Did you know that the seaside is less than an hour away from East Ham? Well now you do, and last weekend East Blam rolled up our jeans (that’s what you do at the seaside, silly) dug out our jelly shoes and went daytrippin’ Southend on Sea style, to take in the sea air. We tested the sea (we actually swam in it!), the sun (it was still out!), the pier, the 2p machines and the fish & chips. Fun-fun-fun in the sun-sun-sun (ok, ok, it was a bit bracing in the wind, but the pictures look nice!).
7 miles of beaches with City Beach in the middle.
Southend has 7 whole miles of beaches, some of them blue flag and idyllic, some of them kiss-me-quick on the pebbles but no matter what your preference, all of them have a ‘Seaside award‘ from Keep Britain Tidy so you can’t really go wrong.
We hit up City Beach which is smack bang in the centre of Southend, on the main drag close to the amusements, roller coasters and miles of chirpy cafes serving ice cream, donuts, chips and windbreakers. It is busy and bustling with families doing all the usual seaside things. We did a bit of swimming (brave, we know) and are happy to report that the sea is surprisingly warm and swimmable for a spot on the UK coastline so don’t forget to pack your swimmers.
Pre, or post swim, a stroll along the promenade will bring you all the joys of amusement arcades with 2p machines, crazy golf and dance mats as well as a large set of fountains which were swarming with soaking wet gleeful kiddies and slightly less gleeful and ruefully damp, candy floss ridden parents.
If the full British seaside experience isn’t your thing, you can get away from the hustle and bustle by heading out of town to East Beach, Shoebury Common and Thorpe Bay beaches, all of which hold Blue Flag awards.
Clearly there is no shortage of quality beachage in this part of Essex.
A stroll along the 1.3 mile long pleasure pier. Yes, we said pleasure pier.
Built in 1830, the Pier is a Southend landmark and has been for hundreds of years. It was built for smog ridden londoners and Essex girls and boys alike to allow them to take a brisk walk into the sea and take in air, and has been keeping Southend front of mind ever since. It is the longest non commercial (oh, that’s what they mean by ‘Pleasure’!) pier in the world, so long that it needs a train to get you all the way to the end (or you can walk it, but trust us, you will want to take the train on the way back!).
On our visit, we were greeted with a series of colourful beach huts, an exhibition called Wish you were here, part of the Estuary festival which is on until October. An artists impression of the journey though the seaside experience, each hut has been expressively designed by an artist and inside you will find film, galleries, history, and performances inspired by the seaside you are standing upon. We’d highly recommend a visit.
At the end you will find oodles of decking and benches for you to stare pensively out to sea and pretend that you are in the sad bit of a rom-com movie, a retro looking ice cream parlour which seems to have been championed by Jamie Oliver for a brief spell (it appeared well and truly closed when we arrived though) and a curiously modern and architectural structure which turns out to be a Cultural Centre masquerading as a cafe. There you you can get the obligatory (and much needed) cream tea and rest your weary feet after the mile walk. Fun for the kids, you will also find a working life boat station manned by the RNLI.
If you need any more reasons to take a stroll down the pier, aside from the above and the view of the sea (which is the main attraction when at the seaside) then it is worth noting that it was also featured in the credits of 1980’s tv show Minder. So you can pretend to be Arthur Daly, if you know who that is (go ask your mum, she will know!)
A couple of historic theme parks and much more
After the pier, fun can also be found in the form of Adventure Island, an amusement park which started it’s life in 1918 as part of a ‘Sunken Garden’, inside it was a few rides for children called Never Never Land, which grew into what you see today; a brightly coloured noisy crazy knot of roller coasters and rides that make you go upside down. Kids love it.
For a bit of history, you can take a walk up to the Kuursal, which is currently a shopping centre but formally (and we think far more interestingly) the first ever purpose built amusement park in England. It’s a totally instagram-able listed building dating back to 1901, with a beautiful and distinctive design. Well worth a peek and will make you look cool and arty if you post a picture on Facebook!
If you like art, you can check out Focal Point, a contemporary gallery a few blocks back from the seafront.
Fish & chips from Neptune
Of course we couldn’t leave the seaside without eating our weight in Fish and Chips. There is an overwhelming choice in Southend, so we chose randomly and are glad we did. Neptune appeared to us as a classic chippy, complete with jazzy neon light (unfortunately was not lit during the day, but we just know it would have added some va-va-voom to our Battered Cod if it had been!) and turned out to be a most excellent choice. The fish was piping hot, and moist. The batter was super crispy and the chips were perfectly chippy-eque (not too soggy, not too crispy), all served with a dollop of traditional mushy peas.
It was so good, we forgot to take a photo of it. #Sorrynotsorry
All in all, Southend gets a tick for classic seaside vibes.
It’s not a picturesque sleepy seaside, more your full on, neon lights, arcades and colourful windbreakers kind of town. Utterly and unapologetically fun, and just 35 miles from our own East Ham.
Marbella it is not. Is it worth a day trip? Absolutely.