10 Best Things To Do In Essex, UK - Updated 2021

things to do in essex
Rae Marielle
Rae Marielle 

Located between London and North Sea, Essex is a place that truly knows the meaning of “diversity.” There are many attractions that offer activities for all kinds of people. If you are a social butterfly, indulge yourself in an entertaining wine night with acrobatic waiters or party to your heart’s content at an A-list nightclub. If you are a bit of a history nerd, travel back in time and watch the Vikings battle it out with medieval weapons. If you just want to go somewhere peaceful and beautiful, you can visit one of the biggest gardens in the country and surround yourself with various plants and flowers. Find what suits you and your interests by checking out our list of the best things to do in Essex, UK.

1. Interact with different animals at Colchester Zoo

Siberian Tiger at Colchester Zoo, UK. (5755163592)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tom Bayly used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Head over to Colchester Zoo where different animals from all over the world are gathered in one place. Walk around and check out the different exhibits here. Marvel at the pretty butterflies at Butterfly Glade or catch a glimpse of humongous turtles at Walking Giants zone. You can even see unique African species of zebras, ostriches, and southern white rhinoceros at the safari. Look at colorful koi carps at Koi Niwa or learn about the different freshwater and coral reef fish at the aquarium. Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with these animals as well. Join the giraffe-feeding program or be a zookeeper for a day and help take care of the animals. No matter how old you are, it’s always the perfect time for you to drop by this animal paradise.

Colchester Zoo

Address: Maldon Rd, Heckfordbridge, Colchester CO3 0SL, United Kingdom

Website: Colchester Zoo

Opening hours: 9:30am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 15 GBP (20 USD) - 21 GBP (28 USD)

2. Go boating on River Stour at Dedham Valley

River Stour
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Stowell used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Boathouse is a bistro with some of the best breakfast meals and salad bars. While having your lunch outdoors, it is also the best spot to get some fresh air and look at the amazing views of River Stour. However, what makes The Boathouse a popular attraction is its rowing boats. For 30 to 60 minutes, you can row on the river while exchanging stories with your companions. If you want a more peaceful ride, simply steer your boat in silence while enjoying the nature around you. In case you get tired, grab a couple of pastries at the restaurant to replenish your energy.

The Boathouse

Address: Mill Ln, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DH, United Kingdom

Website: The Boathouse

Opening hours: 9:30am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 10 GBP (13 USD) - 16 GBP (21 USD)

3. Know the stories inside Talliston House & Gardens

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

What was once a plain council house is now a world filled with fantasy and mystery. Step inside Talliston House & Gardens and you will instantly feel like you have been transported to a different time and place. Each room in this house has been designed in a unique setting. One moment you are in an eerie Victorian tower, the next you are entering an elegant Moorish bed chamber. Pay attention to the details and you will notice how the sounds and smells were curated to fit the room’s theme. Experience traveling all over the world without stepping foot outside of the county.

Talliston House & Gardens

Address: Talliston Newton Green, Great Dunmow CM6 1DU, United Kingdom

Website: Talliston House & Gardens

Price: 18.5 GBP (30 USD)

4. Enjoy the best seafood in town at The Company Shed

The Company Shed, West Mersea - geograph.org.uk - 1563193
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Trevor Harris used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Get your fill of seafood at The Company Shed. This family-run restaurant serves various dishes ranging from mussels to lobsters, each cooked to perfection. All ingredients are locally sourced and freshly prepared. Accompany your meal with a bottle of beer or a glass of expensive wine. The restaurant is currently closed for dining due to safety regulations, but you can still pick up fresh ingredients or cooked dishes here.

The Company Shed

Address: 129 Coast Rd, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8PA, United Kingdom

Website: The Company Shed

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed on Mon)

5. Step into toy paradise of Mountfitchet Castle

Mountfitchet Castle keep
Source: Photo by Geograph user Richard Croft used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Go back in time in this living history museum and witness how life was like during the medieval period. Roam inside the castle and check out the ancient artifacts scattered everywhere. Located right behind the castle is the Norman village that imitates the lifestyle of the working people. This includes replicating the animals that used to roam around the fields during the Iron Age. Of course, don’t forget The House on Hill Museum, the largest toy collection in the world that contains more than 80,000 toys. Some of them have been around since the Victorian era. Pose with life-sized action figures at Showbiz Collection or hunt for fossils at Paleontology House.

Mountfitchet Castle

Address: Mountfitchet Castle, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP England

Website: Mountfitchet Castle

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 10 GBP (13 USD) - 12 GBP (16 USD)

6. Discover Essex's best-kept secret

Access Gatehouse to Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker, Essex England
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Acabashi used under CC BY-SA 4.0

What looks like an ordinary shack is actually an underground bunker that was used as headquarters during the Cold War. Now, it is open to the public and functions as a museum. People come here to learn about Cold War history and how everything worked back in the day. After entering the shack, you will have to go through a long tunnel that leads to the bunker itself. See for yourself how hundreds of military personnel were able to sustain themselves inside for up to three months. Experience a hands-on history lesson right here.

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Address: Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA, United Kingdom

Website: Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 10am - 4pm; Sat - Sun: 10am - 5pm

Price: 6.5 GBP (8 USD) - 8.5 GBP (11 USD)

7. See exhibitions of military and maritime collections at Harwich Redoubt

The Redoubt Fort, Harwich
Source: Photo by Geograph user John Welford used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Harwich Redoubt may look like an old building surrounded by houses but it used to be a giant fort on top of a hill. Before it was built, it was an elm tree used as a navigational mark by ships. This fort was then created to accommodate heavy guns as a defense to any incoming attacks. Now, it is one of the largest museums in the United Kingdom. Some of the guns that were used are still on display. Explore the different exhibitions here including replicas of firearms and battle reenactments.

Harwich Redoubt Fort

Address: Main Road, Harwich CO12 3LT, United Kingdom

Website: Harwich Redoubt Fort

Opening hours: Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed from Mon - Sat)

Price: 3 GBP (4 USD)

8. Have a fine drink at Europe's first wine tower

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Treat yourself to a relaxing wine night at Angels Tower Bar. First, choose your favorite drink from among 4,000 bottles in their glass tower. Then sit back and watch as the bar’s “angels” fly into the air and perform acrobatic acts. Grab a couple of bar food to keep you full and satisfied. After a long day filled with activities, let yourself unwind in this calming atmosphere with its friendly and entertaining staff.

Angels Wine Tower Bar

Address: London Stansted Airport, Radisson Blu Hotel CM24 1PP, United Kingdom

Opening hours: 7am - 1am (daily)

9. Enjoy a quiet ambiance at RHS Garden Hyde Hall

The Dry Garden at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex, England - border planting
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Acabashi used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Get away from busy streets and noisy vehicles by visiting this garden sanctuary. RHS Garden Hyde Hall is one of the biggest gardens in the country with its jaw-dropping 360 acres (146 hectares) of fields. You will definitely marvel in awe at their variety of plants and flowers. Explore the drought-resistant plants that you would only find in the desert. Take some photos in the pretty rose garden or walk around the meadow. Since different gardening styles were applied to different areas, expect to see some traditional and modern gardens here.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Address: Creephedge Ln, Chelmsford CM3 8ET, United Kingdom

Website: RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 6.7 GBP (9 USD) - 13.5 GBP (18 USD)

10. Dance the night away at Sugar Hut

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Join us this December before all upcoming parties sell-out too: www.thesugarhut.co.uk/events

Posted by Sugar Hut on Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Spend some time with your friends in this top-class nightclub where you can dance and jam to your heart’s content. Catch tenured DJs work their magic or be impressed by the fire dancers. Watch some of the best entertainment out there while sipping on satisfying and creative cocktails. The ceilings are decorated with silk roses, while the bathroom features golden sinks, making you feel like a celebrity. Experience a party like no other in Sugar Hut.

Sugar Hut

Address: 93 High St, Brentwood CM14 4RR, United Kingdom

Website: Sugar Hut

Opening hours: Sat: 8pm - 3am (closed from Sun - Fri)

A place filled with contradictions

There is no other place in the world where you can experience walking in a medieval castle in the morning, rowing a boat in the afternoon, and dancing under the lights at night. Definitely a unique destination, you can do whatever fits your hobbies or personality in this non-metropolitan county. So spare yourself the trouble of travelling everywhere and have a good time in this county of contradictions.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

Rae Marielle is a fiercely independent woman whose longest relationship is with food. She has a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology and a Master's degree in Communication Research....Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Essex (county)
Good things are meant to be shared!