About Essex beaches
The closest beach resorts to London are those situated on the Essex coast, which are handy getaways for frazzled commuters. Essex as a county gets a lot of bad press, but the coastline has some fine sandy beaches that are in easy reach from the capital. Resorts such as Clacton and Southend are famously brash and clattering, but you can head instead to the charming, if faded, resort of Walton-on-the-Naze.
In Walton-on-the-Naze, Albion beach, to the north of the down-at-heel pier is award-winning and sandy, while to the south lie the sands of Southcliff beach, backed by tiers of beach huts. Nearby Frinton-on-Sea also has a sandy beach, where the sea is zoned for swimming, sailing and windsurfing.
Beyond the beach:
Take a three hour canoe trip to visit the Hamford Water Seal Colony at Bramble Creek, launching from Titmarsh Marina into the Estuary. Hamford Water National Nature Reserve is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the reserve is a major migratory route for birds as well as being home to a large breeding seal colony. Travelling via kayak means you can watch the seals without disturbing them. To learn more visit Nomad Sea Kayaking (www.nomadseakayaking.co.uk).
Walton boasts the second longest pier in Britain, with one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and a little train to take you to the end and back if you wish. On-pier entertainments include bowling and bingo.
To the north is an entirely different scene as the Naze is a wild headland of heath, saltmarshes and sandy beaches. The headland is surmounted by the Naze Tower (www.nazetower.co.uk), built in 1721, which you can climb for superb views between April and October. Its eight floors house a museum and art gallery, as well as a tea room (see Eating Out). There’s also a Maritime Museum in the old lifeboat house.
Frinton’s beach is lined with candy-stripped Victorian beach huts, and the town is full of retro charm, without an amusement arcade in sight. Head here to meander around the shops and tea rooms, paddle, play on the beach, and have lots of 1950s-style family holiday fun.