With its cosy seaside pubs, cobbled streets and authentic cockle sheds - a trip to the fishing town of Leigh-on-Sea makes the perfect staycation in Essex. Once you’re soaking up the views of sailboats bobbing on the water, or tucking into some fresh seafood at one of the top notch eateries on the boardwalk, you’ll barely believe that you’re only 45 minutes from London Fenchurch Street by train.
We’ve got four trains an hour connecting London to the Essex coast, and off-peak return fares start from £11.90, so getting to Leigh-on-Sea couldn’t be quicker or cheaper. If you book in advance you could save up to 40% off your train fare. Prefer to turn up and go? Grab your friends or family members (who are over 16) to save a third with GroupSave tickets.
Nearest c2c Station: Leigh-on-Sea
Our Guide: The best things to do in Leigh-on-Sea
It’s easy to see why Leigh-on-Sea was crowned as the fourth best place to live in the UK by The Times last year. Whether it’s drinking in picture-perfect pubs, or nosing around boutique shops and quirky art galleries, Leigh-on-Sea has heaps to offer. Plus it’s so close to London, has a great ‘café-culture’ atmosphere and, of course, comes with glorious views of the Thames Estuary. Here are our favourite things to do:
Where to eat in Leigh-on-Sea
Cockle Shed Row
The closest coastal town to London abounds in cafes and pubs, perfect if you’re a big foodie. Start off a walk down the historic cockle shed row on Old Leigh’s waterfront. The area has remained widely unchanged since the 19th century, and you can watch the boats coming in and out with their latest catch. Osborne’s is one of the oldest family run sheds in town, with great views over the estuary. If you’re not a fan of cockles don’t worry - there’s plenty of other seafood on offer - and it’s all fresh!
On the waterfront
One of the most special locations in Old Leigh is The Boatyard - its modern outdoor decking makes it perfect for sampling fresh grilled seafood while enjoying views over the estuary. It’s also got a great mix of live music nights, making it a real hub of activity in the town. For a more traditional pub atmosphere go next door to The Smack, or just along the road to The Mayflower for cut-above fish and chips and real ales - both places have outdoor seating over the water.
Cakes & Cremes
Freakshakes - a combo of ice cream, cream, cake and sauce - are the hottest food trend of 2016. You can grab one (and a big spoon) at Creme on the Broadway. For show-stopping cakes head on over to Stop the World cafe and fill your boots. We hear their brunches are bound to rock your world too. These are just two of the many wonderful cafes on the Broadway - it really is a foodie’s paradise. We recommend you go with an appetite and some roomy trousers.
Where to drink in Leigh-on-Sea
Sightseeing is thirsty work, and there’s no shortage of watering holes, from the rickety rabbit-warren pubs of Old Leigh to the myriad of cocktail bars up on the Broadway. Try The Crooked Billet, first opened in the 16th Century to cater for sick fishermen, or The Peterboat for a breezy outdoor pint with your cockles. If the evening is putting you in a different mood head for The Black Cat speakeasy. A hidden door and a buzzer will reward you with entry to a sultry cocktail den, where the lighting’s super low, the cocktails are super strong and the menu’s super short.
Attractions in Leigh-on-Sea
Boutique Shopping & Galleries
Browse the local art centres and boutique shops in Leigh Broadway. Choose from vintage boutiques and specialist clothing stores on the high street or drop in at Lynn Tait gallery to browse the local artwork and gifts.
Walking & heritage
Learn more about the history of the town by visiting the Leigh Heritage Centre and picking up a copy of their heritage trail to explore all the medieval architecture in and around the area. Check out Plumbs Cottage (a restored fisherman’s cottage), or take yourself for a stroll along the cliff top for some tremendous views of Hadleigh Castle’s ruins. For anyone wanting to get in touch with the greener side of things, Two Tree Island nature reserve is walkable from Leigh-on-Sea station too.
Get your timings right and you can enjoy the Folk, Fishing and May Day festivals taking over the entire Old Leigh area, browse the annual Art Trail or catch local bands at Leigh Music Festival. September holds the annual regatta, with all sorts of competitions and events happening over the town.
For more information on calendar events - check out Leigh-on-Sea’s official website.
Ice cream time? Grab a scoop and park yourself and your lucky companions on the small but sandy beach close to the pubs. It’s a great place to watch kids hunt for crab shells, or bury you in sand. Want to find out more out the best beaches in the area? Check out our Guide to Southend Beaches.