Southend-on-Sea Car Hire

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Since you’re hiring a car in Southend-on-Sea (also known simply as ‘Southend’), get ready to have a great time. With a current metro population of 312,000, this big coastal town in south-eastern Essex sits on the Thames Estuary some 64km east of London. Home to the longest leisure pier in the world, blessed by an expansive sandy beach and ram-packed with amusement arcades and nightclubs, Southend is a Great British seaside getaway spot for weekenders from London and further afield. Perched on one of England’s prettiest coastlines, this is an exciting area to cruise around in a car and hiring the perfect ride online from Enjoy is child’s play.

Prices for hiring a car in Southend-on-Sea start at just £23.95 (€26.89) per day for an economy car like a Vauxhall Corsa if you book off-season, a compact car like a Volkswagen Golf costs £32.17 (€36.11) a day and a sporty SUV like a Nissan Qashqai ̶ great for exploring the countryside ̶ is £34.27 (€38.47) per day. Alternatively, you could treat yourself to a luxury car like a Volvo S90 for £67.13 (€75.36) a day. Enjoy works with trusted international car hire providers at Southend like Enjoy, so car hire packages include excellent components like fair fuel policy, theft protection, 24-hour assistance, collision damage waiver and third-party liability. When you pick up your perfect car from Enjoy you can look forward to a blissful break in one of Britain’s favourite seaside towns, with the confidence that comes from a convenient and reliable Southend-on-Sea car hire provider.

Guide to Southend on Sea

Long before Brits took package holidays to Spain, Greece and further afield, a holiday by the sea was the highlight of the year for many people and seaside resorts like Southend developed an amazing array of attractions to satisfy visitors ̶ from simple buckets and spades for building sandcastles to ornate piers packed with games, amusements, live variety shows and eateries designed to delight and amaze. You’ll still find fantastic traditional entertainment here and hospitality that never goes out of style, but there’s also a cool contemporary arts and music scene as well as an eclectic night-time economy.

Pier pleasures

Protruding an impressive two kilometres into the Thames Estuary, Southend’s leisure pier is the world’s longest and even boasts a railway to whisk you from one end to the other. You can stroll around enjoying the salt air and sea views, indulge in a spot of fishing, or take tea and scones or even catch a concert, play or comedy show in the fully restored and ravishing Royal Pavilion. The pier has entertained locals and visitors alike for over a century and you can find out all about its fascinating history at the museum under the train station in the Old Pier Workshops, where amazing artefacts include a fully operational signal box, lovely post-war train carriages and even a toast rack tram dating back to 1890! Stop at the Salt Café for fish and chips with ice cream for dessert, book a tour around the inspirational RNLI Lifeboat Station and try your luck at Southend Pier’s tricky and addictive 12-hole mini golf course.

Arts & culture

If you’re a culture vulture there are rich pickings in Southend because diverse arty attractions are woven into the way of life here. For instance, arts organisation Metal has transformed the gorgeous Grade II-listed Chalkwell Hall into a collective arts space which hosts over 20 artists-in-residence from all around the world for short stays each year, as well as offering a packed events calendar with educational activities, exhibitions, workshops and classes. Meanwhile, Focal Point Gallery at the Forum is another hotspot ̶ this is South Essex’s foremost gallery for contemporary visual art, regularly commissions high-profile solo exhibitions, offers film screenings and talks and features permanent commissions by artists like Mike Nelson, Allen Ruppersberg and Tris Vonna-Mitchell. Furthermore, the charming cobbled streets of Old Leigh are worthy of a visit any time of year, but the Leigh Folk Festival is usually held annually in May, when the streets are alive with the ambient sound of acoustic music and a great time is guaranteed.

Historical attractions

History buffs have plenty to keep them busy in Southend-on-Sea and if you find facts about the past particularly pleasurable, Clifftown Telephone Museum is a must-see. Located in an upcycled vintage red phone box, it’s one of the world’s smallest museums and showcases the Victorian history of the area, including iconic sites like the Royal Terrace, Pier, Bandstand, Cliff Lift and Queen Victoria Statue. The Southend Central Museum and Planetarium is also worth a visit ̶ it houses an outstanding collection of local and natural history exhibits and a planetarium built by celebrated astronomer Harry Ford in 1984. This building was originally Southend Library and was gifted to the town by Scottish-American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

What to do in Southend?

The great thing about taking a break in Southend is that this is a location designed with leisure and pleasure in mind ̶ this is a town which has honed its offering to visitors for over a century and although seaside activities are still the staple of the tourist economy here, you’ll enjoy a wide range of attractions and amenities.

Beautiful beaches

If you’re a bit of a beach bum, then welcome home because Southend has more sandy stretches than you can shake a candyfloss stick at. However, please note that if you’re travelling with your pooch, no dogs are permitted on any Southend beaches between May 1st and September 30th each year. For starters, at Bell Wharf Beach you’ll see boats bringing in their bountiful catch to Leigh’s famous cockle sheds and there’s also a clutch of lovely pubs as well as high-class dining at The Boatyard restaurant. Alternatively, City Beach on the central waterfront features fab illuminations that extend the day after the sun goes down and there’s a cool new landscaped area with a kids fun fountain ̶ dip your toes in the water, catch some rays on the beach and stroll around the boardwalk sampling ice cream and doughnuts or playing games in the arcades.

Awesome attractions

Your first stop for family entertainment in Southend-on-Sea is probably Adventure Island on Western Esplanade. Entry is free, so you only pay for the activities you actually fancy trying, but with 60 adrenaline-fuelled rides on offer you’ll definitely put your hands in your pocket to pay for your share of thrills. Highlights include Rage, a rapid rollercoaster with a 360-degree barrel roll and 75 foot drop, and Axis ̶ a petrifying pendulum ride that spins, swings and twists you upside down at over 100 feet in the air! Alternatively, Sea Life Adventure Aquarium at Eastern Esplanade is another popular Southend attraction and it’s well worth a visit. Here you’ll find over 40 terrific themed displays featuring sharks, penguins and otters, local sea life like crabs, rays and starfish, as well as tropical species like Clownfish, Lionfish and Porcupine Puffer Fish.

Lively nightlife

The entertainment doesn’t stop when the sun sets in Southend ̶ this is when the night-time economy slips smoothly into gear and there’s an eclectic range of wonderful watering holes to suit every taste, from traditional British boozers to craft beer bars, cocktail lounges and bass-thumping nightclubs. For instance, Coco at Warrior Square is a unique bar, restaurant and entertainment venue where you can book an exclusive table or booth with friends and family and prepare for a mind-blowing mix of culinary delights, dazzling drinks, variety, burlesque and live music, with a VIP experience available for special occasions. When you want to dance the night away to up and coming Indie Rock bands, head to The Chinnery at Marine Parade, where cut-price beers and shots keep the party swinging the whole night long.

Eating out in Southend

It would be a sin to visit Southend without sampling Great British fish and chips from one of the town’s many terrific ‘chippys’, but the gastronomical offering here is deep and diverse, so there really is something to tempt every palate. From seafood and sweet treats to fresh local fare and international fusion food, there’s a café, bistro or restaurant that’s right up your street in Southend-on-Sea.

Sublime Sicilian

La Pizzeria in Westcliff-on-Sea doesn’t just do ‘what it says on the tin’ ̶ as well as perfect stone-baked pizzas (try the Campagnola with aubergine, mushrooms, anchovies, onions and parmesan) you’ll also find Sicilian specials like sumptuous cannelloni alla carne with delicious al dente pasta tubes filled with minced meat and oven baked with garlic, becahmel and tomato sauce and topped with melting mozzarella. This a family-run restaurant with its roots in the rustic village of Mazara Del Vallo in Sicily and every dish is infused with traditional flavours so you’ll leave wondering when you can return again.

Best of British

For brilliant British food with a tasty contemporary twist, try the highly-rated Food by John Lawson at 92 Leigh Road. The trendy stripped-back industrial interior is intimate and ambient, while the magnificent menu focuses on flavour and creativity. This is a ‘no menu’ restaurant because the team enjoys the flexibility required to create unique dishes based on the freshest local ingredients available at the time, so the four-course tasting ‘menu’ served on a Friday and Saturday night is an excellent way of sampling a light course of delicately prepared veg, a fish course from local sources, a slow-cooked organic meat dish and a dessert with natural sweeteners. The regular tasting menu is £48 and the vegan version is £42, plus you can wash your food down with one of the outstanding organic wines on offer.

Magical Mexican

Fancy spicing up your life? Head to Mexican restaurant Pieno-Lleno at Southchurch Avenue for lip-smacking burritos, fajitas, burgers, steaks, pizzas, pastas and salads. There’s so much to choose from and it’s all excellent, but the chimichanga is particularly delicious. If you haven’t tried this before it’s a divine deep-fried folded flour tortilla with your choice of chicken, beef, veggie, pork, prawn or mushroom filling, peppers, onions and choose ̶ served with Mexican rice, black beans, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Most main dishes are around £12-£15.

Getting about in Southend

Airports

The nearest airport to Southend-on-Sea is London Southend (SEN) which is 2.2 miles (3.5km) away, London Stansted is 31.3 (50.4km) away, and London Gatwick is 46.3 (74.5km) away. Enjoy partners with reliable international car hire providers like Keddy and Europcar at all of these hubs, and peace of mind packages usually include reassuring components like third party liability, collision damage waiver, 24-hour assistance and theft protection. You can choose cars like a compact Vauxhall Corsa which seats five but is small enough to squeeze into city centre car parks, a reliable Volkswagen Golf or even a luxury Volvo S90 saloon. Whatever your choice, book early and you can often bag a bargain.

Buses and trains

The bus network in and around Southend-on-Sea is fairly reliable and regular ̶ it’s operated by Arriva, First and Stephensons. The Arriva routes are particularly extensive and cover destinations like Ashingdon, Basildon, Benfleet, Hadleigh, Leigh-on-Sea, Rayleigh Weir, Southchurch, Southend-on-Sea city centre, Temple Sutton and Westcliff-on-Sea.

Southend also has two train stations ̶ Southend Victoria, which is the Great Eastern Main Line terminus, and Southend Central railway station, which is mainly served by the London, Tilbury and Southend Rail line.

Driving tips

You should always drive on the left-hand side of the road in Southend-on-Sea, as is the case throughout England and the rest of the UK. Speed limits are 70 mph (120 km/h) on motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) for non-motorway main roads and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) if you’re in busy city centre areas or close to buildings such as schools.

Mobile phone use while driving is prohibited (unless the system is genuinely hands-free and the driver isn’t distracted), seatbelts are mandatory for the driver and all passengers and, as you’d expect, drink driving is not tolerated.

The coastline around Southend, surrounding Essex countryside and close proximity to many exciting towns, cities and villages mean that this is a marvellous area to explore by car. Here are just a couple of classic road trips you’ll enjoy:

Drive west from Southend-on-Sea via the A13 and A127 and you’ll reach picturesque Purfleet in around 45 minutes, depending on traffic. This town is packed with exciting attractions, like the Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre, Purfleet Environmental and Educational Centre, and Laser Tag Essex, where you can wander stealthily in the woodland setting and have a great time picking off your opponents (in a completely painless and peaceful manner!).

Alternatively, London is around one hour and 45 minutes westwards along the A127 and M25 (with a toll en route) and there are enough legendary attractions here to last a lifetime. You can see Buckingham Palace, take a scenic spin on the London Eye, shop ‘til you drop in Harrod’s or explore areas which are slightly off the beaten track like Brixton, a magnificent multicultural community where, amongst many other highlights, you’ll find the best jerk chicken this side of Kingston, Jamaica and experience exciting Electric Avenue, subject of the classic Eddy Grant tune.

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FAQs about car hire in Southend-on-Sea

Most frequently asked questions about hiring a car in Southend-on-Sea

At present, a compact car like a Fiat Tipo costs £28.82 a day in Plymouth, while a roomy Volkswagen Passat costs £53.42 a day.
At the moment you can hire a Fiat 500 in Southend-on-Sea for just £23.05 a day.
The minimum age for hiring a car in the UK is 21.
Not usually. Most car hire companies offer excess-free packages and rental deals include roadside assistance, theft protection and a collision damage waiver.
It’s usually acceptable to add another driver to the vehicle rental agreement, provided they hold a valid license and an extra daily fee is paid.
This depends on your plans and the requirements of your party, but a roomy Volkswagen Sharan seats seven comfortably, so it’s ideal for bigger travel groups.
You must tell your rental firm immediately if you have an accident. In the unlikely event you have a serious accident in Southend-on-Sea, please call 999 immediately for emergency services.