Great Places To Go In Southend, Essex, with Children

Guest Post: I’ve been living in Southend-on-Sea now for nearly 5 years after moving from London and one thing that attracted us was that there is so much to do with children! Whether here for a great day trip or a staycay, there is no way the children will get bored. There are so many fun places to visit as a family!

a mother and child looking at penguins at Southend aquarium
There is lots to do in Southend with children all year round

My Favourite Places To Go In Southend With My Children

1. Southend’s City Beach, also known as “The Golden Mile”

The main draw to Southend for most visitor is Southend’s sandy (but also in places muddy) beach. The girls’ favourite stretch of beach locally is the busy city beach with its wide promenade.

There are a lot of fun things to do for children on the Golden Mile including the fountains to play in during the summer, two playgrounds on the sand (one each side of the pier), the rows of amusements, ice cream shops, fish and chip shops and even a bowling alley. The Golden Mile is also home to many of the city’s best attractions including Adventure Island theme park, Sealife Adventure zooquarium, the pier, and two mini golf courses.

If you find the City Beach too busy, the beach extends all the way from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness with many quieter spots.

In Summer months the Route 66 open top bus runs along the Southend seafront from Leigh-on-Sea to Sealife Adventure.

Playing in the water fountains on Southend beach front
The seafront water fountains are a great way to cool off on hot days

2. Adventure Island

Western Esplanade, SS1 1EE

This is our number one place to visit in Southend. It’s a medium sized family theme park over-looking the sea with a great variety of rides including plenty of family friendly rides such as Adventureville (a cute bear themed ride) and the flying elephants as well as whole family rides like City Eye Wheel and Green Scream snake themed rollercoaster. There are also a number of food outlets and games like “hook a duck”. The pricing for young is very reasonable for families as children under 1m have an adult accompany them for free. The theme park is open seasonally but Adventure Inside also in the same site is open all year round.

Read more about Adventure Island here. 

A family on the Elephant ride at Southend's Adventure Island
Adults ride for free with children under 1 metre at Adventure Island

3. Adventure Inside

Western Esplanade, SS1 1EE

Adventure Inside is the indoor offering from Adventure Island complete with arcades, a huge multi floor soft play, rides including a pirate ship and carousel and cafe. The games and soft play are suitable for a wide age group from a baby to teenager and the amusements are some of the cheapest in Southend mostly at 20p per play!

4. Southend Pier & Railway

Western Esplanade, SS1 1EE

Whenever we have visitors to Southend, we always take them on Southend’s Pier Railway. The pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world at 1.33 miles long and while it makes for a fun and exhilarating walk, it’s so much more fun to travel at least one way on the period train cars. At the end of the pier is a quaint cafe where they used to film Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, a sandpit, mini golf course, shops and the RNLI lifeboat station which you can go inside and visit.

Children sitting on a seat on Southend Pier Railway
Visit the end of the World's longest pleasure pier with ease on the Southend Pier Railway

5. Mini Golf:

Southend takes mini golf seriously and there are a number of courses to choose from. Our favourite is the indoor Caddies where you can enjoy an extremely eclectic and eccentric indoor course along with a cocktail, a game of pool and a dip in the ball pit!

For a more traditional course we love Arnold Palmer - think mini windmills and lighthouses on astroturf. Open from February Half Term

For a more exciting course with dinosaurs, crash wrecks and life size volcanos then we recommend Adventure Golf which is part of the Adventure Island complex.

A mum and 2 children with golf clubs on the Arnold Palmer mini golf course in Southend
The Arnold Palmer course is one of three mini golf in Southend

6. Sealife Adventure 

Eastern Esplanade, SS1 2ER

Sealife Adventure prides itself as the number 1 zooquarium in Essex. It’s a really fun day out for all the family. Wind your way through the aquariums where you can see a variety of marine life like fish, seahorses, jellyfish, rays etc and also animals including meerkats, the macaques who were rescued from a testing lab in Turkey and even otters. My girls’ favourite animals are the penguins and we always try to catch the feeding time. There is also a recently opened Pangaea exhibit with dinosaurs both living and mechanical!

Read more about Sealife Adventure here.

A child looking into a fish tank with Nemo like clown fish at Sealife Adventure Aquarium in Southend
The Sealife Adventure Zooquarium has marine life and other animals

7. Ye Olde Chippy: Fish & Chips with soft play

49 Marine Parade, SS1 2EN

You can’t come to Southend and not enjoy the local speciality - fish & chips! What’s better for energetic children with exhausted parents than a fish and chip shop with a soft play? The soft play is quite small and suited better to younger children but completely spotless and the fish & chips are great too!

8. Afternoon Tea

Southend has a plethora of afternoon tea offering to choose from. We’ve tried and tested quite a few but our favourites are:

Roslin Beach Hotel, Thorpe Esplanade, Thorpe Bay SS1 3BG 

Roslin Beach serves the perfect family afternoon tea in one my favourite spots in Southend. Alongside their chef prepared traditional British teas, they also serve a special children’s tea available with colouring packs included. The hotel is right opposite Thorpe Bay Beach too to run off the sugar afterwards!

Mad Dogs & Englishmen, 1349-1353 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2AB

This beautiful tea room serves the most exquisitely themed afternoon teas. The current offering is Wizard of Oz. They are very popular and booked out months in advance so be sure to book. Minimum age 6.

2 children on the beach in Southend with beach huts in the background
With plenty of coastline there are a range of beaches you can visit

9. Southend Central Museum & Planetarium 

Victoria Avenue, SS2 6EW

The Museum is a great (and free) place to visit to learn more about the city of Southend. The girls love to come here and explore. The highlight for them is the exhibition about the former EKCO factory in Southend where you can see so many old radios and household items. The volunteers are always so friendly and happy to tell children about local history.

Also on site is a Planetarium which has shows suitable for children every so often. These are fascinating but need to be booked in advance. Read about what to expect from a visit to the Planetarium here.

The museum is quite small but is located next door to the Beecroft Gallery, which is another great free place to visit with children. Here you can learn about renown local artists. My girls love to visit as they always have worksheets with art projects and colouring ideas which you can sit and complete.

Children sitting at a table in a Southend Museum completing an activity sheet
Southend has a free museums which children will enjoy exploring

10. Kittea Cakes 

57 Queens Road, SS1 1LT

The girls love to visit Southend’s cat cafe and pet the cats! Located in central Southend, the cat cafe offers pre-booked child friendly sessions to enjoy either the cafe menu or afternoon tea whilst playing with the cafes friendly cats! They offer a wide range of cat toys and usually hand you some treats to feed the cats. We’ve even been to family friendly yoga with the cats here!

A young girl holding a cat toy and playing with a cat at Kittea Cakes cat cafe in Southend
Book one of the special timed slots for children to visit Kittea Cakes cat café

11. Lila’s Spa 

700 London Road, SS0 9HQ

One for the girly girls! Lila’s Spa is a unique salon as it offers pampering sessions for children aged 4 and upwards as well as professional beauty services for their mums! You can also enjoy the cafe there and they host parties. Perfect after a long day exploring the city.

A child with cucumber slices on her eyes, relaxing in a chair at Lila's childrens spa in Southend
Lila's Spa is specially designed for pampering children

About the author: Sarah has been living in Southend with her two young children for nearly five years. She is sharing her thoughts on the Southend experience including the best things to do in Southend in a series of guest posts on Counting To Ten. You can also find Sarah on Instagram as @The.Southend.Mummy where she has honest and relatable posts about fashion, toys and family life in London and Essex. 

What to do and where to go in Southend-on-Sea, Essex with children
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