It was the end of Max’s spring term at nursery and it was almost the end of an era. He would be starting school in September, something I wasn’t sure I was ready for yet – I think most parents feel that way about their babies growing up!
I don’t know why, but somebody had decided that it would be a good idea to give the kids three weeks off over Easter instead of two. A little bit of an inconvenience, but luckily I wasn’t working at this point so I didn’t have any childcare worries. I did, however, have the worry of how I was going to fill those days so that Max wouldn’t get bored and I wouldn’t be ready to tear my hair out with frustration. A weekend away somewhere was definitely on the cards, but I had no idea where to go.
I don’t drive, so something easily accessible by public transport was necessary and I wanted somewhere with a beach and plenty to do for kids. I’m not even sure now how I came up with the idea of going to Southend On Sea, but it ticked all the boxes and wasn’t too far from London which is easy to get to by train from where we live. It was an area I’d never been to in my life before, so I had no idea what to expect, but that’s all part of the fun for me!
The journey took about three hours from where we lived – 90 minutes into London and then another 90 from there. Train is actually my favourite way to travel and while it’s always a bit of a challenge with kids it all went fairly smoothly.
The hotel I’d booked was a Premier Inn – £100 for 2 nights including breakfast. I’m a big fan of Premier Inns – I’m quite a private person so big chain hotels are ideal for me where I can blend into the background. Max likes them too as we’ve stayed in a few before – he calls them “the moon hotel” because of the logo. The hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the train station at the other end of the seafront and it was a nice day so we decided to walk.
I don’t really know what I expected at first – it’s probably a bit stereotypical but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Essex is fake tan, irritating accents and that terrible TV show! It was bank holiday weekend and walking along the seafront I couldn’t help but notice there were a LOT of pubs and a lot of people drinking outside. I started to think that maybe I’d picked the wrong place and that it was going to be full of people partying and getting drunk – not really the family weekend I had in mind!
We arrived quite late so we didn’t do much the first day. There was a restaurant attached to the hotel so we ate there, the food was pretty basic but nice. If you’ve stayed in a Premier Inn you know that the breakfast is all you can eat, so on our first full day we filled up on that before we went out for the day! Our room was nice and comfortable, pretty much what you’d expect from a Premier Inn.
In the morning it was a lot quieter along the seafront. We went in the amusement arcades and Max enjoyed using the 2p machines – amazing how much money you can actually end up wasting!
At the top end of the beach near the town centre is Adventure Island – a mini theme park with loads of rides for kids. Entry is free so you just have to pay for the rides which is great as I don’t really like going on them myself – Max could tire himself out while I sat and watched! There was also a huge soft play area which is a favourite of Max’s so I could relax and have a coffee while he went on that. After lunch we visited Southend pier which is the longest pier in the UK – over a mile long. You had the option of either walking to the end or taking a train ride and we opted for the train – a mile is a bit too long for a 3 year old and we were getting a bit tired. The downside is there isn’t really anything to do on the actual pier apart from the train – there was a café right at the end which was nice to sit down and have a drink but apart from that we were a bit underwhelmed. I think the pier could benefit with having a little bit more for people to do.
Our train the next day was fairly early so we just spent a couple of hours on the beach. It was the beginning of April so not that warm and the beach was quite pebbly but Max loved it anyway. There was also a little play park and café.
Our overall experience of Southend On Sea was pretty nice – I had been a little bit apprehensive after being told some horror stories but there’s plenty to do for kids and if you’re there in the daytime it’s quieter. I think the word I would use to describe it is “tacky” but a good tacky, a bit like Blackpool! I’m not sure it would be somewhere I’d go by myself if I didn’t have a child and I probably wouldn’t return again but it was fun and we couldn’t really have asked for much more.
Has anyone been to Southend On Sea or can anyone recommend me some other kid friendly places in the Essex area? Comment and let me know!