THERE is never a shortage of stunning beaches to visit when it comes to Essex.

In fact, seven beaches in our county have been awarded the prestigious Blue Flags.

Those include East Beach Shoeburyness, Shoebury Common, Thorpe Bay, Three Shells Beach, Westcliff Bay, Dovercourt Bay and Brightlingsea.

In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, each beach needs to meet and maintain a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria.

If you are wondering where to soak up the sunshine over the weekend, this guide to the seven Blue Flag beaches in Essex might help you.

East Beach Shoebury

If you enjoy crabbing, then Shoebury East is the perfect place for you with its shallow paddling pool on the beach.

It is also convenient for commuters – the beach is just a five-minute walk from the railway station.

The Beach Guide said: “Unlike most of Southend’s beaches, the quarter-mile long stretch is mainly sandy, but shingle and sharp shells and occasional bricks from previous industry make beach shoes advisable.

“The gently sloping beach backs on to a large area of grass incorporating a children’s play area.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Shoebury East Beach Picture: Sharron PageShoebury East Beach Picture: Sharron Page

Shoebury Common

This beach is home to the popular Uncle Tom's Cabin offering a large selection of ice creams and light refreshments.

The blue flag beach has been recognised for its water quality, beach cleanliness, and safe pedestrian areas.

One review on TripAdvisor said: “ A really nice beach with old fashioned type beach huts.

“Only a couple of miles from the hustle and bustle of Southend but feels like a completely different place. Enjoy.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Francisco Javier Fernandez captures fishing boat in Shoebury Common BeachFrancisco Javier Fernandez captures fishing boat in Shoebury Common Beach

Dovercourt Bay

This is a much-favourite spot for local Tendring residents.

It is also within an easy reach of the Hemford Water National Nature Reserve, known for its resident seals.

One TripAdvisor review praised the beach: “Level, wide and with beautiful sea views. About 2 miles from the town centre and back if you head towards the docks, majestic in the early morning sun.”

Tendring councillor Alex Porter, responsible for leisure and tourism, said: “Our Essex Sunshine Coast around Tendring is beautiful and a fabulous place for residents, visitors and the whole tourism industry.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Terry Spires took this picture of one of the Dovercourt lighthousesTerry Spires took this picture of one of the Dovercourt lighthouses

Thorpe Bay, Southend

This is the perfect destination for you if you enjoy water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing and sailing.

There is also plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby, so you can grab a bite while overlooking the beach.

The Beach Guide said: “If you prefer to keep your activities on dry land you will find nearby there are tennis courts, a bowling club and a paddling pool.

“Thorpe Bay is well known for its beach huts and whilst many are privately owned a few are available for hire.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:  Thorpe Bay Picture: Robert Outen Thorpe Bay Picture: Robert Outen

Brightlingsea Beach

The colourful beach huts on the flat sandy beach are one of the biggest draws for tourists.

The beach runs along the Western Promenade, which offers walks with breath-taking views.

One TripAdvisor review called the place a “hidden gem”.

It said: “So lovely for a walk around. Good place to paddleboard or go on a boat. Fish and chip shops also nearby. Toilet facilities available. Play area for kids and a basketball area for teens. Lots of areas to go crabbing. Hidden gem!”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Lynn Sampson's picture of a sunset in BrightlingseaLynn Sampson's picture of a sunset in Brightlingsea

Three Shells Beach, Southend

The sandy beach is on the main stretch to the west of Southend Pier and is a much-favourite destination for families.

It has also been transformed with a lagoon, which means you can enjoy swimming all year round.

The Beach Guide said: “There’s a good choice of food nearby, at a range of prices, with pleasant outdoor seating areas and clean toilets.

“The beach is set in what you could describe as an alcove, which gives it a somewhat sheltered, cosy feel.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Three Shells Beach Picture: Google MapsThree Shells Beach Picture: Google Maps

Westcliff Bay

If you enjoy bathing, kayaking, paddle boarding or a nice walk along the beach, the Westcliff Bay is the right place for you.

The beach is a mix of sand and shingle, interspersed with groynes and during high tide it can be entirely submerged.

A TripAdvisor review said: “Very nice beach and lovely. Quite and relaxing place. Very clean, I would say perfect for family time.”

Another added: “I enjoyed the atmosphere dearly. It is a place worth visiting again and again.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Westcliff Bay Picture: Google MapsWestcliff Bay Picture: Google Maps