Top 8 things to do in Essex

For decades, popular culture hasn’t always been kind to Essex, and even today the stigma of unfair stereotypes still colour some people’s view of this exceptional county.

Well, we’re here to help set the record straight, because Essex is a place with something for everyone – from wildlife sanctuaries and coastal splendour to historic towns and a vibrant nightlife culture.

Here are 8 of the best things to see and visit in Essex.


1. Colchester Zoo

Towards the north of the county lies Colchester, which we recently picked as one of our favourite places to live in Essex – and it’s an unwritten law that you can’t visit Colchester without coming to see the animals at Colchester Zoo.

Let’s take a look at what you can do on your visit:

  • Meet a Wide Range of Animals
  • Animal Feeding Experiences
  • Watch Animal Shows
  • Explore Themed Zones
  • Visit the Kid’s Play Areas

For those looking to move close to Colchester and its world-famous zoo, our Chitts Hill and Bergholt Place development is perfectly placed.

Giraffes at Colchester Zoo

2. The Beth Chatto Gardens

Beth Chatto OBE was an award-winning plantswoman and garden designer, born and raised in Essex.

Her skill with all things horticultural, as well as her unwavering dedication, saw her transform an unsightly wasteland of brambles and bogs into one of the country’s most spectacular natural venues.

Here’s what you can get up to on your visit:

  • Explore Diverse Gardens
  • Enjoy Seasonal Displays
  • Photography and Art Inspiration
  • Take a Break in the Tea Room
  • Gardening Workshops and Talks

For those of you who live at our Colne Meadow development in the coastal town of Brightlingsea, the Beth Chatto Gardens are just a 15-minute drive away.

Southend pier at sunset

3. Southend Pier

You can’t tell people in Southend to take a long walk off a short pier – because, stretching out 1.34 miles into the sea, the Southend Pier is the longest in the world.

While the world’s longest pier and breathtaking views are more than enough to secure a place in our top 8 best things to do in Essex, let’s take a look:

  • Take a Scenic Walk
  • Ride the pier Train
  • Visit the Pier Museum
  • Enjoy the Seafront Arcade
  • Relax at the Pier’s End Cafe


4. Grayson Perry’s ‘A House For Essex’

There aren’t many houses we’d recommend over one of ours, but a Grayson Perry-designed property set in beautiful countryside and close to the River Stour? Even we have to say such a home is well worth investigating.

The House For Essex is both a fairytale-inspired piece of artwork in itself and a gallery of Perry’s work that explores the special character and unique qualities of Essex. You can even book a holiday stay.

Here’s what you can expect while visiting:

  • Amazing Architecture
  • Artistic Interiors
  • Storytelling Through Design

Grayson Perry’s House For Essex is only a 12-minute drive from our River Reach development in Mistley. So if you fancy a nearby home from home, this could be just the kind of eccentric escape you’ve been looking for.

A windmill in Essex

5. Chelmsford Cathedral

Chelmsford Cathedral is not just a place of worship but a testament to stunning architectural design.

Renowned for its breathtaking architecture, each corner of the cathedral tells a story, reflecting a blend of historical styles that will captivate anyone with an interest in architectural evolution.

Let’s take a look at what you can do on your visit:

  • Admire the Gothic Architecture
  • Attend Musical Concerts and Events
  • Explore the Historic Interiors
  • Enjoy the Serene Gardens
  • Participate in Guided Tours

If you are interested in moving to Chelmsford our forthcoming site at Beaulieu could be for you.

6. Adventure Island

Adventure Island, situated in the vibrant seaside town of Southend-on-Sea, stands out as a delightful amusement park that welcomes visitors without an admission fee.

This park is a treasure trove of fun, boasting an array of rides and attractions that cater to thrill-seekers of all ages, from exhilarating roller coasters for adventure enthusiasts to gentler options for the younger ones.

Here’s what you’ll find on your visit:

  • Over 40 Rides and Attractions
  • Range of Roller Coasters for Thrill-Seekers
  • Water Rides to Cool Off
  • Plenty of Food and Drink Options
  • Mini-Golf and Arcade Games
Hopkins Homes River Reach Mistley Phase One Street Scene

7. Epping Forest

Epping Forest stands as a historic woodland that invites visitors into a natural sanctuary.

Whether you seek a peaceful stroll along winding trails or an adventurous exploration of its hidden treasures, Epping Forest promises an unforgettable experience in the embrace of the great outdoors.

Let’s take a look at what this place has to offer:

  • Miles of Walking and Cycling Trails
  • Horse Riding Paths
  • Spotting Wildlife and Ancient Trees
  • Guided Walks and Educational Activities
  • Picnicking in Serene Settings


8. The Hylands Estate

Hylands Estate offers a beautiful landscape of parkland and gardens, with the majestic Hylands House at its centre. It’s a wonderful destination for history enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone looking for a tranquil day out.

Whether you seek a serene escape or a destination to immerse yourself in history, the Hylands Estate is full of idyllic charm and promises a delightful and peaceful day out for all who visit.

Here’s what you can do on your visit:

  • Tour the Elegant Hylands House
  • Explore 574 Acres of Parkland
  • Visit the Beautifully Restored Gardens
  • Attend Various Events and Festivals
  • Enjoy the Adventure Playground with Kids
Boats moored at the Waterside marina apartments at Brightlingsea near Colchester

Is Essex for You?

With plenty of things to do and see, Essex has made its mark on homebuyers looking to relocate.

Take a look at our new build homes in Essex. We’ve even set up a guide to the best places to live in Essex!



What are the top attractions to visit in Essex?

There are various amazing places to visit in Essex, here are just some of them:

  • Colchester Zoo: It’s a hit, especially if you’re into wildlife.
  • Southend-on-Sea: The classic seaside experience with a long pier.
  • Chelmsford Cathedral: For a bit of history and stunning architecture.
  • Epping Forest: Great for a nature walk or a picnic.

Where is the best place to stay in Essex?

Finding the best place to stay in Essex depends on your personal preferences. If you’re looking for a beachside atmosphere, Southend-on-Sea offers a variety of accommodations with scenic sea views. Colchester combines the charm of historic sites with the conveniences of a city, making it a great all-rounder for visitor

What is Essex most famous for?

Essex is most famous for a couple of things. Historically, it’s celebrated as the location of the oldest recorded town in Britain, Colchester, which is steeped in Roman history.

In contemporary culture, Essex gained a different kind of fame through the reality TV show “The Only Way is Essex,” which showcases a glamorous and often dramatic lifestyle.

Is there much to do in Essex?

There’s plenty to do in Essex, catering to a wide range of interests. History enthusiasts can explore ancient castles like Colchester Castle and discover local museums.

For those seeking nightlife, towns like Chelmsford offer a vibrant scene with bars and clubs. The county is also blessed with beautiful natural landscapes like Dedham Vale, ideal for walking, cycling, or simply enjoying the scenery.

What to do on a cold day in Essex?

On a cold day in Essex, there are many indoor activities to enjoy. The Sea Life Adventure in Southend provides an immersive experience with marine life, perfect for families.

Museums in Colchester offer a dive into history and culture, ideal for staying warm while learning something new. Additionally, Essex is dotted with cosy pubs and cafes, offering the perfect setting to relax with a hot drink and delicious food.

What is some traditional Essex food?

Speaking of food, Essex has some traditional dishes worth trying. The county is particularly known for its fresh seafood, with oysters from Mersea Island being a local delicacy.

Traditional pie and mash is another classic that can be found in various eateries, offering a taste of authentic Essex cuisine.

What famous celebrities live in Essex?

As for celebrities, Essex has been the home to several famous faces. Many cast members from “The Only Way is Essex,” such as Gemma Collins and Mark Wright, have contributed to the county’s contemporary fame.

Additionally, celebrities like Russell Brand and Olly Murs have their roots in Essex, showcasing the diverse talent that originates here.