former London Trackmaster
Bus in Old London Back to Essex (Photo: Paul Van der Hulks)
You may be in the heart of the forest and in a world far away from the hectic life of London, but everywhere you look there are few sights that will remind you of the location of Epping Forest in the big city. From the red mailboxes and phone booths to the black taxis and the little glimpses on the horizon in the distance, the best way to notice it is to see a bright red London bus driving between the trees. The London Bus Company operates the public bus line 339 from Epping to North Wales and Ongar, with a few buses to Shenfield Station (for long distance travel to London and Southend).
For history and transport lovers: Some cars in the Eppinger Wald were first put into service during the Second World War, but they look as good as new. Brilliant old double-decker buses come with friendly guides and you can buy tickets on board the old-fashioned way. If you go to Nordweald, you’ll also have plenty of time to pose for photos with impressive cars and have a cup of tea in the station café.
You can view the program here.
23. Wild sailing at Ulting, Hatfield Peverl
(photo: fourth and fifteenth/flickr)
Wilderness swimming has become popular in recent years and the River Helmer is one of the most popular places for wilderness swimming in Essex. This is a beautiful stretch of the river Helmer and is considered one of the cleanest waterways in Essex. Reliable swimmers can swim downstream to the bridge and castle of Hou Mill or walk a mile upstream on a towpath to the remote lock of Rushes Castle. If you plan your days in Essex and have young people with you, Ulting is ideal for paddling or splashing, and you can also try kayaking and paddling in calm water.
24. Riding in Frinton, by the sea
Horses are allowed to ride on Frington Beach (Photo: Janet Lindenmouth)
Frington is one of the few beaches on the Essex coast where you can go horseback riding. There are certain times when driving is limited, but if you can come at the scheduled times, you can use the break-in along the promenade. If you don’t have your own noble horse (let’s face it, many of us don’t), there are several riding stables near the beach, the nearest of which is Elm Todd Livy. Frinton is also one of Essex’s six Blue Flag beaches. So if you prefer to stay on the ground, enjoy a walk on the thick sand and paddle instead.
25. Water walk in the water park, Basildon
In Basildon’s Festwake Water Park, splashing is voluntary and regular. The inflatable water park has an inflatable attack course on the water to challenge the whole family (6 years and older). The relatively new water park consists of two Joe Jungles, two Exploding Bags, a giant trampoline, Jim Jungle, a Zulu slide, two Foxtrots, two Serras, a waterway walk and a hamster wheel cyclone. Even if you have no idea what it all means, chances are your teenager will do it! Tickets start at £20, but it’s also a great spectator sport – especially if someone you know does a dunk!
26. Rowing boat for rent at Dadham Park
Boat in Konstabler Land (snapshot: Treue T)
Since artist John Constable was inspired to sit here and paint a beautiful landscape, the chic Deathham has been known as the place to rent a rowing boat for classic days in Essex. The Dedham Boathouse has clinker boats (£10 for 30 miles, £17 per hour) to make sailing (especially if you’re not rowing) on the Stour easier. Flatford Mill, famous for its Constable, is 1.5 miles along the river if you feel energetic or just want to swim and relax in idyllic surroundings. Eat your ice cream at the Boathouse Cafe.
To find out more about Helen and pasortstamps.uk, click here!
27. Enrolled at Grange Farm Forestry School, Chigwell
Chigwell Meadows is a haven for wildlife including deer, hedgehogs, herons, swallows, bees, great newts and foxes as well as a variety of birds. La ferme Grange offers educational activities for children of all ages so that they can discover the beauty of nature and develop practical skills. There are activities such as orienteering, bush and habitat exploration such as pond diving and photographing mini thrushes. The Nature Tots Bosschool is a weekly group suitable for children aged 18 months to 4 years. The sessions take place outdoors in a wooded area designed to make it fun for children to take care of the planet, starting with the local environment (£6.95 per child, £4.65 per sibling). To book your ticket or for more information please contact Emma at the Essex Wildlife Trust on 020 8500 3094.
Even if you can’t take a full course, Roding Valley Nature Reserve is ideal for families in Essex if you’re interested in nature and the outdoors. The 160 hectare site is managed by the Essex Wildlife Fund and is a meeting place for lovers of old trees, bird watching, butterflies, wildflowers and outdoor walking.
28. Assembly lock
Have fun with the history of Mountfitchet castle (Photo: Matt Brown)
Mountfitchet Castle is one of the most casual days in Essex, but kids love it, and it’s definitely a different kind of experience. The historically important castle of Mountfitchet is the only medieval castle and the only Normandy village in the world that has been rebuilt in its original place. Today it is an entertaining open-air museum where you can go back more than 900 years and immerse yourself in the life of the medieval castle of La Motte and Bailey. The children will love to feed the tame fallow deer and other rescued animals that move freely over an area of 10 hectares. Adults – 15 pounds, children – 4 or more 10).
29. View the world’s largest toy collection, Stansted
If you plan to spend a day in Mountfitchet, the entrance fee (£12 for adults, £10 for children) includes a visit to the Hill House Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of over 80,000 toys, from Victorian times to the 1990s. There’s also great toys for kids – souvenirs from Only Fools and Horses, Dad’s Army, film and TV props and life-size characters from Star Wars and Doctor Who.
30. Essex Days: Shopping at Lag Na Sea
High Street on Leigh on Sea (Photo: Ben Sutherland)
If you want to spend a day in Essex, Leig-on-Sea is a nice beach town with TOWIE-Vibe. High Street is a mix of quirky craft shops, independent boutiques and art galleries, with a decent mix of tradition and modernity. There are some great seafood restaurants on the waterfront (e.g. The Boatyard), but families can feel more comfortable at the Gastropub, the Peterboat restaurant, which offers beautiful sea views and a more modest menu. You can also take a selection of local carrot tents along the front and have a bite out of the box.
31. Rainy days in Essex: Giant Brain
Play ‘Slick stupid Names’ in Braintree (Image: Carol)
This is one of the nice days you can spend outside Essex in the rain (if you have a car – or an umbrella). In Brantree, north of Chelmsford, there are eight curious alleys with dark names that have made them a topic of conversation. They are known as Ganty Bryntree, thanks to the large number of Flemish weavers who settled in Bryntree in the 16th century. Gloves, comes from the Flemish word gang, which means gang, and refers to the small access roads to the old market square.
Some of the gloves have very stupid names, and it’s a fun game to challenge your teenagers and children to find them all. The six main giants:
Poultry in hand glove
Pig’s Glove (most famous)
If you want to make the most of your stay in Braintree (especially if the weather is a bit fickle) there is also a decent shopping centre with well-known brands such as Adidas, Clarks, Jack Wills and Kate Spade. braintree-village.com
32. Design your own ceramic tiles, South Woodford
For a great indoor stay in Essex, try this charming pottery café in South Woodford, popular with children of all ages. Creative Biscuit is a ceramic café where you can paint ceramics and be creative according to your age. And you don’t have to be a minor to have fun, because on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month there’s a late painter’s party at the café, where you can have fun and be creative – and even bring your own drinks!
You’ve done everything on our list? Why don’t we plan a day in Kent?
Other ideas for family holidays with a passport.
Best pumpkin harvest in Essex.
How can you fly with a child.
What are our ten most frequent trips for children?
What happened when we rented a big American van and went on a trip to the United States?
How much does a VALUE trip to Walt Disney World cost – Total downtime and money-saving tips.
How to plan a vacation in Orlando, Florida.
Where can I find the best tickets to Disney and Orlando Universal theme park in the United Kingdom?
Why is this place perfect for Le Petit Mois?
An all-inclusive luxury complex for children – it really exists!
The all-inclusive Caribbean with children – what awaits you on the beaches, Ocho Rios.
This beach is the best secret in Cornwall.
Quick trip to France, weekend in Le Touquet.
How life on the bus prepared us for a lockdown.
Can you fill our Epic DIY KITCHEN?
Try the Muggle Quiz, just for Harry Potter fans.
Morocco Marrakech with children