THE stunning expanse, the fragrance of sea brine, the crunch of sand and pebbles under your feet – seaside walks are one of the things which makes Essex great.

With more than 350 miles of Essex coastline, you would be forgiven for not exploring every inch of it.

Visitors and residents will know about the popular shores of Clacton or Southend, but there are also ‘secret’ beaches too – mudflats, saltmarshes and lonely creeks which are home to wildlife and rich history.

Once lockdown restrictions are lifted, you may want to take the time to explore the wonderful nature the coast provides.

From old sea-faring towns, to seals and Thames barges, tourism body Visit Essex reveals some of the places in Essex you can discover in the springtime (rules permitting).

The Naze

Surrounded on three sides by the sea, the mostly sandy beaches and steadfast sea defence makes the Naze beach perfect for discovering fossils and shark’s teeth dating back to the Ice Age. As well as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is also great for lovers of marine activities such as sailing, kayaking and kite-surfing, and you couldn’t possibly leave without visiting the Essex Wildlife Trust Centre, walking to the top of the Naze Tower, or taking a wildlife trip to see the seals in the Walton backwaters.

Bradwell-on-Sea

Although Bradwell can be seen from Mersea Island, it is nearly an hour’s drive away. Bathed in part by cockle shells, it is a very lonely shoreline and saltmarsh. In 653 AD, Saint Cedd was sent by Pope Gregory to found a monastery and bring Christianity to Essex. The building has survived as the old chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall and is one of the oldest and most atmospheric churches in England, warranting a ‘must see’ while in the area. You can also walk along the sea wall to Burnham, once a centre for cockle, whelk and oyster trade, now famed for sailing activities.

Shoeburyness

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Within walking distance of Southend, this beach is sand and shingle, with a promenade backdrop and lovely beach huts. It’s a world apart from Southend beach though, and you’ll find a relaxing haven here. It was an important location during the Second World War, and there are still some remains of sea defences left which prevented enemy ships entering the Thames. It’s a popular spot for kite-surfing and sailing.

Thorpe Bay

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

A pebble and sand, quiet beach, and because of the tide, perfect for sunbathing, bathing, sailing and paddle boarding. It’s popular with families, but not at all crowded, even in in the summer season. Also beautiful for sunset ‘spotting’ – so don’t forget your camera. You can cycle over-looking the sea five kilometres one way, and two kilometres the other, or just walk!

Canvey Island - Thorney Bay

A dog walking paradise, Thorney Bay is a small sheltered beach on Canvey Island, and is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by, and all the ships going up and down the Thames. On a clear, sunny day there are also great views across to the Kent coast.

Earlham’s Beach

Just around the corner from Wrabness, you will find the port of Harwich and Dovercourt Bay. It’s a little known secret, but walk along the path from Dovercourt west end, past the caravan park and you’ll find Earlhams beach. Not good for swimming, but where marshland reaches the sea and perfect for mud-larking and wildlife. Just be mindful of the tides.

Brightlingsea

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Well-known by residents, it is still little known by visitors, When ‘out of season’, a trip here will definitely be good for the soul. Perfect for families, it has a tidal ‘paddling’ pool for the little ones and is a popular spot for crabbing. Ideal conditions make it suitable for sailing as well. The beautiful sunsets found here and many brightly coloured beach huts, make it an ideal location for photography too.

East Mersea

The home of Cudmore Grove Nature Reserve, and as well as wildlife and beautiful walks along the sea wall, a regular ferry during the summertime carries passengers to and from Brightlingsea. The beach is sand and pebble, but go there during the week, or out of season and you’re likely to be the only one there.