Ruff Guide to… Southend-on-Sea

From beautiful beaches to ancient history and the longest pleasure pier in the world, Southend has a lot to offer. The Essex seaside resort is just a hop and a skip from London and makes for a great dog-friendly getaway – if you know where to look. Southend is my home town so it’s safe to say I know it pretty well. Read on to find out where you should go if you visit with your four-legged friend.

Ernie walks along the sea wall in Southend
Ernie walks along the sea wall

Dog-friendly Southend-on-Sea: the must-sees

You can’t visit Southend and not walk “the Golden Mile” – although the seafront’s nickname doesn’t really do it justice. It actually runs for several miles from Chalkwell to Shoeburyness, passing landscaped gardens, classic arcades and the Adventure Island theme park. The beach runs alongside it all the way – although no dogs are allowed from 1st May to 30th September.

You won’t be able to miss Southend Pier, either. The town’s most famous attraction stretches out 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary and is the longest pleasure pier in the world. You can pay £1 to walk along the pier (£2 during the summer months, or £5 to also enjoy a train journey) but sadly, it is not dog-friendly. The pier can be seen perfectly well from the seafront, though. And as you walk, you’ll also find several places to sample Southend’s famous Rossi ice cream – including at the original kiosk, which dates back to the 1930s.

The town also has some lovely parks to explore, many of which are full of history. In Priory Park, you’ll find Prittlewell Priory which was founded in the 12th Century and later restored. The Visitor Centre tells you all about the priory and it’s free to pop in and have a look around, although dogs are not allowed inside. It’s also close the hugely significant burial site of the Saxon King, which was unearthed in 2003. Click here to read more about the permanent exhibition that’s on display at Central Museum.

Medieval Southchurch Hall
Medieval Southchurch Hall

Southchurch Hall is another lovely place to visit with your dog. This medieval moated house was actually lived in until the 1930s, when it was gifted to the people of Southend. The Hall – which is listed in Jenkins’ top 1,000 houses in England – is set in a beautiful shady garden where wildlife abounds. Again, visitors are welcome to explore the house for free but dogs must remain outside.

Leigh-on-Sea, a suburb of Southend, is well worth a visit for its Old Town alone. With cobbled streets, seafood stalls and lots of dog-friendly pubs and cafes, it makes for a great day out. Check out my top dog-friendly tips for Leigh by clicking here.

And if wartime history is your thing, be sure to pencil in a trip to Shoebury Garrison. Now a conservation area, it is home to a number of historic buildings and there are several noticeboards providing more information. If the tide is out, keep your eyes peeled for the Mulberry Harbour, which has been beached on a sandbank since 1944. Keep reading to find out about great walks in the area.

East Beach, Shoebury
East Beach in Shoeburyness is a great place to walk with your dog

Dog-friendly Southend-on-Sea: the best walks

Everyone visits Southend to stroll along the seafront but there’s a lot more to the town than just its beaches. Once you’ve exhausted the Golden Mile, escape the tourists and see where the locals go.

One of our favourite places to walk is Gunners Park, in Shoeburyness. This nature reserve is run by the Essex Wildlife Trust and is right next to Shoebury Garrison. Gunners is also right on the seafront and has steps down to the beach, where dogs can enjoy a sneaky swim all year round.

From the car park, you can follow the tarmac path and do a circular loop in around 30 minutes. Alternatively, through the park and along the seafront to neighbouring East Beach. Out of season, it’s generally very quiet and a large grassy area runs alongside the beach so dogs can get the best of both worlds. Refuel at The Shoeburyness Hotel nearby – pets are welcome in the bar area.

Ernie at Two Tree Island, Leigh
Ernie explores Two Tree Island in Leigh-on-Sea

The four-mile walk from Benfleet to Leigh-on-Sea is also wonderful. From Benfleet station, exit by the creek separating the mainland from Canvey Island. Follow the Thames Estuary Path through the marina and head in to Hadleigh Castle Country Park, which has fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

High up on the hill, you will see the remains of Hadleigh Castle itself and before long, you will be walking alongside Two Tree Island on a grassy ridge. Keep following this until you arrive in Old Leigh, with its fishing boats and cockle sheds. If it’s cold, warm up with a hearty meal in one of the pubs and if it’s hot, cool down with a nice, chilled pint. Ye Olde Smack is our favourite – and it’s super dog-friendly to boot.

Other lovely places to enjoy a stroll in the Southend area include Southchurch Park, which has a cute boating lake and cafe, Belfairs Woods in Leigh-on-Sea and Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park in Rochford.

Billy Hundreds, Southend
Dogs are welcome at Billy Hundreds seafood restaurant, which is right on the beach

Dog-friendly Southend-on-Sea: the best pubs and cafes

There are plenty of pet-friendly places in and around Southend, you just have to know where to look. Dog & Co Coffee, right on the seafront, is a great place to stop for a cuppa and cake. This cute cafe, which has a groomer downstairs, generally has more treats for dogs than it does people and also serves light bites such as bacon rolls and bagels.

Sara’s Tea Garden, among the cobbled streets of Old Leigh, is another place that really values its four-legged customers. There’s a separate doggy menu and if you pick up a Loyalty Card, you can redeem stamps for sausages. The cafe also has a Doggy Gallery on its website – make sure you upload a picture of your pup for the chance to win a monthly prize.

Dogs are very welcome at Billy Hundreds – a quirky fish and tapas restaurant right on the seafront. And if you’re after delicious meat-free meals, head to the Oak Tree Bistro in Leigh. Its dinky sister restaurant, The Acorn, is well worth a visit for pie and mash that could convert even the most committed carnivore.

West Road Tap, Westcliff
West Road Tap, Westcliff

Craft beer fans will also be spoilt for choice in Southend, as there are several great bars that welcome pets. Dogs are allowed inside the Leigh-on-Sea Brewery tap room, on the Progress Road Industrial Estate. They will also get lots of fuss at Mawson’s in Southchurch, The Crafty Half in Leigh and both West Road Tap and Mile and a Third in Westcliff.

Many visitors to Southend will, of course, pass through the main town centre. And although the area isn’t hugely dog-friendly, there are several places you can grab a drink or bite to eat with your four-legged friend.

Retro Utopia, just outside the Royals Shopping Centre, serves tea, coffee and enormous slices of cake while Molo Lounge, in the High Street, is a funky place to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The Glasshouse Cafe, in Warrior Square Gardens, also allows dogs on its covered terrace. If they’re lucky, they might even get a sausage!

One of the stylish bedrooms at the Roslin Beach Hotel
One of the stylish bedrooms at the Roslin Beach Hotel

Dog-friendly Southend-on-Sea: where to stay

If you’d like to feel the sand beneath your paws, head to the stylish Roslin Beach Hotel. It’s at the quieter end of Southend seafront, away from all the arcades and amusements, but opposite an award-winning beach. The stylish hotel has a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Thames Estuary and several dog-friendly bedrooms. There’s also a spa retreat onsite and a two AA Rosette restaurant.

Just along the road you’ll find the contemporary Camelia Hotel, which also looks out over the beach. It has been run by the same family for three generations and both dogs and their owners are guaranteed a warm welcome. The hotel even has a Facebook page for its four-legged visitors. Don’t leave without sampling some of the restaurant’s fine food. The bottomless brunches are also excellent and particularly popular with locals.

If you don’t fancy staying on the seafront or are a bit of a plane-spotter, try the Holiday Inn Southend. Dogs are very welcome at this cool chain hotel, which is right next to the airport. It is also home to 1935 – the first rooftop bar and restaurant in Essex – which is a great place to keep an eye on the latest arrivals and departures.

A c2c train runs alongside the beach
A c2c train runs alongside the beach near Leigh-on-Sea

How do I get to Southend-on-Sea?

From London, it’s easy. If you’re coming by car, simply follow either the A13 or A127. The journey should take around an hour, traffic depending.

There are a choice of two train lines from the capital, too – Greater Anglia, which runs out of Liverpool Street Station and c2c, which runs out of Fenchurch Street Station. Again, the journey should take approximately one hour. The c2c line also stops off at other coastal destinations, such as Leigh-on-Sea and Shoeburyness.

London Southend Airport also connects the town to several other key cities in the UK. It is regularly voted one of the UK’s best airports and new destinations are being announced all the time.

Where can I find out more?

For more information about things to see and do in the area, check out the Visit Southend website.


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