We share the best Instagram spots you have yet to see. These lesser-known photo locations are sure to muster your sense of fomo so be sure to visit now! #SecretEssex

Champing at St Nicholas' Church Berden

Sleep under spires with champing

Stay overnight in the churches of St Mary the Virgin in Stansted Mountfitchet, or St Nicholas in Berden. This unique exclusive experience is definitely one for the bucket list. Decorated with fairy lights, lanterns and candles amidst vaulted ceilings and apses, be in awe of this medieval grandeur as you rest your head for the night before waking up to dappled light shining through the stained-glass windows. Great for families looking for magical sleepovers or groups of friends looking for quirky and totally different. Max 6 people. Continental breakfast hampers available to pre-book. From £49 per adult per night. 

Hatters Farm Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin picking 

With over 50 varieties of pumpkins and squashes to choose from, whether you like knobbly ones, giant ones, tiny ones or colourful ones, Hatters Farm is the perfect place to visit with your little ones for those cute photos you will cherish forever. Don’t miss the UKs first Pumpkin Cannon and their Maize Maze too! For a spooky night out with friends, bring your torches and book a twilight pumpkin picking session. Open selected dates in October. 50 min direct train from London, 10 min drive from Stansted Airport train station.

Cammas Hall also offer pumpkin picking and the six-acre Maize Maze throughout October. 50 min direct train from London, 18 min drive from Stansted Airport train station.

Keep your eye on these two as they run experimental events throughout the year, from confetti flower fields to sunflower festivals!

Giraffe Feeding Experience at Colchester Zoo

Selfies with the gentle giraffes

Feed the giraffes at Colchester Zoo, proudly listed as the eleventh best zoo in the world and in the top two in the UK! Did you know these graceful giants have amazingly long tongues?! £20pp donation plus entrance ticket, max 5 people, book in advance. 48 min direct train from London, 12 min drive from Colchester North station.

Topsail Charters

Captain a barge

Set sail on Essex waters, passing remote islands and marshy landscapes, aboard an iconic, red-sailed Thames Sailing Barge. Take the wheel on a 2-day sail private charter with Topsail Charters and embark on a journey you will never forget. Reminder can sail with max. 12 guests and offers 6 cabins. Food shopping lists and menus can be provided, or a cook can be pre-booked. From £2500. Looking for a day activity? Book a hands-on day sail private charter and learn the ropes. From £130pp. 40 min direct train from London, 15 min drive from Hatfield Peverel train station.

Funky Monk Hotel

Glamour and Decadence at Funky Monk 

Indulge in a luxury overnight stay at Funky Monk hotel, located in the heart of Epping. Choose from 9 individually designed plush suites with marbled ensuite bathrooms and Ritual toiletries. Each room is decked out in grandeur, from chandeliers and drinks trolleys to free-standing roll top baths, luscious velvet and stunning wallpaper panels. Spa treatments are also available for guests. 

The restaurant follows suit with its high ceilings, majestic staircase, grand fireplace and eclectic atmosphere. Tuck into seasonal British dishes and check out their Wine Bible! DJs play on the terrace and bar on selected evenings. 13 min walk from Epping tube station.

Dedham Vale

Row, row, row your boat

You’re in for some laughs when you hire a rowing boat in the beautiful Dedham Vale AONB, whether it’s your parties rowing skills, or the resident cows along the riverbanks, yolo! Hire from The Boatyard in Dedham. After all the excitement and working up an appetite, head into the village for traditional tearooms and pubs. 50 min direct train from London, 15 min drive from Colchester North station.

The Old Oak at Colemans Farm

Overnight in a treehouse

Many UK treehouses are just wooden structures built within woodland, but at Coleman’s Farm, this is an actual treehouse – 2 storeys built within an old oak tree! In summer the tree still produces leaves inside making it even more magical! Complete with sofa, dining table, and fully equipped kitchen, this is luxury glamping. With a double bathtub boasting beautiful views of rolling fields and pond, soak up the same views from your private outside decking. With limited signal, no wi-fi and no TV, relax with a book from your hammock; it’s just you and some deer. Let the adventure begin! The Old Oak, from £250pn. Sleeps 2. Only 15min drive from Epping tube station. 

Mersea Island beach huts

Hire a beach hut

Bunting, pastels, bold, quirky – whatever your taste, we have a beach hut on a beach to suit you! Rows of colourful huts line the shores of Walton-on-the-Naze, Dovercourt, Mersea Island, Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Thorpe Bay and Brightlingsea. Each unique, enjoy a day by the sea with a base to make as many cups of teas as you like without having to carry your deck chairs, wind breaks and rubber rings! Beach huts are a great option throughout the year, on those crisp but beautifully sunny winter days or at the height of summer when you crack out the bikinis and get your tan on! Check out Boydens in the first instance.  

Talliston House and Gardens

Visit Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home 

This is a B&B like no other – you won’t know what to take a photo of first! From chilling out in a Cambodian treehouse to rustling up your dinner in a New Orleans Voodoo Kitchen, get Talliston House & Gardens all to yourself. With three rooms to choose from, enjoy a magical night’s sleep in The Room of Dreams, cosy up in The Cabin or brave The Haunted Bedroom if you dare! Wake up to a delicious, cooked breakfast at a time of your choosing. Alternatively book a day visit, on a 2-hour private tour with creator and author, John Tarrow, to find out how he created this visual masterpiece. From £125pn, 50 min direct train from London, 10 min drive from Stansted Airport train station.

Crouch Ridge Vineyard

Award-winning vineyard

Be the envy of your friends as you post selfies of wine on a sunny terrace – they’ll think you are in the French Riviera but no wait… you are actually at Crouch Ridge Vineyard… in sunny Essex! The dry climate of our region makes for brilliant growing conditions which is why we now boast over 50 vineyards with more cropping up all the time. Tuck into a delicious platter as you work your way through their amazing wine and be sure to take some home with you as you can’t buy this anywhere else. 1hr from London by train, 10 min walk from Althorne station. 

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




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