Car-free aroundHarwichEssex

book trains

Built where two mighty rivers - the Stour and the Orwell - meet at at the sea, Harwich is home to former naval yards and acres of wildlife-rich marshland. When Elizabeth I visited the town in 1561, she declared it: "a pretty place and wants for nothing." The train journey there is an adventure in itself and is billed as the “Mayflower Line”, after the famous boat that sailed for America in 1620. The Mayflower's master, Christopher Jones, was from Harwich. The railway line from Manningtree to Harwich carries visitors along the beautiful Stour Estuary, which you can also explore on foot, following part of the Essex Way.

  • County: Essex
  • Great for: boat rides | castle | history | museums | Nature | scenic train | walking |
  • Refreshments: Lots of great cafes around town, including the waterside Cafe on the Pier and the veggie-friendly Rainbow.
  • Please note: Updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Walk the Essex Way

    The 80-mile Essex Way crosses the county from Harwich to Epping, taking in ancient woods and thatched villages, open fields and winding valleys. To sample one of the routes highlights, the beautiful Stour estuary, take the train to Wrabness.

    • Head downhill from Wrabness station, past Grayson Perry’s gleaming House for Essex and turn left beside the water, following the Essex Way poppy waymarks.
    • Reaching Mistley, gateway to Constable Country, there are swans, boats, towers and cafes to enjoy before catching a train home. The fancy Thorn Hotel and the cosy T-House on Mistley Quay, serve everything from Mersea rock oysters to giant fruit scones with jam and clotted cream.
    • Really energetic ramblers could walk the full 16 miles from Harwich to Manningtree, continuing along the coastal section of the stroll in 2 above, past the two wrought iron Dovercourt lighthouses…
    • From Harwich the route will lead you along the coast and then cross-country to reach the estuary near Copperas Wood nature reserve. You pass a windmill at Ramsey and some fabulous views.
  1. 4. Ride the bus to the beach

    Buses from Harwich head to Clacton and Colchester, through a series of local villages. The bus station is directly outside Harwich Town railway station.

    • Bus 104 run to Colchester a few times per day, taking a similar route to the train. Between Mistley and Manningtree, it goes along The Walls, a waterside road by the Stour Estuary.
    • For Clacton-on-Sea, bus 3 leaves hourly (and every two hours on Sunday) and arrives on Pier Avenue 55 minutes later.
    • A long stretch of gold sand, perfect for a family day out, Clacton has a classic Victorian pier and plenty of cafes and seaside amusements.