There is certainly not a lack of things to do in Essex.

With several areas of natural beauty, sites rich in history and diverse eateries to grab a bite we have got lots to offer.

With an abundance of fun places to visit in the county, we have narrowed it down to 15 top spots you need to visit in Essex at least once.

So whether you're a first-time visitor or a regular, here are our 15 places you must visit in the county. 

Colchester Zoo


During your visit to Colchester Zoo, you will see many species from around the world and can learn more about them at the venue’s fantastic daily encounters.

As you navigate your way around the zoo you will visit different habitats, from the humid home of its Komodo Dragons to the zoo’s Africa exhibit, Kingdom of the Wild.

Southend Pier

The longest pleasure pier in the world stretches for 1.33 miles out into the Thames Estuary.

A famous destination, the pier has seen several TV shows filmed including EastEnders, Great British Railway Journeys, and Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast.

Visitors can pick up a souvenir at the pier’s museum and learn more about its history.

Echo: Views - Lots of picturesque scenes to see at Southend PierViews - Lots of picturesque scenes to see at Southend Pier (Image: Southend Pier)


Dedham is a picturesque village nestled in the heart of the Dedham Vale, an area of outstanding natural beauty, located in the north of the county, straddling the River Stour into Suffolk.

Its High Street has an abundance of independent shops, cosy pubs, and tearooms, including the famous Wilkin and Sons tearoom, the Essex Rose, perfect for some light refreshments or a delicious cream tea.

Hylands House

Hylands House, on the Hylands Estate, is a Grade II, 574-hectare neo-classical villa located within Hylands Park, Chelmsford.

It was rescued from ruin by Chelmsford Council and restoration was completed in 2007.

The venue saw scenes of popular Netflix series The Crown filmed in its halls.

Echo: Grand - Scenes of popular Netflix series the Crown have been filmed at Hyland's HouseGrand - Scenes of popular Netflix series the Crown have been filmed at Hyland's House (Image: Hylands Estate)

Clacton Pier

Clacton Pier has amazing attractions for all visitors to enjoy including breathtaking rides, bowling, fishing, and seasonal events.

The pier celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021 and is loved by the seaside town’s residents.

Echo: Stunning - A dazzling scene at a busy Clacton PierStunning - A dazzling scene at a busy Clacton Pier

Colchester’s Roman ruins

Colchester is rich in Roman artefacts including the foundations of a Roman theatre found in Maidenburgh Street.

A section of the theatre has been made visible for people to view through windows, while the only Roman Circus in Britain was also uncovered near Abbey Fields in 2004.

And don't forget Colchester Castle.

House for Essex, Wrabness

Echo: The Grayson Perry House. Picture: Jack Hobhouse.The Grayson Perry House. Picture: Jack Hobhouse.

The idea behind this gingerbread-style house was a shrine to Essex woman Julie Cope, built by her imaginary husband as Essex’s answer to the Taj Mahal.

Situated just outside Wrabness, it was conceived by the county’s most famous living artist, Grayson Perry, along with architect Charles Hollan, as part of a project for Living Architecture which was set up to change public perceptions of modern architecture.

Manningtree’s history of witchcraft

Manningtree possesses a dark history rich with tales of witch hunts which took place in the town.

More than 300 women are believed to have been executed for witchcraft between 1644 and 1646, many at the hands of Mistley’s infamous self-proclaimed witchfinder general Matthew Hopkins.

Head to the town to discover more and delve into the disturbing history of the witch hunts.

Tollesbury marshes

The location just outside Tiptree has become a filming hotspot with cameras descending on the marshes.

The Essex Serpent, a Victorian drama in production for Apple TV+, has been shot on location with the likes of Tom Hiddleston in Tollesbury marshes.

Echo: Famous - The Essex Serpent was filmed at Tollesbury MarshesFamous - The Essex Serpent was filmed at Tollesbury Marshes (Image: Submitted)

Hadleigh Castle

Just outside of Benfleet lies the ruins of this royal castle overlooking the Essex marshes.

In 1215, King John gave this area of land, known as the manor of Hadleigh, along with many other gifts, to Hubert de Burgh, his chief minister or justiciar.

Beaches across the county

Beaches in Clacton, Southend, Frinton, Walton, and Harwich all have wonderful natural attractions to enjoy.

Walton’s beach has the fantastic Naze cliffs and national nature reserve which provide the perfect opportunity for walking and bird watching.

Osea Island

Osea Island is described as an "Essex gem" by Visit Essex. At the idyllic getaway in the Blackwater estuary is just off the coast of Maldon, you can stay in the island’s 400-year-old cottages, the Manor House, Captain’s House or in modern apartments.

Tiptree Tearoom

The county is home to Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree and a proper afternoon tea will be served with on the the brand's famous preserves.

Choose from one of the many Tiptree tearooms located throughout the county.

Lee Valley White Water Centre

Are you a fan of exhilarating sports? Ever wanted to know what it feels like to be an Olympian? Well you can pretend to be one when you ‘ride the rapids’ at the White Water Centre at Lee Valley – the only purpose built venue for the Olympics, and where Team GB won the canoe slalom in 2012.

New Hall Vineyard

New Hall Vineyard in Purleigh is the oldest vineyard in the UK, and was the first to grow and produce wine from the Pinot Noir grapes. A tour and tasting of award-winning wines may leave you feeling slightly ‘sozzled’, but also very happy.

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

The aerodrome is the oldest surviving in the world. You can experience the site and even attend an event where you get to watch the vintage aircraft fly in.