The lively seaside town 60 minutes from London with its own pier and award-winning ice cream shop – My London
With lockdown rules ever stricter, we’re planning the places we can visit after restrictions are lifted.
Close to London, Southend-on-Sea makes an ideal day out for families to enjoy and we bet its residents are enjoying beach walks to get them through these difficult times.
Southend-on-Sea is famous for its beaches, fish and chips, and being the go-to holiday destination for EastEnders characters. But did you know it also has award-winning ice cream and the longest pleasure pier in the world?
At 1.34 miles long it takes the title, with famous Essex-born Jamie Oliver hosting his Friday night show, Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast at the end of it. Don’t be fooled like I was though – the cafe isn’t real, and is more of a film set.
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The iron structure has suffered fires and ship collisions, most recently in October 2005, but the pier’s structure has been repaired each time.
Originally a wooden structure built in 1830, the pier even served as a Royal Navy departure point in WWII.
Rossi’s ice cream serves some of the best ice cream around (Image: Paul Collins)
These days there is a train taking passengers who don’t fancy walking the distance, but visitors were once escorted by a horse tramway.
Stretching from Leigh Bell Wharf to Shoebury East Beach, Southend-on-Sea has seven miles of beaches for visitors to enjoy in the warmer months.
We hope summer 2021 looks like this (Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Award-winning Rossi ice cream is famous in the town for being the most delicious My Whippy around.
Based on a traditional Italian recipe of fresh milk, butter and double cream, it continues to be loved among Southenders more than 90 years after its fruition.
Fans can even buy t-shirts, parasols and even car air fresheners featuring the Rossi logo.
The town is also famous for its delicious Oldhams fish and chips. We recommend the cod, chips and a pickled onion.
Good rail links to London make it a go-to commuter town, with neighbouring Leigh-on-Sea, Chalkwell and Thorpe Bay popular places to live.
Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world
Historically, Southend was a place where many holidayed, dating back to Victorian and Edwardian times, before it was affordable to travel abroad.
There is even a statue of Queen Victoria atop Clifftown Parade, near Southend Cliff Railway, a funicular cable car.
Seafront amusements are still to be found here, with a parade of arcades dotted along the seafront, interspersed between the many chip shops, for those looking to collect enough 2p coins to sink a small ship.
Londoners have been coming to Southend for years, like this couple in 1953 (Image: Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Adventure Island, the theme park formerly known as Peter Pan’s dominates the pier’s entrance, and offers amusement rides for the whole family to enjoy.
I worked there as a teenager, and served ice creams to Maisie Smith at her 7th birthday party when she’d just joined the square.
Set on top of the cliffs is the town’s theatre, The Cliffs Pavillion, which hosts shows and concerts throughout the year.
Adventure Island theme park, formerly known as Peter Pans
Upcoming shows include Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Kitchen Disco Tour in May and Ronan Keating’s tour in June, if Covid rules allow.
The expansion of London Southend Airport has brought prosperity to the region, with flights to Alicante, Palma de Mallorca and Corfu popular destinations.
We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to give this seaside gem a visit once Covid restrictions are lifted.
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You can drive to Southend-on-Sea via the A13 in 1hr 30mins, or take the train from London Fenchurch Street to Southend Central (54 mins) or from London Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria (57 mins).
Have you visited Southend-on-Sea before? What did you think? Let us know in the comment section here.