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Visiting the seaside has been an important part of British culture since the 1700’s when the aristocracy and wealthy believed sea air and waters to have natural therapeutic properties. Advancements in transportation in the early 1800s then led to the mass popularisation of seaside resorts as a holiday destination.
However, unlike the coast in many other (warmer) parts of Europe, the British seaside is not just for sitting on the beach soaking up the sun. British seaside resorts have developed their own unique and exciting culture of greasy fish and chips, long piers and flashy entertainment establishments.
Southend on Sea on the Essex coast is one such seaside resort which quickly became popular due to it’s close proximity to London. To this day, Southend is still a popular destination for Londoners to take day trips and weekends away throughout the year – and YES I do mean all year!
One of my favourite times to visit Southend on Sea is during the autumn months, and here are a few reasons why…
At 2,158 metres long, Southend pier is the longest pier in the world. Built in the early 1800’s, it is the towns main landmark and has had a long and interesting history. Sir John Betjeman even once famously said that “the Pier is Southend, Southend is the Pier”.
Southend pier is open to the public every day and costs £2 to walk down or £5 for a return journey on the pier train. A leisurely walk will take around 20 mins each way, and at the end, you can stop for a hot coffee at the small cafe and check out the lifeboat station.
Southend Adventure Park
Sitting on the seafront next to the pier, Adventure Island is home to over 60 rides and attractions, from loop-de-loop rollercoasters and a mega drop to more family-friendly water rides and bumper cars. There is even a 9 hole adventure golf course. If you book online in advance, an unlimited access band for all rides will set you back just £23.20pp.
Classic Seaside Food
It’s an English seaside town… guess what food you’ll find? Good old fish and chips of course! Walking down by the seafront you’ll find an abundance of cafes and food stalls serving the classic British dish (find a list of chippy’s here). And for dessert, it’s got to be a bag of hot, sugar-coated doughnuts from The Three Shells.
If you’re looking for something a little fancier you can also try the Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant. With a prime location overlooking the water and pier, the menu includes a wide selection of fish and seafood, as well as grills, steaks and vegetarian dishes.
Must try: The hot seafood platter for 2 to share (below). A crazy feast of calamari, scampi, fish cakes, oysters, mussels and kings prawns, served with chips and salad. Plenty enough for 2 people… possibly 3!
What’s a trip to the seaside without pushing £10 worth of 2p coins into a machine for half an hour in the hope of winning a plastic keyring? Or frustratedly trying to win a soft toy you don’t really even want out of a crane machine?
At an arcade, everyone turns into a giant child and a competitive one at that! Dance machines, racing games, shoot ‘em ups, bowling… it’s dangerously easy to spend most of your day (and money) in one of this flashy Vegas-style amusement centres lining the seafront!
So what makes this coastal town any different from the rest? Well, every Saturday evening from early October to mid-November there is a free fireworks display from a barge out in the ocean. Just get to the pier (or anywhere close by) for 7:30 and wait for the magic to begin. The Southend fireworks display is one of my favourites in the UK!
Hotels in Southend on Sea
Thinking of sticking around for the whole weekend? The impressive Park Inn by Radisson Palace is one of the best places to stay in Southend, with its waterfront views and great location just a few minutes walk to the main attractions such as Southend pier, Adventure Island and the arcades. As well as 137 beautiful guest rooms, the Park Inn also has on-site dining and a casino.
Visit Southend on Sea and the Southend fireworks this Autumn: