England United Kingdom (UK)

Explore 18 Best Things to Do in Southend (Essex, England UK)

Essex is a county between London and the North Sea in Southeast England. The town of Colchester is decorated with Romanesque ruins and the Castle Norman – era with a museum.

Orangutans and white rhinos are at home at the Zoo of Colchester. Hylands House of the 18th century in Chelmsford is situated in the southwest of vast parks.

Now in the center of the city with nearly 300,000 in population, at the end of the 18th century, Southend was just a fishing hut cluster on the Thames Estuary.

In the early 1800s, when Princess Caroline visited Princess Charlotte with her five – year – old daughter, Southend became aware of Georgian high society.

In the course of decades the Giant Southend Pier was built and in the Victorian and 20th centuries, the resort became a choice for Southeast England.

The holidaymakers have decreased since 1970. But, from the rush of the Theme Park to the longest pier in the world, manicured parks, a vintage cliff funicular, and plays to Southend, it has much to recommend.

Let’s explore the Southend:

1. Southend Pier

Southend Pier

Southend Pier

Southend Pier is one of Southend-on -Sea’s main attractions. The Southend Pier pushes into the Thames Estuary for 2,158 meters. The longest jetty in the world.

A Very Long Walk – Southend Pier is one and third miles, 2 points 2 kilometers, the world’s longest Pier pleasure pier. You may walk or take a unique ride on a Pier train.

In the 1830s the first wooden pier arrived and had grown up to its present length by 1848.

This was replaced in the 1880s with an iron structure that still stands today, even in 2005, following a series of fires. Southend Pier is still one of the few railways in the country to operate from the station on the shore for an hour and half.

Opened in 2012, the Royal Pavilion organizes concerts, shows and exhibitions all year round, especially during the summer.

Also take a look at the museum in the Southend Pier where you will find nearly 200 years of history, historic cars, toasters and vintage penny slot machines from 1890.

Lovely pier. Great exercise walking both ways. At the end of the pier, you can stop and have a coffee and cake.

A nice relaxing train ride to the end of the pier. Not much to do down there tho so we ended up walking back as the train was a 20 min wait. It was a lovely walk through in the nice weather we had that day at least.

Opening Times

Note: one hour before closing is the last entry to the pier. Seasonal opening times can vary annually. check ticket prices official site.

The Pier is suitable for all ages and both the walkway and Pier trains have disabled access.

Spring Season (26th March to 21st May)

08:15 to 18:00 Monday to Friday
08:15 to 20:00 Saturday and Sunday

Summer Season (22nd May to 3rd September)

08:15 to 20:00 Daily

Autumn Season (3rd September to 4th November)

08:15 to 18:00 Monday to Friday
08:15 to 20:00 Saturday and Sunday

Winter Season (5th November to 24th March)

09:15 to 17:00 Wednesday to Sunday

Regardless of the season the Pier will be open on all school and public holidays. With the exception of Christmas Day, when the Pier is closed.

2. River Thames

river thames longest river in england

River Thames longest river in England

The Thames River, also known in parts as the Isis, is a river flowing through southern England and London. It is the longest river in England at 215 miles and is the second largest in the United Kingdom.

Relieving and relaxing, walking through the Thames or watching Westminster, taking a beer, coffee or some food close to London’s gaze.

It offers picturesque views of the London Bridge on one side and the Big Ben on the other. The London Eye also helps you to get an aerial view of London and highlights its beauty on the night ride.

To experience the Thames River, select city cruises from Greenwich to London. What a great way to enjoy the Thames River and to enjoy the river’s attractions. The weather was cool, but we still sat above and enjoyed the magnificent views. Superb river and boat traffic bridges. Was a quiet, pleasant tour on the Thames River.

3. Sea life Adventure

sea life adventure eastern esplanade southend on sea london

sea life adventure eastern esplanade southend on sea london

Sea life aquarium with sharks in walk-through tunnel tank, plus rays, turtles and insect displays.

Which sea creatures do you love the most? magnificent sharks, colourful Clownfish, cheeky otters, comical penguins or perhaps inquisitive Sea Turtles? Does a clever Common Octopus grab your attention or do you prefer playful stingrays? Maybe you simply can’t decide!

At SEA LIFE you can make up your mind and see them all – from the curious and the rescued to the rare and the enigmatic. And you’ll be able to get closer to them than ever before.

4. Westcliff Beach

westcliff beach westcliff on sea london

westcliff beach westcliff on sea london

Modest, classic beach for swimming & walks at low tide, with a nearby casino & ice cream parlor.

Nice beach, always clean, golden sands, some pebbles. Nearby shops, cafes, pubs etc.. 10 minutes walk to Southend.

Nice walk at sunset. Just along from the pier and right off the main road. Seemed really clean, with lovely views over the estuary. Selection of cafes nearby and lots of parking.

It was a lovely sunny day, the sea looked great, the beach was clean and with a high tide coming in, it allowed a lot of yachts to be on the water, making a sight to behold.
Adequate facilities to get some refreshment and quite a few places to sit & enjoy the view.

5. Adventure Island

Adventure Island

Adventure Island

Adventure Island is a free-admission amusement park in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England.

The amusement park lies on the north end of the Southend Pier and has been a fun park since 1976 when the Miller family bought the land that now forms the western side of the park.

Where the pier reaches the coast, this theme park is central to the Southend experience for young people and families.

It is free to enter the Adventure Island and to be paid for riding and playing.

In total there are 32 rollercoasters, five of them like Rage with three inversions, a drop of 97 ° and hits speeds of 43 mph.

In Archeon, the Wave Swinger of Zierer, Times Machine, a giant swing that opened in 2012 and Sky Drop that sinks at 21 meters, thrill seeker can also receive their adrenaline pumping.

Smaller children are well received, with no less than 11 young people’s rides, while go-karting, two adventure golf courses and dodgems are in store.

Really good for young children on a cold day. The soft play was fun and had lots to do, the rides available were also fun and great for little ones. The only thing I’d say is that the toilets are quite far to go and the baby changing facilities are not that great.

6. Shoebury East Beach

Shoebury East Beach

Shoebury East Beach

If you’re an early bird, you can go to see the sun coming up from Shoebury East Beach across the Estuary and the North Sea.

The winner of this annual Blue Flag is golden sand, supported by grassy forests lined with benches.

You can see for miles when the tide comes out, as is typical for the estuary.

The open sea is directed by the beach and the Essex Kitesurf Club is situated near the shore, so there may be heavy winds here.

The train from Southend Central Station is just ten minutes from Shoebury East Beach, but it’s a world away from the resource.

7. Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh castle is a former royal residence in open countryside in the west of the South, overlooking a London clay hill, the flat countryside in the south and east.

It was first built during the reign of Heinrich III in the early 13th century, and its main role at that time was to protect the estuary.

Then Hadleigh Castle was rebuilt as both the fortress against the French in the 100 Years’ War and a home to King Edward III who spent much time here during his last years in the 14th century.

The site is under the care of the English heritage, and large pieces like the Barbican, the two drum towers remain of Edward’s III development.

Riding Men, income agents who sought to catch smugglers, used one of these towers in the 18th century.

8. Old Leigh

old leigh leigh on sea porrt in southend

old leigh in Southend

That status was lost when the port settled in the eighteenth century and some of the history of Leigh was cleared up in the nineteenth century for the railways.

But there is a delightful reminder in Old Leigh on High Street, where you find quaint wet-boarding holiday homes, gas lights, cute brick cottages, exposed cobblestones and pubs and outdoor restaurants on the estuary.

Leigh-on-Sea has been one of the busiest ports in the Thames since the Middle Ages, and its boarding houses have launched vessels up to 340 tonnes.

There are fishermen from Old Leigh who sell cod, shrimp, lobster, as well as crustaceans such as whelks, cockles, and angles, which you can enjoy in the vinegar on location.

9. Cliffs Pavilion

Cliffs Pavilion

Cliffs Pavilion

Cliffs Pavilion is the largest exercise arts facility in Essex with more than 1,600 seat located in the Western Cliff-on-Sea suburbs. Construction began in the 1930s, but the Second World War stopped and was then completely abandoned. A new development finally began in 1964 which was due to redevelopment in the beginning of the 1990s.

The Cliffs Pavilion has been played by some world-famous musicians like Oasis and Blur and One Direction, more recently.

The Cliffs Pavilion and its smaller sister venue, Palace Theatre is usually shown for all people with more than 300 shows a year.

It could be renowned musicians (Elvis Costello and George Benson were on the agenda in 2018), tribute events, well-known comedians, film screenings and conversations with cultural figures and sport personalities.

10. Prittlewell Priory

Prittlewell Priory

Prittlewell Priory

The Cluniac Monastery, created in the 12th century by Lewes Priory monks from East Sussex, is one stop on the train from the Southend Victoria Prittlewell Priory.

The priory was suppressed during the dissolution of the monasteries by Heinrich VIII, during the 16th century as with any monastic site in England.

But some buildings were unscathed, since they were converted into a private residence that would have been greatly transformed until the 20th century.

In 2013, a two-year refurbishment took place, and it is possible to marvel at the half-wooden refectory of the 12th century and the Victoria wing, which displays the local fauna and the art of the Scratton family who lived there in the 19th century.

11. Priory Park

 Priory Park

Priory Park

Prittlewell Priory is ensconced in a picturesque 45-acre park, which makes up a portion of the priory’s old grounds and is as an alternative to Southend’s seaside on sunny days.

There are formal flower gardens for a bit of repose, a spacious playground for youngsters, tennis courts and a bowling green frequented by Southend’s older residents.

The pretty Victorian bandstand in Priory Park used to stand in Southend’s Cliff Gardens but was moved here in the early-2000s when the soil on the cliff became unstable.

The Prittle Brook flows through the park and feeds a fishing lake towards the south.

12. Chalkwell Beach

Chalkwell Beach

Chalkwell Beach

Starting just east of Chalkwell Station, this beach is the choice of people who value peace for winter walks or sunbathing hot summer days.

Chalkwell Beach is removed from Southend’s bustling arcades and entertainment and has a vast belt of pebbles and sand tracked by a quiet, residential esplanade.

And even if Chalkwell Beach has a more restrained atmosphere, there are shops selling beach paraphernalia and amenities like cafes just behind.

When the tide is in you can swim in the sea, and when it withdraws there are tidal pools for kids to explore and paddle in.

13. Southend Cliff Railway

Southend Cliff Railway

Southend Cliff Railway

Another trademark of an old school English seaside resort is the cliff funicular and this one in Southend guides you down from the panoramic Clifton Terrace, through the Cliff Gardens to the Western Esplanade.

This 40-meter railway opened in 2012 and is remarkable for its single track; the counterweight is actually on a track beneath the funicular car.

As you travel up or down this 43.4% gradient you can contemplate the Thames Estuary and Southend’s colossal pier.

Historic railways like this can close for maintenance at short notice, so it’s worth consulting Southend council’s website to see if the Cliff Railway is running on a particular day.

14. Sea Life Adventure

Sea Life Adventure

Sea Life Adventure

Southend has the most visited aquarium in the southeast of England, at Sea Life Adventure on the Eastern Esplanade.

There are 40 displays to take in, featuring clownfish, rays, sharks, starfish, sea snakes, otters, penguins, dwarf caiman, poison art frogs and giant snails.

Kids will have every chance to get involved at the Interactive Education Room, which has two rockpools where they’ll be able to touch a crab and starfish.

If they’re brave enough there are also lots of native and exotic reptiles and insects that they can handle, all under the supervision of an expert.

And when you arrive, check out which talks and feeding sessions are on the programme, as these vary by the day.

15. Chalkwell Park

Chalkwell Park

Chalkwell Park

An easy walk from Chalkwell Station, this park is in 27-acres and has extensive sports facilities, but also a mosaic of flower gardens and “The Ponds”, an environment with a string of pools and newly planted trees to attract wildlife to the park.

In the gardens, you’ll come across a rose garden, recognized by the national rose society, a parterre-style sun garden and an aviary for peacocks.

In July Chalkwell Park hosts the Village Green Festival, a multi-disciplinary event, with music, art dance, theatre, comedy and food, all organized by the Metal Art School, which is based at converted stables in the park.

16. Southend Central Museum

Southend Central Museum

Southend Central Museum

The town museum opened in 1981 in a handsome Edwardian building that previously contained a library.

That library had an interesting story as its construction was partly funded by the Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

At the museum you can peruse collections of local social history and archaeology.

There’s an interior from a Victorian home, a capsule-like one-person air raid shelter from the Second World War, along with gas masks and helmets belonging to air raid wardens and police.

Maybe most absorbing of all is the array of vintage bakelite radios manufactured in the 1930s by the EKCO brand, which was based in Southend.

17. Belfairs Wood

Belfairs Wood

Belfairs Wood

Bordering Leigh-on-Sea, Belfairs Wood contains the oldest tract of woodland in Essex.

Some of this 1160-acre environment dates back a millennium, offering a habitat for threatened species like the song thrush and heath fritillary butterfly.

To underscore the value of the wood, the Belfairs Woodland Centre opened in a modern wood-clad building in 2013 and has interactive galleries on Belfairs’ wildlife, as well as a shop, cafe and sculpture trail.

From here you can begin the 5.5-mile Seven Woods Walk around the whole landscape.

18. Gunners Park

Gunners Park

Gunners Park

This 25-hectare nature reserve is on a parcel of land that protrudes slightly into the Thames Estuary.

Gunners Park is only ten minutes east of Southend proper but feels remote for its grassland, remnant sand dunes, and wetlands.

There are 12 different habitats in quite a small area.

The park’s location on the estuary makes it a haven for migrating birds in the transitional seasons, so if you’re around in early-spring or autumn you may see ring ouzels, whinchats, wheatears, spotted flycatchers or yellow-browned warblers.

For 150 years Gunners Park was Ministry of Defence land and used as experimental range.

The terrain is still strewn with casemates, gun emplacements, magazines and batteries from the 19th and early-20th centuries.

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