Before you become a parent and having lived in the UK most of your life, you kinda underestimate the UK as a holiday destination, don’t you? I mean, that’s why a lot of people prefer to travel outside of the UK for their family holidays, right?? For folks who have never been to the UK, you might be allowed to think that all the country has to offer can be found in major cities like London and Manchester. What can our small (but mighty) country offer? Insert evil laugh here ehehehehehe.
Greater Anglia, a UK train operator, started the Let The Adventure Begin campaign to try to promote East Anglia as a holiday/day out destination.
When I received an invitation to join the campaign and visit Southend, Essex, based on my perception of other UK beaches as a destination as a teenager, I wasn’t sure that it would be amazing. At best, I thought it would be an OK experience and a change of scenery for my little girl.
My Experience at Southend
My little human and I set out around 1 pm-ish and took an Uber to London Liverpool Street Station. As a lover of architecture with character, I had a small smile on my face on seeing the buildings in Liverpool Street. I rarely visit east London, so it was a nice surprise for me. Liverpool Street Station is not only spacious but it had this very inviting feel to it that makes you want to hang around.
The train journey from Liverpool Street station to Southend Victoria station lasted 59 minutes. If your toddler is a fan of trains make sure you have your pound coin ready. Just as you approach the exit to the station, there’s a Thomas The Train train. Before I had put our tickets back into my bag, my toddler was already sitting in it and asking for money. I really don’t get how my 2yo knows so much about money.
On exiting the station, there’s a sign that points you in the direction of the beach.
One thing you can’t miss is that the high street doesn’t have access to cars, so you can walk freely to your heart’s content safely with your little human.
I can’t say if this happens all the time as this was my first trip to Southend, but there were lots of street food vendors. It was the usual, so mainly burgers. As I only love Burger King burgers, I was able to resist the urge. I would have loved if there were food from other cultures too. I also noticed that the population on the high street was quite diverse. I found it interesting to hear one or two people speaking Yoruba too. I always used to think that outside major cities, populations were not that diverse, so this was a very pleasant surprise.
The trek from the station to the beach was meant to take about 15 minutes but taking in the sights of the high street meant it felt like 1 minute. It went so quickly for me.
On reaching the beach, the first thing you see (other than the ice cream sellers) is Adventure Island. Before starting our adventure there, I got my little human an ice cream cone. That day happened to be a really hot day (at 29 degrees celsius) and within minutes, the ice cream was dripping all over her clothes and shoes. Lesson for the day? Buy ice cream in a cup, not a cone whilst at the beach if you have a toddler.
Without boring you with a play by play of every ride we went on, I can say that it was a most enjoyable day. My toddler didn’t ask to be carried even after 3 hours of walking from one end to the other. There were so many things for toddlers less than 100cm to do that we didn’t even do half of them. Every single member of staff I came across was friendly and seemed to genuinely like children.
I looked at the time and realised that the day was fast coming to an end and it would be a shame to go all the way there and not visit the Sea Life Adventure Centre.
Sea Life Adventure
The walk from Adventure Island to Sea Life Adventure centre was about 10 minutes or so. It was a really lovely walk (especially if you like people watching). I noticed A LOT of people having picnics on the stony beach. It was so crowded, I imagined that was what a school of sardines was like. Then I noticed that there were regular boat rides from the beach. Further along, there was a little area with fountains and lots of children were in their swim suit enjoying the coolness of the water in the heat of the day.
Phewww we made it to the centre. Again, I noticed how friendly the staff were and accommodating of children. There was quite a nice range of wildlife but in my opinion, it felt small to me. To my little human, I imagine it being an unforgettable experience (as unforgettable an experience as a 2yo can manage).
After the tour around the place, even I was exhausted and couldn’t manage the 30 minutes walk back to the train station. One of the staff was kind enough to call a taxi for us.
Looking back now, what I would have loved was possibly a talk about wildlife in the local area and conservation. It doesn’t have to be a person giving the talk, I think one of those computer stands that talks would have been excellent. It would have been a better experience than having to go home to Google it
The journey back home
We got to the station in time, so we didn’t have to wait too long for the next train. The train set off on time and in just under an hour, we were back in London.
Would I visit again?
I believe my little human would benefit a lot from yearly visits to the sea life adventure centre. I’m hoping if they have a lot more conservation conversations going on, she’d learn how to and why it is important to protect the earth.
If I’m going to be honest, I think I enjoyed the Adventure Island rides more than my daughter. I felt so carefree, more than I’ve been in a long time. I can see myself making the trip again but next time, I would try to make it a 2 day affair at least, rather than a day trip. Day one would be spent at the Adventure Island and day two Sea life adventure, boat rides, chilling whilst my daughter plays in the fountain then a picnic. I would talk to as many locals as possible to find that secret food place. The one that makes freshly caught fish that’s not the usual. I wonder if there’s any unusual fish in the area.
I would make sure that I test my camera before leaving the house because even though I charged it, it refused to turn on when I got to Southend. Thankfully, my basic phone had a manageable camera, so I could take some pictures.
My one time in the states, I went to a restaurant that grilled fresh mahi mahi. I was a bit apprehensive at first but now that experience is always there with me and brings a smile to my face. So yeah, I would like to find that place in Southend that serves fish that’s not cod or plaice or scampi etc etc, you know what I mean.
Phew, are you still here? Wasn’t that long winded? Have you been to Southend, Essex before? What did you think? What UK beaches have you taken your child(ren) to? What was your experience like?
I just wanted to add that Greater Anglia offers great value off peak fares with 2FOR1 on top London attractions and if you book in advance, tickets from Norwich to London are available at just £10, Cambridge – London at £7 and Southend-London just £5 one way.
Even better, accompanying children travel for just £2 return!
Their GroupSave offer allows 3-9 adults to get a third off when travelling together off-peak.
Please note that I have received no money from any of the companies mentioned in this post. I will not get paid or compensated in any way should you choose to try out their services