Discovery

7 places to paddle in Essex

by Ed Scott

Essex is a paddle sports paradise! The county is criss-crossed by rivers, brooks, and streams to explore by kayak, canoe, or SUP board - all within easy reach of London.

And that’s not to mention the ocean! With 350 miles of coastline to explore, Essex’s beaches, cliffs, and salt marshes offer countless hours of exploration. 

To help you discover the remarkable waterways Essex has to offer, we’ve highlighted 7 great spots around the county to go for a paddle. 

Book stand-up paddleboarding with Frangipani SUP
Source: Frangipani SUP

Chelmsford

Chelmsford borrows its name from the River Chelmer, which passes through the centre of town and out into the Essex countryside. Fringed by lush foliage, the Chelmer’s peaceful waters are ideal for exploring at a leisurely pace, with a paddle in hand. 

Essex Slalom Squad is a family-oriented kayaking and canoeing club based on the River Chelmer in east Chelmsford. They host regular pool and river practice sessions, and have members interested in touring, open canoeing, white water, and sea kayaking. New members are always welcome to join the club and gain access to a jam-packed calendar of paddle sports activities. 

Kayaking with Essex Slalom Squad
Source: Essex Slalom Squad

Hadleigh Park

Historic Hadleigh Park found international fame as the cross-country mountain biking venue in the London 2012 Olympics. With many great walks in the area and a cafe on-sight, the park is a first-class destination for families or friends looking for a great day outdoors. 

Hadleigh’s large man-made reservoir is also the perfect setting to enjoy a spot of paddling. Rent a kayak from Splash Kayaking for a peaceful half-an-hour on the water. Drift around the reservoir at your own pace and soak in the surroundings, or double up in a tandem kayak and explore as a team. 

Kayaking Hadleigh Park Whoosh Explore
Source: Splash Kayaking

Harlow

Just a half hour train ride north of London, Harlow sits on the River Stort, which offers some of the finest English countryside to be explored anywhere. It starts in the village of Langley, way up in the north west corner of Essex, and winds its way for 24 miles along the county’s border with Hertfordshire, before finally flowing into the River Lea. 

Whoosh Explore run paddling adventures on the river just north of Harlow, with kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards available. They provide regular group taster sessions for canoeing and kayaking, including evening sessions, as well as all-day and half-day rentals for those wanting a self-guided adventure. 

River Stort kayaking with Whoosh Explore
Source: Whoosh Explore

Harwich

Perched on the far-eastern end of the Tendring Peninsula, Harwich is an ancient town which sits on both the Stour and Orwell rivers. With access to these two stunning waterways and the North Sea right on its doorstep, Harwich is a treat for paddlers seeking room to roam!

Nobody knows the Harwich area better in terms of paddling than Cameron and Chelsea from Clacton Kayaks. They offer a range of different experiences to suit every need, including kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental, tandem kayaks, and guided tours of the beautiful River Stour.

River Stour kayaking with Clacton Kayaks
Source: Clacton Kayaks

Maldon

The picturesque town of Maldon sits on the Blackwater estuary, right on the North Sea. Its location makes it one of Essex’s premier paddling destinations, and a steady flow of fresh sea salt lends the town another of its main attractions - Maldon Sea Salt! 

Looking to take your paddling to the next level? Local volunteer-led Maldon Canoe Club hosts regular training sessions to suit all abilities and styles, including the occasional spot of canoe polo! If you’re interested in joining the club, why not start with a social pool session?

Canoeing with Maldon Canoe Club
Source: Maldon Canoe Club

Southend-on-Sea

If it’s sand, sea, and salt you’re after, look no further than Southend-on-Sea. With miles of sandy beaches overlooking the wide Thames Estuary, it’s the perfect spot from which to launch your next adventure on the open ocean. Just leave plenty of time for some chips and ice cream afterwards!

Whether it’s your first time on a SUP board or you’re a seasoned enthusiast, the amazing team at Saltwater SUP are sure to have a session for you. They’ve made it their mission to share the delights of Southend with the world, and offer sessions for beginners and improvers alike. They even host regular post-paddle social dinners to help you refuel and connect with fellow paddlers - yum!

Southend Essex SUP
Source: Saltwater SUP

Trifarm

Just northeast of Chelmsford, Trifarm is a triathlon-focused sports centre with its own beautiful lake. The lake’s calm waters, sheltered from any currents, make it the perfect place for beginners looking to practice their paddling in a peaceful environment. 

Maldon-based stand-up paddleboarding school Frangipani SUP have exclusive paddling access to the lake at Trifarm. Their ‘Ready to Ride’ introductory sessions are ideal for getting to grips with SUP, and include all the gear you need to get started. For more experienced paddleboarders, an unguided session on the lake is a great way to unwind and put in some quality time on the board. 

Trifarm lake SUP
Source: Frangipani SUP

We hope this article has helped highlight the remarkable paddling opportunities that Essex has to offer! Take a look at our article on places to go stand-up paddling in London to find more great places to paddle.

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