They say you can't miss Southend Pier – it sticks out a mile. And with plenty of places to visit, nearby eating options and events unfolding here, it’s definitely one to add to your list of must-see Southend attractions.
The Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world – measuring more than a mile (2.2km) into the Thames Estuary – so it’s no wonder there's even a train to give you a ride to the far end. If you prefer to do it on foot instead, you'll probably appreciate a well-earned cuppa and snack after your exertions. You'll find Salt Café offers far more than you might expect from a seaside eatery, including toasties, traybakes and boxed salads, as well as ice cream of course. It wouldn’t be the seaside without ice cream!
Located on Western Esplanade, close to the main tourist information office, you'll easily spot the pier as you walk along Southend-on-Sea’s High Street. The pier is well worth a visit, whatever the weather, and it’s less a 15-minute walk from our Eastern Esplanade hotel. There's much to be said for wrapping up warm and taking a bracing walk along the pier in winter, as there's always plenty to see, including passing ships. And if you have the opportunity to enjoy watching a sunset, that really can be a spectacular sight.
Depending on the time of year you're visiting, opening hours vary, so it's worth checking them in advance before planning a visit.
You might also like a look around the lifeboat station and gift shop. Plus, there's also a wide range of special events which take place on the pier throughout the year. These include the Sunday Showcase, the Folk & Ale Festival and Puppet Festival.
Southend Pier dates back to the early Victorian era when Southend-on-Sea was keen to compete with other coastal towns such as Margate. The first wooden pier was opened in 1830 but was replaced with a new iron pier, which was completed in 1889. From the peak of its popularity in the late 1940s – when it attracted over five million visitors every year – the pier had a chequered history and was badly damaged by a number of fires. At one point, it looked as if the pier was doomed to close. Luckily though, in recent years, it has seen new investment and in 2007, it was voted Pier of the Year.
To discover more about the history of this historic piece of architecture, visit the Southend Pier Museum, which is in the Old Pier Workshops. To find the museum entrance, go to the pier reception office and walk to the right of the railway entrance. Here you'll find fascinating exhibits, including an original 19th-century ‘toastrack’ tram, three original 1940s train carriages and a working signal box. There are also picture displays and some nostalgic penny slot machines.
The museum is run by Friends of Southend Pier Museum as a not-for-profit operation and has limited opening hours, as it relies on volunteers – so, again, it's best to check in advance.
Southend Pier has featured as a location in numerous films and television shows. If you're old enough to remember the comedy drama Minder, you may recall seeing George Cole as Arthur Daley and Gary Webster as his nephew Ray walking along the pier in the end credits of later series.