Southend on Sea: A summer guide

Southend-on-Sea, view from sea at sunset time

Southend on Sea, view from sea at sunset time - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Southend on Sea, home to the world’s longest pleasure pier, once consisted of a handful of fishing boats and farms bordering the Prittlewell Priory. As a royal holiday destination and home to an iconic seafront airshow, the popularity of its seven-mile stretch of golden sand has remained a constant.

Constructed in the 19th century, Southend Pier has seen off numerous fires, serious high wind damage, two World Wars and even boasts its own railway. In fact the Southend Pier Railway describes the pier as, ‘a symbol of not just British tourism, but resilience and magnitude’.

The railway itself is a 3ft narrow railway that runs for 1.25 miles of the 1.34 mile length of the pier. You can buy your tickets for the train on the day of your visit from the till points at the Visitor Information Centre or the Pier Walkway entrance.  

Visiting Southend Pier

Southend Pier is currently open daily from 10:15 to 6pm, with last entry at 5pm, although it is advisable to call ahead on 01702 215620, just in case there are any closures due to bad weather. There are numerous places to buy refreshments along on the pier including, Tea at the Tide. Visitors can enjoy the 18-hole course at Crazy Golf on the Pier as well as some fishing (permit required). For those who need it there is an angling shop selling equipment for all you need to catch a mackerel or a plaice. 

The Southend Pier Museum is free for under 5s and only £2 to adults and £1 for children aged five to 13 years of age, while children might like to pick up a Wildlife Watch Leaflet from the Visitor Information Centre and tick off some of the more common visitors to the pier including herring gulls, oystercatchers and harbour seals. Unfortunately the Cliff Lift is currently closed due to the pandemic.   

Picture of Southend-On-Sea Pier converging into the horizon.

Southend Pier and its railway - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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From 1 July to 12 September, Hares About Town will be showcasing 30 larger than life, decorated hares all over Southend town this summer. The hares will form a trail from the High Street to Priory Park and are sponsored by local businesses. Working in partnership with Wild In Art, the idea is to generate much-needed funds for Havens Hospice. The hares will be sold at auction in September at The Boundary, Garons Park.  

Prittlewell Priory reopened its doors on May 18. As Southend’s first museum to open almost a century ago in 1922, this is an important milestone for the town. Beecroft Art Gallery, home to works by Dante Rossetti, John Constable and the local Great Bardfield Group, has a permanent collection of over 2,000 pieces, ranging from 17th century Dutch paintings to contemporary works.  

Things to do with kids

As far as entertaining little ones go, Room to Bloom is a children’s flower club in Westcliff on Sea is reopening its floral arranging sessions combined with sensory play for children. Grown-ups on the other hand can look forward to seeing the likes of Jack Dee and Adam Kay at Cliffs Pavilion. Shows recommence on 28 May and there is a full summer programme on offer from children’s favourite Iggle Piggle of In the Night Garden to laugh out loud comedy from Jimmy Carr. 

Sealife Adventure reopened on 17 May with attractions including alligator snapping turtles and Burmese python snakes. Remember to take face coverings and to keep to a safe distance. There is a strict one-way system and visitors are encouraged to be patient if and when queues are a little longer than normal (these are typically around 30 minutes on a weekend).  

Adventure Island rollercoaster, Southend-on-Sea (7/14 jr08)

Adventure Island, Southend’s own theme park on the Western Esplanade, is open again but its times are liable to change. For more information, call 01702 443400. You can buy wristbands and annual passes online. No doubt all the thrill seekers among us will be looking forward to hopping onto the Axis, Archelon or The Dragon’s Claw. Personally, I will leave the rollercoaster Rage and Skydrop alone and join the children on Hook a Duck, the Helter Skelter or Jolly Roger for some more sedate, old-fashioned fun.

The Southend property market

Zoe Napier Coastal & Waterside part of The Zoe Napier Group, has reported a brisk property market in our seaside towns, Southend included. Second home purchases in the UK are on the rise and living or weekending by the sea has become a priority for many. Southend, of course, remains a key location, particularly for properties which benefit from having a direct view over the coast. And with the summer approaching, there is very much a sense of getting business back to normal in Southend. 

Nitin Khandia of BTMK Solicitors sums it up. ‘I think the last 15 months or so have taught us to appreciate where we live. The open spaces in and around Southend on Sea have provided all of us with much-needed respite from the confines of our own homes, and discovering the sheer variety of walking routes has been a real plus from what has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us. 

‘The summer months, with decent weather of course, give us all a great opportunity to carry on our enjoyment of the open spaces and I foresee a real boost to the local economy over the summer months as most people will be staying in the UK this year. Southend, Leigh on Sea and all of the coastal areas nearby are always a huge attraction and this gives a real platform for all local businesses to begin their recovery plan for the coming years.’

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