10 Unusual Things To Do In Essex

Essex has a rich tapestry of history and culture waiting to be explored. From its fascinating architecture to its stunning coastal views, there is so much to see and do in this picturesque part of the country. For the explorer seeking something a little out of the ordinary I've compiled a list of ten unusual activities guaranteed to offer a unique and often surprising glimpse into the county's hidden gems. Whether you live in Essex or are just passing through, prepare to have your expectations turned upside down and discover the unexpected with my guide to the top ten unusual things to do in Essex.  Most of the suggestions are suitable for children, but different minimum ages apply.  Always check with the venues for latest information.

See seals, stay in a castle, learn about the stars and more unusual things to do in Essex

Unusual Things To Do In Essex

1. Take A Walk With An Alpaca

All Things Alpaca near Chelmsford offer Alpaca Trekking where you can spend 45 minutes walking through the orchards at Lathcoats Farm walking a friendly alpaca. Alpaca Trekking is suitable for age 8 upwards (and adults), but there are also other activities like pygmy goat and donkey meet and greets that are suitable for younger children. 

2. Escape From A Castle

Keep Escaping run occasional escape room experiences at Hedingham Castle (Halstead). Taking place on the top floor of the Castle Keep the game has been especially designed for the location making them different to any other escape room you may have experienced. The current game "The King's Lost Jewels" is recommended for ages 10.

3. Visit a Haunted House 

Mountfitchet Castle is a fascinating reconstruction of a Norman Motte and Bailey Castle based on the original earth works found at the site. The location has a long history of violent and savage events so it’s no surprise there have been reports of ghostly activities around the castle at night. Even in daylight people have reported a spooky feeling in the Great Hall (I felt really uncomfortable in there when I visited, but I am quite suggestible). While you may not experience the ghosts around the castle for a small extra fee you can go in The Haunted Manor on the top floor of the onsite Toy Museum (yes I know it's an unusual add on to a Norman castle). Use the provided torches and look for spooky goings on in the dark. The visit to the Manor is designed for entertainment and while it doesn’t take long it’s a bit of creepy fun for braver children and adults.

4. Throw An Axe 

Axe throwing has become quite popular in the last few years and there are a number of locations in Essex where you can have a go. Outdoor activities centres including Stubbers (suitable for 9 years and up) and Nuclear Races Wild Forest (angel knives from age 10, full axes from age 13) have activities and Boom Battle Bar has locations at Lakeside and Chelmsford (over 18s only). 

5. Sleep In A Castle

Several times a year Colchester Castle run Knightzzz At the Museum where you can spend the night sleeping in the castle. You get to choose the area you want to sleep in when you book and to explore the castle after hours, including access to areas normally closed to the public. Suitable from 5 years old. 

If you are looking for a castle sleepover that’s more befitting of a King or Queen you can sleep in a four poster bed in Hedingham Castle's Royal Chamber. This experience is strictly for grown ups and you can add extra luxury with champagne and dinner.

6. See Seals While On A Boat Trip 

Did you know that we have seals living in the waters around Essex?  Grey and Common seals can be spotted around Hamford Water, Wallasea Island, River Colne and Southend. Several companies run boat trips where you can take a trip out to look for them. I've have been on similar trips in Norfolk and it's a great activity. Companies offering seal boat trips in Essex include: Discovery run from Wallace Marina and Burnham Town Quay, Essex Boat Trips run from Mersea Island and Seal Watching from Harwich. Some of these are in the summer months only while others run all year (but wrap up warm).

7. Milk a cow  

Boydells Farm is a small family run working farm which is only open to the public on weekends in the summer season and school holidays. During your visit you get to be hands on with animals which can include feeding lambs, holding chicks and even milking a cow! Activities vary depending on the time of year and the needs of the animals. Check out their website for general information and Facebook page for the latest opening times and updates.

8. Watch A Film Outdoors 

While there are no permanent drive in or outdoor cinemas currently in Essex there are occasional pop up events in the summer months. Moonbeamers run a drive in cinema at Barleylands (Billericay), there are a number of films on a large screen outdoors at Hylands Estate, Chelmsford, over the summer (check Hylands Estate events page for the next Adventure Cinema) and Hedingham Castle has some pop up cinema screenings too. 

9. Hire A Beach Hut

Hiring a beach hut makes a lovely addition to a day out at one of Essex’s beautiful beaches. They give you somewhere to take a break from the sun or wind and some even have facilities so you can make a cup of tea!  Sadly they don’t have toilets, but are normally close to facilities. Popular locations include: Walton on the Naze, Frinton and Holland-on-sea. Beach huts can get booked up well in advance for peak times so you’ll have to take a gamble on the weather, but rain or shine they will come in handy. Many of the small businesses renting them out have Instagram pages eg @beachhuthirehollandonsea,  @waltononthenazebeachhuts@coolcoastalhuts  and @alicebeachhuts so it’s worth following them in case they have last minute availability. 

10. Learn About The Stars And Night Sky

Southend Planetarium inside Southend Central Museum only has 20 seats, but this small planetarium offers engaging sessions where every star gazer will learn something new. Shows are mostly at weekends and prebooking is essential. Find out more in this review. 

For other ideas of places to go in Essex check out my guides to: free places to go with children, where to go with teens and rainy day ideas.

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