Essex Coast,  Town Guides

Things To Do In Harwich & Dovercourt, Essex UK

The historic port town of Harwich is located in north east Essex, on the estuary of the River Stour. There are many old lighthouses and forts dotted around the town. For those that love to watch boats, Harwich will not disappoint. The Harwich international port has ferries to Holland and Belgium. On the opposite side of the estuary in Suffolk, is Felixstowe’s giant shipping port with massive container ships coming and going.

Things To Do In Harwich

🚗Parking In Harwich

There are a couple of car parks in Harwich. The Quay is along Harwich Promenade. It has an electric car charging point and accepts cash, card or MIPermit payments (up to 2hrs – £2.40, up to 4hrs – £4, over 4hrs – £5). Wellington Road Car Park is further along the seawall and is slightly cheaper (up to 4hrs – £2, over 4hrs – £3). If travelling from Harwich International Port, they have their own car park.

Harwich Promenade

🗺The Quay, Harwich CO12 3HH

Along Harwich Promenade is Ha’Penny Pier. It opened in 1853 and is one of the only working wooden piers in the UK. Visitors can take the foot ferry to Felixstowe or Shotley across the river. The pier is a unique L shape and is a great place to sit and watch the ports. There are plenty of benches and facilities nearby, including the Ha’Penny Pier Visitor Centre. The Cafe on the Pier has tea, coffee, ice cream and breakfast and lunch options. Or stop by Pier Seafoods for fresh seafood! The Refreshments burger van had a huge line constantly during my visit! For those looking for a proper ‘sit down’ dining option The Pier hotel and restaurant opposite, serves afternoon tea and main meals.

Alongside Ha’Penny pier is the Light Vessel LV18 which now houses a museum. It started life as a lightship, similar to a lighthouse but was anchored out in the water. From 1999 the vessel was then used for offshore radio stations, similar to Radio Caroline.

Harwich to Dovercourt

🚶🏻‍♀️1.6 miles (one way), approximate 35 minute walk.

The seawall walk from Harwich to Dovercourt is roughly 1.6 miles (one way) and takes around 35 minutes to walk. It’s a really nice pedestrianised walk with several historic points of interest along the route. One of the first things you reach is the Treadwheel Crane. This crane was built in 1667 and was used in the naval yard. It moved to its current location in 1932! This is also where you’ll find Harwich beach. It’s a bit stoney but has lots of lovely shells to look at! There’s a large playing field and park and the Cafe On The Green has drinks and snacks. A larger beach is Dovercourt Beach which is further round the bay.

Harwich Maritime Museum

There are many lighthouses dotted all around the coast surrounding Harwich. One of the low lighthouses now houses the Harwich Maritime Museum. Adult entrance is just £1. The lighthouse was built in 1818 and was in operation until 1863.

Along the next part of the seawall is a series of forts, radar and defence towers. The Harwich Redoubt Fort sits a little inland, but from the path you can see the Harwich Radar Tower, Beacon Hill Fort and Cornwallis Battery. Together, the Beacon Hill Fort and Cornwallis Battery was part of the Harwich harbour defence during the two world wars. They held several guns incase of an attack from an enemy vessel. Beacon Hill Fort is open to the public on various days throughout the year. At the far point, is a stone pier and a pill box has a mural painted on the side.

World War Mural Harwich to Dovercourt

Dovercourt Bay

Once you reach the pill box mural, the seawall then follows the curve of Dovercourt Bay towards Dovercourt Beach. Dovercourt Beach is one of the Blue Flag beaches in Essex. One of the most photographed points in Dovercourt are the Dovercourt Lighthouses. The highlight is on the shore and the lowlight is 200m away standing in the water. At low tide a rocky (and probably very slippery) causeway is exposed, but at high tide it cuts the lowlight off from the land. In 1917 the lighthouses were taken out of operation, however the structures were restored in 1988.

Dovercourt Lighthouse Essex

From here we turned around and walked the 1.6 mile route back to Harwich Promenade.

Other Things To Do In Harwich & Dovercourt

Tricky Escape

🗺Central House, 2, High St, Dovercourt, Harwich CO12 3PT

Tricky Escape is an escape room with two other locations in Clacton and Walton (I have been to the Clacton one!). Currently there are two challenges at Tricky Escape Harwich: Dr Duplicate’s Evil Lab and Prisoner X. Players have 60 minutes to solve riddles and crack codes to escape!

Related Reading: 13 Awesome Escape Rooms in Essex UK


A House For Essex

🗺Black Boy Ln, Wrabness, Manningtree CO11 2TP

While visiting Harwich, it’s worth making a short side trip to A House For Essex (approximately 10 minute drive). Previously known as ‘Julie’s House’ it was designed by Grayson Perry and is an architectural work of art. Currently is it available as a holiday rental, however it books up a long time in advance! There are 2 double bedrooms and guests can stay for either 2 or 3 nights. Depending on the time of the year, a stay costs between £1075 – £2300.

A House For Essex Wrabness

A House For Essex Location: The house is located at the end of a very narrow lane with no parking. It’s best to park at Wrabness train station and then walk the rest of the way. The car park is operated by NCP and parking is £3. There are various walking routes around A House For Essex so it might be worth combining it with one of these! A gate stops access up to the front of the house. A path leads down past the house, where you can get closer to the side and rear of the building.

The Essex Way is an 82 mile walk between Epping and Harwich, the final 8 mile stretch between Wrabness and Harwich passes right by A House For Essex. The route takes approximately 3 hours to walk one way.

🚂Trains To Harwich

If you don’t want to drive, Harwich, Dovercourt and Wrabness all have train stations. From London (Liverpool Street) to Harwich Town, most trains require changing at Manningtree and take between 1hr 30 – 1hr 55.

Hotels In Harwich/Where To Stay

There are several hotels in Harwich, The Pier or On The Quay are right on Harwich Promenade, opposite Ha’Penny Pier. Closer to Harwich International Port is a Premier Inn. There are several other guesthouses in the area. Dovercourt Holiday Park is operated by Park Holidays and has static caravans and glamping pods. Or if you have the budget, there’s always A House For Essex in Wrabness!

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