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 if you have a car. If you are traveling 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 Colchester on the A12 and leave the A12 at junction 26, signposted for Stanway and Halstead (A1124). Follow the signs to Mersea Island on the B1025. Just before 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 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
You can take a bus from London and other major cities to Colchester and then local buses run from Colchester to Mersea Island from the high street in Colchester. You will need bus numbers 67 or 67a, operated by First Buses.
Book a bus to Colchester here. You can’t book the local buses to Mersea Island, but there won’t be issues with getting on.
Where to 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.
The Hexagon – this is a magical place to stay on Mersea Island. It’s an extension to an ex-radar tower, which has an amazing viewing floor – you can see right over the Essex marshes and the bird sanctuaries. There are no neighbors and it’s completely remote (well, you’re not far from anything on Mersea Island, but you know what I mean!). There’s a wood-burning stove here and sofas in the viewing area. Perfect! The dining and sitting room has bi-fold glass doors so that the views remain the star here. The Hexagon on Mersea Island is fully self-contained with a kitchen, bathroom, and of course that amazing viewing tower too! Sleeps 2, with free WiFi. The Hexagon books out quickly, so you’ll want to reserve ASAP!!
Island House Mersea Island –this is a fabulous holiday cottage on Mersea Island with four bedrooms. There’s a glorious open plan kitchen on the ground floor and a separate dining room that seats 8. There are French doors to the south-facing patio and garden. There’s a fully equipped kitchen, that comes with a washing machine for all that holiday laundry. The patio area has a full patio set and a charcoal Barbie. There’s parking here for 4 cars (and that’s a great thing to have on Mersea) and fast WiFi. Bring the whole family! Check availability and rates for this gorgeous family holiday home on Mersea Island here.
Broman’s Barn, West Mersea – this is a magical Mersea Cottage, located right beside the glorious Cudmore Nature Reserve, which goes all the way down to the sea. Broman’s Barn is a converted barn with traditional Suffolk White brick floors, high arched ceilings, and ancient beams. This one-bedroom cottage on Mersea has a wood-burning stove and a fabulously comfy sofa as well as a well-equipped kitchen area. The accommodation is set on one floor and there’s a double bed here. Your welcome gift includes a bottle of wine and one well-behaved dog is welcome here. Outside there’s a gorgeous patio area that is a complete sun trap. It’s lovely. You’ll never want to leave! And it’s, of course, popular, so you’ll want to book early!
The Best Things to Do on Mersea Island
Home to oyster beds, vineyards, and gloriously colored beach huts, when it comes to what to do on Mersea Island you’ll be spoiled for choice. 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 kick back.
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 thing 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 on 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 meters 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 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.
Why not Stay on Mersea Island?
There is something special about staying in a location that becomes an island twice a day and you’ll get to see a special side of Mersea by staying overnight. Come on. Take a look. Here are my top picks for where to stay on Mersea Island.
- Broman’s Barn: A gorgeous ancient barn conversion near the nature reserve – perfect for peace and quiet. Check rates here.
- Island House – for the whole family – or a holiday cottage for a group of friends on Mersea Island – great location with parking for four cars. Look at reviews and photos here.
- And finally, you’ll get amazing views from the Hexagon – a converted old radar station – and its such a quaint place to stay. You can check availability here (and do it early!)
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 to do on 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.
If you like the beaches on Mersea Island, then you’ll love the beaches just a bit further north in Norfolk, there’s more about them 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 for the Romans. Today there are two varieties of oysters 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 harbor 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 your line drop to the bottom, and wait until the crabs pull it. Bringing the line back 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 beaches 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 has put together a series of walks which both start and end at pubs on the island, where it’s possible to park your car. You can pick up a copy of the booklet from the council offices on Melrose Road in West Mersea.
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 are 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 monkeys, bears, and bison dating back 300,000 years have been found. Cudmore Grove Country park is glorious, and if you want to stay close to it you should look at the gorgeous Broman’s Barn here.
Visit the Mersea Island Museum
The independent Mersea museum has been around since 1976 and can be found in the center 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 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 are 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 favorite 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 your name and wait until a table becomes available. The 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 favorite is the Mehalah) and the Skippers Amber is a fabulous amber beer to have too!
Map of Things to Do on Mersea Island
You can also see the map of things to do on Mersea Island here.
Looking for other pretty places to visit in Essex? You’ll find one of England’s prettiest villages in our guide here.
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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.