Our guide to the best things to do in Southend-on-Sea

Travel from London to Southend-on-Sea return for £12.00 with our online advance tickets.

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Want to discover the best things to do in Southend? We’ve put together a guide to all things Southend, covering everything from its history to our favourite places to eat. Read on to plan your day out… 

Where is Southend-on-Sea?

Southend-on-Sea is in coastal southern Essex, along the Thames estuary.

How far is Southend-on-Sea from London?

Southend-on-Sea is an hour’s direct train journey from central London, making it one of the most easily accessible beaches from the city. Buying your train tickets with c2c is the best option when travelling from the city to Southend. We don’t charge booking fees, and offer exclusive ticket offers like our online advance discount, which is available for travel on ANY off-peak train bought online 3 or more days in advance.

What is the population of Southend-on-Sea?

Southend-on-Sea has a population of around 175,000 people, although it’s estimated that over 6 million tourists visit the area every year!

Why should I go to Southend-on-Sea?

With award-winning beaches, the longest pleasure pier in the world, and colourful beach huts, you won’t be short of things to do in Southend. You’re not far away from one of the best seaside spots in the country, with trains from central London taking around an hour.

What are the best things to do in Southend-on-Sea?

There are plenty more things to do in Southend than soaking in the seaside nostalgia, although there’s lots of fun to be had doing that! Stroll the long, wooden 1.34 mile long pier (or take the shuttle train) and be rewarded with stunning views at the end; ride the roller-coasters at Adventure Island or play a round of crazy golf at Caddies; rent bikes and cycle along the seafront, go bowling at the art-deco Kursaal, eat top notch fish and chips on the beach; or check out the latest cutting edge art at Focal Point gallery. There are also many beautiful bars overlooking the water to go for a refreshing drink, and top notch grub to rival London. Nearby in Thorpe Bay you can find colourful beach huts, or visit Leigh-on-Sea for quaint pubs with sea views and cobbled streets with cute boutiques.

When should I go to Southend-on-Sea?

When the sunshine hits, Southend is it. This is a destination designed for the warmer weather, especially if lounging in a deck chair eating an ice cream is on the agenda. However, the Thames Estuary does have a windswept romance year round with plenty of nature spots and historic sites for scenic walks. You can always warm up with fish and chips or a pint in a Southend pub afterwards.

The Thames Estuary is tidal so depending whether you want sparkling sea views, or miles of mud, you might want to check the tide times.

What’s the history of Southend-on-Sea?

As traditionally one of the warmest and driest spots in the UK, the south end of the Essex Estuary has been a popular holiday destination since wealthy Tudors would take their boats up the river to get fresh air and sunshine. But it wasn’t until the railways arrived in the 19th Century, coupled with the introduction of bank holidays, that it took off as a seaside resort for normal folk to escape to and enjoy the beach for a couple of days. Seaside traditions like ice cream fish and chips and donkey rides all started – some of which are still going strong today! There are many more historical site to explore in the area in our guide to historic Essex.

What galleries and museums are there in Southend-on-Sea?

It might be best known as a coastal town, but if you’re into art and culture you’ll still find a wide variety of things to do in Southend. The centre of this is the Focal Point gallery which runs innovative exhibitions and events year round that often reflect Southend’s relationship with the Thames Estuary. Down by the waterfront is Twenty One, a multi-purpose gallery, cafe, and events space. If you’re after a bit of arty nostalgia check out the Central Museum. Kids will love the Planetarium, which is also a god-send on a rainy day.

What festivals and events are there in Southend-on-Sea?

Southend has become so much more than a seaside town with kiss-me-quick hats and candyfloss. Its fast-growing arts and festival scene has scooped it features in newspaper articles titled ‘the arty way is Essex’. The Village Green arts and music festival hosted by arts organisation Metal, every year in July, has several music stages, green spaces, cricket pitches and marketplaces. The Fringe Festival, also in July, is more popular than ever with acts trialing material before Edinburgh. And, in August Southend Carnival hits, with floats to rival Notting Hill. Nearby to Southend, lovers of Folk Music should check out the Leigh Folk Festival in June and the Leigh Regatta in September. 

How can I get to Southend-on-Sea with c2c?

If you’re keen to experience our top things to do in Southend, take the train from London Fenchurch Street to Southend (you can also hop on at Limehouse, West Ham or Barking) then alight at Southend Central where you’re a 10 minute walk away from the main seafront attractions. Or go a couple of stops up the line to Thorpe Bay (for the beach huts) and Shoeburyness if you’re looking for some quieter spots. Journey time from London is between 45 mins – 1hr. There are 4 trains per hour on weekdays.

How much is a train ticket from London to Southend-on-Sea?

Train tickets bought online three days in advance from London Fenchurch Street to Southend Central are £12.00 return. Kids also travel for £2 over weekends and during school holidays.

Whether you’re traveling in a group or have the kids with you explore our great value ticket offers to make sure to get the best deal for you. Also check out our app and Smartcard for the quickest way to buy your tickets in advance and avoid ticket office queues.

Where can I eat in Southend-on-Sea?

From classic fish and chip shops to high end restaurants, Southend has become surprisingly foodie in recent years. Recently, Billy Hundreds Fish n Tapas made The Guardian’s top ten list of seaside cafés and restaurants in the UK. Down under the arches by the seafront you’ll find lots of places to grab some grub, or in town you’ll get slap up nosh at places like quirky San Fairie Ann, unbelievable pasta at Pasta Pia, excellent atmosphere at The Pipe of Port or gourmet sandwiches at Legend-Deli. All tried and trusted local favourites.

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