May Bank Holiday: The best things to do in Essex

HDR image of the top of the pier in Clacton-on-Sea in England.

Clacton-on-Sea 's pier. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Brightlingsea boat trips and foot ferry

Take a boat or foot ferry to explore Brightlingsea, Mersea and Point Clear, or potter around the Brightlingsea Harbour with. Sites included Cudmore Grove in East Mersea and the east Essex Aviation Society in Point Clear. Dogs are welcome and you can bring your bike on a boat as well. Boats have universal access too. 

Address: 4 Copperas Road, Brightlingsea CO7 0AP


2. Unearthed Exhibition, Harlow

Deirdre Shepherd showcases paintings featuring Irish landscapes, working in gold and silver leaf into her work. In this exhibition, Nigel Earle presents his sculpture ceramics as well, taking his ques from geology, landscapes and industrial archaeology. It's held at The Gallery at Parndon Mill, a creative hub for artists, craft-folk, designers and architects. 

Date: Running until May 8

Bank Holiday Times: Sunday 2pm-4pm; bank holiday Monday 2pm-4pm

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Tickets: free

Address: Parndon Mill, Harlow CM20 2HP


3. Family Safari Trail, Coggeshall

This self-guided walk takes you and the family, across Markshall Estate's arboretum as you search for the wooden animals that call the grounds home. On your way back stop off for homecooked meal or a snack at the Orchard Kitchen Cafe.

Bank Holiday Times: Saturday - Monday; 10am-6pm

Tickets: admission from £8/£4.75 + £2 for trail 

Address: Coach House, Markshall Estate, Marks Hall Road, Coggeshall CO6 1TG


4. Bits and Pieces exhibition, Maldon

Painter and artist Sylvia Paul features her textile art at the Maeldune Heritage Centre in this exhibition, which ends soon. She works with silk remnants to make works on all scales, and the exhibition features a huge wall hanging (more than two-metres high) of a phoenix which was created during lockdown. 

Date: Until May 3

Bank Holiday Times: Saturday 11am-4pm

Tickets: Free

Address: Maeldune Centre, 2 Market Hill, Maldon CM9 4PZ


5. The Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey

Discover Essex's fascinating military history at The Royal Gunpowder Mills, a former gunpowder manufacturer site and now an area of special scientific interest. Currently on, you've got a photography exhibition looking at the women who worked during WWI, the Armoury which boasts more than 300 historic firearms and The Rocket Vault, which takes visitors through the history of of rocket motors and propellants. 

Bank Holiday Times: 11am-4.30pm

Tickets: £10/£8 adult/concession

Address: The Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1JY


6.Clacton Pier, Clacton-on-Sea

With the forecast looking good, a seaside day trip is a great way to while away a bank holiday day. The town's Victorian pier - the longest in Europe is the key draw card here, with fairground rides, go-karts, a rollercoaster and arcade games. Once you're done, stroll along the promenade with an ice-cream in hand. 

7. Adventure Island, Southend-on-Sea

Seaside fun park Adventure Island is filled with the thrills and spills of much loved fairground rides. You've got the gut churning skydrop, the discombobulating Dragon's Claw as well as waterslides to get you screaming. There's also gentler rides for the litter ones, such as viking boats and the jumping jolly rogers. Once you're done with the rides, explore the onsite aquarium. 

Bank Holiday Times: 11am -8pm

Tickets: Entry is free, £5 per ride, or £22.50 for the day

Address: Western Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1EE