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Sunset image of the Leigh-on-Sea seafront with boats and ships.

The Discovery Coast....where will inspiration take you today?

If you haven't explored the 350 miles of Essex coastline what are you waiting for?

Despite its proximity to London, Essex’s Discovery Coast is a world apart. There are many hidden treasures to be found, with quiet cliff top walks, seductive rugged coves sheltered from the weather, right through to the lengthy stretches of beautiful beaches. Less well know is the quieter side of the coast where ports are steeped in heritage. From Harwich to Maldon, home to the iconic brown-sailed Thames Sailing Barges that once ferried goods along the east coast to London, to Old Leigh, with its cockle sheds, clapboard artists’ studios and picturesque cobbled streets, echoes of the past reverberate throughout the area. The vast saltmarshes and shimmering mudflats that make up so much of the Essex coastline were once the haunt of smugglers and oystermen. You’d be hard pressed to find a smuggler here these days, but oyster fishing still thrives in the area, particularly around Mersea Island. Here, the prized Colchester Native oyster flourishes in the rich mudflats that creep along the shoreline. You can sample famous seafood in rustic family run restaurants such as the Company Shed whilst watching the boats bobbing in the water.


Best known, perhaps, are resorts like Southend-on-Sea, Clacton-on-Sea, and the quieter resort of Walton-on-the-Naze with their gently shelving sandy beaches and traditional piers – but even here there are surprises. Did you know that, at 1.3 miles, Southend’s pleasure pier is the longest in the world? Or that Clacton’s beach has won several coveted Blue Flag awards and is prized for its watersports? Or that Walton-on-the-Naze is as much about fossils as family fun? Head a little further down the coast to quiet and well-to-do Frinton-on-Sea which has one of the area’s loveliest beaches.

Picture of the front cover of the Rough Guide.
Beach huts at Mersea Island, seals at Wallasea Island and Bateman's Tower in Brightlingsea.

We love the Discovery Coast

Essex nature reserves

Two eegrets courting on the lake at Abbots Hall.

The Discovery Coast is a moody tangle of mudflats and lonely saltmarshes and estuarine islands. It is a wild, ever-changing place of international importance for bird watching. This coastline harbours crucial wintering sites for wildfowl and waders.


Discover the wild side of Essex

Picture of two seals at Wallasea Island.

The lonely saltmarshes, tidal inlets and estuarine islands are a wild and ever-changing place where the natural world rules. Whatever the season, whatever the weather we invite you to explore the amazing RSPB nature reserves of our county, experience big skies, exciting wildlife and help give nature a home.


Family fun

Picture of a father and daughter building sandcastles on the beach.

Whether it's end-of-the-pier seaside fun, fairground thrill or sandy days spent shell collecting and crabbing you are after, the Discovery Coast is fantastic for families. Golden child-friendly sandy beaches, many of them award winning, offer splendid family fun at the seaside.


Maritime Essex itinerary

Picture of sunset over Leigh-on-Sea

This delightful trail features many coastal destinations including the historic port of Harwich and the seaside resorts of Walton, Clacton and Frinton on the Sunshine Coast. Mersea Island, Maldon and the Dengie with pretty Burnham-on-Crouch, ending with a visit to the cockle sheds at Old Leigh.


Wallasea Island

Mersea Island


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