If you are lucky enough to be travelling to London from Europe, it’s likely that one of the airports you’ll have the choice of flying into is my local: London Southend.
Easyjet now flies to an increasing number of European destinations from Southend, including some of my favourite cities, Barcelona and Venice. They also fly to Germany, Poland, Spain and Portugal with some pretty cheap flights to boot. My friend and I are travelling to Amsterdam this August from London Southend for just £118 each, which includes reserved seats.
Firstly, a few of the basics. Southend is a coastal town in the South East of England, better known for its tacky 1p coin slots and penchant for fish and chips. But don’t let this fool you! It also has a rich history. It used to be THE place for Londoners to head to for a bit of sun and sand, and even welcomed Queen Caroline and Princess Charlotte for a visit in 1804.
It’s around 40 miles from London, and is well connected to the capital via coach and train links. Trains from the London Southend station take just under an hour to reach London Liverpool Street, where you can catch the tube for onward travel.
But, imagine this: if you’re not in a rush to get into London, you can add another dimension to your English holiday with a trip to one of its oldest seaside towns!
Instead of heading straight into London, catch the train going in the opposite direction. Within 7 minutes you’ll be at Southend Victoria, located at the top of the high street and a short drive from the seafront.
But, just what is there to do when you’re in Southend?
No, not the film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio swanning around Thailand (although, y’know, Southend beach is probably on a par with Maya Bay…maybe).
Southend’s beach attracts families year round, with even the slightest glimmer of sun making people grab their swim costumes and buckets and spades. Adventure Island is an amusement park on the main beach, where rides are available for both big and little kids, so you’ll never be short of something to do.
However, to escape the crowds, head along to Shoebury East beach where it’s often a little quieter. This is my favourite spot for watching jet skiers launch into the water, and to have my annual ankle-high paddle. The quintessentially English sight of beach huts line the front, with parks and cafes also dotted around.
One mammoth pier
Forget the gym. At 1.34 miles long, Southend Pier boasts the title of ‘Longest Pleasure Pier in the World’. So, a quick stroll down the pier and back is EASILY your month’s exercise done. But, don’t fret. There’s also a train to take you down the end if your legs are feeling a bit jaded. Thankfully, you’re never far away from food, with a cafe down the other end serving treats including afternoon tea. Yum.
From Southend, you can take on a coastal walk along to Leigh on Sea, a quaint town of pebbled streets, quirky independent shops and seaside pubs. (Some free coastal walk tours are available here to download and print). Most people I know who’ve been to Essex have often said Leigh is one of their favourite places to visit when in the area.
If it’s shopping you’re after…I’m not going to lie, there are definitely more original places to shop in the UK. But for a first-time introduction to popular English shops, Southend’s high street gives you a pretty good choice. From cheap clothes in Primark (my personal favourite for when I’m watching the pennies), to books and DVDs in Waterstone’s and HMV, you’re set. It’s definitely served me well over the years…
Instead of spending approximately £1000* on a cinema ticket in Leicester Square (*slight exaggeration), catch the latest releases at Southend’s Odeon, where an adult ticket at peak time will set you back just £9.60. Likewise, instead of London Aquarium, opt for Southend’s Sea Life centre where you’ll also find fish. Chinnery’s, the Last Post and The Alex are also good venues for a spot of live music throughout the week.
Is anyone travelling into London Southend airport soon? Or maybe you’ve visited Southend already and have more ideas of where to visit? Let me know in the comments below!