8 amazing coastal walks across the county
Fancy stretching your legs and filling your lungs with fresh sea air? Then stroll on over to Muddy’s definitive guide to the best coastal walks across Essex.
Frinton-on-Sea to Walton-on-the-Naze
With its ice-cream coloured beach huts and generous nod to nostalgia, a slow stroll along the Southcliff prom from Frinton-on-Sea in north Essex to the wide, butterscotch beaches of neighbouring Walton-on-the-Naze is what weekends were made for. Stretching two beachside miles from Frinton high street to Walton’s historic wooden pier, take in the bracing views out across the North Sea before stopping for trad fish and chips at Yates Fish Bar. This is one coastal delight you don’t want to miss – especially when the waves are rolling in and the sun is shining.
Southend-on-Sea to Old Leigh
Starting at the buzzy seafront attraction, Adventure Island (open only at weekends for now, but every day from 29 May) make your way west along the prom until you’re completely clear of the casinos and crowds, and bound for a series of artisan beach cafes that sit under the arches. From here, this three-mile seaside potter will thread through characterful boat yards that clink and clatter in high winds, cobbled lanes dotted with salty dogs, and gorgeous deserted coves the colour of pale ale. Once you’ve hit Old Leigh, stop for one of the town’s famous cream teas or head beachfront for an alfresco fish platter at The Peterboat.
A nature reserve comprising 102 acres of unique coastal landscapes overlooking the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries, this two-hour waterside jaunt spans more than three miles of rustic Essex coastline and will take you past an oyster fishery, 17th-century fort and Langenhoe Marsh – aka, birdwatchers’ paradise. Rich in wildlife, be sure to stop and spot the resident flocks of wildfowl, soaring peregrine falcons and dipping sparrowhawks.
The Thames Estuary Path
Up for a challenge? This 29-miler along the Essex strait wiggles its way through some of the county’s most dramatic landscapes, from a tapestry of mud flats in the south and Tilbury town’s industrial docks, to the sheaf of cockle-shed bays that bid the Thames goodbye in Old Leigh. Positively brimming with biodiversity, a criss-cross of bubbling creeks and clay-like marshes dominate this low-lying riverscape, but the trail is clearly marked out and you can easily break it up, too: stations along the London Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness line serve to slice the route into manageable weekend romps.
Always a crowd pleaser with the sailing set, this 12-mile route (don’t worry, you don’t have to walk it all) launches at Tollesbury Marina and hugs the seawall for unrivalled views of the Blackwater Estuary’s lattice of salt-marsh and mud creeks. Oystercatchers, terns and little ringed plovers may thread their way with you to Shinglehead point, where ribbons of green signal Rolls Farm. Follow the natural footpath here to loop back round to Church Street and sink a well-deserved wine at The Harbour View Bistro & Bar (takeaway for now, but opening up again 19 May).
Fambridge to Burnham-on-Crouch
This calming riverside ramble, which spans eight miles of sea wall, begins at Fambridge Yacht Haven marina and peruses the rolling hills of Althorne before bouncing gently along the river’s blue-grey tides to bunting-festooned Burnham-on-Crouch. The sea wall path ends here at the town’s harbour, where an orchestra of yacht masts chime in the wind and a rug of wild flowers carpet the quay. Ice-cream stop, obligatory.
Bathed in a cream crush of cockle shells, Bradwell’s small stretch of beach marks the point where River Blackwater meets the North Sea and it’s an atmospheric find. Overlooked by ancient monasteries, oyster sheds and layers of salty grey mist, consider this your new go-to hideaway when the weather won’t play ball and you decide to embrace the drizzle and walk the tides anyway. Start with a slow saunter past the decommissioned Power Station before embarking on a six-mile circular sea-route ramble, which takes in spectacularly haunting views out to Mersea Island, as well as a charming chapel, mash-studded nature reserve and WWII memorial.
Wrabness to Manningtree
Home to Grayson Perry’s Turner-prize-winning ‘House for Essex’, Wrabness is a humble little corner in the north that deserves more coastal consideration. Set against the rolling hills of nearby Manningtree, its generous slice of sandy coves hug a pretty stretch of the Stour Estuary and, dotted with rustic beach huts and a smattering of chalets on stilts, it’s not uncommon for passing dinghies to pull up on the sheltered shoreline for an impromptu picnic. Grab your budding David Attenboroughs and set off on a fossil-foraging mission along the six-mile stretch of shoreline – shark’s teeth and whale bones are prized finds here.