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Coastal & Estuary Wanderings

Coastal & Estuary Wanderings

Stay in a harbourside hotel and spend a few days exploring the Essex coast and estuaries. Boating, cream teas, a nature reserve, a maritime trail and a top-notch garden are all part of the trip.

Day 1

Morning – start your day at the tucked-away treasure of the Essex Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Fingringhoe Wick, near Colchester.  Before you set off to explore the reserve, relax over morning coffee at the visitor centre, enjoying expansive views over the Colne estuary - chat with the friendly volunteers who can tell about the most recent sightings on the reserve. You can borrow a map and binoculars and take a walk around, spotting birds and wildlife along the way. Strike out for the waterside Margaret Hide which has comfy chairs and great views across Alresford Creek. Stay for lunch in the visitor centre café or pop down to the village pub.

Afternoon - head over to Old Harwich for check in at The Pier Hotel, next to the quay.
Harwich was the birthplace of Christopher Jones, Master of the Mayflower ship, which sailed across to America in 1620. Across the street, near to the Lifeboat station, there is the start of the Mayflower Trail, a great way to explore this historic coastal port on foot, taking in its quaint old buildings, Ha’Penny Pier, high and low lighthouses, Edwardian cinema, treadwheel crane and views over to the majestic cranes at Felixstowe across the harbour.

Head along the coast towards Dovercourt on foot and see if you can spot the ‘copycat’ Banksie on the sea wall which mysteriously appeared after Banksie’s Summer Spraycation on the East Coast in 2021.

There are several options for dinner in Old Harwich or relax and dine in the hotel.

Day 2

Morning – pre-book your morning session with Curve Watersports, a short drive up the road in St Osyth's and try your hand at kayaking or paddle boarding. This safe boating lake is a great place for beginners. If you are after some fun they also have an inflatable water park and ring rides.

Afternoon - Stay in St Osyth, often rated as the sunniest place in the UK or visit the resorts of Walton-on-the-Naze, Frinton-on-Sea and Clacton are all within easy reach so take your pick or visit all three. Just beyond Clacton is Jaywick Martello Tower,  a charming museum and look out point.

Brightlingsea is also an option this afternoon for riverside walks, crabbing on the pier, fish and chips and a ferry across to Mersea Island during high season. 

Day 3

Morning – head over to Dedham where you can walk along the banks of the river Stour, taking in the scenic Dedham Mill and weir, or hire a rowing boat for a gentle punt along the river. There are several independent shops along Dedham high street - pop into the 15th Century church where you can see an original painting by John Constable and don’t miss the Dedham Arts & Crafts Centre, situated on the main street in a converted chapel.

There are several options in Dedham for morning coffee or lunch including the Essex Rose Tiptree tea room and the historic Sun Inn. 

Afternoon - drive to Manningtree where you can stroll along Mistley Walls and watch the swans and other estuary birds feeding on the saltmarsh. The town beach is a nice place to while away some time, skimming stones in the warmer months and Manningtree’s historic high street has charming buildings along its length, including the Italian-inspired restaurant, Luca Enoteca.  

Next stop Wrabness where you can start at the station car park, walk past the community shop and garden, over the railway bridge and down towards the woodlands for waterside walks and views across the Stour estuary.  You will pass the quirky ‘House for Essex’ designed by the Essex-born artist, Grayson Perry.

Day 4

Morning check out of the hotel and drive across the Tendring peninsular to Beth Chatto’s Garden, an inspirational, informal garden which was transformed from an overgrown wasteland using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions. This is a ‘must-see’ for anyone who enjoys a garden.

Spend some time in the café here, for home-made cakes and great coffee, before heading home.

Scroll down past the map below for more information about the places mentioned in this itinerary.   

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Product Information

  1. The Pier at Harwich Hotel


    Situated on the quay in Harwich, this small AA 4 star hotel has 14 bedrooms, many with fine views over The Stour and Orwell estuaries. Enjoy all day dining throughout the year in the Pier Restaurant or small plates, cocktails and gin library in the NAVYÄRD bar.

  2. Fingringhoe Wick Nature Discovery Park


    Nature reserve over 200 acres of mixed habitat on the Colne Estuary. Nature trails, wheelchair access, bird hides, gift shop and visitor centre with tea room. Friendly atmosphere. Regular events for adults and children.

  3. Harwich Maritime Walking Trail


    Take a voyage of discovery around the old port of Harwich and discover a wealth of maritime history.

  4. Jaywick Martello Tower


    Built originally as a Napoleonic Fort in the early 19th century the tower now acts as a central hub for the local community & visitors. There are regular arts & heritage exhibitions, talks & events.

  5. Brightlingsea Boat Trips

    Brightlingsea, Colchester

    From April 1st to 22nd September Brightlingsea Harbour runs a daily foot ferry service to Mersea Island and Point Clear. On certain dates a pub lunch river cruise along the River Colne to Wivenhoe plus harbour tours .

  6. Dedham Art and Craft Centre


    Dedham Art & Craft Centre is housed in a converted church in this popular village. The Centre exudes historic charm and is the perfect place to visit, shop and eat.

  7. Tiptree Tea Room at Essex Rose, Dedham


    The Essex Rose Tea Room serves a range of sandwiches, jacket potatoes, cooked lunches, hot and cold snacks, cakes and scones.

  8. The Sun Inn Dedham


    A quintessential coaching inn at the heart of Constable Country. It has been a watering hole for villagers and resting post for travellers for centuries.

  9. Lucca Enoteca


    Wood-fired pizzas and classic pasta dishes in an oak-beamed dining room with bare brick walls.

  10. A House for Essex


    A House for Essex appears as a small, beautifully crafted object amidst the trees and fields. The house does not attempt to mimic the appearance and materials of existing buildings in the local village of Wrabness. Instead, it offers a unique addition. 

  11. Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens

    Elmstead Market, Colchester

    Covering 6 acres, these beautiful gardens and nursery were created by award-winning plantswoman Beth Chatto.

Itinerary Distances

FromToDistance * (metric)
The Pier at Harwich Hotel (51.94789,1.28687)Fingringhoe Wick Nature Discovery Park (51.83457,0.971)22.59
Fingringhoe Wick Nature Discovery Park (51.83457,0.971)Harwich Maritime Walking Trail (51.94323,1.28996)22.53
Harwich Maritime Walking Trail (51.94323,1.28996)Jaywick Martello Tower (51.77263,1.09509)20.92
Jaywick Martello Tower (51.77263,1.09509)Brightlingsea Boat Trips (51.80598,1.02436)5.51
Brightlingsea Boat Trips (51.80598,1.02436)Dedham Art and Craft Centre (51.95881,0.99502)15.42
Dedham Art and Craft Centre (51.95881,0.99502)Tiptree Tea Room at Essex Rose, Dedham (51.95903,0.99331)0.11
Tiptree Tea Room at Essex Rose, Dedham (51.95903,0.99331)The Sun Inn Dedham (51.95892,0.99235)0.06
The Sun Inn Dedham (51.95892,0.99235)Lucca Enoteca (51.94553,1.06492)4.68
Lucca Enoteca (51.94553,1.06492)A House for Essex (51.94143,1.17337)6.71
A House for Essex (51.94143,1.17337)Beth Chatto's Plants & Gardens (51.87449,1.00388)12.44
Total Distance *110.95 miles
Estimated Journey Time3.57 hours

* Approximate distance by road

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