Essex Coast,  Outdoors

Guide To Visiting The Best Beaches In Essex UK

Believe it or not, Essex has the longest coastline in England…AMAZING! Once upon a time, Essex was a very popular destination for seaside getaways, thanks to its proximity to London. There even used to be a Bultins holiday park! Here’s a look at some of Essex’s most popular beaches and tips on visiting and how to avoid crowds!

Essex Beaches

Essex is home to seven ‘Blue Flag’ beaches! A Blue Flag awarded beach has to pass 33 criteria points on things such as: quality of water, safety and services. There are 55 beaches in the UK which have the Blue Flag award.

Blue Flag beaches in Essex: Three Shells Beach, Thorpe Bay, Shoebury Common Beach, East Beach Shoeburyness, Brightlingsea Beach, Walton on the Naze Albion Beach and Dovercourt Bay.

West Mersea Beach Huts Essex


When it comes to facilities and things to do, Southend is one of the best beach towns to visit. It’s located along the Thames Estuary and has some quite extreme tides, when it’s low tide, the water can be quite far out! Four of the seven Essex Blue Flag beaches are in the Southend Borough.

Three Shells Beach is a tidal lagoon with toilets, a shower and play equipment. It’s great for younger children, with the deepest part of the lagoon having a depth of 1.2 metres. There’s a small sandy beach area and it’s right outside the gates of Adventure Island amusement park.

Jubilee Beach is the main beach in Southend. It’s mainly shingle and it does get busy on warm days. Deck chair hire is available if you don’t want to take your own beach chairs.

The further away from the main ‘hub’ of activity, the beaches get a little quieter. The Blue Flag beaches of Thorpe Bay Beach, Shoebury Common Beach and East Beach (Shoeburyness) are all closer to the mouth of the estuary too.

Tips For Visiting

Parking in Southend can be a bit of a nightmare. Like many beaches in this post, it’s best to either get there early or go later in the evening once the crowds have started to go. The Seaway car park is a large pay and display parking area or there is roadside pay and display parking along the West Esplanade. It’s often easier to find a place to park closer to Westcliff and the Cliffs Pavilion and then walking back towards the pier.

Alternatively, Southend has 2 train stations: Southend Central and Southend Victoria. They are both within a 10 minute walk of the seafront. These may be a slightly more expensive option, but then you don’t have to worry about parking and traffic! (Thorpe Bay and Shoeburyness both has train stations too, however this line is only serviced by the C2C line into Fenchurch Street, London).

There are plenty of toilet facilities, places to eat and drink, attractions and shops nearby.


Not going to lie, I have a massive soft spot for Clacton, but it has been said that the water quality of Clacton Beach isn’t great. It is said that the water closest to Clacton Pier has been ‘affected’ by the seagulls that sit on the pier framework and poop into the water. The beach is a mix of sand and shingle and there are plenty of facilities close by. This part of the Essex coast has one of the largest stretches of beach that goes past Jaywick in one direction and all the way along to Walton in the other.

Clacton Pier is a fun stop with fairground rides, mini golf and arcades. Public toilets are just in front of the pier and you’ll find takeaways, cafes and restaurants all within a short distance.

Tips For Visiting

Parking in Clacton can sometimes be a bit tricky, they don’t really have a BIG main car park. There are lots of smaller ones tucked away here and there. Wellesley Road and the High Street car parks are some of the bigger options which are a short walk from the seafront.

Clacton also has a train station with a direct link to London Liverpool Street and connections to the rest of Essex. Again, the train may be the better option on warm days!

Related Reading: Have A Staycation: Beach Hut Hire Holland On Sea, Essex

Walton On The Naze

Albion Beach in Walton is another of the Essex Blue Flag beaches. I personally think it’s one of the best beaches in Essex as it is mainly sand! No sharp stones, hooray! Walton also has lots of colourful beach huts, England’s second longest pier (Southend takes the top spot), public toilets and several places to eat.

Walton is kind of split into 2 areas: the area surrounding the pier and then the Naze end. The beach at the Naze end is just as lovely and are divided into sections by groynes (barriers). However it isn’t as accessible as the beach by the pier. The car park and toilet facilities are on top of the cliff so there’s a steep walk down to the beach, unless you take a longer walk along the seawall.

At high tide, the water does come right up to the seawall, so keep this in mind when you are planning your visit! You may need to wait for the sand to appear!

Tips For Visiting

Corronation car park is a large grass parking area with playground. It is just across the road from the beach and a 10 minute walk to Walton Pier. Alternatively the Naze car park is around a 30 minute walk from the pier but as mentioned above, it is high on top of a cliff. It is a ‘quieter’ area with public toilets, a cafe and the Naze tower.

Walton on the Naze Beach

Another option is the train. Walton train station is less than a 5 minute walk from Walton Pier and the beach.

West Mersea Beach

Essex actually has 30 islands (WHAT?!). Mersea Island is accessed by a tidal causeway. For a week every month the island gets cut off from the main land, twice a day at high tide. One of the main beaches on Mersea Island is West Mersea Beach.

The water is very shallow, great for paddling and the beach is a mix of sand, stones and shells! During my visit it was very popular with kayakers and stand up paddle boarders. There are lots of beach huts all along the beach front which is nice! The section of beach directly in front of the car park gets very busy. This is where the public toilet block is, a couple of cafes and a small beach shop. The further you walk away from the parking area, the beach does get a bit quieter!

Tips For Visiting

It’s best to arrive early on warm days (if the tide allows!) as parking can get a bit crazy! The main parking area is the Victoria Esplanade car park. The pay and display machines only accept coins, however you can also pay for parking online at MIPermit. My mobile is with EE and I struggled to pick up a signal in the car park, but you can pay in advance and guess your time of arrival.

Unsurprisingly, Mersea Island isn’t connected to the rail network. If you don’t want to drive, the only other option is to get bus 67 from Colchester to West Mersea, which is operated by First Bus.

Brightlingsea Beach

Another of Essex’s Blue Flag beaches is Brightlingsea Beach, in Colchester District. The beach isn’t very big but great for those with small children. The main part is made up of a tidal pool which only gets to around ‘adult sized’ knee deep. It’s also surrounded by beach huts! There are a couple of takeaway cafes nearby. A walk along the seawall will take you to the same Brightlingsea harbour.

For those that want some ‘deeper’ water to swim in, the Brightlingsea Lido is an open air swimming pool. It’s just a short walk from the beach but they can reach capacity very quickly on warm days.

Tips For Visiting

The West Prom car park is a large grass parking area with space for 300+ cars. Parking over 4 hours is £4. The car park is locked in the evenings. There is also a foot ferry that runs between Brightlingsea and Point Clear (3 minute journey) and East Mersea (9 minute journey). Just like Mersea Island, Brightlingsea doesn’t have a train station. First Bus operate the 62 bus service from Colchester to Brightlingsea.

Dovercourt Beach

Another of Essex’s Blue Flag beaches is Dovercourt Beach near Harwich. This beach is also photographed A LOT due to the ‘low lighthouse’ which sits out in the sea! There are 2 low lighthouses at Dovercourt, one on the beach and then the smaller one out in the water. At high tide it’s completely cut off from the beach!

Dovercourt Lighthouse Essex

Tips For Visiting

Both Dovercourt and Harwich have train stations. Most journeys will require a change at Manningtree. If driving, I parked in Harwich and walked along the seawall to Dovercourt, which is a nice walk. Alternatively, Dovercourt has a couple of car parks closer to the beach. Milton Road Car Park is a 2 minute walk from the beach costs £5 to park all day. Lower Marine Parade Car Park (seasonal) has all day parking for £1. Or further along is West End Car Park which is free, however it is much smaller, with only 30 spaces.

Beach Hut Hire in Essex

Looking to hire a beach hut in Essex? Check out this post for a list of available beach huts to hire around Essex: Beach Hut Hire Essex | For The Ultimate Beach Day!

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The best beaches in Essex UK. Mersea Island beach huts.

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