Essex is brimming with things to do, from exciting attractions to the great outdoors. Witness the clamour of wildlife at Colchester Zoo, tranquil havens at the many gardens, fascinating historic houses, interactive museums, exciting adventure parks and plenty of shopping options. Get outdoors and explore over 350 miles of coastline with sandy beaches, salt marshes, oyster beds, hidden coves and the bright lights of Essex’s seaside resorts.
Why opt for a basic hotel when Essex isn’t short of exciting and unique places to stay? Here is our guide to the most quirky places to stay in Essex.
This AA 4 star gold rated boutique hotel is a vintage car lover’s dream, just 15 minutes from Stansted Airport. Resembling a retro American diner, The Pitstop has a large American-style kitchen, unique bedrooms and Morgan sports cars to hire. The rooms are ensuite with all the modern comforts like TVs and wifi. A continental ‘help yourself’ breakfast is served in the kitchen and you can make yourself at home and take your pick from the well-stocked fridge. There’s tons of seating should you wish to dine in with a takeaway, or have a go on the original 1960s pinball machine.
Browning Bros Unique Accommodation
Located on an organic family farm just six miles southwest of Colchester, Browning Bros offers a range of unique accommodation. The Shepherd’s Hut sleeps two people and is cosy, snug and full of character. With its own wood burner and sitting in a peaceful corner of a meadow underneath an oak tree, it’s the perfect getaway for two. The Grain Silo is tucked away in the woods and a great choice for a romantic getaway. With a double bed and comfy furnishings, a log burner and a skylight for stargazing, it’s not one to miss. The site also has two log cabins situated on the edge of a lake, and a range of bell tents and yurts.
Gemini Camp is an exclusive-use glamping site set in six acres of nature reserve. There is one fully furnished luxury bell tent with a king-size bed, comfy sofa, dressing table and soft furnishings. You also have your very own cosy field shelter with a woodburner, cooking and washing facilities, an eco toilet and a shower. Whether you enjoy a meal in the sunshine or explore the nature reserve, it’s a great place to get off the grid.
If you’ve never stayed in a castle before, this is your chance. Hedingham Castle is a 900 year old Norman castle surrounded by 160 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland. There are four homes to choose from within the grounds, each one of them beautifully appointed for the ultimate country escape. Choose from the Medieval Lodge which can be split into the West Lodge and East Lodge (sleeping 11 and 4 people respectively), and the Garden Cottage which is a romantic hideaway for two. Make sure to explore the castle itself, with its Great Tower and vivid medieval interiors.
The Old Oak at Coleman’s Farm
Live out your childhood fantasies at this magical luxury treehouse. The Old Oak is constructed around a huge oak tree, with its branches and trunk twisting through the centre of the house. The bedroom has a comfy double bed and luxury linen, and comes with its own balcony where you can spend the day relaxing in the hammocks. There is also a cosy living area with rugs and a comfy sofa to snuggle on. The bathroom is one of our favourite rooms, with a stylish soaking tub and a large window, so you can enjoy views of the countryside while you soak. In the evening, cook up a romantic dinner in the well equipped kitchen.
Located on Osea Island, The Dinobus is a converted American school bus on the outside, and cosy ski chalet on the inside, fully decked out with stylish, snug furnishings. Sleeping up to five people on bunk beds, the bus includes a lovely living area with sofas and a TV, a games table, ping pong table, and mini coffee bar. Showers and toilets can be found onsite, and you can cook up a BBQ right outside. The island has plenty of things to do, whether it’s watching wildlife, exploring tidal pools and woodlands, and workshops for kids.
The Raft at Chigborough
This floating lake cabin is perfect for a countryside break. Set over two storeys, the wooden cabin sleeps up to four people comfortably. You’ll find a double bedroom, living area with sofa bed, an outdoor kitchen with a gas hob and fridge, a dining and seating area on the deck, a fire pit on the bank, and a shower room. Nearby, you have a private hot tub on a separate platform. A rowing boat is supplied with the cabin, giving you full access to the lake.
High Barn Heritage
High Barn Heritage is a lovingly restored 1880s railway carriage, perfect for a couple or family. The carriage offers all the home comforts you need, including a fully equipped kitchen and dining area, and a double bedroom with balcony and a double sofa bed in the living area, which also has Freeview TV and board games. Relax in the garden, cook up a storm in the charcoal BBQ and enjoy some al fresco dining. There’s plenty to do in the local area, from cycling and walking to visiting Hedingham Castle or Colchester.
Sailing Barge ‘Reminder’
Built in 1929, Reminder once carried cargo on the East Coast. Today, it offers an unusual and memorable stay, moored on Maldon’s Hythe Quay. The barge sleeps 14 guests in six cabins, so it’s perfect for big group celebrations. There is a spacious open plan galley, a saloon for entertaining (there’s no TV on board!) with cards and board games at the long table. The barge is ideally placed for exploring rural Essex with plenty of sea walks, a High Street and riverside pubs.