I’m a big fan of Essex. It rarely gets mentioned as a holiday destination, other than in an ironic way (Southend) or as a cheaper North Norfolk for Guardian readers (Burnham-on-Crouch). But the coastal towns are fantastic, the marshy areas near Heybridge great for walking, the pubs consistently good and authentically pubby.
Most people struggle with the old estuary settlements and their neighboring new towns. Grays and Tilbury suffer from some brutalist housing and, to be fair, a lack of great foodie destination. I found the upside of Tilbury today when picking up my parents from the Cruise port though.
My dad was surprised by how much countryside there was 5 minutes walk from the port (itself worth a look), and the views across to Gravesend and along the coastal path were superb.
Tilbury Fort itself is packed with history and seemingly unknown outside a few primary school projects. Even the isolated World’s End pub is an underappreciated gem, in and out of the Beer Guide over the years but offering food as good as the views. My parents can vouch for the quality of the food in the ASDA café, one of the friendliest I’ve been in.
There are several unexplored estuary towns for me to re-evaluate, most notably Canvey, which cannot be as bad as it looked on my one previous storm-lashed visit in October 2005.