The idyllic estuary island of Mersea may be located just 10 miles from Colchester, Essex but it feels like another world. There’s something quite magical about staying in a place that truly becomes2 an island several times a month. It is perhaps that, unless you arrive by boat, you can only access Mersea Island via the ancient Roman causeway that Mersea retains much of its fairytale attraction to visitors. There’s also something special about the fact, that this island, the home of the Colchester native oyster, is the shape of an oyster Whether you choose to come for the day, or stay for a week the magic of Mersea will stay with you for much longer. Welcome to our guide on the best things to do on Mersea Island.
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Where is Mersea Island in Essex?
Mersea Island is an island in Essex, England in the estuaries of the rivers Colne and Blackwater.
How to Get to Mersea Island
Getting to Mersea Island is easy is you have a car. If you are travelling by public transport it is a little more difficult. The closest train station to Mersea Island is Colchester, Essex. The closest bus terminal to Mersea Island is also Colchester.
How to Get to Mersea Island by Car
The closest town to Mersea Island is Colchester. Travel towards Colchesters on the A12 and leave the A12 at unction 26, signposted for Stanway and Halstead (A1124). Follow the signs to Mersea Island on the B1025. Just prior to arriving on Mersea Island you will pass the Strood causeway. (don’t forget to check the tide times). Immediately after crossing the Strood there is a fork in the road, take a left for East Mersea and the Cudmore Grove Country Park (it is signposted) or continue on to the right for West Mersea.
How to Get to Mersea Island by Train
To get to Mersea Island from London take the train from London Liverpool Street to Colchester. You can then take a bus or a taxi from Colchester. A taxi will take about 20 minutes to go from Colchester to Mersea Island. From Mersea Island to Colchester, either take the bus or book a taxi.
How to Get to Mersea Island by Bus
Buses frun from Colchester to Mersea Island from the high street in Colchester. You will need bus numbers 67 or 67a, operated by First Buses.
The Best Things to Do on Mersea Island
Home to oyster beds, vineyards and gloriously coloured beach huts, when it comes to what to do on Mersea Island you’ll be spoiled for choise. Mersea Island is easy to reach, yet at the same time feels a million miles away from the rest of the world. Take your time here on this island where it’s easy to relax and kickback.
Check Mersea Island Tide Times Before Visiting
Mersea Island is an estuary island that’s attached to the mainland of Essex by an ancient Roman causeway. This causeway, “the Strood” covers the causeway at certain times of the tide. Checking “Tide times Mersea” is the most important things to do before you set off. Before you make plans to visit Mersea Island you should check the tide times Mersea Island by clicking here for the tide times for Mersea Island and the Mersea Island Tide table.
It is safest to allow about 90 minutes either side of the high tide to ensure that you can cross the Strood safely. In reality, the tide only usually covers the causeway when the tide is expected to be 5 metres or more, but weather and sea state can change this quickly. Mersea Island tides are not massively high, and the high tide state that covers the causeway is usually only twice a day for one week during the month and the island is cut off usually for around 90 minutes at a time. However, vehicles regularly get stuck and as well as the danger to life, the saltwater will play havoc with your vehicle!
Go Wine Tasting on Mersea Island
Local legend says that the Romans grew grapes for winemaking on Mersea island and today Mersea Island still has its own vineyard, which was established in 1985. The vineyard covers around 10 acres and grows five grape varieties, with a production of 20,000 bottles each year. Mersea Island Vineyard produces dry white wines, often a sweet dessert wine and also a sparkling wine using the Methode Champagnoise. Tasting is possible for a small fee in the vineyard and there’s a lovely café here too. The Vineyard also collocates with the Mersea Island Brewery. Bookings are not essential for tasting, which takes place in the courtyard of the café at the vineyard. More details and information on how to buy Mersea Island wine here.
Why not Stay on Mersea Island?
Mersea Island is a fabulous escape and a glorious place for a staycation – these fantastic cottages, apartments and houses will make your stay all the more special.
Rent Your Own Beach Hut for the Day on Mersea Island
There is something quintessentially English about taking a beach hut for your holiday to Mersea Island, this is one of the best things do in Mersea Island.
You can rent the Mersea Island Beach Huts on a daily basis – your donation goes to the local community and the fully kitted out beach hut is on the front row and close to the car park. Book it here.
The Little Beach Hut company rents out gloriously well-equipped beach huts with fantastic sea views. These huts are all-weather with interior glass doors and kitchen areas with sinks and gas cookers. None are more than about 5 minutes walk from the car park, where there are toilets, a cafe and a playground. You can rent a beach hut for the day or longer (but you can’t stay overnight in them) Booking details here.
Come to Mersea Island for the Oysters
It’s said that it was the Romans who introduced both vines and oysters to Mersea Island. Oysters were a food staple and had many uses to the Romans. Today there are two varieties of oyster that Mersea Island is famous for. The Colchester Native, which is harvested from September to May and the Colchester Rock Oyster which is available all year round. Try Mersea Island oysters at the Company Shed, or the West Mersea Oyster Bar.
Take a Trip Around the Harbour on the Lady Grace
The Lady Grace is a working boat based in the harbour at West Mersea. 20-minute trips run 7 days a week throughout the year. There’s no need to book, just turn up at these times at the end of the crabbing pontoon on Coast Road, West Mersea. If there are lots of people on the pontoon it’s not necessarily a queue, as this is one of the best places for crabbing in Essex, so just ask and then keep going to the end. The Lady Grace is also available for charter trips. Tickets are just £3.00 per person and you’ll get a short trip around to the Packing Shed Island, where oysters used to be packed in the 1850s and where you can see the remains of the old oyster beds.
Go Crabbing on Mersea Island
Crabbing off a pier in England is a quintessentially English seaside thing to do for all the family. Crabbing at Mersea Island, off the pontoon in West Mersea is a fabulous, fun activity for kids of all ages. You can buy crabbing equipment from shops in Mersea, attach a bit of bait such as chicken or bacon let you line drop to the bottom and wait until the crabs pull it. Bringing the line bak up slowly is an art. Keeping your crabs in a bucket of water until you’re finished and then releasing them at the end of your Mersea Island crabbing time is great fun.
Go for a Walk on Mersea Island
There are a variety of public footpaths on the island of Mersea, but you can also take a walk around Mersea Island. The Mersea Island circular walk is around 14 miles and is a great look at the different parts of the island. To walk Mersea Island you can also take in some of the Mersea Island beachs and stop for a spot of lunch on the way. You can find this walk and many other Mersea Island walks on the fabulous Ordnance Survey app – with access to all their leisure maps for £2.99 a month. Check it out here.
If you prefer a shorter walk, then the Town Council have put together a series of walks which both start and end at pubs on the island, were its possible to park your car. You can pick up a copy of the booklet from the council offices on Melrose Road in West Mersea, or download it here
Visit Cudmore Grove Country Park on Mersea Island
The Cudmore Grove Country Park is found at the east end of Mersea Island – if you’re taking the foot ferry to Brightlingsea, you’ll walk through it. Here there’s sandy beaches, grassland and an abundance of wildlife. History enthusiasts will be able to explore World War II pillboxes and gun emplacements as well as the ruins of a 16th-century blockhouse. There’s even an area here where fossils of monkey, bear and bison dating back 300,000 years have been found.
Mersea Island is flat and the walking here is especially easy, many of the trails are also wheelchair friendly. There’s more about what to see and do in Cudmore Country Park here.
Visit the Mersea Island Museum
The independent Mersea museum has been around since 1976 and can be found in the centre of West Mesera. You’ll find the history of oystering, fishing and boat building here as well as rooms that display what the cottage in which it is based was like during Victorian times. The Mersea Island Museum is open from 1400 – 1700 from Wednesday to Sunday as well as on Bank Holiday Mondays. Admission is £1.00 for adults and 50p for children. More information here.
Try the local beer at the Mersea Island Brewery
The Mersea Island Brewery produces 6 different beers, many of which can be bought in pubs in Mersea and nearby. You can head to the brewery and pick up a takeaway too. From Island Gold, the golden lager alternative to the pale amber bitter of Lion there’s a variety for everyone. The one to definitely try, though is Oyster Stout. A dark stout that’s said to contain aphrodisiac qualities and includes oysters as its ingredients.
Take the foot ferry from Mersea to Brightlingsea
Between April and October, the Brightlingsea based foot ferry runs a scheduled service to and from East Mersea Point. You can take trips from East Mersea to Brightlingsea and St Osyth. It takes 9-10 minutes to go from East Mersea to Brightlingsea. All ages are welcome as well as dogs and bicycles. You can find the timetables and contact information for booking here. If you want to take the Brightlingsea foot ferry outside of published times, then you can book a private service. It’s a great way to get across the estuary and explore a little of Brightlingsea too!
What to Eat on Mersea Island
Go to Mersea for the fresh fish and seafood. It is awesome. Whether you choose to eat at one of the excellent restaurants or the specific seafood places, you won’t be disappointed. The two best and most highly rated places to eat oysters on Mersea at the Company Shed and the West Mersea Oyster Bar.
Where to Eat on Mersea Island
In recent years two seafood restaurants have found fame on Mersea Island. The Company Shed West Mersea and the Mersea Island Oyster Bar also in West Mersea. Both are excellent places to eat in Mersea. There are also several pubs on Mersea Island worth a visit.
Eat Colchester Natives at the Company Shed
The Company Shed is a family-run seafood restaurant. They have a superb reputation (that in my opinion is well justified) for crab, fish, mussels and more. Equally, we also loved the nearby West Mersea Oyster Bar. Both have eat-in and takeaway menus that include offerings from the Mersea Vineyard and Brewery. Our favourite is to eat in and take away a plate for those we’ve left at home, it will make you very popular! It’s first come first served here, so get there early, join a line and leave you name and wait until a table becomes available. Staff are friendly, helpful and incredibly efficient.
Drink at the Mersea Vineyard and Brewery
The Mersea Brewery and Vineyard are a great spot to taste the local wines and beers of Mersea Island. We recommend you try all the wines (our favourite is the Mehalah) and the Skippers Amber is a fabulous amber beer to have too!
Map of Things to Do on Mersea Island
Final Words in Our Guide on the What to do on Mersea Island
Visiting Mersea Island can give you a hint of Island life, peaceful places, fabulous seafood and well-made wine and locally brewed beer combine well with a crabbing pier and local boats to take you further afield. This is old fashioned seaside holidaying without the newer seaside amusements, but with a good dash of excellent local fare included. Come for a day and wish you’d stayed a lot longer.