When it came to putting together an Active Essex page it was very difficult to decide which activities to include and which to leave out. After much thinking, it was decided to leave out organised and team sports like football, cricket and tennis. It’s also impossible to list every sports club in Essex – because there are thousands! So instead, the list here includes sports and activities that will appeal to different ages groups and levels of fitness. There are activities that you can do on your own, with your family or friends. Some you may have to pay for, but many are free. You just need enthusiasm!
We’ve listed as many of the ten pin bowling alleys as we can find in Essex. it’s a popular activity, it’s very sociable, gets you up and moving, and its a good way to entertain children and visitors when the weather is bad. Have a look here for all the alleys that we’ve found.
Essex is a flat county, with not a mountain in sight, so it’s quite difficult to go climbing. For a fix of adrenaline though there is the Basildon Climbing Wall. It offers a bouldering wall, lead ropes and top ropes, belaying and other climbing activities. They also run lessons and cater for birthday parties.
Cycling is good fun and great exercise, and a brilliant way to discover the Essex countryside, towns and villages. Have a look at our Cycling in Essex page for some suggestions for routes and a list of organised rides.
If you have family or friends to stay, or are on holiday in Essex, you may want to hire some bikes. There are a couple of companies, one in the East of the county the Outdoor Hire Centre and one in the West gofurthercycling who hire out cycles for the day or over night. Also, have a look at the five routes on the Visit Essex website which will help you explore the county.
And you can pedal in the tyre-marks of Olympians, at the Olympic Mountain bike track at Hadleigh Park, which is 5km long and has three different trails for differing experience levels.
There are lots of bridle ways in Essex, and beautiful countryside in which to ride. There are quite a number of riding schools in different parts of the county, which we have listed here.
There’s only one ice skating rink in Essex – Riverside Ice and Leisure in Chelmsford. There are penguin ice skating aids for the little ones and plenty of guidance available for those not so sure! Group and private lessons for children through to adults are available, and to keep teens amused there are disco sessions.
Rope Runners at Kelvedon Hatch offers all sorts of adrenaline fuelled activities that should wear even the most hyper-active of children out. Activities include rope running for those with a good head for heights, tunnelling, water-zorbing (so you can find out how your hamster feels in his ball), air rifle target practice, and much more.
It’s good exercise, very sociable, and combines music, dance – and if your very clever some acrobatics. There are a number of roller rinks in Essex which we have listed here.
For serious runners there is the Chelmsford Marathon (Oct 2022) in aid of the J’s Hospice; the Colchester Half Marathon, the Southend Half Marathon in aid of Havens Hospices, and the Brentwood Half Marathon (which also has a fun run).
And remember – stretch those muscles and warm up and warm down properly!!
Essex has a very long coast line with some great seaside towns, and we’ve had fun over the years swimming off Walton, although just in the summer months when the sea had warmed up. Some hardier folk do take a dip in the sea all year round! If swimming in the North Sea isn’t your idea of fun, there are a good selection of swimming pools catering for all abilities across the county. At Brightlingsea there’s also one of the last open air lido’s left in the country. We’ve listed all the swimming pools open to the general public here.
If you laugh at the challenge of a simple cycle ride, or run, then test yourself with a Triathlon – there are usually a few in Essex, including one for relay teams, so if you can’t do all 3 disciplines, but have two mates who you can buddy up with…
The Lee Valley Centre, built for the 2012 Olympics, is the place to go for adrenaline-fuelled white water activities. You can try canoeing, kayaking and white water rafting. You never know – you might become an Olympic champion!
Walking is the easiest, cheapest and many would say the most enjoyable form of exercise that there is. Essex is a great place for walking, with walks suitable for all abilities. If you would like to be a part of an organised walking group, there are a number of very active Ramblers groups in the county. One of the more unusual ones is HikeEssex, which arranges walks for people in their 20’s 30’s and 40’s. End there’s The Essex Way to
We have details of the many beautiful country parks across Essex which are great places for family walks. They also organise regular children’s activities.
If you are a slightly more serious walker, the Essex Way is an 81 mile waymarked walk from Epping Forest to Harwich. Sadly the walk is no longer available as a booklet, but you can download it here. The other long distance walk in Essex is the Saffron Way which takes you 71 miles from Saffron Walden to Southend on Sea. Slightly shorter is The Flitch Way, part of which we did a few years ago. And the Thames Estuary Path goes from Tilbury all the way to Leigh on Sea (or from Leigh on Sea all the way to Tilbury!)
Sponsored walks such as The Colourthon in Southend, with its sunlight, twilight and moonlight walks let you get some exercise in aid of a good cause!