The hidden beauty of Essex's islands

Two islands off the the Essex coast are offering some of the region's most scenic summer staycations. Russell Hookey explores Mersea Island and Osea Island.

Twenty minutes from colchester yet a world apart - Mersea Island has been a holiday destination since Roman Times - and in recent years it's gone through something of a renaissance.

Richard Haward owns a restaurant here and has lived on the island all his life.

He said: "It went through phases and there was a lot of day trips from towns inland when I was younger - you know buses coming every weekend with people and there were caravan sites, only small but that all expanded.

"It went down for some time because everyone had to abroad, but now its been coming back and we are only 50 or 60 miles from London so it's easy for someone to have a caravan here and bring families and come down here for the summer."

Mersea Island and Osea Island in Essex are popular destinations for people looking for a staycation. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Many who cross the water from the mainland stay in holiday parks which following lockdown are even more popular.

Laurea Miller, from Away Resorts, said: "The demand has definitely been greater so for instance on this part we have 145 per cent increase in bookings since the government announced the easing of lockdown and we are just happy to be safely welcoming people to our parks again."

Regulars Raymond Fermoy. "It's so nice, it's so laid back," he said. "It's quiet, this site is lovely and where we are situated now the sea's just there and you can walk all the way along to the Strood which is roman for causeway."

Paddleboarding off the coast of Mersea Island in Essex. Credit: ITV News Anglia

What's really become apparent is that you don't need to jump on a plane to have a good holiday.

Families can still come to Mersea to have fun, but it's not the only island off the Essex coast. There's also Osea Island which has become renowned for being a retreat of the rich and famous.

Osea Island is in the Blackwater Estuary, about a mile and half offshore from Heybridge. Getting there involves using a causeway at low tide.

There's accommodation for around 130 guests on Osea Island. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It's owned by a music producer and artists, reportedly including Rhianna, have recorded albums there.

It also provide holiday accommodation for around 130 guests.

Osea Island holidaymaker Jenny Makepeace said: "It's just like you are 45 minutes from home for us but it feels like you are miles away. It feels like you are on holiday and it's lovely. It's just beautiful here and feels like a proper holiday and in the current climate you can't get that can you unless you get on a plane."

Hidden gem is a phrase all too often overused

But these island getaways - just an hour or so from London are the perfect excuse to put away your passport.