Leigh-on-Sea: Where to eat, shop and sleep

Reflections of boats against the sunset at Old Leigh, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England

An idyllic sunset at Old Leigh - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sybilla Hart finds out why the Essex coastal town of Leigh-on-Sea has twice been voted the happiest place to live in the UK.  

Reflections of the Thames Estuary viewed from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England

Reflections of the Thames Estuary - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

About Leigh-on-Sea 

Bijou cousin to Southend-on-Sea, Leigh-on-Sea is located on the north of the Thames Estuary and is complete with wonderful places to eat, drink and shop.  

It is home to a picturesque sandy beach, which at low tide, the town’s glassy sea views transform into mud flats and creeks.  

Old Leigh was once an important shipping route to London and a prosperous port, but by the late-18th century Leigh’s deep water had silted up. Fast forward to the mid-19th century and much of the old town was demolished to make way for a railway.  

Today, Leigh-on-Sea is thriving once more, so we checked out some of the best spots in town.  

Unicorn cake with rainbow and dinosaur

An Insta-worthy creation from Mrs Bs Bakery - Credit: Mrs Bs Bakery

Where to eat in Leigh-on-Sea 

Most Read

There are plenty of places to dine in Leigh-on-Sea. The traditional seafront pubs, The Crooked Billet and The Peterboat, are located on the high street overlooking the sea.  

The Boatyard is a wonderful place to sit and look out to sea, have a cocktail and dine. People also rave about Cucina, the Italian restaurant with amazing reviews.  

Sara’s Tea Garden is open for lunch and cake just down the High Street.  

By night, head for food at Peggy Sue’s bar located on 1063 London Street, which hosts its Open Mic Night every Thursday and Sunday.  

Mrs Barnes Bakery on Elm Road has become a bit of an Instagram sensation. Small wonder when they are bringing us mermaid-inspired birthday cakes and fudgy Oreo popsicles. 

Footbridge at Leigh-on-Sea, near Southend, Essex, England

Head down the footbridge to Leigh-on-Sea's beach - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Things to do in Leigh-on-Sea 

As far as taking in the sea air goes, a stroll along the sandy Bell Wharf Beach is a good option.  

However, if you want to avoid the crowds, head over to Two Trees Island, which is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust and allows dogs.  

A stroll around Leigh-on-Sea Library comes highly recommended with views down to the sea from the gently sweeping gardens.   

Head out of town and you will find Belfairs Park, Woods and Nature Reserve.  

Belfairs constitutes 469 hectares of ancient Essex woodland, some of which is more than 1,000 years old.  

Maintained by the Essex Wildlife Trust, it is home to several protected species: the dormouse, heath fritillary butterfly and song thrush.  

There is a cafe open from 9am to 5pm in summer and until 4pm in winter.  

Closer to Leigh-on-Sea, you will find the 22-hectare Belton Hill Gardens and Nature Reserve on the Marine Parade.  

The gardens overlook the sea and are a nice place to sit and admire the view as well as spot rare species and insects.   

Marine Parade Gardens, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England

Stop a while at Marine Parade Gardens - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Where to shop in Leigh-on-Sea 

Head to boutique gift shop Puddle & Goose located on the Broadway. It is run by a mother-and-daughter team selling all sorts of goodies from Kew Gardens hand cream to metallic floral scarves.  

Another gift shop that looks most inviting is Natural Edge boutique also located on the Broadway. Here you will find all sorts of organic goodies, reusable coffee mugs, sustainable fashion.  

Two Tree Gallery is run by some local artists as a cooperative. Visits here come highly recommended, the art is contemporary and varies in size and media. There are large oil canvases, smaller mosaic and stained-glass panels amongst lots of other pieces for sale.   

Terrace and Airbnb Cooper Cottage Leigh on Sea

Stay at Cooper Cottage and enjoy wonderful vistas - Credit: Cooper Cottage

Where to stay in Leigh-on-Sea 

One of the best places to stay in Leigh-on-Sea has got to be Cooper Cottage, an old Fisherman’s cottage overlooking the sea. You can book it on Airbnb. 

Also on Airbnb, check out Old Leigh Cottage, another quaint property. Old Leigh Cottage is located next to The Old Foundry (now a gallery selling pottery) and it looks so cosy and inviting. 

Find out more about Leigh-on-Sea in the September issue of Essex Life