Image of lots of colourful boats bobbing along the Mersea Island coastline.

Rum coves, salty old sea dogs and enough blue to make a sailor's trousers

From the medieval streets of Harwich, crammed with listed buildings, to historic Maldon, famous for its crystal sea salt and Old Leigh, with its cockle sheds, clapboard artists’ studios and picturesque cobbled streets, echoes of the past reverberate along the Essex coastline. The vast saltmarshes and shimmering mudflats teeming with birdlife, were once the haunt of smugglers and oystermen. You’d be hard pressed to find a smuggler these days, but oyster fishing still thrives, particularly around Mersea Island, where the prized Colchester Native oyster flourishes in the rich mudflats that creep along the shoreline. Sample them in rustic family run restaurants such as the Coast Inn whilst watching the boats bobbing in the water.

From the medieval streets of Harwich, crammed with listed buildings, to historic Maldon, famous for its crystal sea salt and Old Leigh, with its cockle sheds, clapboard artists’ studios and picturesque cobbled streets, echoes of the past reverberate along the Essex coastline.

Picture of an oyster fisherman holding and looking at a crate full of oysters.
Fisherman at Mersea Island with Colchester Native oysters.

Golden beaches, remote inlets and shimmering mudflats

Delights of the Discovery Coast

Compilation of various coastal scenes.

Whether you’re a lover of wild places or busy beaches with amenities galore, Essex is the perfect place for a trip to the seaside. Ironically, it was the buttoned-up Victorians who were the first to truly embrace the idea of heading out to the beach for a spot of fun and relaxation and their legacy survives in the form of towns like Clacton, Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze.

Harwich, famous for its port, doesn’t necessarily immediately spring to mind when considering a day in the dunes. However, this charming, historic town really does reward the more intrepid explorer. For those who like their coastal escapes to be a little more, whisper it, secret, then Wrabness is a must. This sleepy village, west of Harwich, is a haven for artists, nature lovers and sailors. This is an ideal destination for a romantic picnic with a loved one, or a tranquil place to take a stroll with the dog. The celebrated artist Grayson Perry controversially built the ‘House for Essex’ at Wrabness.

Further south, sitting astride the River Blackwater, is Maldon, home to seven active Thames Sailing Barges, more than anywhere else in England, some dating from far back as 1895. The atmospheric Hythe Quay, a historic working waterfront, is lined with tarred weatherboard shipwrights’ huts piled with boat paraphernalia. Head for the yachting haven of Burnham-on-Crouch and enjoy a lazy day here admiring the colourful sails of the boats cruising during the many regattas; they brighten up every visible corner of the North Sea. It is also one of the best places to hop on a seal cruise or bird watching trip.

They’re just a few of the unexpected delights that await you along the Discovery coast. So, what-ever floats your boat, a trip to the Essex coast will not disappoint.

Whether you’re a lover of wild places or busy beaches with amenities galore, Essex is the perfect place for a trip to the seaside. Whether you chose Harwich, famous for its history and Mayflower connection, Wrabness and Greyson Perry's 'Essex House', delightful Mersea Island with its freshest seafood offer, Maldon with its majestic Thames Sailing Barges, sailing Mecca Burnham-on-Crouch or charming Old Leigh with its cobbled streets, traditional weather-boarded houses and cockle sheds, there are plenty unexpected delights that await you along the Discovery coast. So, what-ever floats your boat, a trip to the Essex coast will not disappoint. 

Hidden gems

The magical Dengie

PIcture of a white weatherboarded cottage in the countryside with bright yellow flowers in forground

Bounded by water on three sides, the Dengie peninsula is an oasis from the modern world, where weatherboarded cottages jostle with historic inns and life is just a heartbeat slower. Sunsets on the Crouch are stunning when the tidal river is in flood. Be there at evening flight, when thousands of geese fill the sky.

Picture of the exterior of the chapel.

Surely one of the most haunting and memorable sights on a tour of the Discovery Coast, is the remote chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, near Bradwell-on-Sea. It was built by St Cedd in 654, using the stones from an abandoned Roman fort on the site. It is also the 19th oldest building in the country.

Picture of an open truck with people travelling through the mudflats.

Reputed to be the UK’s most dangerous path, the Broomway, leaves Wakering Stairs near Rochford and heads out across Maplin Sands, an expanse of mudflats, before doubling back towards Foulness island. With treacherous tides, sea mist and flat topography, it is recommended to join an organised tour with Nature Breaks Wild Life Cruises.

Stay a while longer

Featured coastal hotels

The Pier at Harwich

AA 4 Star HotelHotel with 14 rooms, £125-£210 prpnb, Harwich

Situated on the quay in Harwich, the hotel has 14 bedrooms many with fine views over The Stour and Orwell estuaries. The Pier has two restaurants, the Harbourside on the first floor and the Ha'Penny Brasserie which is open all day.

 
 
 
Le Bouchon Hotel & Brasserie

Hotel with 14 rooms, Maldon

A grade II listed, 300 year old Georgian building in the small village of Heybridge, close to Maldon.

 
 
 
Roslin Beach Hotel

AA 4 Star HotelHotel with 62 rooms, £70-£175 prpnb, Southend-on-Sea

Relax in style in one of the contemporary and elegant 57 rooms, or treat yourself by choosing one of our luxurious suites or an individually designed executive room in the newly opened Beach House.

 
 

Featured coastal B&Bs

Park Hall Country House

Essex Tourism AwardsGuest Accommodation with 3 rooms, £65-£90 pppnb, Clacton-on-Sea

The former 14th century monastery Park Hall Country House is the perfect place to escape to for a short break. With its fabulous four poster suites, deluxe double rooms and warming open fires, you can enjoy country living at its very best.

 
 
 
Pond House

AA 4 Star FarmhouseFarmhouse with 2 rooms, £38-£39 pppnb, Clacton-on-Sea

Farmhouse B&B on working arable farm 2 miles from the coast. Excellent base for exploring & bird watching along the Essex Coast. Close to Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex University & Constable Country.

 
 
 
 The Limes Guest House

VisitEngland 4 Star Guest HouseGuest House with 14 rooms, £80-£130 prpnb, Maldon

A beautiful grade two listed building with sumptuous rooms decorated to a high standard, providing comfortable accommodation for all your requirements - business or social occasions.

 
 

Featured coastal cottages

Osea Island Resort

Self-catering with 135 units, £309-£6677 pupw sleeps 2-20, Maldon

A private island enclosed by four miles of beaches and coastline, just 45 miles from central London. The Edwardian style Manor House sleeps 20, as well as 10 period cottages.

 
 
 
Thatched Cottages

VisitEngland 3 to 4 Star Self-cateringSelf-catering with 2 units, £400-£550 pupw sleeps 2-4, Burnham-on-Crouch

Award winning thatched cottages set in their own private gardens. They are close to the railway station with trains going directly to London in about an hour. Easy access to the town, river & yacht clubs. Perfect for holidays or B&B.

 
 
 
Stable Cottage at Lee Wick Farm

Self-catering with 2 units, £350-£1500 pupw sleeps 7-12, Clacton-on-Sea

The Cart Lodge sleeps up to 12. Stable Cottage sleeps up to 7. Walking and cycling nearby, fishing reservoir, nature reserves and bird watching. Excellent family base for Essex and Suffolk Coastline, countryside and tourist attractions.