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Thanks to its more prominent neighbours, Essex is commonly overshadowed when people are picking a holiday destination. It’s hard to compete with the urban powerhouse of London on your doorstep and popular counties like Cambridgeshire and Kent next door.

Essex has just as much to offer, though, and has plenty of hidden gems to wow visitors who choose to make the trip. Between beautiful woodlands, an ancient town and stunning coastal areas, you’re sure to find a picturesque destination to enjoy on your next getaway.

Let’s take a look at some of the best destinations to visit on holidays in Essex, and perhaps give you some extra inspiration…

Mersea Island

If it’s a coastal retreat that you’re seeking, you can’t pass up Mersea Island. This tidal island is accessed by a causeway that gets covered by the sea twice a day, offering an isolated escape from the busyness of everyday life.

With a number of unspoiled beaches and wild salt marshes, Mersea is a beautiful place to spend a holiday. Enjoy the view of picturesque sunsets out over the Blackwater Estuary, or perhaps take the time to walk around the entirety of the island’s 13-mile circumference.

You’re not completely cut off on the island, however, with the pleasant town of West Mersea having a good selection of restaurants, pubs and shops. For the braver-minded, having a taste of the locally collected oysters is an opportunity not to be passed up.

Epping Forest

The woodlands of Epping Forest offer shade and a welcome escape from the hustle of urban life. Only a short distance from the metropolitan density of London, these old woods cover 5,900 acres and feature plenty of picturesque spots within that vast area.

Ancient oak trees, hidden ponds and awe-inspiring scenic trails are yours to explore if you make the journey here. High Beach is a particularly popular spot within the forest, offering an excellent spot for picnics where you can enjoy soaking in the ambience of the surrounding woodlands.

Colchester Castle Park

The oldest town on British record, Colchester is home to an awe-inspiring castle that has stood firm for centuries. Built on the remains of part of the former Roman capital of Britain, Colchester Castle was one of the first great Norman keeps and the largest they built in Europe.

Enjoy panoramic views from the top of the castle and engage with the history of this ancient site. A trip to the castle would not be complete without exploring the surrounding Castle Park. With formal gardens, a boating lake and a play park, there is something for everyone here.

Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve

Settled on the banks of the Colne Estuary, the Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve is a paradise for nature lovers and birdwatchers. With a range of habitats, including salt marshes and grasslands, there is an array of wildlife to find and observe here.

Waders, waterfowl and passerines make their homes here, providing a great opportunity to tick off a few species from any birdwatcher’s list. Even if you aren’t specifically looking for birds, the network of trails throughout the nature reserve means you’ll have a relaxing time wandering through some peaceful natural surroundings.

While many holidaymakers overlook Essex in favour of other, more popular UK destinations, there’s a lot here to enjoy. Whether it’s the coastal charm of Mersea Island or the historical awe of Colchester Castle, the county has a wide range of picturesque locations to explore.

If you’re tempted to visit some of these destinations, then waste no more time and book yourself an Essex holiday today.