Southend-on-Sea is the epitome of the British seaside. Only a short distance from London, this Essex town has long been a holiday destination for UK holidaymakers. Here are the best things to do in Southend-on-Sea!

The Best Things to Do in Southend-on-Sea


Take a Walk Along the Pier

Believe it or not, Southend-on-Sea is home to the world's longest pleasure pier, and it is over 100 years old.

If you don't fancy the walk, you can take a ride on the Pier Railway which takes you to the Pier Head.

So, grab yourself an ice cream or some fish and chips and enjoy being by the seaside. Singing "Oh I do like to be beside the seaside..." optional!

Visit the Southend Pier Museum

See what life on the pier was like in its Victorian heyday at the Pier Museum. Here they have some of the original Victorian attractions such as working penny slot machines and the old train carriages.

You can find the pier in the Old Pier Workshops, underneath the train station at the entrance of the pier.


Go Insta Crazy at the Beach Huts

If you walk along the Thorpe Esplanade towards Thorpe Bay, you'll come across the fabulous beach huts that line the shore.

Whilst the beach huts themselves are private, they'll make a great background for your seaside-themed Instagram photos.

See a Show at the Cliff's Pavilion

If you're looking to catch a show whilst you're in town, head to the marvellous Cliff's Pavilion.

This gorgeous theatre holds many shows throughout the year, including plays, musicals, comedians, and of course the good old British pantomime.


Belfairs Wood & Nature Reserve

If being nature is your thing, take a trip out to the Belfairs Wood & Nature Reserve which is part of the Essex Wildlife Trust. Much of the reserve is classed as ancient and traditional woodland management techniques are used to preserve the landscape.

The wood is set over 1160-acres and is great for walking or cycling. If you are feeling energetic, you could take on the 'Seven Wood Walk', a five-and-a-half-mile trail taking in much of the park.

In the reserve, you can also find the Belfairs Woodland Centre, which acts as an education facility for schools and groups as well as a children's playground, café, and shop selling locally made produce.

Enjoy a Picnic at Historic Hadleigh Castle

Built in this 13th Century, Hadleigh Castle now lies in ruins on a hill, overlooking the Essex marshes.

Nevertheless, it's still an impressive site, and is especially beautiful around sunset. If you use your imagination you may be able to get a feel for how great it once was.

Entry is free, so bring a picnic and enjoy the epic views.


Spend a Day on the Beach

You cannot visit Southend without the obligatory trip to the beach, come rain or shine.

There are several fabulous beaches including Shoebury East, Thorpe Bay, and Chalkwell. Have a walk along the prom and see which takes your fancy.

Don't forget to bring a beach blanket and a towel so you can go for a paddle in the sea!

Some beaches even have boats and paddle boards for rent if you want to get out on the water.

Go Back in Time in Old Leigh

Just outside of Southend, you'll find the quaint, fishing village of Leigh-on-Sea, also known as Old Leigh. With cobbled streets, galleries, shops, and lots of lovely local eateries, Old leigh makes for a wonderful excursion.

To get there you can either take an hour-long walk or take the train.


Have Fun at Adventure Island

You cannot visit Southend, or any British seaside town for that matter, without taking a trip to the funfair.

At Adventure Island, they have all the favourites, including bumper cars, rollercoasters and log flumes as well as lots of smaller rides for the little ones, making this a great day out for all the family.

Go Up on the Southend Cliff Railway

You can find the Southend Cliff Railway between the Western Esplanade and Clifton Terrace. The railway was built in 1912, and is a proud part of Southend heritage. There are lovely views from the top over the pier, town, and estuary.

The lift is usually open from 10am - 3pm. A trip in either direction costs a very reasonable 0.51p.

Have you been to Southend-on-Sea, or would you like to go? Make sure to check out our Southend-on-Sea hotels as well as our Explore by Expedia homepage for more travel inspiration...