Ok, so you're at home with two children of very different ages and lacking in ideas of how to entertain them well don't despair because there are things that won't break the bank and are great fun. We sat at home the other morning thinking what to do with the kids and suddenly we thought why not pile up the car with the things we might need and head somewhere. With the nice weather we've been having our first thought was the seaside. Southend-on Sea is about an hour and a half away and we've never been. Very easy directions and once you get off the main motorways everything is sign posted.
We parked at the Royals shopping centre which is a 5 minute walk from the sea. Our first venture was into the shopping centre to see what it had to offer. As you walk into the centre there are signs saying that it is a great centre with lots of high quality food places and shops. The centre didn't live up to the signs. There was a distinctly average food place in the middle and a handful of shops. The rest of the food places were along the outside of the building which included Subway and Costa coffee. There's a walkway outside filled with shops, and old-fashioned sweet shop and a view of the sea which was much more impressive. Not sure if this walkway is also considered part of the Royals.
Of course our next mission was to make our way to the seaside. We walked down the walkway until we reached a few different paths (all leading down to the Marine Parade and Pier. As we had the buggy we took the lift down. We wanted to walk down the pier but when we found we had to pay to do so we opted to go after lunch. Of course the entire walk to the sea was past Adventure Island and the kids were squealing about how they wanted to go! Very annoying but we managed to get their attention onto shell searching. We had to invest in a bucket and spade but I didn't mind that so much because I got an ice cream at the same time, yum yum!
The beach itself is stony but that didn't bother the kids. The tide was out so my eldest and I walked out quite far. We found a number of shells and small crabs which made him happy. After about an hour's play we wandered further down the walkway. The kids ran through the water fountains and we bought was postcards from one of the stalls. All the stalls looked the same and sold mostly the same things but it's all part of being at the seaside. There were tons of casino type gaming arcades lining the other side of the road and I let the kids have a few goes on a grab machine but then had to explain to them that they are a waste of money!
There seemed to be a lot of Nigerians partying on the beach. They had a DJ playing and were doing different races. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and the music was great.
We decided it was best to stick with what we knew for lunch as the kids (and I) can be picky. We headed back up to the Royals for Subway. Sadly Subway has no seating aside from a bar with stools and a few seats outside (no tables). We claimed four seats and used the buggy to hold our drinks.
Next trip is to the Pier. We got tickets for the Pier train (£9.30 for a family of four ticket). We've got a big Graco buggy and if we can fit onto the train then any buggy can! Lovely scenery as we headed out to the end of the Pier. The leaflet says the train leaves on the hour and half hour but the day we were there it was running at quarter past and quarter to the hour. The boys were pointing out boats and waving at the fisherman as we passed by. Greeted by a man with puppets as we exited the train who told us of a puppet show going in a few minutes near the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) gift shop and information centre. The gift shop was full of not only things to buy but information about the pier and the connection with the RNLI. I stayed with the buggy as the boys took off upstairs to look at the lifeboat station. They reported back to me about the officers on duty watching television and looking very bored, he he he. Being a bit nerdy whilst the guys were upstairs I was having a look at the ways boats would come to the Pier many years ago (the lifeboat crew get put into the water by a crane these days) and reading through the brief history leaflet I got from the pay desk. I was hoping to get a cuppa and maybe a small danish at the end of the Pier and although there was a little café we didn't bother going in and instead got a coffee and a nibble when we returned to town.
On our drive out there was a little traffic due to a Southend United game that had just finished. It wasn't terrible and the fans seemed to be a happy family friendly lot. (well done on the win!)
© oioiyou 2011
Having grown up near sunny Southend on Sea I have many great memories of the place from visiting the Seafront and amusements in the summer and enjoying a fried breakfast in the department store of Keddies to enjoying the annual lights switch on and watching the Southend Airshow and Carnival that attracts thousands of visitors from all over.
I cannot deny that the town has changed over the years but has received a huge overhaul during the last five years and is one of my favourite places to shop.
With the longest pier in the world and more than 7 miles of coastline there is something for everyone. For the children there is the only planetarium outside of London, a sealife centre, 80 parks and open spaces and a free to enter Adventure Island theme park. There are numerous art galleries and the Leigh Art trail is held every year. Southend is also home to two great theatres, The Cliffs Pavilion and The Palace Theatre that both hold shows throughout the year. It is also home to the Rossi Ice Cream Factory!
There are also a few clubs if you'd like to enjoy the nightlife and more than 300 restaurants and bars to choose from and also the likes of Costa Coffee if you would like to rest your feet after a long day of shopping till you drop!
The town holds most of the top name shops including Next, New Look, River Island, H&M, Marks and Spencer, HMV, Boots, Debenhams and some hidden gems for you to discover.
There are two undercover shopping centres - The Royals which is situated at the seafront end of the town and The Victoria which they finished upgrading earlier this year.
There are also Farmers' and German Markets held in the middle of the High Street during the summer months and Christmas Markets on the lead up to Christmas.
Southend is less than an hour from London on the C2C Train and will take you straight to the middle of the high street and also has two direct road routes to Southend - the A13 and the A127. There is plenty of parking in both long and short stay car parks if you are travelling by car and there is also a bus station.
My mum used to bring me to Southend as a treat when I was little,so it will always hold a place in my heart!
I remember strolling along the sea front, skimming pebbles in the sea and then grabbing some chips to eat or stopping in the 3 shells cafe for hot doughnuts!
I still like to visit Southend, although as with all places, times have changed it. It is still great for a stroll along the seafront and then perhaps have some fun in a few of the arcades.
For the children there is also, of course, Adventure island.... a must to visit for mine, and the sea life centre is a popular choice too..... not forgetting the famous pier : the longest pier in the world at well over a mile long.
The Royals shopping centre is great too, with all the usual high street stores such as Boots, Primark, debenhams and many more.
Southend boasts somethng for everyone and is a real fun seaside town!
I come from Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, and I'll be honest with you, over the years this place has actually improved!I lived here until I was 14, when my dad got the crazy notion in his head that we could become country bumpkins overnight- we packed up our lives and retreated to the beautiful and ideallic village of Polstead in Suffolk. I then enjoyed 3 years frollicking in hay fields and travelling to high school on a busted bus driven by an old guy with cataracts...I joke thee not! God did he take a corner badly, and the 'automatic' doors were broken and would swing open at random times!!! Hahaha, those were good times. Now, Im grateful for that crazy sebatical in the country, but when I returned to Southend (my Dad missed the sea, and the reality of the country life was less than perfect) I realised that this old place was home. I also missed the sea, its in my blood I think.
~Where is Southend?~
Anyway, back to Southend-on-Sea. Southend is a fairly large town on the South East Essex coast. It is about 38 miles from London, and can be easily reached via the c2c , Fenchurch line, or the One service from Liverpool Street Station. Coach journeys are available too from Victoria Station. The nearest notable towns to Southend include Basildon, Chelmsford (the home of Essex cricket), and Colchester to the north.
*A Taste of the Old Days*
Our seafront is beautiful, especially along the cliffside, where impressive gardens are laid out, and views across the Essex/Kent estuary can be glimpsed on clear days. For many years, an old Victorian bandstand has taken pride of place along the cliff promenade, and if you take a little stroll along the Royal Terrace (a row of Georgean town houses named after Princess Caroline, one of Queen Victoria's daughters, who convalesed in here) you are almost transported to a time long since past. When I used to push my newborn daughter along this terrace, and look down the steep cliffs to the beach, I could almost imagine women with parasols parading their babies in their little prams....gents tipping their top hats. Its and incredibly tranquil spot at times, and quintisentially 'English'- especially if you manage to walk this stretch when brass bands or small instrumental ensembles are playing at the bandstand. During the Summer months, many people draw up their deckchairs, reminise with the music, and enjoy a nice cuppa or a Rossi icecream. Wonderful.
*Boy Racers and White Escorts?*
Most people who think they know Southend will suggest that its the haunt of Essex lads, with their souped up Escorts, and foul mouthed Essex girls 'out on the pull'. Yes, of course there is some of that, but Southend is actually one of the less sleazy or common seafronts on the East coast. Essex police are very firm with so-called 'boy racers' here, and speed humps straddle the entire length of the beachfront. The 'esplanade' or golden mile is the area to avoid if you're not up for the nightlife, but hey some of us love it, so theres something to suit everyone here. Heres what the main seafront area has to offer:
-The Kursal: A bowling alley for kids and families alike.
-Southend Sealife Centre: Under Fours get in free. Its a great little aquarium, and I have taken my little girl here a number of times. The sealife variety is fairly good too; Amelia particularly loves the seahorses.
-The Arcades: Ok, well these are the seafront staple, and once in a while it can be fun to treat the kids to a little ride or some games.
-Lots of Little Kiosks: These serve chips, drinks, Rossi icecream (Southend's icecream), aswell as all those irritating toys and trinkets that kids just gravitate towards! Im talking about plastic windmills, candyfloss, bucket and spades, and lollypop 'dummies'.
-Adventure Island: Southend's now quite impressive themepark is positioned quite close to our famous 'longest pier in the world' (although the end of it burnt down again a few years ago, so who knows our status now!). There are many good rides to sample, rollercoasters, and little trains for kiddies to enjoy. I believe it is quite pricey, so google their site before going and set up a budget!!!
-The Pier: The entrance to the pier has been redesigned, and a nice glass frontage added. An architect has made the entrance look modern and managed to ensure its not fussy or gaudy. There is a 'lookout tower' adjacent to the entrance, which enables people to get a clear look across the estuary, and a lift sevice runs from the top of the cliffs, and high street, down to the pier and beachfront. The pier train takes passengers out onto the sea and back, so thats a nice enjoyable little trip to be had.
~Other Places to Enjoy in Southend~
*The Cliffs Pavillion*
The Cliffs Pavillion is our main theatre, and it takes pride of position on the top of our cliffs in Westcliff-on-Sea. It is an architechtual delight that looks out onto the Essex estuary. The resturant inside has an amazing sea view, and if you are seeing an evening performance here be sure to book a meal before you go! The twinkly lights of Kent will light up your meal, and get you in the mood for a romantic night out with your partner!
*The Palace Theatre*
Another, smaller theatre, in inland Westcliff-on-Sea. Edwardian in age, it has a real character about it. My daughter saw 'Brum' here, and it was very professionally done. Its a more intimate affair, and has a traditional approach to the theatre- a lot of Agatha Christie is shown here!
Old Leigh is a beautiful part of our town, and retains much of its fishing and cocklesheds heritage. Many artist live here, and have small galleries/workshops as they gain much inspiration from the area and its past. Walk on cobbled streets and eat at the Boatyard resturant or sample the delights of the teashops. There is also a traditional fish and chip shop called the Mayflower.
*Prittlewell Priory and Priory Park*
Home of the remains of a Clunastic monastry founded in 1110AD. The burial chamber of a Saxon king was discovered here in 2004, and 'Camp Bling' was established by a community of people determind to keep this historical area preserved. Southend Borough Council had threatened to widen a road around the park and so jeopadise the remains, and this beautiful park. Plans, it is believed, are now being revised in the light of huge public outcry. Priory park is truly beautiful, and boasts a teashop, large grounds, a walled garden, and a childrens playground. It is also a local wedding venue.
*Southend High Street*
Dont come to Southend for the shopping experience. Its not great. We have all your essentials, Boots, Lush, Marks and Spencer, Woolworths, Wilkinsons, and WHSmith. We cant rival Basildon and Lakeside for sheer volume and variety of shops, but we do ok. The high street is closed to traffic, and retains some of its Victorian/Edwardian heritage. Its a pleasant experience.
*Essex University at Southend*
We are now officially overrun with students! Essex university has opened a campus here in the heart of Southend. Its quite nice actually to see some new people around, and I welcome that!
Im very happy here. We have the seafront, many parks, some galleries and theatres, and a reasonable shopping centre. I just love the sea, and it makes me happy to think my daughter has that privaledge!
I have been visiting Southend for years now, my family owns a little caravan out in Rochford, Essex which is a short drive/bus ride away from Southend and in the summer time I also like to take my two pence pieces down to the arcades and play in the amusements like the big kid I am. :)
So where abouts is Southend?
Well it is situated in lovely Essex. I can't pin point exactly where it is but it is in the south-east of the country and actually, it's not that far from London really. Takes under an hour by train which is pretty good as it's taking you right out of polluted old London, right into "sunny" Saafend! :)
How can I get to Southend?
By car, though in peak-times, such as Summer Holidays, I don't recommend it. I've been there before and parking is a nightmare but a nice little route planner such as http://www.theaa.com/travelwatch/inc/planner_places_redirect.jsp will give you your route and I'm pretty sure Southend is easily accessible!
By Rail: You have two options you can use the "One" railway from London Liverpool Street into Southend Victoria or the c2c service from Fenchurch Street. I personally recommend c2c as the service is a lot faster, efficient and it's a lot more comfortable too. It takes just under an hour and c2c serve 3 what i call main bits of Southend.
Southend Central, Southend East and Westcliff though Southend Central is the station for the arcades and beach. At the time of writing via the c2c line from Fenchurch to Southend a single is 8.50 and a cheap day return will set you back around 10.50! The trains are pretty frequent from Fenchurch too. A typical off-peak service consists of 4 trains per hour to Southend-on-Sea.
(Do personally reccommend c2c, have used One Railway before but the trains seem really dirty and are more expensive than c2c)
Southend also serves its own airport, Southend Airport, for people traveling into the country!
What is there to do in Southend?
---- PLACES TO EAT ----
Southend has lots of places to eat. It has traditional fish and chip shops practically everywhere, and if you have strange tastes you might want to try some jellied eels which seem to be a firm favourite down there! If you're looking for snacks and sweets to keep the kids happy, or the big kids like yourself ;), there are plenty of shops along the sea front stocking on fresh hot doughnuts, candy floss and all sorts of sickly sweet things like lollies and ice-cream!
But Southend also has some good proper places to eat. It has plenty of pubs to eat in. Directly across the road from Southend Central station is a JD Wetherspoons which do fantastic food at good prices. You also have plenty of fast food restraunts like Burger King, KFC and MacDonald's.
--- SHOPS ---
Southend has a long stretch of high street and its own shopping centre too. You will not be spoilt for choice with shops. Here are just a few shops I can remember in Southend (though there are plenty more)
Primark, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, River Island, TopShop, Superdrug, Boots, Woolworths, Argos, HMV and plenty more.
--- THE BEACH ---
OK, so everyone knows about the beach in Southend though I must say, it's not that great. It's OK for maybe a sit down in the summer, though it can get crowded but the beach at Southend is pretty much neglected. The beach is mainly pebbles and if your bringing kids with you, I recommend you bring some sort of shoe they can wear in the sea as it has quite a lot of sharp stones and pebbles in there. I wouldn't really say the water is swimming water either, it usually looks pretty dirty but I guess it would be OK for a sunbathe in the summer Southend also has a pier. It used to have a few little shops at the end and a nice pub but since has been burnt down. I recommend you jump back on the c2c train from Southend Central and get off at Shoeburyness if you are looking for a nice beach for a paddle, it is much nicer there and is only about 10-15 minute train ride from Southend Central.
--- THE AMUSEMENTS AND ARCADES --
You will NOT be disappointed with the amount of arcades on Southend! You've got Circus, Circus, Stardust and plenty of others to keep you amused and the little ones. It's great fun for the kids if you can save up some two pence pieces for them as there are plenty of these two pence machines where you stick your two p's in hope of it pushing out all of the others for a jackpot! There is no END of the machines that grab teddies either, and, YES! You can win something! I've won three teddies from Southend all together, though it can be frustrating and with the amount of 20ps you put in you might as well have bought one! You also have the machines for adults, the good old fruit machines! Plenty of bingo as well for the adults in the arcades and lots of shooting and racing games for the boys! The girls don't miss out though either and you will see plenty of those dance move machines around! The arcades are definitely a lot of fun and can keep you amused for ages so i recommend you save your pennies and twenty pence pieces for a trip!
-- THE ADVENTURE PARK --
YES! Southend even has its own adventure park. It's called Adventure Island. It's not exactly a ride for thrill seekers but it has a good few rides.
Green Scream: A small green roller coaster with a dragon for the front. Probably one of the best rides there! Not exactly Rita Queen of Speed but still a bit of fun! Especially for older kids and teenagers.
Tidal Wave : I think it's called this now, though previously known as Raging River Log Flume, this is the log ride, a classic for most Theme Parks! Definitely fun in summer, not so much in the winter/spring time. Southend can get very COLD during these times and the water used is the sea water!
Barracuda: A classic ride you find a most fun fairs, you sit in it, get strapped in and get tipped upside down!
Crooked House: More of a kiddy ride, but it's a lot of fun! Basically a house all crooked and out of shape. Sounds silly, but is a good laugh!
SkyDrop: A ride that shoots you up high quickly then up and down again. It's no detonator and isn't very high, but again, is harmless fun and probably good rides for older kids. There are plenty of other rides though, and I'll end up reviewing Adventure Island too in this if i list all the rides! www.adventureisland.co.uk has a full list of rides.
Adventure Island is open all year round. On off peak like general working days it opens at 11.00 and closes at 17.00 or 20.00. On Peak days such as school holidays, bank holidays and weekends it opens at 11.00 and closes between 20.00 and 23.00.
The standard price of a Big Adventurer Band is 20.00 pounds and for a junior (must be under 1.2 meters to be junior) it is fifteen pounds. You don't actually Pay to enter the park, you can choose to by the bands mentioned above and have unlimited access to the rides. If you fancy just going on one or two, it's best to just purchase some tokens at the ticket office. Adventure Island does have some really good offers to get in too. After 6pm in peak times such as summer holidays, the bands are half price! Even though the park is small, this is REALLY good value for money. c2c and One railway also offer special tickets too where you get free travel. (Ask at your nearest rail station for information)
Another thing I find very good about Adventure Island is that is very well accessible for disabled visitors. It has plenty of ramps and a lot of the rides are easily catered for disabled people too so they don't miss out, which I think is a really good thing as a lot of parks seem to not care about there disabled visitors.
--- NIGHT LIFE CLUBS AND BARS ---
Southend is notorious for its night life and can get a bit rowdy at the night time. That said, it is jam-packed full of clubs and pubs. There is no end of pubs on the sea front. My favourite pub is The Last Post, a JD Wetherspoons pub just outside the station. I do love a steak and they do a mean 8oz sirloin in there. Washed down with a pint of beer, perfect summer evening i say!
All of these pubs are within walking distance of Southend Central station;
The Last Post
I am not really a night club person, so couldn't tell you a favourite or a recommendation but Southend has a wide range of clubs. I have found a list here http://www.city-visitor.com/southendonsea/nightclubs.html of night clubs near by. :)
-- CRAZY GOLF ---
The main crazy golf course is the Lost City crazy golf course which is apart of Adventure Island and sits right next to it. I have only been on this course once. This course can actually get quite crowded I feel and you can be waiting around quite a lot, plus the course isn't that great either and it's quite pricey. It has no website so the price is something you'd find out on the day. I personally recommend another crazy golf course on the sea front. If you walk straight down past Adventure Island and keep walking past the Sea Front and past the Sea Life Centre, about a ten minute walk from there is another one. It is generally a lot less packed and the course is fun. It has silly ones with windmills as obstacles and swirly ones you have to manage your way around! I can't remember the price exactly; it must have been about 4 quid for ago, a lot cheaper than Adventure Island's golf! At the end you also have a chance to hit your ball up a course and if you ring the bell, you get a free game! I can confirm, this is LEGITE! My boyfriend has one it once before and we were very pleased with our free game! If your kids are not amused with crazy golf, there are also some mini motorbikes they can race on whilst you play!
-- THE SEALIFE CENTRE --
The sealife centre is good fun! You can see some very odd-looking fish in there and be amused by the turtles and funny-looking fishes! It's situated on the sea front so, again, is really easy to find and it's open from 10am - 17.00pm. At the time of writing an adult costs 6.95 and a child costs 4.75. Its well worth it as for the price, you can visit all day! They stamp your hand with a sea life centre stamp so if you fancy coming back later, just show them your stamp and you can go back in! Also, once your kids are fed up of the fish there's a really good kiddies play area at the end of the walk through. Then you can sit down as I'm sure by then, the kids have worn you out!
Sounds like there is a lot to do in Southend! Are there any hotels near by?
I've never stayed in a hotel in Southend as I live not too far from there but you won't be short of choice. In the Peak-times it's probably best to contact them and reserve rooms as it can get quite busy.
Some hotels quite close by too Southend Central & Southend Victoria stations. (The two mainline stations to Southend)
The Westcliff Hotel - Website: http://www.activehotels.com/wl/servlet/xmlbrochure/index.do?hotelid=103026& day=&month=&year=&trkref=YLL&subid=&numrooms=&numnights=&language=&mode=
The Gleneagles Hotel - Website: http://www.activehotels.com/wl/servlet/xmlbrochure/index.do?hotelid=102964& day=&month=&year=&trkref=YLL&subid=&numrooms=&numnights=&language=&mode=
The Tower Hotel - Website: http://www.towerhotelsouthend.co.uk/
Ilfracome House Hotel - Website: http://www.activehotels.com/wl/servlet/xmlbrochure/index.do?hotelid=103046& day=&month=&year=&trkref=YLL&subid=&numrooms=&numnights=&language=&mode=
MY TOP TIPS FOR SOUTHEND
* If visiting in summer, do remember sun cream! People always seem to think, crappy old England, crappy old weather but the amount of lobster red people I see walking around!! It can get VERY HOT in Southend!
* Be PRACTICAL! I mean YOU girls! Southend is not the place to be wearing silly flip flops and skirts! You'll probably be on the beach or on the rides so skirts and flip flops are a no-no! Keep it casual with loose bottoms and comfy shoes that you won't end up getting stones into!!
* Before you go, collect lots of 2ps, 10ps and 20ps. It's so useful to have lots of these for the arcades and you can easily save 2ps away, we rarely use them!
* Bring drinks! It can get tiring trekking around Southend all day so it's a good idea to bring your own drinks if you don't want to be forking out loads of money!
Southend can get some stick sometimes, but it's still a great place to visit. I've been going there for years now, whether it be short stays in my van or even just a day down there. It's a fun day out, and the kids will love it. Have a great time!
(All my reviews are also on ciao.co.uk under grapesoda)
I've been trying to decide whether to approach this review from the perspective of a tourist or resident (having been both at some point in my life) and then I thought I'd just tell you that for the first ten years of my life I only ever visited Southend as a day-tripper, I then lived on the outskirts of the town for the next eleven years, and have now spent twelve years again as a day-tripper. (Just realised that you could work out how old I am now). So I'm going to approach this as a day-tripper, who has a slightly more intimate knowledge of the non-tourist side of the town, and perhaps knows of some of those hidden treasures that are off the beaten path. (I'm deliberately not adding entrance prices as they seem to change yearly which would mean that this review would quickly become outdated and therefore less useful)
---The History Of The Town---
Right lets start with a little bit about the history of Southend (as I was taught at school), as many of the places I'm going to recommend to you are part of this history (if slightly hidden from the "tourists").
Although Southend is now quite a large town, this is actually something of a new thing. For most of it's history, it was a small fishing village at the South End of Prittlewell (any guesses where it got it's name from), and I suppose that's how things may have continued, except for the sudden popularity of "taking the waters" and the belief that having a dip in the sea (what sea?) was good for the health that appeared during the period of history we now call the Regency. It was at this time that the Prince Regent decided that his wife (Princess Caroline) might enjoy spending time at the closest beach to London and sent her to stay in what is now known as Royal Terrace (a woefully neglected area near the front).
With Royal patronage, came money and soon that village became a thriving seaside town, and by Victorian times, it was a popular resort, and all the trappings of tourism started to appear. Now many of the original buildings are hidden (by gaudy amusement arcades) or converted, but if you look hard enough you might find a treasure that helps to tell of the town's history.
Now if you're going to be visiting Southend on a day trip, you will want to know how to get there. And travel links are pretty good, there are two train-lines that serve the town (both from London). If you're making your way to the sea-front the Fenchurch Street line would probably be the easiest, but you can also catch a train from Victoria which takes you to just outside the High Street. If you prefer to travel by bus, I would say think again, although there are buses to London and the surrounding areas, they are very infrequent, with a large restriction on the time you would need to return home.
Getting to Southend by car, is fairly simple, just take the A13 or A127 off the M25, although there is a reasonable amount of parking available I can't actually comment on the costs, as I don't actually own such a thing as a car.
Now, I guess this is what you go to the seaside for, to sit on the beach and paddle in the sea. But, I'm going to let you in on a little secret, Southend is not a "seaside" resort at all. Rather it is an estuary-side resort, albeit one that is tidal with a little bit of sand. I wouldn't describe the beaches as all that wonderful either, although they are cleaner now than they were when I was a child, they seem to be made up of stripes of different material. There is a smallish amount of sand nearest the land, that is fairly good for making sandcastles with, then there are quite a few pebbles, and after that there are miles of mud. As a child it was a big adventure to go out onto the mud flats, but it's something I really wouldn't advise as the tide does turn quite quickly. Although it always fascinated me, to watch the anglers going out to catch worms for baiting their lines.
If you plan to simply spend your time on the beach (I use that in the loosest possible sense of the word), I would suggest that you take a short walk in either direction from the main front. Not only are these beaches quieter, but from personal experience they are cleaner and sandier too. If you have children in tow who would quite like to paddle, then head towards Westcliff, where one of Southend's little secrets hides. Here you will find paddling pools that are re-filled by each tide, the water is not too deep, and although I would still suggest that the little 'uns wear jelly shoes (to protect their little feet from glass/sharp stones), great fun can be had, either pretending they're swimming in the sea or simply crabbing. For the older generation, a more peaceful time can be had (away from the noise of the arcades) by taking a short walk in the opposite direction towards, Thorpe Bay and Shoeburyness, both of which offer quieter places to sit and relax.
---The Seafront Attractions---
Not surprisingly most people don't actually go to Southend for the beach, but rather for the other attractions that can be found on the seafront. There are of course plenty of amusement arcades, some of which are huge and fancy (and the first to be noticed), but if you make your way a little further along the front, you'll find some smaller arcades a few of which have some traditional amusements in them. I've personally always preferred the smaller ones, where the staff are very friendly and will even join you in a game of table football.
One of Southend's most famous (and until recently most neglected) attractions is the pier, which happens to be the longest pleasure pier in the world, at 1.34 miles long. Although I've always enjoyed the walk along the pier, and even taking a ride on the train, I must say that a series of accidents has made this less pleasurable. These accidents include a ship running into the end of the pier and a fire in the bowling alley (which I watched from my window). Saying that, the pier is still popular with tourists and anglers alike and worth taking the time to get to the lifeboat station at the very end.
For the thrill seekers among Southend's visitors, the place to go would be Adventure Island. This amusement park has been operating for as long as I can remember (well even longer than that, and has actually been going since Victorian times). In recent years, the park has been given a new lease of life and there are rides for young and old, the adventurous and the not so adventurous. If you do visit, take a look at the crooked house, which hasn't changed since I was a child and stands as a memorial to the floods of 1953 (there is a mark on the side of the building which shows the level the water reached). Another little bit of history to be found here, is the replica of The Golden Hind, which is another memory of my childhood visits, where my sister and I would be horrified and thrilled by the torture chamber.
A more peaceful attraction is The Sealife Centre, which is situated a little further down the front. I must say here though, that on my one and only visit, I found this very disappointing and poor value for money. Only visit here if you (or your family) have a fascination with sealife. Virtually opposite the Sealife Centre, you will find The Kursall, which is sadly no longer the amusement arcade (with shooting galleries) of my childhood, but now houses among other things a bowling alley. Still worth a visit though, if only for the unusual design of the building.
---Yearly Events On The Front---
There are two main events that take place every year on the front, the first of which is the Airshow, which occurs during the May Bank Holiday weekend. I used to love watching the planes take off from the airport for this, but found the actual front was always far to crowded for my own tastes (and so avoided it like the plague). The second event is the carnival (which normally takes place in August) and culminates in the switching on of the illuminations. This is a great event to both watch and take part in, especially the night time procession, and is again a huge crowd raiser, with the whole of the seafront taking on a party air.
---Attractions away from the front---
If you're prepared to move a little away from the front there are plenty of other attractions to suit all tastes. There are a couple of large parks, one being Chalkwell, but my favourite is Priory Park. This is situated on Victoria avenue (on the lead into the town proper) and as well as a children's playground, plenty of open spaces for games of football there is the Priory museum, in which I have often an hour wandering around admiring the exhibits.
Two minutes walk from the park you will find Southend Museum and Planetarium. While I've never actually gone into the planetarium, I have often browsed the museum. Don't get me wrong, this is nothing on the scale of the London museums, but the exhibits do give an interesting insight into the history of the area. Next door to the museum is the library, a lovely building where I spent many hours reading, or browsing the special exhibits (normally of art). While we're talking of the arts, there are a couple of other places that are worth a visit (if you have time), one is the Beecroft Gallery in Station Road Westcliff, which offers free entry (and where some of my Art GCSE work was displayed many moons ago). And while you're in the Westcliff area why not see if you can catch a play at the Palace Theatre before it closes it doors at the end of October, I bet you didn't realise that Southend was so cultured did you?
If it's historical buildings that take your fancy, then might I suggest you take a short bus journey away from the main town, and visit some churches that date back to the time of the Norman conquest. St Mary's church, Prittlewell (next to Priory Park) and her sister church of St Laurence and All Saints, Eastwood (near to Southend airport) are both wonderful examples architecture from this time. If it's something a little more modern you're looking for, then a trip to Old Leigh is well worth the effort, or even a trip into some of the few remaining areas of farmland where you can still find examples of "pill-boxes" dating back to the second world war.
There is even something in Southend for plane-spotters (like train-spotters but they like planes). Situated close to the Southend/Rayleigh border you will find Southend airport, many's the happy hour that this plane enthusiast stood watching the small planes landing and taking off. But the very best time to watch the planes is during the airshow, I lived half a mile from the airport, and swear I got to see a better display than anyone on the seafront.
---Staying In Southend---
Now I've whetted your appetite at just how much there actually is to do in Southend, perhaps you want to know where you could stay. Well sadly, I've never needed to stay any hotels in the area (either I or relatives have always lived there), but (from a project I did at college) I know there are a great variety of hotels, ranging from simple bread and breakfasts, to Travel Inns to "posher" hotels. You'd probably be better off visiting the tourist information website (www.visitbritain.com) to get details of the various hotels in the area.
---Eating In Southend---
There is no shortage of places to eat in Southend either. From fast food, to fish and chips, to Italian to Mexican you name it and you'll be able to find it. You can even eat in the same pie and mash shop as Mark and Pauline Fowler (from Eastenders), which is quite close to the seafront.
Being a large town, Southend has it's fair share of major High Street shops and supermarkets. But along the seafront you will also find the touristy shops, that sell the kind of tat that seaside resorts are famous for, you know the kind of things, kiss-me-quick hats, ornaments made of shells, postcards and of course sticks of rock. As a former resident, I have rarely bought anything from these shops, or even passed through the doors all that often, but I would imagine that prices are on a par with other resorts.
Southend has a fairly good night-life (or it did when I was 18), there are several clubs on the seafront itself (entrances are at the back in Lucy Road), as well as one on Aviation Way (near the airport) but I not going to name them, as they seem to change their names almost as often as I change my socks. One in particular has in it's time been known as Talk Of The South, TOTS, TOTS 2000 and I believe is now known as Talk. These clubs were always the place to be, especially on a Tuesday or Thursday, which where then known as Party nights (you can imagine how many excuses we could make up for parties when there were free tickets involved), although I'm not sure they still hold these events. (I've just checked and yes they do still hold the free nights at Talk).
If you've got children, I wouldn't really advise using the seafront on a Friday or Saturday night. You see for time immemorial, these have been the domain of the cruisers, and although traffic calming measures have been put in place, the cars do still tend to travel quite fast up and down the seafront, and there are plenty of young girls out to flirt (not that I've got anything against them, after all I was their age once). Another place to avoid at night (unless you're that way inclined) is the town's very own red-light district which is York Road (quite close to the front).
I hope I've given you an idea of the treasures (both apparent and hidden) that the South End of Prittlewell holds. It is a town that I at turns both love and loathe, that has a garish tourist side, and then behind that there are more quiet pursuits if only you know where to find them. Within the town's confines you will find activities to suit all ages and tastes, from the amusement arcades and Adventure Island for the young who are in search of thrills, to art galleries, theatres and historical buildings for those of a more quiet disposition. So am I recommending that you visit the town I called home for so long, well yes, but don't think that the seafront is all there is to Southend, why not have a look at some of the other places I've told you about.
I have been to Southend on Sea tatolly by chance. I was driving to somewhere in south but when we were checking the map, we saw Southend on Sea on the map, we said "let's see there". Southend-on-Sea is in Essex on the north bank of the Thames estuary. The town seemed like a seaside resort. When we decided to go there, we were unaware that we'll see the longest pleasure pier in the world. Yes, the longest one is in Southend on Sea and it looks unbelievable. When we arrived there, sun was going down and we hardly saw the end of the pire. It is the most interesting landmark in Southend on Sea. Its length is 2 km. The pier was closed that time but as I saw there you can go to the end of the pier by a small train. Southend is also famous for the Golden Mile of amusement arcades and attractions, including the Kursaal, Never Never Land and Peter Pan's Adventure Island. There are also lots of casinos there. I also remember that there was a nice hotel at the opposite of the pier. Unfortunately I can not remember its name. Also, I was amazed by the view I saw there when sun was going down. When I have been there, it was winter, but I am sure it must be very exciting and touristic place in summer. You'd better see this place.
Having read all the opinions on Southend on Sea, I thought I would write my own. I have lived in the district of Southend all my life and would not live anywhere else. You see, the majority of visitors to the town only see it as a seaside resort, but there is a lot more to Southend than first meets the eye. Of course, the seafront is the main attraction to visitors. I’ve heard it said that more than a weekend is too long to stay. Well, let me tell you of some other places that would keep you there for longer! Firstly, and my favourite, is PRIORY PARK. Located in Victoria Avenue, on the route to Southend or about 20 minutes walk from the town centre. This park has been one of my favourite places since childhood. It is a large park with much history attached to it. It was initially, as it’s name states, a 12th Century Priory, housing The Cluniac Order of Monks. Although a lot of the Monastery was destroyed in 1536 after the dissolution of Monasteries, there are still buildings standing which have been restored into a Museum. There is still evidence of the original occupants in the grounds, which was presented to Southend as a gift from the last Private owner, Robert Jones in 1921. There is a real eerie feeling about the place when you enter, something I can’t explain. Although the displays are relatively modern considering the age of the building, i.e. communication, toys, stuffed animals etc., you can’t help feeling there is a hidden agenda, something else not evident to the eye! It is supposed to be haunted so I wonder if that explains it. There is also a maze and a beautiful peaceful walled garden where you could sit for hours. One of my favourite books as a child was The Secret Garden and I often imagined this was the place in the book. Of course, there is the usual kids playground, a fishing lake with some good-sized fish and a cafeteria for refreshme
nts. There are often events held in the park, the latest being an outdoor concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. THE BEECROFT ART GALLERY Located in Station Road, Westcliff, again about a twenty-minute walk from the town centre or a ten-minute walk from Wetcliff Station. A large converted three-storey corner house, accommodating a very varied collection of Art from the old to abstract. There are often exhibitions held here from Local Artists and such like. SOUTHCHURCH HALL Located in Southchurch Close, just follow York Road from the town centre for about ten minutes. A lovely, out of the way place, incorporating a 14th Century Medieval Manor House and grounds. The Manor house is open as a Museum for a couple of hours a day in the summer but only has a few exhibits and would take about 15 minutes to look round. The attraction is the duck pond, kids love it, but make sure you take plenty of bread as the birds flock round you if you are feeding them and it can get a bit scary at times! CENTRAL MUSEUM This is located just outside Southend Victoria Station. It used to be the Old Library but was converted some years ago when a new one was built, next door. It is not only a local museum but also has the only other Planetarium in the South East outside London. It gives live presentations from Wednesday to Saturday at 11am, 2pm and 4pm. You would be advised to phone to book your seats as this is used a lot by schools in the area. A new attraction in the building is the Discovery Centre, which boasts all things computer. This is also used a lot by schools and best visited during the holidays. BELFAIRS PARK This is a large woodland park, situated in Eastwood Road North, Leigh on sea. A 29 bus would take you right outside from the town centre in approximately 20 minutes. It has an 18 hole Golf course and shop, also a mini golf course for kids, big and small. There are sta
bles and a riding school for the disabled. At weekends kids can usually have a ride like you do on the beach. There is a nice restaurant with al-fresco dining available. A popular weekend place for locals. If you venture deep into the woods, you will come across the nature reserve. A lovely place in the summer with lots to see. A must for nature lovers, but be careful you don’t get lost! Well, there you have it, Southend on sea, it’s not just the seafront, so if you ever venture down here, remember there’s more than meets the eye. It won’t cost you a fortune as all the places I have mentioned are free, so get off the slots and rides and have a good look round, you might be pleasantly surprised!!
I like southend I think it is really cool I go there with my mum every year for a holiday for a few days and we do lots of nice things one time my friend came with us but he said that it was a bunch of donkey doo and he has not been there again I like to go on to the pier and get on the little train which will take you to the end of the pier and you can look at the sea and nothing else and then get back on the train and go back I like to go in to the town as welland look at all of the shops which are cool and I take my mum to mcdonalds for some lunch and I will have chicken nuggets and she will have a bacon mcdouble you can get other food and drinks in southend like chips and coke and popcorn and fish and wimpy and ice cream which I like One day when me and my mum where in southend I was eating a big ice cream that cost my mum 1£ 45p and it was really nice and tasty but then a seagull did a poo on it and I was upset but my mum told me to just lick around it so it was ok i like to go to the fun fair that is called peter pans pleasure fair and it has spinning around rides and lots of children and you can get tickets or a wristband and then you can go on ethe rides i like to buy gifts for my mum and for my freind one day i bought my mum and glass full of sand and she put that in her bedroom drawer and i bought my freind a monkey on a swing but i donot know where he put that because i have not been into his house yet At night in southend there are some boys and they drive around in there olden cars playing music really loud in them and they look really funny because they just drive around and around all night and I cant see the point in doing that but then maybe iam not as cool as them boys My mum usually takes me there in her car but it is not old like the loud boys and she doesnot drive it round and round all night we go on the roads called a404 – a11 – a118 –a127 from wembley to southend There i
s a night club there called tots 2000 but I have not been there because my mum said that I might get killed by skinheads So southend is really good and it is in essex
Weekend breaks at Southend: Contrary to popular belief, Southend, or ‘Saaarfend’ as many prefer to pronounce it, has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the South-East of England, not least due to it’s many appearances on EastEnders. Many tourist attractions are currently available to the public, with more and more attractions opening all the time. The most popular of which, the Southend High Street is the most popular of which, very popular with those who are tired of large shopping centers such as Lakeside or Bluewater, and allows shopping in the open air, in a car-free environment. Another popular attraction, Southend’s ‘Golden Mile’ allows visitors to stroll up and down the seafront to admire the beach and passing boats, whilst also relaxing on the traditional English deckchairs, eating ice creams from the seafront café’s. Also popular are the amusements, which stretch throughout the seafront, as are the nightclubs, such as Storm, Tots and Chameleon, which are also extremely popular most nights. The Cliff’s Pavilion also proves popular, which, situated in Westcliff, puts on daily shows, from traditional west-end productions to stand up comedy from both the famous, and relative newcomers. Nearby are the famous arches, where a cluster of approximately 10 seaside café’s are situated, providing great value meals, and a fantastic view over the Thames Estuary, especially beautiful during sunrise and sunset. Possibly the most famous of all, Southend Pier, famous for it’s many, many fires and boat collisions which have been experienced throughout it’s century in the Estuary. Either stroll up the 1 ¼ mile pier by foot to admire the view, or you can even catch a train to the pier head, where you can admire both the views and facilities, provided by the longest pleasure pier in the world. Finally, Southend’s Adven
ture Island (formally Peter Pan’s Playground) has seen millions of pounds of investment in recent years, and this is shown in the vast amount of very scary amusement rides offered! From traditional rollercoasters, to log flumes, Adventure Island has them all, whilst situated nearby is a local Sea Life centre and crazy golf course where both the older and younger generations can relax. To conclude, Southend offers both the traditional values which you would expect from a seaside town, whilst offers all modern day facilities for the younger generations, which blend together to create a great day out for the whole family.
I've noticed that the other review in this section on Southend in general that actually talks about Southend in general instead of just one restaurant in the town (mgoldman) is highly complimentary about the town. They obviously do not live there. Well, I do, and I am going to set a few things straight about the town. I may be biased, but I will try to give a full picture, and not just the things day-trippers see when visiting the town. Southend, you see, would like to think of itself as a seaside resort on the same scale as Brighton or Blackpool. Absolute rubbish! Southend is neither as sophisticated as Brighton nor as purely thrilling as Blackpool - it is simply a bland, boring in-between (hence the title). And their golden 'mile' is only about 200m long. As a seaside resort, it compares only to places like Skegness. The thing is, though, Southend has the potential for great things, yet it never takes the opportunities to become a great resort. There is everything you'd expect from your average British resort: an amusement park, arcades, cafes, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs, beaches, and of course the pier, which is the longest pleasure pier in the world. However, everything about it is decidedly average - even the pier. To be fair, the pier has had numerous fires, the most recent of which was to the bowling alley that was on it near the shore a few years back. But they have done nothing to put anything in its place. All you can basically do on the pier is walk (or catch a train) down it, and have an ice cream at the end, or possibly buy a souvenir. What a waste! At one point, there were plans to put a £16 million rollercoaster at the end of the pier, but that idea was rejected for numerous reasons. I am still amazed that idea was rejected. The people of Southend would love more tourism, but whenever any proposal is put forward, it is fiercely opposed by various groups. This is ultimately what is holding Southend back. The amusement park (Adventure Island) - nothing special, but the company seems to think that it's special enough to charge £15 per wristband (which allows you access to all of the rides bar the dodgems and go-karts). Alton Tower's doesn't charge much more, and that is far, FAR superior. All Adventure Island has is a couple of poor rollercoasters, a haunted house, a log flume, a couple of water slides, and the rest of your standard funfair crap. Fine if you're under ten, but thrill seekers should look elsewhere. A recent development in Southend - yes, one did get through - was the restoration of the Kursaal situated to one end of the Golden 200m. I admit, I was excited about this at first - it was thought that the renovation of this before derelict building would bring something Southend had never seen before into the town. It was believed that the place would be a supreme entertainment venue. Wrong! The place has been open for a few years now, and all that has existed there has been a bowling alley (which is extremely poor - do not go there), a McDonalds outlet, a couple of restaurants and bars, a shop, and a casino - all of which existed in Southend before the place opened to the public. And if you're thinking of bowling there, think again. There are not enough bowling balls for the lanes, and the majority of those balls will not fit your fingers anyway. You might as well go to Broadway Superbowl in Leigh-on-Sea. Shopping facilities in Southend are good, but not great, once again. A very large number of the shops in the town centre only cater for the shopper with the smaller budget. The same is true of the retail parks in Southend. Although there is everything you need in Southend, shopping-wise, if you're looking for designer shops, you'll be sadly disappointed. If you're looking to go somewhere more interesting to shop, then try the Broadway in Leigh. You won't find many chain stores there, but the shops that
do exist there are on the whole less conformist than the shops on the High Street. Southend does not have a particularly high crime rate (unlike nearby Basildon) but prostitution is quite common in the town. There are several sex shops in town, including Ann Summers down the High Street, and I suppose Southend has a bit of a reputation of being the sex capital of Essex. The 'red-light district' is centred around York Road, and being the person who wants to keep his Dooyoo account, I suggest you do not try kerb-crawling along there, Friday evenings particularly. I personally don't care what you do, but don't blame me if you end up at the local police station (kerb-crawling, I believe is illegal). The beaches along the seafront in Southend are average, at best. Although there are a couple of sandy beaches in Old Leigh and near Adventure Island, if you're looking at sunbathing on them during a hot weekend, then forget it, unless your idea of relaxing is spending time trying to find the square inch of free beach to claim as your own, while 5-year-olds are constantly succeeding in making your life a living hell by knocking you down, running on top of you, and throwing sand into your eyes. There are quieter areas of beach, but these are comprised partly of shingle, and are not exactly a joy to lie down on. In addition, you have to walk about a mile to find any water, half the time, if you're intending on swimming, and I would not recommend swimming in the sea there anyway. Call me paranoid, but there's something rather unsavoury about swimming past dirty nappies and used condoms. So that's my op. Maybe I've just had some unfortunate experiences there – after all, the person who wrote the other op in this section seemed to love the place. But have they lived there all of their life? There are some events during the year, such as the air show (supposedly the largest fee one in Europe), that are of relati
ve interest. However, the advantages are outweighed by the overall blandness and unimaginativeness of the town. There is nothing here that really stands out – not even the pier. And that, if you think about it, is the worst criticism that could be made about somewhere like Southend.
The Gattopardo Restaurant is located in Westcliff on Sea?s Hamlet Court Road, in a building that can still be recognised as an old bank. Once inside, you know that you are in for an old fashioned experience. We have eaten en famille from both the Sunday Lunch menu and the a la carte. The Sunday lunch is a great bargain costing about £13 plus drinks, and you won?t need to eat until Monday. The style is old fashioned Sicilian, and is complemented by the over the top ornate decorations and pictures. The staff are friendly, flexible and helpful. There is usually a new waiter who is probably straight off the plane, and is learning English by a process of trial and error, but that is part of the charm of the place. We once went there of a weekday evening, and the owner?s brother was in town, and entertained the clients with a trumpet karaoke performance. Despite being a set menu for lunch, the choice is huge, and quite frankly you would never need to look at the a la carte. My favourites are the pasta starters, gnochi, and mixed antipaste. My in-laws always go for the reliable minestrone soup. Quite frankly I have never had a bad meal here. It?s all a bit old fashioned, with dishes covered in heavy sauces. The cooks appear to have no concept of portion control. Wines are mainly Italian, a little expensive, and nothing too clever. Whilst not a big restaurant, it has the advantage of catering for large groups, and we have sat 6-12 people at a table with not a murmur from the staff. Probably best to book for Sunday Lunch. Went there again on 25/5/03 Just as good, and the set lunch cost 11.95
Southend on Sea is in Essex a 40 minute train journey from London. In years gone by Londoners used to frequently visit the town with their families for days out. Southend has the longest pleasure pier in the world although it needs a lot to be done to it after several fires and an accident with a boat. It is one and a quarter miles long and has a pub a cafe a shop and the RNLI lifestation at the end. You can either walk up there or travel on the train. It used to have a ten pin bowling alley at the beginning of the pier but after an awful fire it's been taken down. Underneath the pier on the shore is a pier museum which is really worth a visit they have a lot on show there. Every year Southend hosts a free airshow this has been running for 11 years now and is an enjoyable day out. As well as the aeroplanes there is market stalls and little side shows. There is also an annual carnival which attracts visitors in their thousands and has recently had entrants from the Notting Hill Carnival. Well worth seeing. Always finishes with a firework display. Southend has a pleasure park which is thriving very well and has new rides added every year. The shopping centre at Southend has all the major shops plus a few less known. It has a large indoor area with a lot of shops in there. If you are looking for somewhere to spend the weekend I would strongly recommend a trip to Southend. There are various bed and breakfast places to stay and are all reasonably priced. See you there.