Are you planning a trip to Mersea Island? You’re going to love it! The Island has the best beaches in Essex, some of the most beautiful nature reserves and a rich history that dates back centuries.
It’s one of the top places to visit in the UK during summer.
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Mersea Island is a charming destination in Essex, England. It offers a calm and relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities like London. There are so many things to do in Mersea Island Essex.
The Island has been a popular spot for a relaxing getaway from as early as pre-Roman times. People would visit the island to enjoy its golden-sand beaches, Instagrammable pastel beach huts and fresh seafood and oysters. It is also home to the Colchester native oyster.
To this day, the island has remained a place of pilgrimage for seafood lovers and families seeking its old-world charms.
It is also one of the best day trips from London by train. For more reasons to visit, here is a helpful guide that includes a list of the best things to do in Mersea Island.
Mersea Island is on the Essex coast, in the estuaries of two rivers in the East of England. These rivers include the River Blackwater and River Colne.
Notably, the island also sits just 13 kilometres south of Colchester, a historical town renowned for its Victorian architecture.
Check Mersea Island Tide Times Before Visiting!
One of the top things you need to do before visiting Mersea Island is to check the time of the tide.
The Strood causeway is the only road to the island, which is covered by the tide only twice a day for one week out of the month. When the tide covers the Strood, Mersea Island is isolated from the mainland for about an hour and a half during high tides.
If you are asking how do I check the tide before I visit Mersea Island? Well, to check the tide, you can view the tide times for West Mersea here.
Be advised that if the tide is 5.00 metres and above, it will likely cover the Strood. In this situation, allowing up to an hour and a half either side of the tide, before crossing safely is advised.
Mersea Island gets its name from the Old English word “meresig”, which means “island of the pool”. This is a fitting name as the island sits surrounded by water. The island’s only connection to the mainland is the Strood, a causeway that submerges fully during high tide.
Mersea Island, one of the most easterly islands in Britain, has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. The island originally served as a popular holiday destination amongst the people of Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester).
Evidence of this is the remains of Celtic workings, famously known as the Red Hills, as well as the Church of St Peter & St Paul.
The island was also a popular fishing village, renowned for its incredible oysters. This is evident by the fish traps found here, which along with the church, dates back to as early as the seventh century. Fishing has remained a key industry and attraction to this day.
Along with being a popular holiday destination in Roman Britain, Mersea Island was a focal point for troops in World War I and World War II. Various observation posts can still be seen on the island.
You can observe more of Mersea Island’s rich history through the various attractions found on the island.
Handy tip: Prepare Ahead Of Time!
Mersea Island is divided into West Mersea and East Mersea. The East side is quieter and more rural.
The West Mersea is busier and is where you’ll find the pastel-coloured beach huts, can do water sporting activity, crabbing and where you’ll also find the oyster shed and other local restaurants. And where you’ll find the pastel-coloured beach huts if that is what you are looking for.
To get from West Mersea to East Mersea is around an hours walk, 8 minutes by car and 17 minutes by bike.
Things to do in Mersea Island Essex
Are you wondering what to do when visiting Mersea Island? This charming destination is home to plenty of fun attractions, from its sandy beaches to its various historical landmarks.
Let’s take a look at some of these below. East Mersea or right towards West Mersea
1. Mersea Island Beach Hut
The pastel-coloured Instagram worth beach hut that you have probably seen on Instagram is a must-do activity when visiting the serene shoreline of Mersea Island. The beach huts are located on the West Mersea side of the Island and run along the Island’s pristine shores.
You can also rent a Mersea Island beach hut which the Little Beach Hut company operates.
Each provides spectacular ocean views and is well-equipped with everything you need for a relaxing day at the beach.
Some notable features include the pretty pastel colours, interior glass doors, and kitchenette. And just a five-minute walk from your beach hut, you will find a car park, toilets, a playground, and a café.
The beach huts are rented out on a daily basis between 10:00 and 18:30. So, unfortunately, you cannot spend the night here. However, the money you spend on your rental serves as a donation to the local community.
If you don’t plan on renting one of the huts and only want to get some photos of yourself with them.
Is to get there from around 8:30 am to 9:00 am, the huts will be closed, and the beach is more or less empty, so you can take as many photos as you like undistributed.
Peak season and the best time to visit Mersea Island is the during summers of May – September.
2. Monkey Beach, Mersea – West Mersea Beach
One of the most popular places to visit on Mersea Island is a small stretch of West Mersea Beach known as Monkey Beach. The name for this beach and its adjoining Monkey Steps stems from the island’s past.
The story suggests that a customs officer sat at a lookout post or turret-like building on the golden coast. The man seemed to resemble a monkey in a cage to oncoming boats. Some even believed he was an actual monkey.
Stories aside, the beach is an idyllic spot with various little attractions. One of these is St Peters Well, which can be accessed by taking a short climb up the Monkey Steps.
This well is said to have sustained inhabitants on the island for over 1,000 years.
Along with the well, a big drawcard here is the charming beach huts that sit directly across its sandy shores. Each of these features a soft pastel colour and boast glistening views of the Blackwater Estuary.
3. Cudmore Grove Country Park
Cudmore Grove Country Park is a nature reserve located on the east end of Mersea Island, where the River Colne meets the River Blackwater.
The park covers 0.42 square kilometres and boasts stunning views across the park, estuaries, sandy shores, grasslands, and meadows. You’ll also find plenty of wildlife scattered throughout.
The park is a popular spot year-round amongst families. In the summer months, it’s the perfect place to take a relaxing walk, soak up the sun, or enjoy a picnic.
There is also a children’s play area providing endless opportunities for fun. During the colder months, the park fills up with various birds and wildfowl, including flocks of brent geese.
Cudmore Grove Country Park is also home to some interesting historical sites and attractions. This includes World War II pillboxes and the remains of a blockhouse dating back to the 16th century.
There is also a cliff where 300,000-year-old animal fossils, including monkeys, bison, and bears, have been found.
4. Mersea Island Vineyard and Brewery
The present Mersea Island Vineyard was established in 1985. However, it is said that Mersea’s earliest inhabitants grew grapes on the island’s sloping, south-facing fields.
Today, the ten-acre space is home to five grape varieties. This feeds the production of 20,000 bottles of fine wines and ales each year.
There are plenty of opportunities to explore the vineyards and sample their tasteful selection of wines when visiting.
Tours can be arranged for groups of 20 to 40 people from April through to September. The tour takes you through the vineyard and brewery and ends with a supper at the Courtyard Café.
Some wines on offer include a range of white wines, sweet dessert wines, and sparkling wines produced using the vineyard’s “Methode Champagnoise” fermentation process.
5. Mersea Island Museum
As previously mentioned, Mersea Island has a rich history that dates back to as early as the seventh century. Plenty of evidence of the Roman inhabitants has been discovered and displayed at the Mersea Museum.
This is an independent museum established in 1976 and can be found in West Mersea, just east of the Parish Church. It aims to provide locals with an authentic look at the island’s history and unique heritage.
Housed within purpose-built premises that have steadily been expanded are several permanent and changing exhibitions. These depict life from pre-Roman times to the present, focusing on the island’s maritime industries. This includes fishing, boat making, oystering, and wildfowling.
These exhibitions can be viewed on a historic walk, taking place on most Saturdays during the open season. Audio guides are provided free of charge, so you can also walk around on your own and take in the island’s history at your own pace.
The museum also features a Resource Centre. Here, visitors can access the computers and browse over 50,000 images, videos, articles, slideshows files, and more.
There are also plenty of activities available for kids, including puzzles, quizzes, and drawing. This is one of the best places to visit in Mersea Island.
6. Mersea Island Watersports
If you’re visiting Mersea Island and are looking for an activity suitable for the entire family, make your way to Mersea Island Watersports. The AALA & BSUPA accredited watersports centre was founded in 2013 and is the perfect spot for some fun in the sun.
The centre is situated in an ideal harbour location with calm waters safe for learning different watersports. Some of the watersports you can learn include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, windsurfing, and wind foiling.
Instructors at Mersea Island Watersports are well-trained to teach each sport. Each instructor also knows the island, and its channels and creeks.
So, whether you’re a beginner or someone with more experience, you’re sure to learn something new.
Mersea Island Watersports offer lessons to all age groups and abilities. The centre also has a kids club and plenty of equipment available for rental.
7. Lady Grace Boat Trip on Mersea Island
If you’re looking to explore the enchanting waters surrounding Mersea Island, then the Lady Grace boat is a popular option.
Lady Grace Boat Trips offers a wide range of trips from a single boat that seats up to 12 people. Trips on offer range from 20 minutes to five hours.
The 20-minute tours take passengers around Packing Shed Island. It is an old, and restored oyster packing shed situated in the Blackwater Estuary. The structure boasts a rich history dating back to as early as 1890.
Other shorter trips include the one-hour Creeks Excursion, the two-hour wildlife trip, the two-hour picnic trip, and the three-hour trip to Bradwell, also known as Bradwell-on-Sea.
This is a quaint little village in London Essex’s Dengie peninsula, near where the River Blackwater meets the North Sea.
For those looking for a full-day adventure, there is also a four-and-a-half-hour trip to Bradwell that features a walk to the famed Chapel of St Peter.
This is the oldest church in England, built by St Cedd in 654AD. The spiritual building brings visitors peace and tranquillity, so be sure to include it in your trip.
Evening tours to Bradwell or Tollesbury are also offered. These include dinner at a local pub and a returning trip watching the sunset.
With so many things on offer, the Lady Grace Boat Trip is certainly a must-see attraction on the coast of Mersea Island. These Essex boat trips are a top things to do when visiting Mersea Island.
8. East Mersea Foot Ferry
Another great way to explore Mersea Island’s scenic surroundings is by catching the foot ferry.
These connect East Mersea to Point Clear and Brightlingsea harbour. You will also have opportunities to explore the seaside towns and villages situated along the Colne Estuary.
The custom-built boat features a ramp that can be lowered, making it easily accessible for wheelchair users, cyclists, and individuals walking on foot.
If you’re wandering through Cudmore Grove, this ferry is a lovely detour that takes just a few minutes. Travelling to Brightlingsea this way is much quicker as it takes 40 minutes by car.
Brightlingsea is a charming coastal town between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea. Its harbour is a popular attraction, boasting a rich heritage and spectacular views across the Colne, Blackwater, and Thames’s estuaries. In addition to the cultural aspect, Brightlingsea offers plenty of s beaches, restaurants, watersports, and more.
Also, opposite Mersea Island is the sand and saltmarsh peninsula of Point Clear. This provides a beautiful contrast to the bustling marina of Brightlingsea across the water.
Many people visit this spot to enjoy the tranquil environment and old-fashioned charms of the Essex coast.
9. Mersea Island Cookery School
The Mersea Island Cookery School is set within a beautifully restored, traditional Essex barn. Boasting stunning views across the Blackwater Estuary, the kitchen features a lovely, relaxed atmosphere – perfect for learning.
The Mersea Island Cookery School offers a wide range of classes catered to all types of cooks. Whether you’re a beginner or novice, you’re sure to pick up some new skills.
There are vegetarian and gluten-free classes for those with special dietary needs. And for kids, there is an after-school cookery club.
Cooking classes comprise interactive, hands-on teaching sessions from top chefs from successful restaurants. With the various classes on offer, you can learn everything from cooking fish and games to essential cooking skills such as pasty and baking.
You’ll also learn how to make the most out of various seasonal ingredients, as well as local produce.
Classes at the Mersea Island Cookery School start early in the morning. So, you can begin the day in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and freshly baked treats before your first lesson.
Following the lesson, everyone gathers around the table again to sample the food made. The session generally ends in the afternoon, allowing enough time for questions and a discussion.
10. Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park
The Abberton Reservoir is an expansive artificial body of water situated near Mersea Island, 8 kilometres southwest of Colchester. It is one of Europe’s top wetland sites and England’s fourth-largest reservoir, covering an area of nearly five square kilometres.
The wetlands are a haven for over 40,000 wildfowl passing through on their migration and during the winter months.
This includes ducks, swans, and various other water birds. The reservoir’s surrounding pasture and tree plantations is a welcoming sight to the tired birds.
Some popular species you can expect to see at the reservoir include Blackheaded-Gull, Coot, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, and many more. This is a spot that birders shouldn’t miss when visiting.
The nature reserve can be accessed by everyone free of charge. When visiting, enjoy calming walks while taking in incredible views of the wetlands and the wide variety of birdlife.
The reserve features a 900-metre circular footpath, so everyone, including wheelchair users, can marvel at this natural wonder.
Be sure to explore the nature reserve’s Visitor Centre. Here you will find a tearoom offering delicious eats made from locally sourced ingredients.
11. Go Crabbing on Mersea Island
Crabbing is a wonderful idea for entertaining kids or adults while on Mersea Island. There are specific areas in West Mersea designated for crabbing. Just lookout for the signs.
All the crabbing equipment you’ll need can be purchased from the local shops. So, you won’t need to worry about that.
Mersea Island is renowned for its incredibly fresh fish. You will find several excellent restaurants and eateries throughout the island serving some of the best seafood dishes.
Mersea Island is most famous for its oysters. The two most notable places to enjoy this delicacy are the Company Shed and Mersea Oyster Bar. There are also several pubs on the island that are worth the visit.
The Company Shed is a family-run restaurant in West Mersea. Serving some of the best crab, fish, and mussels, it has earned its reputation as one of the top seafood restaurants on the island.
Other items on the Company Shed’s extensive eat-in and takeaway menu include lobster, king prawns, seafood platters and plenty more. All seafood and alcohol served at the restaurant are locally-sourced, offering a real taste of the island.
Another popular West Mersea restaurant is the Mersea Oyster Bar. At this charming establishment, you will find the tastiest oysters. These are freshly prepared with Colchester rock oysters and Mersea native oysters bred right in the creeks of the island.
Other popular dishes include haddock and cod and chips. Mersea Oyster Bar is also a good tea-time spot.
The menu features some delicious desserts, with the bread-and-butter pudding being a local favourite.
Two Sugars Café Mersea
Two Sugars on West Mersea is a local cafe with an outdoor patio overlooking beach.
The cafe serves a variety of homemade food, snacks, and lunches from May through September. In addition to serving home-cooked meals, the café offers teas, and ice cream, all year round.
The cafe is in a striking location along Victoria Esplanade, formerly a World War 2-gun emplacement. It’s one of the few remaining gun emplacements in the country, built in 1939 to defend against foreign aggression.
Address: Victoria Esplanade, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8BH
The Mersea Vineyard and Brewery is the perfect spot to sample some local wines and beers. For wines, try the Mehalah. If your tastebuds seek a cold beer, the Skippers Amber is highly recommended.
While you won’t find super luxurious hotels and resorts in Mersea, the island is still an excellent spot for a relaxing staycation.
Spread across the island are several cosy apartments, cottages, and holiday homes. Below are some of the best accommodation options.
If you’re seeking a cosy place to stay while visiting Mersea Island, then take a look at the Sunshine Corner apartments. This accommodation is situated in West Mersea, just a five-minute walk from the beach.
Each apartment is well-fitted with everything you will need for a comfortable stay. This includes two bedrooms with soft bed linen, a bathroom, a flatscreen TV, a dining area, and a fully equipped kitchenette.
Guests are also treated to spectacular ocean and garden views from the terrace or patio.
Sunshine Corner is located nearby many of Mersea Island’s top attractions. There are also hiking and cycling opportunities nearby.
For couples visiting Mersea Island, the Mariners Suite is a good option. The accommodation features an elegantly designed open plan bedroom and living space.
But its biggest drawcard is its location. It is a stone’s throw from West Mersea’s idyllic beach and a five minutes’ walk from the village.
The Mariners Suite boasts a number of homely amenities, such as a comfortable double bed, ensuite equipped with a double show, a flatscreen TV, and tea and coffee. There is also free parking available on-site.
Tips for your Trip
As previously mentioned, the Strood completely submerges during high tide. During these times, the Strood causeway is impassable, so it is important to check the tide times before starting your journey.
When the tides are lower, getting to Mersea Island is easy if you have a car. However, with public transport, it can be more challenging. There is no railway station on the island, so the closest station is in Colchester, Essex. The nearest bus terminal is in Colchester, too.
To ensure that your journey is smooth sailing, here is a brief guide on getting to Mersea Island.
The closest town to Mersea Island is Colchester. In total, the drive is around 20 minutes and covers a distance of 15 kilometres. So that you do not get lost, here are the directions.
Drive along the A12 and take your exit at junction 26. This is signposted for Halstead and Stanway (A1124). Then, follow the signs to Mersea Island on the B1025.
Eventually, you will find yourself at the Strood. Make your way across the causeway, leaving the mainland behind. Once you have reached the foot of the Essex Island, your directions will depend on where you plan to visit – East Mersea or West Mersea.
For East Mersea or Cudmore Grove Country Park, you will turn left immediately after crossing the Strood. Then, follow the brown signs towards the popular wetlands.
For West Mersea, turn right and continue along the B1025. It is here where you will find many of the island’s famous fish eateries, local shops, boat trips, and other attractions.
To reach Mersea Island by bus, you will need to take the bus with numbers 67 or 67a. These are operated by First Buses and can be found at the high street (Queen Street) in Colchester’s town centre.
Buses frequently travel between the island and town. However, it is best to check the timetable before heading out.
If you’re travelling from London to Mersea Island, one of the best ways to do so is via train. Take a train from London Liverpool Street to Colchester Station or Colchester Town Station. The rides last around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
From Colchester, you will be able to grab a bus or taxi to the island. Depending on traffic, the drive into Mersea Island takes around 20 to 30 minutes.
You can grab bus 67 right outside the train station to West Mersea, the bus will stop next to the local post office in West Mersea. So, keep your eyes peeled or ask the bus driver.
Mersea Island is near many popular English destinations. Once you’ve spent enough time exploring this beautiful town, make your way back to Colchester.
In this town, you will find a number of attractions, including galleries and museums, historical buildings and heritage sites, and more.
From Colchester, make your way to London. In England’s capital, you can expect endless opportunities for some fun.
London also provides a perfect base from which to explore some of England’s other natural wonders and small towns.
For more information on Mersea Island, here are a few frequently asked questions and answers.
Mersea Island is most certainly worth the visit. It boasts tranquil beaches with golden sand, beautiful scenery, colourful beach huts, incredible seafood and oysters, and so much more.
The water quality here is good. The water surrounding Mersea Island is considered safe for swimming. Though, on some days, reports have shown spikes in the levels of bacteria found.
It is possible to get stuck on Mersea Island, but only for a short while. During high tide, which takes place twice daily, the Strood gets covered by water. Sometimes this is enough to prevent vehicles from crossing. However, the water usually recedes within 90 minutes.
It takes five hours to walk around Mersea Island. You can walk around the island via the “The Old City” or along the “Strood Channel”. For a short route, the Cudmore Grove Country Park circuit is ideal.
A Footnote on Things to Do on Mersea Island
Mersea Island is a beautiful destination with gorgeous beaches and an old-town charm that is sure to have you coming back. And if that doesn’t, the fish, crab, prawns, and oysters most certainly will!
But while Mersea Island is an incredible place to explore, remember to double-check the tide times before visiting. You do not want to find yourself stranded in your vehicle surrounded by water.
Are you seeking some more summer fun? Check out this article for the best beach day trips from London.