Best beaches in Essex
Essex is a county that truly has it all, from the historic Roman centre in Colchester to the eerie wilds of the blackwater salt marches along the River Colne. But its greatest draw for visitors has to be its long and expansive coastline adorned with some of the UK’s most beautiful and vibrant beaches.
Essex is awash with choices for top-tier shoreline spots and icons. Southend-on-Sea boasts the UK’s longest pier, whilst Chalkwell shore looks out to the Crowstone – an ancient marker of the seaward limit of the City of London. With such high standard of beaches to pick from, it’s hard to make a bad choice, but there are a few which stand out amongst the crowd. We’ve done our research and compiled this handy list of the very best beaches in Essex.
Frinton Beach, Frinton-on-Sea
Another Blue Flag status holder, Frinton Beach has a relaxed and friendly vibe. This beach prides itself on great quality sand, making it the perfect place for sandcastle building competitions. If you’re making a day of it and looking for that extra bit of comfort, there’s the opportunity to hire one of the delightfully coloured beach huts along the promenade. Put the kettle on and enjoy your tea and biscuits from the comfort of your own little sea-side sanctuary – huts are available to hire too.
The town of Frinton-on-Sea was designed as a seaside holiday resort in the early 20th-century and maintains high holiday-making standards to this day. Just along from the beach is Frinton Golf Club for a shoreside game or enjoy a Sunday Roast served at the Lawn Tennis Club on Holland Road.
The Three Shells Beach, Southend
The Three Shells might just be the most popular beach on this list, and certainly an easy candidate for one of the best and most fun beaches in Essex. With its own lagoon for all-year-round swimming, kids indoor play area and Adventure Island fun park to boot, you won’t be short of entertainment for kids and grown-ups alike. Self-claimed as one of the warmest and driest spots in the UK, Three Shells Beach really does have it all!
There is an abundance of cafés and outlets along the front - The Three Shells Beach cafe offers cheap and cheerful seaside classics, whilst the Royal Hotel restaurant goes all out with its fancy gastro-pub menu for a classy night out.
Canvey Island Beach, Canvey Island
Named one of the sunniest beaches in the UK in 2021, Canvey Island’s coast is easily one of the best beaches in Essex. The island itself sits amongst a series of creeks in the Thames Estuary which separate it from the Essex coast. Inhabited since Roman times, the island has a rich agricultural history before becoming of the fastest growing seaside resorts of the mid 20th-century.
The sandy shores of Canvey make for a great beach-based day out with the little ones. A newly installed tidal swimming pool on the seafront allows the kids to have their waterside fun without the worry of the open sea for the parents! What’s more, young thrill-seekers will be delighted by the exhilarating range of rides at Leisure Island Fun Park located right on the sea front.
Canvey is quite the place of legend, too, with the Canvey Island Monster keeping locals scratching their heads for over half a century. Tentatively identified as an anglerfish in recent years, the monster remains something of a local mystery, so keep your eyes peeled for monstrous shapes on the horizon!
Shoebury East Beach, Shoeburyness
Keep heading around the coast to the East and you’ll reach the quieter climes of sandy Shoebury East. Another award-winner, Shoebury East holds the prestigious Blue Flag status – one of the UK’s most sought-after beach awards. Shoebury East is conveniently located near to Shoeburyness train station and hosts reasonably priced on-site parking. The beach is owned by the MOD and maintained by the local council – keep your eyes peeled for yellow diamonds flags which signal when the nearby firing range is in use and the beach is closed to the public.
With a children’s play area at the rear of the beach and a designated kite and windsurfing zone, Shoebury East has something to keep everyone entertained. Whilst there are no permanent food outlets on the beach, many visitors take advantage of the public BBQs which are available for use during daylight over the summer. Alternatively, head into Shoeburyness for a contemporary classic pub fare at the Shoeburyness Hotel. The hotel offers affordable classics, Sunday roasts and a children’s menu so all the family will be satisfied.
5. Chalkwell Beach, Chalkwell
First up is the 2021 Seaside Award-winning beach at Chalkwell. Just over an hour by train from Fenchurch Street station in London, Chalkwell is located in one of the UK’s most famous and well-loved coastal resorts, Southend-on-Sea. Hop off the train at Chalkwell station and walk just five minutes down the road to this classic pebble and sand beach. If you’re coming by car, there’s convenient and reasonably priced parking along the esplanade too. With plenty of amenities like its seawater paddling pool and rocks for crabbing, there’s still plenty to keep the family entertained at this quieter Southend spot. The long promenade is peppered with cafés and outlets serving all your nostalgic seaside treats and snacks and the surrounding area hosts a range of family-friendly cafes and restaurants.
Point Clear Bay
No plans for things to do in St Osyth are complete without a day at the seaside! The St Osyth beach lifestyle is all about fish and chips, buckets and spades and flip-flops along the promenade.
Your stay at The Orchards keeps you wonderfully close to one of the best St Osyth beach options around. Popular all year round with watersports enthusiasts, you’ll see jet skis and surfers tackling the waves at Point Clear Bay.
It’s dog friendly too – and seashells like oysters pepper the sand when the tide goes out.
Point Clear Bay is 0.5 miles from The Orchards.
Whitehouse Beach, Alresford
Close to The Orchards Holiday Village, tucked alongside the estuary of the River Colne, lies one of Essex’s best kept secrets. Whitehouse Beach is one for the nature lovers – a stony beach set in rich surrounding countryside. Whitehouse is a landmark of the Wivenhoe trail – a family-friendly five-mile route from Colchester, following the river Colne all the way to the sea and taking in some of the best of Essex countryside enroute. Take your binoculars for a spot of bird-watching – wading birds are often seen out on the calm waters over the mudflats and if you’re lucky you might even catch a kingfisher in flight.
Brightlingsea Beach, Brightlingsea
For those on the lookout for a quieter location, Brightlingsea offers a more secluded seaside experience, away from the bustling crowds of Clacton and Southend. Bordered with a charming parade of Victorian beach huts, the shoreline at Brightlingsea stands out as one of the most attractive and evocative beaches in Essex. Don’t miss the view of landmark Bateman’s Tower as you wander along the promenade – a grand grade II listed building built in 1883 by John Bateman as a sanctuary for his recovering daughter.
Brightlingsea is not without entertainment, though - a host of seasonal activities are available including yachting, canoeing, windsurfing and even jet-skiing for the adrenaline-seeking amongst you. Keep an eye out for the regular yachting events too.
Clacton Beach, Clacton
We couldn’t possibly make a list of beaches in Essex without including the piece-de-resistance at Clacton-on-Sea. Easily accessible by train from London and Ipswich, Clacton Beach showcases the famous Victorian pier with classic arcade entertainment and plenty of café outlets for the perfect mix of culture and attraction. This ever-popular destination has convenient and accessible parking, a seasonal lifeguard service, as well as a children’s wristband scheme making it a friendly family-favourite for school holiday breaks.
You’ll be spoiled for choice for activities on and around the pier: visit the Seaquarium, enjoy a game of pirate-themed adventure golf at Skull Point, or ride the Wild Mouse Coaster all just a stone’s throw from one of the most famous stretches of beach in the UK. For those visiting at high summer, don’t miss the free air show usually hosted on the August bank holiday weekend – viewable from your towel spot on the seafront.
Jaywick Sands Beach, Jaywick
Just 15 minutes further afield by car, you’ll find a hidden gem of beaches in Essex at Jaywick Sands Beach. Recently reconstructed, this beach welcomes you with soft golden sands and rolling dunes great for little ones to climb and play on. Quieter than Clacton, Jaywick is the perfect spot for those looking for a beach retreat to relax and unwind, or for a leisurely stroll along the walled promenade.
Whilst you’re in Jaywick don’t miss the opportunity to take a weekend visit to the Jaywick Martello Tower, an arts and heritage centre with both permanent and changing exhibitions inspired by local history and the environment. The Tower is open from March to October and costs just a few coins for entry (children go free).