Brightlingsea is pleasant little maritime town located on the Colne estuary, between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea. A popular yachting destination with excellent sailing facilities and other watersports amenities.

Brightlingsea Beach
Brightlingsea Beach (by Ron Porter)

The pleasant seafront area has an attractive waterside marina and harbour. A delightful promenade stretches along the west coast, ending in a safe bathing area, backed by rows of colourful beach huts. The small town centre is quite pleasant with a usefully shopping area, laid out with flowers and trees. This, together with Springmead Gardens (at the end of the High Street), ensures that Brightlingsea is a regular winner of Britain In Bloom competitions. A small boating lake and outdoor swimming pool (lido) can also be found to the west of the harbour.

At the end of the promenade is Batemans Tower. An octagonal, block built folly, with arched windows and topped by a later timber viewing structure. It is believed to have been originally built as a lighthouse.

The area has a long history of shipbuilding and seafaring. The town is an ancient member of the Cinque Port of Sandwich, granted by Edward the Confessor. As such, it is obliged to supply the Crown with ships and men. One of Sir Francis Drake’s sailors ‘William of Brightlingsea’ was a member of the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The town's 13th-c All Saints Church, situated a short distance inland, contains a frieze of unique memorial tiles, placed in remembrance of local sailors who lost their lives at sea. One of the oldest buildings in the town is the 13th-c timbered Jacobs Hall, on the High Street (No 46-48). It was used as a meeting hall during the reign of Henry III, and later visited by Queen Mary in 1938.

A regular foot ferry runs from Brightlingsea Harbour, across the River Colne, to Mersea Island. The boat trip takes about 10 minutes - much quicker than the 40 mile drive around the creek by road.

Thames Sailing Boat
Classic Essex Sailing Smack

Many enjoyable coastal walks can be found in and around the Colne estuary, where you can observe local wildlife on the saltings and watch traditional sailing smacks and barges negotiate the river and its creeks.

Brightlingsea Museum

The small museum on Station Road (CO7 0DT) specialises in local maritime and social history, including a former branch railway that once served the town. Currently closed, the museum will re-open later 2020 the with brand new exhibitions depicting Brightlingsea's fascinating maritime heritage.

Mersea Island

Mersea Island covers just eight square miles, much of which is now a nature reserve. It lies just across the bay from Brightlingsea, where it lies peacefully isolated from the rest of Essex. A lovely space in which to relax or enjoy a family day out. It boasts several miles of sandy beaches, backed by colourful beach huts, with seafood restaurants and many beautiful places to walk. There is also a micro brewery and a vineyard on the island.

The island is joined to the mainland by a causeway, which is flooded at high tide. The quickest way to visit the island is by foot ferry from Brightlingsea Harbour, which takes you to Cudmore Grove Country Park, located on the island's eastern tip. Here you will find a fine sandy beach with open grassland, ideal for a day out or picnic.

Mersea Island Museum

The small museum, located in the High street, displays exhibits of social history, natural history, archaeology and the history of the local fishing industry.


Map of Brightlingsea & Mersea Island

Please note that the museums, historic houses and attractions listed on this site may be currently closed due to Government Guidelines. Please check the attraction's own website for details of closure/opening times.

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