Top paddles in Britain

A watery pilgrimage to a site of Essex’s seafood history. A trip to Packing Shed Island, just offshore of the sailing hotspot of West Mersea, is a reminder of the sheer scale of the 19th-century oyster industry when Mersea Natives were exported throughout Europe. This 1km paddle along the tidal Mersea Fleet to its oyster shell beach and restored Packing Shed whets the appetite for sampling local seafood back on dry land. For a longer journey there are several other islands to explore.  

More inspiration for island adventures in our book “England and Wales Island Bagging”


From the beach in front of the West Mersea Yacht Club head downstream, passing carefully between the lines of moored boats for 500 metres to reach Packing Shed Island. Nearby Cobmarsh island may then be explored.

Mersea’s special blue space

Mersea Island sits within the Blackwater, Crouch, Roach and Colne Estuaries Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) on the Essex coast; the largest inshore MCZ. There are a number of other designations within the area including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the Essex Estuaries Special Area of Conservation and Mid Essex coast Special Protection Area. They exist to protect extensive areas of mudflats and saltmarsh, which support a wide range of species including internationally and nationally important numbers of waterfowl. The MCZ also comprises an important area for both wild and cultivated native oysters; their beds also being the home for sea snails, crabs and sea urchins estuaries and throughout the Blackwater estuary.

How can we help Support the Essex Wildlife Trust

Need to know

Distance 1km return

Access restrictions No licence required

Starting point Car park (charges) and beach in front of the West Mersea Yacht Club

Pitstops A plate of succulent seafood at the legendary Company Shed

Hire, lesson, tours Mersea Island Watersports 

Getting there Getting there Access Mersea Island on the B1025 and the Strood causeway (closes when high tides are greater than five metres; use the BBC tide table for Mersea Island).

Special points Best paddled 1.5 hours either side of high tide to avoid strong flows. Do not attempt in stronger northerly winds.

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