In association with Visit Essex

If you think you know Essex, it might be time to think again. Most people have heard of the bucket-and-spade resorts of Clacton and Southend, but with the longest coastline of any English county Essex offers lots more in the way of seaside fun, along with buzzing cities and beautiful landscapes. In fact, 18th-century landscape painter John Constable was so captivated by Essex that it inspired many of his masterpieces. Here are some reasons why you're probably overdue a visit to unexpected Essex.

Its towns and cities are buzzing

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There's been a church on the site of Chelmsford Cathedral for 800 years

Essex’s towns and cities are captivating. Colchester, also known as ‘Britain’s First City’, was the earliest recorded town in England and already a thriving Roman settlement when London was little more than a collection of mud huts. Nowadays it has a vibrant café culture, numerous quality restaurants, such as Mimosa and Tymperleys, great hotels in the form of Greyfriars and Wivenhoe House, and a Plus Tate modern art gallery called Firstsite.

Further south, towards London, you’ll find a charming cathedral and terrific shopping in Chelmsford, while on the east coast there’s Southend, with super seafood restaurants and museums, not to mention the world’s longest pleasure pier striking out into the North Sea. You might recognise the pier, in fact – it has been enjoying new-found fame on British TV since Jamie Oliver and his pal Jimmy starting feasting there on Friday nights.

It has a surprising harvest

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Not everyone knows that Essex has some fantastic vineyards

Escaping the everyday is easy in Essex – in fact, there’s a welcome surprise everywhere you look. Did you know that Essex has several vineyards? The dry, sunny climate and lengthy coastline create excellent conditions for growing grapes, and producers like West Street Vineyard in Coggeshall and Tuffon Hall at Castle Hedingham have been successfully championing English wine on the world stage for some time now. Local produce is equally magnificent and we defy anyone to better the scrumptious fruit scones and Little Scarlet strawberry jam at the Jam Factory tea rooms at Tiptree.

The wildlife is too cute

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The Essex coast is a nationally important habitat for seals

The land is staggeringly beautiful too – as Constable knew well, inspired as he was by the area of Dedham Vale and the meandering River Stour. Follow in his footsteps and you’ll be inspired too.

With more than 200 visitor attractions across the county, there are great days out to be had for everyone. Experience the thrills of Adventure Island Theme Park in Southend or the serene pleasures of seal watching in Harwich Harbour. More peaceful still are Beth Chatto’s Garden and RHS Hyde Hall, two of several must-see green spaces in Essex. As one of only four Royal Horticultural Society gardens in the entire UK, Hyde Hall is a stunning and essential part of your Essex itinerary.

With its warm, dry summers and mild winters, Essex is a great destination all year round. 

Fly to London Luton or London Stansted