Located on the East Essex coast and just 40 miles away from the capital, Southend-on-Sea is the closest seaside resort to London. It is one of the UK’s very newest cities, having only been conferred the status in October 2021. It is also one of the smallest towns, with a population of 183,000. It is home to a world-famous pier and is served by London Southend Airport.
Getting To Know Southend-on-Sea
Sitting on the Thames estuary, it is quite unusual that there is little archaeological evidence of ancient settlements in the Southend area. (Much human settlement happened nearby the water sources).
It is known, however, that Southend began life as the “south end” of the Saxon village of Prittlewell, which in the 6th and 7th centuries was a few small farms and fisherman’s houses. St. Mary’s Church was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1076, but the church has altered much, and most of its construction dates from the 12th to 15th centuries.
In the Middle Ages, Prittlewell grew into a thriving market town and an important community hub for local people. After the 16th century, the town grew as per the national trend and further still with the introduction of the railways. It wasn’t until 1889 that the south end was linked to Prittlewell to form a contiguous settlement. Its focus, particularly in retail, shifted to Southend High Street. Then gradually, the south end expanded, and the town became more familiar as Southend-on-Sea instead of Prittlewell.
The Story of Southend-on-Sea, the Seaside Resort
Despite its proximity to London, the transport links were not established quickly enough. In addition, Brighton far outstripped Southend as a preferred destination for Georgian and Victorian London’s day-trippers and holidaymakers.
The railways arrived, and then Southend received royal approval when the town was visited by Caroline of Brunswick (wife of King George IV). In 1829, the pier was built and helped attract many visitors to the seven miles of golden sand beaches.
The resort declined in popularity in the 1960s with the advent of the foreign package holiday, but it has recovered in modern times — thanks to the 6.4 million tourists who arrive every year wanting a traditional British seaside holiday.
Things To See and Do in Southend-on-Sea
Most of the attractions of Southend are of appeal to holidaymakers, but there are places of interest for travellers of all sorts.
Opened in 1813, at 2.16 km (1.6 miles) long, Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world. A railway runs the full length of the pier and offers a 10-minute ride end to end. Visitors can play crazy golf, try pier fishing, explore the Pier Museum and look for wildlife along the Foreshore Nature Reserve.
Offering 40 thrilling rides for all ages, Adventure Island is a theme park straddling the entrance of the pier.
A wonderful mix of zoo and aquarium, Sealife Adventure describes itself as a ‘zooquarium’. Visitors can expect to see many wonders of the deep, along with fascinating land animals, including monkeys and meerkats.
A Day at the Beach
There’s a wealth of golden sandy beaches at Southend-on-Sea, so on warm days, you’ll always find a nice spot to relax on the sand and take a dip. Many patrons have decided that the best is Shoebury East, a relatively quiet beach popular with families and kite surfers.
Located in a Grade-II listed building, Southend’s Central Museum is an ethnographical museum presenting collections of local and natural life. Similar attractions operated by the city are Southchurch Hall, Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend Pier Museum and Prittlewell Priory.
If you are visiting the city from abroad to enjoy its charms and attractions, you need a UK ETA for Southend-on-Sea.
What Is the ETA?
The UK government has announced a major change to the UK entry system that will affect all foreign visitors. From the end of 2024, everyone wanting to visit the United Kingdom will require an ETA.
Under the UK ETA programme, all the country’s borders will be fully digitalised, and visitors will need a “digital permit” to gain entry.
This permit is called an ETA and is digitally linked to a valid biometric national passport. The system is designed to be quicker for both Border Control officials and travellers.
Who Needs an ETA?
All foreign visitors, including non-visa nationals and those with any other specific immigration status, will need a UK ETA for Southend-on-Sea. This means that visitors from European countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will be required to apply for an ETA. There are no age limits or exemptions — any traveller of any age needs an ETA.
The new UK ETA programme applies regardless of whether the purpose of the visit is for leisure, business, studying or medical treatment.
How Does the ETA Affect British Nationals?
All British citizens and all British nationals are exempt from ETA requirements. This includes all of the following:
• Citizens in Britain’s Overseas Territories
• British Nationals residing overseas
• British citizens residing overseas
• Persons of protected British status
• British subjects without the right of abode in the United Kingdom
Please note that all holders of passports issued by the Republic of Ireland are also exempt from needing an ETA.
Who Is Eligible for an ETA?
The ETA Eligibility List issued by the UK government contains 92 countries (subject to change).
How Do You Apply for an ETA?
The ETA application process is completed online. You need a valid passport, email address, and credit or debit card to apply. You will be asked to complete an online form providing various pieces of information, including personal identification details, contact information, employment details and information about your passport.
You will also be asked to make statements regarding other citizenships and/or dual nationalities, as well as prior immigration, drug or criminal history issues and connections to terrorism. Payment is requested at the time the application is made.
How Is a UK ETA Granted?
Applications are expected to be processed within 48 to 72 hours, but it is advisable to apply for a UK ETA for Southend-on-Sea in good time of your intended travel date.
The information you provide will be checked against domestic and international immigration and security databases to identify any potential threats to the UK. When the ETA is granted, it is electronically linked to your passport, which is then verified when scanned at any port of entry into the UK. If you are refused an ETA, you may still be eligible for a UK visa and should apply via the usual channels.
ETAs will be lodged in the Advance Passenger Information (API) systems, and carriers will continue to be responsible for checking that all passengers boarding their transports have valid documentation for travelling to the UK. An ETA does not guarantee entry into the UK. Border officials may still refuse entry if they believe you to be inadmissible under UK law or are perceived as a threat to national security.
For How Long Is an ETA Valid?
A UK ETA for Southend-on-Sea will be valid for 180 days from the date of issue and grants the holder freedom of movement around the UK during this period.
If your passport expires during the 180 days, your ETA becomes invalid. Additionally, if a UK ETA for Southend-on-Sea is due to expire during your stay, you will need to apply for a new ETA to continue your visit. If you want/need to spend longer than 6 months or want to work in the UK, you will need to apply for a visa. More information can be found on the ETA FAQ page.