Mersea Island has been on our list of things to do for years – and if there’s one good thing to come out of foreign travel being restricted, it’s been the chance to tick a few more UK destinations off our hit list. With beautiful beaches, scenery, and the island’s famous oysters, we headed out there to explore for a much-needed post-lockdown escape.
If you’ve not heard of Mersea Island, it’s the UK’s easternmost inhabited island, situated in the Thames estuary in Essex. It’s connected to the mainland by one causeway which can often become flooded and therefore impossible to drive over in high tide – so check the tide times when you arrive as we genuinely nearly got stuck! It’s about a two hour drive from London but you can also get the train to Colchester and then take a bus, which takes about 45 minutes.
By the usual standards of British beach destinations there’s not a whole lot to ‘do’ on Mersea Island – and it’s all the better for it. There’s no pier, promenade, arcades, or anything like that, just a couple of pubs, seafood shacks, beaches, a vineyard, and some fantastic walks. So if you’re after a more relaxing kind of beach break, then Mersea Island could be just the place for you.
When you drive on to the island, you can take a left to East Mersea, or a right to West Mersea. The latter is where more of the action is; the main village with the most shops and restaurants and the most well known beaches. We headed left to East Mersea and parked near the Cudmore Grove Park, as we knew we wanted to take a big walk across the island. We loved doing this but it’s a long walk to head west and then back again, so be prepared! If you do decide to walk, you’ll go through the middle of the island which is very quiet and peaceful, passing by nothing more than fields and the odd house or farm building. You can stop off at the Mersea Island Vineyard too, a great halfway pitstop.
Over in West Mersea you’ll want to head to The Company Shed, a lovey little seafood shack serving the island’s famous oysters as well as hot seafood, mussels, and other locally caught fish. It’s not fancy but it’s super fresh and tasty. If you’re there on a summer weekend, make sure you get down there early as it’s all first come first serve and gets very busy. For more of a sit down meal, check out the West Mersea Oyster Bar – they have a fantastic outdoor seating area right by the sea. As well as the usual oysters, there’s fish and chips, crab, lobster and salmon. There’s a couple of pubs on the island, including The Fox Inn in West Mersea, but take our tip and bring a couple of bottles of wine to drink on the beach.
The beaches here are one of the main draws. They are huge and pretty unspoilt. One stretch is absolutely filled with colourful beach huts, which you may well have seen on many an Instagram feed over the past few years. It’s a great spot to sit to end the day before heading back to London. There are also plenty of places to stay on the island if you want to make a bigger trip of it too, including some really quite classy caravan parks.
For an easy day trip from London, Mersea Island has got it all. If you’ve not been before, this summer could be the perfect time to check it out for yourself.