Best Places For Families In Essex

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Essex is a beautiful city with rich landscapes and attraction sites. So, finding a place for a family day out is not difficult. You could explore museums, parks, hills, seaside centres, beaches, and restaurants.

Essex offers many opportunities for families to spend time outdoors without breaking the bank. Many places in the city grant visitors free entrance and charge very little money for extra services. Regardless, if your family is to have a mind-blowing experience, you must carefully decide where you will visit.

Below, we have identified the best places a family could go in Essex to have a nice time. These places cover every family member, family size, and even families with pets. Some of them are also ideal for specific seasons and festivals.

8 Best Places to Visit in Essex

  • Adventure Island – Best Overall
  • Hyland Gardens and Park –  Bst for Family Events
  • Epping Forest –  Best for Hiking
  • Castle Park
  • The Princes Theatre
  • Clacton Pier
  • The Naze
  • Southend Central Museum and Planetarium

Details of each of these places are given below. The details also point out the pros and cons of the locations.

1. Adventure Island

Adventure Island prides itself as the friendliest free-entry park in Europe. According to reviews on TripAdvisor, the park stands as the fourth friendliest park in the world.


Guaranteed Hospitality: Adventure Island is the oldest and top-rated shoreside attraction in the Southend of Essex. Visitors are guaranteed maximum hospitality rooted in years of experience since 1918.

Restaurants and Aquarium: The seaside park is one of the attractions under the Management of the Stockvale Group of Companies. The park also houses restaurants and the Adventure Aquarium. 

Free Entry: Adventure Island is free to enter. However, the park has over 40 rides you can access by purchasing its wristbands. You can also get cheaper access by buying a year plan. There are several other attractions you can enjoy while strolling through the park.

Extra Services: Adventure Island offers other perks and services like food outlets, customer lockers, and fantastic customer service. In addition, there is a standby first aid service and dedicated outlets for lost children and property.


  • Free entry
  • Excellent hospitality
  • Inexpensive experience
  • Online booking
  • Variety of rides and other perks
  • Restaurants
  • Aquarium
  • Massive discount for year plan
  • Amazing customer service
  • No queues
  • First aid
  • Missing child/property attendants


  • Can be very crowded.
osprey observer

2. Hyland Gardens and Park

Hylands House is located in Chelmsford in the town of Hylands Park. The grade II listed building is set in a beautiful landscape, with pretty formal gardens for exploration, a café, and a playground for younger children.


Free Entry: The house and park are a part of the Hylands Estate, which boasts around 560 hectares of beautiful parkland that is free to access. You only need to pay hourly for parking.

Rental Spaces: In addition to ancient woodlands, grassland, ponds, and lakes, the park features formal gardens that are open to renting for events. So it is an excellent place for a wedding, a formal party, or a family get-together. 

Other Cool Spots: The park has a friendly café, information points, art studios, and workshop spaces for local artists and creatives. Also, visitors can browse a shop selling second-hand books and art supplies. Situated within its stable grounds is the popular children’s adventure playground, designed for families and children to have fun.

Haven for Volunteers: Hyland Gardens is a great place to meet people if you are new to town. It allows volunteers to get involved with the people and community.


  • Great for meeting new people
  • Open to volunteers
  • Dog-friendly environment
  • Large play area
  • Rentals for events
  • Free entry


  • Parking costs more for extra hours.
visit essex

3. Epping Forest

Epping Forest is between London and Essex, granting easy access to hikers from both cities. The forest is the best place you want to go to enjoy some countryside vibes away from the concrete walls and busy streets.


Waymarked Trails: Epping Forest has nine waymarked hiking trails to make your hiking experience fun and more accessible. The trails are all connected to let you start and end anywhere you want. 

Hike Various Distances: Epping Forest offers trails of different distances. You can find trails with distances between 30 minutes to two hours. So you can choose your route according to the time you have to spend.

Multiple Terrains: The forest has various terrains, including hiking paths, grasslands, muddy roads, and rocky areas. 

Sightseeing Spots: There is Connaught Water, a popular spot for hikers. It houses several ducks, swans, and geese. The forest has other remarkable sights, like grazing cattle and oak trees.


  • Peaceful countryside environment
  • Several trail options
  • Waymarked trails for easy navigation
  • Beautiful sights
  • Free entry


  • Muddy and littered paths

4. Castle Park

Castle Park is another location to explore nature in Essex. The park is a part of Colchester Castle, one of the oldest legacies of the Normans. While Colchester is open to tour within the castle, its park offers a fantastic family day out.


In-Castle Museum: Touring this castle is affordable. It features art pieces like the famous Colchester Vase. It also has roof access to let you take in the grandeur of Colchester from the top.

Walk in the Park: Castle Park lets you stroll around in the summer sun, admiring the beauty of nature. The park has beautiful flowers, and you could feed the ducks that roam its grounds. 

Amazing Games: The park also has many fun games and activities. These include the Fenwick Treasure Hoard, Crazy Golf, and bouncing castle.


  • Natural environment
  • Boating facilities
  • Engaging events for all
  • In-castle tour
  • Inexpensive entry fees


  • Needs to monitor little kids better 
castle park

5. The Princes Theatre

The Princes Theatre has existed since 1931. The theatre was explicitly built for the same purpose within Clacton Town Hall. As part of the new Town Hall complex, the Princes Theatre opened to the public on 14th April 1931.


1000-Visitor Capacity: The Prince’s Theatre had 1250 seats under the management of the Clacton Urban District Council. Later on, it was transferred to Tendring District Council in 1974. Over time, the theatre increased its capacity. It currently accommodates up to 1000 visitors at a go.

Exhibitions and Shows: Presently, The Princes Theatre features about 150 shows and seminars yearly. It also organizes exhibitions of different kinds. P

Rent Event Centres: The theatre is available for rent for official meetings. Families can have weddings and other similar events. The Princes Theatre is an entertainment hub in the town centre of Clacton-on-Sea and 

Refreshments: The Princes Theatre has a bar and sweet shops for refreshments. These usually open about 45 minutes before the start of a show. You can choose from refreshments like ice creams, drinks, tea, coffee, and nuts.


  • Family event centre
  • Multipurpose venue
  • Over 1000 visitors
  • Refreshments
  • Exhibitions
  • Wheelchair access


  • Visitors cannot bring their refreshments.
marriner group

6. Clacton Pier

Clacton Pier has been open to the public since 1871, when Clacton-on-Sea first opened. The pier was a 150m-long wooden structure that once served as a docking point for steamships. However, as its popularity grew, the dock received some upgrades to accommodate the many visitors.


Award-Winning Destination: In 2020, Clacton Pier was awarded the pier of the year. The National Piers Society named it the best despite the COVID-19 challenges.

Largest Relaxation Pier in Europe: Clacton Pier now covers over 26,000 sq metres, making it the largest pier offering relaxation and pleasure in Europe. 

Awesome Fun Activities: The pier offers many rides, a two-timer adventure golf course, a log flume, and a rollercoaster.

Amazing Customer Service: The pier also has a great customer service team to cater to visitors’ needs.


  • Award-winning destination
  • A vast expanse of land
  • Many ride options
  • Age-grade games
  • Brilliant support service


  • Only admits guide dogs.
the guardian

7. The Naze

The Naze is a beautiful part of East Anglia. It is a national nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest. Its location close to the coast offers some excellent vantage points to see shipping passing through the port of Harwich. 


Wildlife Reserve: The nature reserve provides a habitat for wildlife, including otters, grey seals, and cormorants. 

London Clay: On top of the cliff stands London clay, formed about 54 million years ago, which gives rise to the famous red soil. 

Hiking Trails: Although only two miles from the sea, the Naze boasts a network of footpaths that provide access to the nearby village of Walton-on-the-Naze.

Other Attractions: You can visit other attractions nearby if you want to do more than hiking and sightseeing on the Naze. These include Naze Beach, the tower,  Nature Discovery Centre, and Albion Beach.


  • Free entry
  • Seaside views
  • Home to interesting wildlife
  • Sea-front pub
  • Fishing
  • Dog-friendly beach
  • Cheap tickets to Naze Tower museum


  • Limited activities
visit essex

8. Southend Central Museum & Planetarium

Southend Central Museum and Planetarium is one of the many museums in Southend-on-Sea. However, this offers a unique experience. The museum exhibits historical artefacts like coins and medals.


Historical Resources: The museum is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting historical resources for science and technology, archaeological findings, war, music, and fine art.

Impressive Planetarium: Southend Planetarium allows visitors to experience and explore the night sky. 

Learning on the Go: Every moment in the museum is a learning point, as there are experts to answer questions during visitations. Therefore, it is an excellent place for a school trip.

Public Shows: The Southend Central Museum has public shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Also, the planetarium is open to everyone. However, the museum limits the number of visitors to the planetarium to 35.


  • Great for school field trips
  • Pre-booking
  • Variety of artefacts
  • Accessible planetarium
  • Knowledgeable attendants
  • Excellent customer service


  • A limited number of visitors to the planetarium 

Factors to Consider in Choosing a Place to Visit in Essex 

While you plan to visit the best places to go in Essex for your family, you should not just pick a place for the sake of seeing. It would help to consider many factors. Some of these factors include:


This is one of the most important factors to consider. You do not want to get stuck at a resort with little fun for lack of money. However, you do not have to spend so much to have a nice day out with your family. Many parks and resorts in Essex offer free entry. So you only need to budget for refreshments and tickets for extra fun.


How long would you be spending at the place you need to visit? Some considerations come in for the time you are spending. For instance, you could go to the Epping Forest for hours-long treks. So you need to pack just the right supplies to see you through the day. Additionally, some parks charge hourly rates for parking. Therefore, you will pay more if you spend more time at the place.


Considerations for the season can determine the best place you should go in Essex with your family. For instance, a beach is an ideal place for the summer. Also, there are other places you cannot visit during the winter. However, a place like Adventure Island offers a different experience during Christmas, and you would want to try it out.

Intended Experience

Some parks are your best bet if you just want to stroll while meeting other families. However, a museum offers a chance to learn more about Essex. There are various places you could go fishing, swimming, and sightseeing. Plus, if you wish for sightseeing, you must consider the attractions a location offers. The Naze, for instance, lets you watch ships and boats while the Epping Forests provides you with some wildlife to study.


The suitable facility can guarantee a fantastic experience when visiting places with your family. When bringing your children to play, you must consider child-protection facilities, first-aid, lifeguard, and missing-children services. Some parks in Essex also allow you to bring your dogs to have your pet on your family’s day out. Additionally, the more games, rides, and activities a location offers, the shorter the wait time to get your fun. So choose a place with more facilities to cater to a teeming crowd of visitors.


Reviews can give you a first-hand account of other people’s experiences in the places to visit in Essex. One of the best places to find these reviews is Travel Advisor. You learn what to expect from the areas you are considering and other places you should avoid.

Customer Service

The main reason for finding a place to visit with your family in Essex is to find some relaxation and fun. Customer service is vital for an incredible experience. If a site does not offer good customer service, there is no guarantee of getting the wonderful time you crave.

Frequently Asked Questions on Best Places to Go in Essex

Q1. Is Essex worth visiting?

Essex is a city with many beautiful landscapes to explore. The town is rich in history, as evident in its many historical locations open to tourists. Aside from parks and seaside resorts, Essex has many restaurants and local businesses offering excellent services.

Q2. What are the best things to do with kids in Essex?

Essex has many places to visit with your kids, who will enjoy every moment of their outing. A lot of parks in Essex offer free entry to explorers and hikers. However, with some money, you can get your kids fun rides and games. You can also have a picnic, hike, or go to the beach. Additionally, Essex offers suitable locations for geocaching.

Q3. Does Essex have an airport for easier visits?

Essex has an international airport that makes reaching the city from other regions and countries easier. The London Southend Airport is between Southend-on-Sea and Rochford District.

Q4. Why should I visit places in Essex with my family?

Family time offers many advantages, including building confidence, establishing solid bonds, and improving communication skills. Family time can also boost children’s academic achievement with the right experience. For instance, visiting museums and zoos can provide some knowledge to the child. Furthermore, a family visit to places in Essex can create fun memories and reduce behavioural issues.


Whether you are planning a casual family day out or events like weddings and get together, there are places in Essex that suit your needs. Most of these places let you explore nature and interact with wildlife. 

The seaside resorts and beaches on Southend-on-sea offer an experience of coastal views and relaxation. However, the best place you could go in Essex is Adventure Island. Its reputation for excellent services and premium fun exceeds the borders of Essex. It remains one of the best parks in the world.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.