Begging for Mersea: why you should visit the beautiful island of Essex this summer
If you’ve heard of Mersea Island, there’s a good chance you’ve seen photos of its iconic pastel beach huts plastered on Instagram – well, that, or you’ve tasted its famous native oysters. A combination of rolling countryside and beautiful wild beaches make this a hot spot for day trippers, vacationers and photographers.
The most easterly inhabited island in the UK, it has a total area of seven square miles and a permanent population of around 7,000, although the island’s holiday parks mean that this population is increasing dramatically at high season. In a variation of the famous Five Style, it is connected to mainland Essex by a lonely causeway, The Strood, which can become impassable at high tide. Whether this adds to the charm of the island or is a reason to avoid it is entirely a matter of personal opinion.
Mersea Island Beach and Beach Huts
The main draw of the island is the beach itself. A mixture of sand and pebbles dotted with tufts of plants including sea holly and sea couch, it’s hard to believe it was mined and surrounded by barbed wire during WWII. The views stretch across the Blackwater Estuary, to the Dengie Peninsula opposite, and the large warehouse-style building on the horizon, the Bradwell Power Plant, is reminiscent of the waters of this part of the Essex are estuaries rather than open seas.
The shore level varies widely between high tide and low tide, but there is always plenty of room for the many paddlers, swimmers and bodyboarders on the sand and in the sea. And then of course there are those famous cabins. of beach. The pastel sheds the island is known for stretch east from Seaview Avenue, but west along Victoria Esplanade also gives way to rows and rows of deliciously hued beach huts. mismatched – the island has about 400 huts in total.
Things to do on Mersea Island: East Mersea
Mersea Island is roughly divided into two areas; Mersea East and Mersea West. East Mersea is the less inhabited of the two, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. Cudmore Grove Country Park is the main attraction on this side, home to rugged coastal countryside suitable for bird watching and swimming, and for those who wish to hunt it, the remains of a classified Tudor blockhouse (defensive structure) can be seen.
There is plenty of room for walking and cycling, although two-wheeled trips are best left to the more experienced due to some of the fast and narrow country roads. Country ads including Dog and pheasant and The Fox Inn offer bucolic stops, but in high season they tend to be booked in advance. Mersea barns, a shop and cafe on East Road, accepts dogs and cyclists, offering a light menu for breakfast and lunch, as well as roast dinners on Sundays.
The center of the island is home to Mersea Island Vineyard and Brasserie, with a boutique selling produce from the vineyard, and on-site guesthouses if you need to sleep. Proximity Mersea boating lake is a relatively new addition to the island’s offerings, with a chance to try kayaking, windsurfing, and other water sports on a man-made lake.
Things to do on Mersea Island: West Mersea
West Mersea is the liveliest corner of Mersea Island, although it is still quite sleepy compared to other resorts. It is definitely a place where tourists integrate into the local way of life, rather than the other way around. The main high street is home to a handful of shops and cafes and, with the exception of a Tesco Express, is refreshingly chain-free.
Even the beachfront has resisted over-marketing, with only a few cafes and ice cream stands to satiate hungry beachgoers, though each vacation park has its own on-site facilities for guests. Two Sugars Cafe is worth a visit, for architectural reasons – the building was built as a WWII gun location and had an anti-tank gun on its roof. The underground passages where the ammunition were stored still exist, under the feet of unconscious sun seekers and closed to the public.
Mersea Island Museum is tucked away in a flashing alleyway and you’ll miss it on the side of West Mersea Church, although at the time of writing this has yet to reopen. Even under normal circumstances, it operates with very limited opening hours, so check before you take a special trip.
Browse the upscale vintage and gift shops and boutiques, before savoring a deli-style sandwich at The Café des Arts, a brownie or a cupcake loaded with sugar Twisted treats, or a full-fledged snack at The golden rooms.
For a more complete meal, follow the coastal road to the west coast of the island. Skip the oddly named Monkey Beach and Monkey Steps, and a whole flotilla appears before you. Barges float alongside sailboats and fishing boats, offering a clue to the island’s historic industry – fishing and oyster.
Restaurants including West Mersea Oyster Bar and The duke’s seafood sit right in front of the dock and enjoy their position serving all kinds of fresh fish dishes – think oysters, crab chowder, seafood platters, grilled lobster, seafood rolls and fresh scallops. The hostel on the coast Also has a seafood-focused menu, but offers alternatives such as burgers. The combination of fresh seafood and produce from this vineyard has foodies begging for Mersea from afar.
How to get to Mersea Island
Mersea Island is located on the Essex coast, approximately 8 miles south of Colchester. There is no train station on the island, although buses leave regularly from Colchester. Whichever way you travel, keep in mind that the causeway on the island (called The Strood) becomes impassable at high tide, therefore check tide times before traveling.
Take a look at these other seaside towns and islands to visit in Essex, including nearby Clacton-on-Sea. If these are the beach huts you are looking for, Walton-on-the-Naze is well worth your time.
Our day trip from London map has over 100 ideas for things to do outside of the capital.