FINDING that perfect gift for the relative who seems to have everything can be a daunting task.

But more and more of us are choosing to turn our backs on traipsing up and down the high street looking for inspiration and instead of presents which can be wrapped are opting to give experiences instead.

It might be tricky to gift wrap Essex as a whole but tourism experts are suggesting it might be an idea to give a small part of it this festive season.

Wine-tasting at vineyards, cookery classes, craft workshop and the chance to try out an Olympic sports venue are just some of the suggestions you could put in a loved-one’s Christmas stocking this year.

Visit Essex, the official tourism organisation for Essex, Southend and Thurrock, has put together a number of suggestions for places people could buy experiences from.

These include Dedham Vale Vineyard where the wines produced include its methode champenoise sparkling wine, Bacchus dry white and red, Dedham Vale Reserve.

It also presses apples grown in the ancient orchards on Mersea Island to produce Carter’s Cider.

The vineyard – set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Boxted, offers gift vouchers, one of which offers the recipient a grand tour of the vineyard, wine tasting and lunch or afternoon tea for just £22. Visit for more details.

Coggeshall’s West Street Vineyard also makes white and rose wine along with sparkling versions.

Vouchers, one of which is for its wine school, will give the budding sommelier in your life a chance to explore some of the world’s different types of wine via their tastebuds. Visit Jane Mohan, who owns and runs the vineyard, says she has noticed gift vouchers for wine tasting taking off in a big way this year.

“I have already done wine tasting for more than 500 people, who have come as a result of a gift given to them, this year.

“People have more and more and it means their friends and relatives want to the give them something a bit different they can enjoy.”

And she thinks in post-Brexit Britain, more of us will be staying closer to home this year and enjoying experiences closer to home.

“People forget how beautiful Essex is and you can come here, sit and enjoy the wine and also the scenery,” adds Jane.

Famed for a host of different produces from oysters and salt to jam, Essex is also the perfect place to learn to cook - and a gift might be just the nudge someone might need to give something a go for the first time.

Chef Sherri Singleton was working in a London restaurant and was so intrigued by the produce coming into her kitchen from Essex she decided to visit.

She liked it so much she bought the Mistley Thorn in 2001 and established the neighbouring Mistley Kitchen - now a must-go destination for amateur cooks of all abilities.

Covering a range of different styles, from Indian to Italian, and techniques, including fish and seafood, plus better knife skills, Mistley Kitchen has expert chefs teaching its workshops. Vist for more details.

Braxted Park Cookery School, just outside Tiptree, also offers a range of cookery courses from complete beginners all the way up to would-be master chefs.

Food writer and broadcaster Ursula Ferrigno, 2006 Master Chef winner Peter Bayless and international TV chef, Guy Moore are among the talent lined up to reach the courses Lee Valley, Waltham Abbey, offers the chance for thrill-seekers to ride down the 300m long olympic white water raft adventure course for £65.

Team GB won gold and silver in the London 2012 canoe slalom event at the centre where there is also the opportunity to buy someone the gift of a Hydrospeeding or Hot Dog session in one of its inflatable kayaks for £100 for two people.

For the more laid-back RHS Hyde Hall near Chelmsford which has a number of open days and special events throughout the year.

Visit for more details.

Tracy Jones, of visit Essex, says the county has no end of good ideas for potential presents - including those to help you re-charge your batteries after the festive season itself.

“A great way to do this after partying hard throughout Christmas and New Year is to recharge your batteries in one of the superb hotels with a spa.

“Lifehouse Spa and Hotel, near Frinton-on-Sea, Roslin Hotel and Retreat Spa in Southend and, Stoke-By-Nayland Hotel Golf Spa all offer pampering packages - along with the chance to fit in a bit of golf at”

Tickets for Colchester Zoo, Mercury Theatre, and shopping experiences at Clacton Factory Village, Intu Lakeside and Freeport in Braintree are just some of the other suggestions for presents which keep on giving all year round.

For the full range of attractions, go to