We’re spilling the beans on some of the most unique destinations in Essex. These local treasures remain relatively undiscovered to those outside the county. Follow in the footsteps of a local and explore our hidden gems #SecretEssex


A day by the Sea at Leigh

Enjoy the latest catch fresh from the sea along the cobble lined seafront, catch up with friends at one of the quirky coffee shops or enjoy a refreshing pint at one of the traditional pubs whilst overlooking the water. Climb the short walk to the high street passing quaint houses and pick up something unique at one of the many independent boutiques. There are also loads more places to eat here too, you’ll be spoilt for choice! 45 mins direct train via C2C from London Fenchurch Street.

Epping Forest

Olympic Park to Epping Forest cycle route

Total distance: 25km (via the Lee Valley towpath)
Time: 2 hours (one way)
Difficulty: Medium 
If you are looking for a traffic-free cycle ride from London to fresh air and greenery, look no further! Head north from Hackney Wick on the towpath up the River Lea past canal locks, reservoirs and hippy houseboats. Cross briefly onto the A110 before surfacing into beautiful Epping Forest, with more than 40 miles of surfaced and unsurfaced bridleways to enjoy. Stunning at all times of year. Why not stop for a coffee or bite to eat at Butlers Retreat. 

Dedham Vale

Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty 

A jewel in the Essex crown, buzzing with locals in peak season taking to the water or picnicking on the riverbanks. This is a beauty spot captured by artist John Constable, and is great for walking, hiring a rowing boat, picking up local crafts at Dedham Art & Craft Centre, enjoying a bite to eat at world-renowned Tiptree tearoom, The Essex Rose, or enjoying a refreshing pint at The Sun Inn Dedham. The best time to visit in summer is early in the morning when you’ll be joined only by the residing cows for company or in early evening light. 50 min direct train from London, 15 min drive from Colchester North station.



This quaint riverside town is full of old-world charm with listed buildings, boat yards and sailing clubs. Enjoy a coffee at independent Peaberries Coffee or sip on a refreshing pint at one of the many pubs overlooking the water at the attractive quayside. The old fashioned 2-screen cinema is an experience, with the hatch tuck shop. You can also pick up seal watching boat trips from here, with almost guaranteed sightings basking on the shores of Wallasea and Foulness Islands. 

Why not combine your trip with a stop at Crouch Ridge Vineyard. Depart at Althorne, the next stop from Burnham, and walk 10 mins to this beautiful vineyard overlooking the River Crouch. Sample award-winning wines from the terrace and tuck into delicious platters. On a sunny day, you’ll definitely feel holiday vibes here. 1 hour 5 mins direct train via Greater Anglia from London Liverpool Street.

Mistley Towers

Walk with Witches in Manningtree and Mistley

This short walk, inspired by the 17th century East Anglian witch trials, starts from Manningtree, ‘the best kept secret’ (The Times) and one of the smallest towns in England. Why not grab a coffee at one of the independent shops lining the high street or browse the boutiques. The walk takes you along the estuary, to Mistley, known for its swans. Be sure to explore the Mistley Towers as you pass and now you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the Mistley Thorn for a bite to eat. This circular walk will take you right back to where you started. If you are still feeling peckish, head to Lucca Enoteca, an authentic Italian restaurant or check out the vegan wine and vinyl shop. 1hr direct train from London to Manningtree train station.

Tollesbury Marshes from the air

Tollesbury Marshes

The marshy landscape may look familiar from its on-screen stardom... follow in the footsteps of Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes when you visit - Apple TV's The Essex Serpent was filmed here as well as ITVs series Liar. The Red Lightship 'Trinity' has become an icon within this beautifully serene saltmarsh landscape. Breathe in the fresh air on an invigorating walk to explore this wild area, great for paddleboarding. Be sure to visit the local tearooms, a vintage café set within an old sail loft, for scrumptious cakes. Best reached by car. Nearest train station is Witham, a 25 min drive away, with direct links to London.


Chocolate box villages and towns

Essex is home to many quintessentially English villages and picture-perfect towns. With thatched roofs, church spires, windmills, red telephone boxes turned book libraries and decorative pargetting on timber-framed cottages, explore these idyllic locations by foot or bike. We’d suggest heading to the Uttlesford and Braintree districts for the most concentrated of these. To name just a few; Wendons Ambo, Coggeshall, Great Bardfield, Finchingfield but there are lots more! If travelling by train, best arrival stations are Newport, Braintree and Kelvedon via Greater Anglia from London Liverpool Street. 

Landermere Quay

Landermere Quay

This beauty spot between Harwich and Walton, is only accessible by foot. Many artists once lived there, including the Virginia Wolf family, and Edward Paolozzi (who created the Tottenham Court Road station mural). It has a colourful history to match; reputedly 16th century smugglers bay and once home to Queen Victoria’s physician, Sir William Gull, who became a Jack the Ripper suspect! Calm and tranquil, this is an idyllic spot for kayaking or swimming. But there is something wonderfully wild about this little-known gem.

Tie this in with a visit to East Coast Distillery for gin making and tastings. 1 hour 18 mins direct train from London, 5 min drive from Thorpe-le-Soken train station.

Arlesford Creek

Wivenhoe & Arlesford Creek

Wander the warren of streets in Wivenhoe’s old town, filled with traditional pubs such as the Rose and Crown, overlooking the River Colne. Sunsets here are beautiful. The characterful town is home to lots of independent eateries and shops, some of which spill out on to its streets. If boutique dining is more your scene, head to The Flag for cocktails. Built around a nineteenth century dry dock, modern townhouses are decked out with beautiful nautical themed front gardens.

Walk or cycle from Wivenhoe to Alresford Creek (approximately 20 mins walk) and enter a film location! Apple TVs The Essex Serpent was filmed here amongst the bobbing boats. You may also see the occasional seal or iconic Thames Sailing Barge along this stretch of water, popular with paddleboarders and canoers. 1 hour 5 mins direct train via Greater Anglia from London Liverpool Street.

Maldon Promenade Park


Best known for Maldon Sea Salt, this estuary town makes for a great day exploring. The Hythe is full of bobbing boats and iconic Thames sailing barges which run regular trips, from sunset cruises to seal watching trips. Walk along the promenade and beyond for invigorating fresh air and beautiful views of the mud flats. The quaint high street is full of independent cafes and restaurants but be sure to venture off into side streets for even more gems; a smokehouse overlooking the water and Bloomsbury Art Café & Bookshop (where you can buy local artwork – we love the Paddington Bear in Maldon series!) to name just a couple. 40 min direct train from London, 15 min drive from Hatfield Peverel train station.

If you liked this blog, follow us on Instagram @visitessex for lots more #SecretEssex ideas.




Comments are disabled for this post.