Looking for a fun, free Family Day Out? 15 Great Days Out in Essex


Kids off school, run out of things to do, looking for some FREE half term activities for the family?

We know that family days out can be expensive, sometimes just the entrance fees can be a slight ‘sting’ in the tail on an otherwise great family day out and so I’ve pulled together 15 great ideas for a free family day out in Essex.

Grab the family calender. get the kids ready and enjoy your day out!




(Top Tip – I particularly love the idea of filling up two jars with ideas just before the holidays start – one with activities that may have a cost associated with them and another full of free family day out ideas – then before the Kids declare “Mum, I’m bored”, you choose the jar and then they can pick out an idea!     You can even add in some indoor activites to the ‘free activities’ jar.  Along with our ideas below, I’ve created a new Board on Pinterest which may help inspire you (https://uk.pinterest.com/mbeachhuts/family-days-out-ideas/)


1) Wat Tyler Country Park – 2 miles east of Basildon, Essex

125 acres of stunning parkland in the heart of the beautiful south Essex marshes with free parking on site.  There is a large adventure playground with zip lines along with an exhibition in the centre that covers the history of the park and an RSPB centre.   But hunts are every half hour making a fun and educational day out.     Take lunch with you to keep costs down.

Find out more – http://www.wattylercountrypark.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4958

2) Promenade Park – Maldon, Essex

Stunning location overlooking the River Blackwater and one of my favourites for a walk with Millie!  Known locally as the ‘The Prom’, it’s a grat place to walk or sit and watch the activity on the river.

There are lots for the children to do, from a model boating and crabbing lake to a small sand pit at the end of the lake, great for smaller children.    The highlight for me is the Galleon, a large activity feature in the shape of a ship (I like to think of it as a pirate’s ship) where the kids can climb and slide to their hearts content.  There’s even an aerial runway!

Kiosks, seafood and oyster bar are available – do take a picnic to keep the costs down.

Find out more – http://www.visitmaldon.co.uk/promenade-park/

3) Crabbing at Brightlingsea, Essex

The pontoon at Brightlingsea is a popular location for Crabbing on a sunny spring day.    You can take your own bucket and net and I hear that bacon is great as bait!

There is a great video on YouTube of crabs being returned back after a successful afternoon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbxuJh-lpjs

4) Danbury Lakes – Danbury, Essex

Situated just south of Chelmsford and within the grounds of Danbury Palace,  a very well kept woodland with ornamental lakes offering great walks, meadows and ornamental gardens lakes.

he path around the lakes is suitable for most users including prams and buggies and takes a route alongside the tranquil waters of the lakes and past the gardens from where you can gain tantalising views of the house and old chapel.

Find out more – http://www.visitparks.co.uk/placestovisit/danburycountrypark.php

5) Grays Beach Riverside Park – Thurrock, Essex

Boasting a GreenFlag award on a number of occasions, a wide range of activities for the whole family at this popular park.  Whilst charges apply to the bouncy castle  and water park there are a number of free activities including a skate park, sand pit play area, aerial zip line, multiuse ball court and large grass areas.

Find out more – https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/grays-beach-riverside-park/overview

6) Thorndon Country park – Brentwood, Essex

With a Gruffalo trail and Deer spotting walks, the park offers gorgeous family walks through woodlands and a countryside centre. There’s an enclosed picnic area but if you  make your way into Thorndon South, pack some kites and make the most of the hills and fantastic vies as far as Canary Wharf.

Find out more – http://www.visitparks.co.uk/places/thorndon-country-park/

7) Castle Park – Colchester, Essex

24 acres in the centre of Colchester, with public toilets and lots of different activities for the whole family.   Whilst there is an entrance fee, Hollytrees museum and the natural history museum are both free, offering an indoor activity if the British weather isn’t quite on your side.

There are over 600 trees throughout the park and set gardens – I’d personally recommend the sensory garden which has been designed so that that the flowers and plants provide colour and smell stimulation. With the addition mosaics to the floor and sides of the raised beds to stimulate touch, do spend some time here.

Find out more – http://www.visitcolchester.com/Colchester-Castle-Park/details/?dms=3&venue=065223

8) Hadleigh Country Park and Castle – Hadleigh, Essex

Home of mountain biking in London 2012 Olympics, additional tracks have been added so that the full family can enjoy this huge range of bike tracks.  However, you don’t need to be a mountain bike enthusiast to enjoy the 152 hectares of countryside here, with meadows, a children’s play area, a 13th-century ruin of Hadleigh Castle, old hedgerows and ponds, you’ll find lots of spots for a picnic on your family day out.

Find out more – http://hadleigh-park.co.uk/

9)   Fossil Hunting at The Naze – Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

The Naze is renowned for its great history finds and many will know of their regular fossil hunting competitions run by the Essex Wildlife Trust.  Whilst there is a small donation payable for those events, you can make your own competition with the family – who will find the most shark’s teeth and who will find the largest?

There are great walks and picnic spots along the Naze to make the most of your trip fossil hunting.

Find out more – http://www.nazetower.co.uk/ (Naze Tower), http://www.essexwt.org.uk/events/2016/04/02/fossil-hunters?instance=0 (Fossil Hunting)

10) Great Notley Country Park – Notley, Essex

Home to Essex’s longest play trail and over 100 acres of open space, you’ll find a giant see-saw, climbing forest, cycling routes, tyre swings, sandpits, slides and more!

Note that charges apply for the Sky Ropes.

Find out more – http://www.visitparks.co.uk/places/great-notley-country-park/

11) Redwings Horse Sanctuary – Nazeing, Essex

At the Ada Cole centre, there are walking tours and horse care demos as well as an information centre on site where you can find out more about the horsey residents and the charity’s welfare work.

The Ada Cole centre is also the permanent home of our gorgeous adoption horses and donkeys Rodney, Del Boy, and Jessie can’t wait to meet you!

Find out more – https://www.redwings.org.uk/get-involved/visit/ada-cole-rescue-centre

12) Southend Central Museum and Planetarium – Southend-on-Sea, Essex

The CEtranl Museum tells the story of the natural and human history of south-east Essex, whilst the Planetarium is the only public Planetarium facility in south-east England, outside of London.  It presents talks about astronomy and the sky at night. All of the presentations are given live, giving plenty of opportunity for any questions you may wish to ask.

Programmes are run most Weds to Sats, at 1100, 1400 and 1600.

Find Out More – www.southendmuseums.co.uk

13) The Wick Country Park – Wickford, Essex

The Wick Country Park comprises 50 acres of former agricultural land and over 2km of easy access trails take you around the site. The trails lead you past old hedgerows, the five-acre lake, ponds, WWII pillboxes and recent woodland plantings. Bridges and boardwalks allow the trails to continue over the North Benfleet brook.

A play area just inside the entrance to the park is suitable for children up to the age of about seven or eight. Parking bays and picnic tables are adjacent to the play area so that parents can keep a watchful eye on their children as they play.

Find out more – www.FriendsOfTheWickCountryPark.co.uk

14) Waltham Abbey Gatehouse and Bridge – Waltham Abbey, Essex

Explore the fascinating remnants of one of the great monastic foundations of the Middle Ages at this important site, based in the historic market town of Waltham Abbey.

Although the abbey was dissolved in 1540 (the last monastic house in England to be surrendered to the Crown), visitors can still see a fine 14th-century gatehouse and bridge that remains, as well as the walls of the post-medieval house that was built following its dissolution.

Find out more – http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/waltham-abbey-gatehouse-and-bridge/

15) Valentines Mansion and Gardens – Ilford, Essex

Valentines Mansion and Gardens makes a great free family day out with a beautiful country house and gardens.    With gorgeous views over surrounding parkland, you can visit the recreated victorian kitchen and Georgian rooms or enjoy the art exhibitions.   With hands-on games, activities and discovery trails, you won’t’ run out of things to do.

Find out more – www.valentinesmansion.com/


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