With its combination of gently rolling landscape, picturesque towns and villages, country parks and nature reserves, Essex offers some of England's loveliest countryside. And its 350 miles of coastline feature bustling seaside towns, quiet beaches and estuaries rich in wildlife. It's also home to historic buildings like Layer Marney Tower, Colchester Castle, Waltham Abbey Church and Tilbury Fort. Or enjoy a play, concert, or comedy at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, or Chelmsford City Theatres.
Things to see and do
Essex has over 1,000 buildings listed as either Grade I or II, ranging from the 7th-century Saxon church of St Peter-on-the-Wall to one of England's most magnificent stately homes, Jacobean Audley End House. It also has Hedingham Castle, England's best preserved Norman keep.
Or try something more hands-on like kayaking or canoeing at Lee Valley White Water Centre. Take the family to Colchester Zoo or Barleylands Farm Park and Craft Village where kids can feed the animals, jump on the miniature train or mini tractors and go wild in outdoor adventure areas.
And, if the sun is shining, head to the coast and the hugely popular resort of Clacton-on-Sea with its traditional pier and fun rides. Enjoy miles of golden beaches and take in a show at a theatre. Visit one of many nature reserves rich in wildlife, Epping and Hatfield Forest or Northey Island.
For an alternative retail experience try Gosfield Shopping Village in the heart of the Essex countryside which has over 120 small traders offering antiques and collectibles together with a selection of independent retailers, as well as a gallery and restaurant. Or head to Colchester for big high street names and specialist shops. Check out the award-winning William & Griffin store.
Eating and drinking
Whether you're looking for fish and chips by the sea or cordon bleu cooking, Essex has it covered. For award-winning modern British and European cuisine head to Masons in Brentwood, while fish lovers are directed to The Contented Sole at Burnham-on-Crouch. Italianissimo in Romford offers contemporary Italian food while Jalsa Ghar in Great Dunmow serves a fusion of Indian and Bangladeshi food. For traditional pubs try The Bull, a 16th-century coaching inn in Great Totham.
Whether you're after some traditional end-of-the-pier entertainment, upmarket theatre, the latest blockbuster films or a night at a club, Essex will provide. Try Chelmsford or Colchester for theatre, Liquid in Basildon for great clubbing, or The Rio in Burnham-on-Crouch for cinema.
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