This is a traditional seaside resort with a pier flanked by long, sandy beaches and well-tended flower gardens backing a wide promenade. Until the 1860s, Clacton consisted of two inland villages, Great Clacton and Little Clacton. It was only when the first pier, built in 1877 for goods and passengers, was rebuilt in the early 1890s, did the town flourish as a resort. Today the magnificent domed entrance pulls the visitor into a world of flashing neon, crashing coins, screaming rides & candy floss designed to help pass rainy days and grab coins out of your pockets.
Built in the 1930s as for Londoners, it provided low cost, affordable holiday homes for working-class families. Not designed for long-term residence many are in a state of disrepair.
An endless seam of chalets and caravans shelter in the lee of the sturdy sea defences. Once over the road, up and over the steps or through the storm gates, the soft sands await. These merge into St Osyth Beach, a naturist beach, and then continue seamlessly to the small hamlet of Lee-over-Sands and up to Point Clear on Brightlingsea Creek.
The heart of the village is around the harbour. Sailing boats clutter the slipway outside the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club. Another sailing club shares the quay with the harbour master’s shed and other marine engineering type businesses. They look out over Brightlingsea Creek, very gooey and muddy at low tide. Down on the water itself a pontoon allows punters to take a ferry across to Point Clear. Looking out from the angled boats, laid out like drunks in the mud, past the modern apartments around the marina, the distant beach huts disguise the flow of the River Colne and fail in their attempt to hide Bateman’s Tower. The tower was built beside the promenade in 1883 by John Bateman which he used as a folly for his daughter to recuperate from consumption. However it may have been intended as a lighthouse as part of a failed plan to expand the port.
Mersea Island is quite unique. It is reached by a causeway from the mainland which is cut off at a high spring tide. It is a place with two quite different faces. Amongst the creeks, marshes and farmland of East Mersea house boats provide alternative ways of living. Contrast this with West Mersea, with its shops, guesthouses and restaurants. Smart residential properties back onto a sandy/shingle beach with well maintained beach huts in places. The island is firmly oyster territory and has a growing reputation for excellent food and restaurants. It is also a popular boating centre served by two yacht clubs, boatyards, chandlers & sailmakers.