This summer I finally did something I had been thinking of for years, I took my child on the train to the beach. Southend-on-Sea is only an hour’s journey by train from London – in other words the perfect day out from London. The city quickly slips away and before long there is a salty tang in the air.
Stepping down from the train and walking towards the sea, while I was enjoying the sea breeze, the big attraction for my six-year-old daughter was Adventure Island. She squeezed my hand with excitement as the brightly coloured roller coasters came into view.
There have been amusements here since the 1920s and it has been a fun park since 1976. While I was there someone tweeted to me that Adventure Island used to be called Peter Pan’s Playground, a name that still reflects the atmosphere of old fashioned sea side fun with modern thrills.
There is a huge new indoor fun park “Adventure Inside”, which is open in all weathers. It has a number of proper rides, as well as an extensive soft play area for both under and over four-year-olds.
In the main park there are over 50 rides and I was particularly impressed by the variety – this park is really suitable for all ages. My daughter started out with the baby rides and slowly worked her way up to the ‘max’ rated coasters. I loved the traditional ferris wheel, while she went back again and again to the Archelon.
Another shiny new feature is the pizza and pasta restaurant, with its terrace overlooking the park. No sooner had we sat down in the new FeelGood restaurant than one of the waitresses stepped up to the microphone and started singing my daughter’s favourite song. It may have had something to do with princesses and ice powers. We are talking about some seriously talented waiting staff here, I was so impressed. Children were up dancing and requests were being taken.
The menu is perfectly designed and freshly prepared for both children and adults.
I literally had to drag my daughter away from Adventure Island, she just couldn’t get enough. But I wanted to go for a bit of a seaside ramble. I wanted to see sand, deck chairs, charming historic buildings and great seafood.
Leigh-on-Sea is a little outlier of Southend and with its 1850s cottages, galleries and lineup of famous cockle sheds it is full of character.
Leigh is just a few stops along the waterfront from Southend but next time I think we’ll take our bikes on the train and cycle along the seafront from Leigh back to Southend. The views of the sands, the sun glinting on the Thames Estuary, and across to Two Tree Island are lovely.
Back on the Southend seafront is the Sea-Life Adventure aquarium and the world’s longest Pleasure Pier, so there really is no lack of things to do for our next family day out from London!
By Natasha von Geldern
Thanks to C2C Rail for carrying us so smoothly to Southend-on-Sea. Naturally you can buy tickets online and they have a great ‘days out’ ideas page on the website.
Adventure Island is a free admission amusement park; you just have to buy ride bands to go on the rides. You can do this online and save money.