Ultimate Guide To The Best Beaches And Coastline In Essex

Family playing on the beach.
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The Essex coast has some of the best beaches in England, with historic piers, amusement arcades, blue flag beaches and a huge range of coastal activities, like swimming, windsurfing and sailing.

The county of Essex is a great choice for a fun day out with the family, with great beaches at Mersea Island, Maldon, Shoeburyness, Leigh-on-Sea, Harwich, Walton, East Mersea, West Mersea, Thorpe Bay and Clacton-on-Sea. We have gathered a list of the best beaches in the area, so you can design a brilliant family trip to the seaside.

West Beach, Clacton-on-Sea

Clacton beach is considered by many as one of the best beaches in Essex, complete with plenty of seaside amusements, cafes and family entertainment, making Clacton pier the best pier in the world for kids. The beach itself has golden sand, making it one of the best beaches on the Essex coastline.

Where is it? Clacton-on-Sea is the nearest town, Essex CO15 1QY

What type of beach is it? West Beach is a decent size, with golden sand

Can you swim here? There is a seasonal lifeguard service on the beach, from the Easter school holidays until the end of the Summer school holidays.

What are the toilet facilities? Toilets, including disabled and baby changing facilities, are available - but they are currently closed in line with government guidelines.

Dog-friendly beach? Dogs are not allowed from May - 30 September

Are there cafes and restaurants available? Yes, there are bars, pubs and restaurants on the beach

Parking: Plenty of parking is available on the High Street (£2.50 for 2 hours) which is only a 2-minute walk to the beach. There is another large car park on Wellesley Road (£2.20 for 2 hours) that is a 12-minute walk to the coast.

Access to the beach: West Beach has disabled/buggy-friendly access to the beach

Martello Bay Beach, Clacton-on-Sea

Named after the small 19th-century fort on the beach, Martello is overlooked by the popular clifftop gardens above and has lots of beach huts and water activities.

Where is it? Clacton on Sea is the nearest town, Essex, CO15 1XY

What type of beach is it? Martello Bay is a small, sandy beach

Can you swim here? There is a seasonal lifeguard service on the beach, from the Easter school holidays until the end of the Summer school holidays. As well as swimming, there is normally sailing, kayaking, canoeing and windsurfing at Martello Bay.

What are the toilet facilities? No toilets at Martello Bay itself - the nearest toilets (including disabled and baby changing facilities) are located further towards the pier.  The toilet facilities are currently closed in line with government guidelines.

Dog-friendly beach? Dogs are not allowed from May - 30 September

Are there cafes and restaurants available? No, but the beach is only 1 mile from the town centre

Parking: Plenty of parking is available on the beach

Access to the beach: Martello Bay Beach has disabled/buggy-friendly access to the beach

Brightlingsea Beach, Clacton

Brightlingsea has a rich history, and it is a popular spot for yachting and sailing events. The sandy and shingle beach is next to the historic landmark, Batemans Tower, and there is a lovely coastal walk that is lined with beach huts before joining the nature trail that runs along the River Colne towards Alresford Creek.

Where is it? Brightlingsea Beach, Essex CO7 0HH

What type of beach is it? Sandy and shingle

Can you swim here? A blue flag beach, you are able to swim here. There is also a nearby Lido for swimmers who don't like open water swimming - however, this is currently closed.

What are the toilet facilities? Toilets are currently closed in line with government guidelines

Dog-friendly beach? Dogs are not allowed from May - 30 September

Are there cafes and restaurants available? Yes, the independently owned Batemans Tower Cafe is normally open for hot and cold food, coffee and cream teas - however, it is currently operating very reduced service and hours due to coronavirus.

Parking: There is a pay car park and street parking nearby. The West Prom Grass Car Park is closest to the beach, however, this is currently closed due to coronavirus.

Access to the beach: There is disabled/buggy-friendly access to the beach

Cudmore Grove, Mersea Island

Located on the east of Mersea Island, Cudmore has a lovely sandy beach with stunning views, as well as meadow and grassland that are perfect for playing games or relaxing on a sunny day. Follow one of the nearby walking routes, which pass many interesting historical gems - like WWII pillboxes and gun emplacements, as well as plenty of local wildlife.

Where is it? Cudmore, Essex CO5 8UE

What type of beach is it? A stretch of sandy beach where the Colne Estuary meets the Blackwater Estuary

Can you swim here? Perfect for paddling, the beach is less suitable for a swim

What are the toilet facilities? Public toilets are located in the car park. The disabled and baby changing facilities have reopened as of 21 May

Dog-friendly beach? Dogs are not allowed from May - 30 September

Are there cafes and restaurants available? Yes, but the is currently cafe closed in line with government guidance

Parking: There is parking at the Cudmore Grove Country Park, Broman's Lane, CO5 8UE (£3.30 up to 2 hours, £5.50 for over 3 hours)

Access to the beach: Cudmore is a flat site that offers easy use for wheelchairs/buggies

Thorpe Bay Beach, Southend-on-Sea

Southend-on-Sea has several lovely beaches, including Bell Wharf Beach, Chalkwell Beach, City Beach, Jubilee Beach, Shoebury Common, Shoebury East Beach, Thorpe Beach and Three Shells Beach & Lagoon and Westcliff Beach. One of the area's best beaches, having received a Blue Flag and Quality Coast award for its clean beaches and safe pedestrian access - this coastal stretch is lined with picture-perfect beach huts that look out at the spectacular views.

Where is it? Thorpe Esplanade, Southend, SS1 3NS

What type of beach is it? It is a stony beach

Can you swim here? You can swim here - it is also a hot spot for sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and watersports

What are the toilet facilities? Public toilets are located in the car park. The disabled and baby changing facilities have reopened as of 21 May

Dog-friendly beach? Dogs are not allowed on Southend beaches from 1 May until 30 September

Are there cafes and restaurants available? Yes, Ocean Beach is a cafe, bar and bistro located on the waterfront, and very near the car park on the Eastern Esplanade, Southend, Essex SS1 2YG. The cafe is currently closed in line with government guidelines.

Parking: Seafront on-street parking bays are available (£1.80 for 2 hours)

Access to the beach: Easy access to the beach from the carpark

Canvey Island, Essex

Canvey Island is a small island that lies off the South Coast of Essex, in the Thames Estuary - which offers amazing views of the Kent coast, as well as being a great spot to watch the ships travel to and from London on the Thames. The south side of the island is one of the most famous beaches in Essex, and these sandy beaches offer lots of activities including sea paddling, and a funfair for the kids. The paved promenade is great for a walk along the coastline, and there are a couple of seaside cafes and restaurants, including the beautiful Labworth Cafe that was built in the 1930s.

Where is it? Canvey, Essex, SS8 7JQ

What type of beach is it? A small, sheltered sandy beach

Can you swim here? One of the best features on Canvey Island beach is the children's tidal swimming pool, which offers kids a safe place to swim. There is no lifeguard service provided.

What are the toilet facilities? There are toilet facilities, but they are closed in line with government guidelines

Dog-friendly beach? Dogs are not allowed on the beach from 1 May until 30 September

Are there cafes and restaurants available? Yes, there several cafes and restaurants. Labworth Cafe is one of the most loved, but it is currently closed in line with government guidelines.

Parking: There is plenty of on-street paid-for parking adjacent to the beach, near the Labworth Recreation Ground

Access to the beach: Easy access to the beach

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