There really are some amazing Southend-on-Sea attractions to discover, so whether it’s the great outdoors that you’re interested in, or a chance to delve into history, put your best foot forward and get exploring!
Attractions in Southend
Southend Pier has so much going for it that we make no apologies for making several references to it! It certainly counts as one of the most interesting historic buildings in the town, so much so that we have a dedicated Southend Pier page.
There isn't much left of the ancient fortification of Hadleigh Castle but it's still well worth seeking out, for no other reason than to drink in the magnificent views overlooking the Thames Estuary. Originally constructed in the 13th century during the reign of Henry III, the ruined remnants still give visitors an idea of exactly why the castle had such a significant strategic role as a defensive bastion against potential attackers. It gradually fell into ruin over the centuries, partly as a result of the subsidence it suffered due to the soft clay it was built on.
Be warned that the site, which is now a Grade-I listed building and managed by English Heritage, has no car park and no direct bus services. You can either walk the three-quarters of a mile from the A13 or the mile and a half from Leigh-on-Sea train station. Better still, you could get on your bike, as it's on the National Cycle Network and even combine your trip with a visit to Olympic mountain biking trails at nearby Hadleigh Park.
You can't beat a moat if you want to really feel like you're stepping back in time – and that's what you get at the impressive timber-framed Southchurch Hall. A medieval manor house that's within easy walking distance from the hustle and bustle of the Southend-on-Sea seafront, it's a world away from the trappings of the 21st century. As well as exploring the interior of the house itself – which features a number of Tudor and Stuart rooms, the great hall and a kitchen with an imposing fireplace – it's well worth taking the time to stroll around the adjoining gardens if the weather permits. Children will have fun spotting wildlife ranging from ducks and squirrels to terrapins and carp. Dating back to the 14th century, Southchurch Hall is one of the five venues run by Southend Museums, which organise daily tours during the peak summer season.
When it comes to the outdoor life, you really are spoilt for choice in Southend-on-Sea – and if you fancy a change from the sand and sea, there are some truly lovely parks in the town.
For starters, you can't beat the charms of Southchurch Park, just a short distance from our Thorpe Bay hotel and offering a variety of sporting activities, including football, cricket, tennis and bowls. It has also has formal gardens with splendid rose beds, a model boating lake and popular café, which can get busy on Sundays.
Also centrally located in the town is Southend Cliff Gardens, which has the added bonus of providing some glorious views across the Thames estuary, thanks to its elevated location. Tastefully planted with familiar shrubs and trees as well as some more exotic plants, Southend Cliff Gardens are only a short walk from the pier, Adventure Island and Cliffs Pavilion.
Slightly further afield are Gunners Park and Shoebury Park to the east of Southend but both only a couple of miles from our Thorpe Bay hotel. Shoebury Park has bowls, lake fishing and skateboarding to offer, whereas Gunners Park is a wonderful nature reserve managed by Essex Wildlife Trust. It has more than 12 habitats, from coastal grassland to sand dunes and derelict buildings, and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its flora and fauna. If you're a real expert, you might be able to identify the rare sandwich click beetle or cuckoo wasp, and birdwatchers will be interested in spotting migrating birds such as the wheatear, spotted flycatcher and ring ouzel. There is evidence of early prehistoric human activity in Gunners Park dating back to the Mesolithic period, while there are still remains of a settlement built there by the Viking chieftain Hastein.
Football fans interested in stadiums with old-fashioned charm need to make a pilgrimage to Roots Hall in a hurry because it might not be there for much longer. Southend United first played on the site in 1906 and, after being forced to play elsewhere in the town for four decades, they moved back there in the mid-1950s once the current stadium was built. However, the club has long intended to leave Roots Hall for a proposed new stadium at Fossetts Farm and those plans look to finally be coming to fruition.