Travel tips & gear

Five budget family days out in Essex

Our main summer holiday was spent in Essex this year. ‘Essex?’ I hear you say. Yes, it may not be top of the UK’s obvious family holiday destinations but we had a great time with plenty of options for days out.

I’ve already written about our wonderful visit to Colchester Zoo, but this isn’t the cheapest of day trips if you are on a budget like us. During the rest of our two week stay we found some great family days out that didn’t break the bank. Here’s a few we can recommend:

Jimmy’s Farm

Mr Tin Box and Tin Box Tot holding a small fish in front of a pond

We loved our visit to the home of Jimmy Doherty’s farm-inspired television series and I have written a separate blog post about it. Considering the variety of things to do at the farm and the fact you could easily spend a whole day meeting animals, building dens and fishing with Dolly, we thought it was great value for money. Entrance for a family of four is £16 and under twos go free.

Clacton Pier

Mr Tin Box and Tin Box Tot riding a toy tractor

If you like good old-fashioned seaside fun then Clacton Pier is a great destination. Entrance to the pier is free and you can spend as little or as much money as you’d like (or your kids allow). There are wristbands for unlimited fairground rides that can be bought online for £9.80 per adult and £5.60 for kids. Tin Box Tot let us get away with spending just a few pounds on some of the smaller ‘pay as you go’ rides and an ice cream. There’s also bowling, an aquarium and boat excursions if you want to pay a little more.

This is a great free day out for families. It’s extremely popular and was packed during our visit even though it was a bit of an overcast day. There’s an extensive play park and sand pit with modern play equipment, beautifully planted gardens and a reasonably priced cafe. Just outside the castle walls is a boating lake with paddle boats and swans for hire. TBT asked to go on a swan which cost £4.50. The water was a bit green and smelly but she seemed to enjoy the experience.

The Naze and Tower

A ceramic hare in the gallery at the Naze Tower

The Naze Tower is an historic 86ft navigation landmark at Walton-on-the-Naze. It has eight floors and is home to art gallery, a museum, tea rooms and a roof viewing platform. We visited on a very blustery day and had brunch in the cafe before climbing all the way to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the coastline. The Naze beach below is renowned for fossils but sadly the tide was too far up for us to go hunting. Entrance to the tower is £2.50 for adults, £1.50 for children and under fours are free.


Little Holland beach, Holland-on-Sea

A large sandcastle on the beach

We had two beach days during our stay in Essex, both at Little Holland to the north of Clacton in Holland-on-Sea. The beach is a combination of shingle and sand so great for building sand castles. There was a handy cafe where you could buy a coffee for just £1 and there were toilets close by too. Parking cost us £5 for the day.

Have you holidayed in Essex? What days out would you recommend?

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