A captivating Island escape

Adventure awaits at Essex Outdoors Mersea

A huge choice of adventurous outdoor activities for schools, groups, children and families.

Our largest capacity residential outdoor centre is situated on the charming Island of Mersea – known locally as ‘The Tropical’ – on the edge of the river Blackwater, just south of Colchester.

With over 60 acres of beautiful grounds and commanding far-reaching views across the estuary, we offer many thrilling outdoor adventures.

Our 20+ activities from archery and bushcraft through to team challenge and zipwire, ensure there is always something new and exciting to experience. Couple this with our comprehensive choice of catered accommodation – from camping in tents or pods, to our purpose built log cabins and residential centre – and  we’ll create the perfect adventure for you.

Mersea’s coastal location is quite special – the surrounding marshes and beaches the ideal environment for shore-based studies and with access by boat to local creeks and areas of special scientific interest.

At Mersea you can stay in heated cabins, our residential centre or enjoy an authentic summer camp experience in tents! We have 220 beds in indoor accommodation, with tents available for up to 300.

Indoor accommodation

Residential centre

Ingram Lodge, our purpose-built residential centre can accommodate up to 48 people at a time with 5 bunk rooms sleeping 8 in each and 2 en suite staff bedrooms accommodating 4 in each. The centre is totally self-contained and has its own fully equipped, modern self-catering facilities as well as wheelchair-accessible toilets and showers.

There is a flexible communal living space to use for teaching, eating or relaxing, which includes all of the IT infrastructure you would expect of any modern classroom:  digital projector and integrated sound and vision, plus Wi-Fi internet access.

Blackwater cabins

Our popular Blackwater Village can accommodate 54 people in 9 cabins with three sets of bunk beds in each, all with disabled access. Laid out in a quadrangle, they are usually booked out as one unit. These cosy cabins benefit from heating for those chilly nights!

Colne camping pods

Our modern and comfortable Colne cabins are the latest addition to our accommodation and comprise of 11 camping pods with a total of 64-bed spaces; 7 cabins with 8 beds and 4 cabins with 2 beds.

Large log cabins

Our 5 large log cabins can sleep up to 10 people in each. Two cabins sleep 8 in bunks with 2 single beds. The other three cabins sleep 8 in bunks on one side, with 2 single beds on the other, with separate entrances. These cabins can be booked out individually.

These cabins are not en-suite, however, excellent toilet and shower facilities are available at the centre of the site, with dedicated wheelchair-accessible facilities.


Patrol tents

We can accommodate up to 300 people in our own hardy patrol tents, which can be combined with our cabin accommodation to suit your needs. Each can sleep 6 to 8 people and a mattress is provided per person.


When booking our groups of cabins, pods and tents we can often allocate a nearby marquee for your group use so you can create the perfect camp!


Bedding is not provided with our accommodation options as standard but can be arranged on request at an additional charge.

Independent camping

Our Mersea site isn’t a touring campsite, however, we welcome bookings from organised groups of campers with their own tents for DofE expeditions, rallies or weekend gatherings, by prior arrangement. We also have some dates available for family camping during the summer holidays.

Mersea has a comprehensive range of facilities including modern toilet and shower blocks with dedicated amenities for disabled users and families, a self-contained training and conference suite for up to 40 people, dining rooms, a laundry room, a large well-equipped main hall and even a big screen cinema room!


From simple packed lunches and warming evening meals for our group bookings, through to delicious buffets or sit-down banquets for events, our dedicated catering team can provide high quality, affordable meals to suit any visit to us.

For group bookings, breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the main dining room. We are also able to provide packed lunches and an evening barbeque in your village area, if booked prior to arrival.

We are happy to cater for many dietary requirements as specified by culture, religion and medical concerns. We regularly provide meals for a wide variety of needs including vegetarian, vegan, coeliac, diabetic or food allergies. We can also provide a carb count, if required.

The menu is designed to support the 5-a-day campaign and minimize added salt, sugar and fat where possible. We also look to provide a nut free environment for schools and request parent/guardians not to send their children with any products that contain nuts.

We expect parents/guardians to provide the school or group leader with all the information in relation to food allergies and intolerances prior to arrival. The leader will then fill out a meal plan and send it to the centre one week prior to arrival.

At each meal time, the group leaders/teachers will serve the food, allergy information will be clearly displayed for each dish, the servers will be fully briefed and a Chef will be readily available to answer any queries.

If there are any concerns, please feel free to contact the centre to speak to a Chef prior to arrival.

At a glance


Mersea Island, CO5 8SX, Coastal / Rural

Travel times

London 1.5 hour – Norwich 1.5 hours
Nearest station – Colchester
Nearest airport – Stansted

Size and capacity

520 residential – 400 activity


Residential centre, log cabins, camping pods and tents


Dining hall, laundry room, big screen


Over 20 separate activities, see full list below.

What Mersea offers for…

instructor helping boy aim bow and arrow


From day trips to residentials and field trips, Mersea has outstanding value packages to suit every school – and every appetite for adventure.

Primary schools
Secondary schools
Colleges and FE

Two girls in helmets and harnesses on giant swing


Watch them thrive – with our residentials and day trips for youth groups from across the country.

Youth groups
National Citizen Service

Boy in red helmet looking up through climbing frame

Individuals and families

Follow your passion – with superb courses and activities for both individuals and families.

First aid courses
School holiday activities
Birthday parties and celebrations

group of adults congratulating each other


Want your team to work better together? Our activities show them a new way to identify and amplify their strengths.

Conference facilities
Corporate activities
Team building

group practicing cpr on dummies


Our expert instructors will ensure you have the knowledge and confidence to gain a range of qualifications in outdoor activities and first aid.

First aid courses
Water safety courses

Why choose Essex Outdoors Mersea?

Find out why 85% of visitors keep coming back – and why 90% happily recommend us.

Find out more

Take a virtual tour of Essex Outdoors Mersea

Activities at Mersea

We guarantee tranquillity, but not rest.
Choose from archery, to high ropes and pedal karts, to zip wire and many more.

Adventure and obstacle courses

Obstacle courses at Essex Outdoors The perfect activity for group work, team building, or just a bit of fun! Our purpose-built obstacle courses promote participation, communication and team building, testing your ability to work with friends and colleagues in a safe but challenging environment. Navigate rope swings, tyre squeezes, tunnels, rope bridges, vertical walls, cargo …
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Aerial adventure

Aerial adventure course in Essex Our high-level Adventure Course encompasses a comprehensive set of 11 challenging elements 13m off the ground and is designed to test your agility and your nerve. Take on the course with your teammates and complete the challenges set for you by your instructor; it's time to work together to test …
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Indoor & outdoor archery in Essex Aim for gold on our outdoor and indoor archery ranges. With its unique mix of fun and competition, archery is a popular activity for all ages and abilities, helping to build confidence and improve coordination skills. Sessions are tailored to meet the experience of the group and can offer …
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Bushcraft in Essex Marshmallows at the ready! Depending on the centre we offer either coastal or woodland-based versions. These exciting and informative sessions are very flexible and can incorporate; fire lighting using fire steels and natural materials shelter building and knotwork camp craft . You can also combine a longer session with an overnight camping …
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Caving activities in Essex Work your way through the winding tunnels, chambers and features of our 4 artificial caving courses, avoiding the dead ends to find the exit. Suitable for those with or without a fear of enclosed spaces. Your group will be encouraged to work together to find the quickest way through the maze …
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Indoor and outdoor climbing wall in essex Reach new heights on one of our impressive outdoor towers or indoors at our fourteen-metre high professional climbing wall – “The Lock”. Our climbing walls provide a huge variety of routes to challenge novices and advanced climbers alike. During our instructed sessions, you’ll learn to use climbing equipment …
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Coastal discovery

Coastal discovery activites in Essex Blending the best of environmental education and forest school principals with fun activities. Find out the fascinating seashore life of the Blackwater estuary. Sessions can include learning about tides, beaches and marshes finding and identifying coastal plants and sea creatures creating beach art The world really is your oyster in …
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First aid

First aid training in Essex Our highly interactive introductory First aid lessons for young people are based on British Heart Foundation guidelines. Sessions include plenty to keep the mind and body active and the group will learn everything they need to know to be confident in a basic first aid situation. Areas covered include how …
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Giant swing

Giant outdoor swing activity in Essex At 18m tall our twin Giant Swing (3G swing) is an exhilarating activity which encourages participants to set their own goals and push their comfort zones. They'll also build confidence and trust within their group. The group work together to hoist two of their teammates at a time up …
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High ropes

High ropes adventure obstacle course in Essex Each of our centres’ high ropes courses offers a variety of challenging and exciting elements designed to push your comfort zone to see what you can really achieve. Walk the catwalk, take on the Leap of Faith or work alongside your friends to get to the top of …
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It’s a knockout

It's A Knockout! Inflatable obstacle course in Essex It's bouncy, wet and loads of fun! A range of up to 10 group games emphasises teamwork skills with lots of fun elements mixed in. Try and conquer the water tower, or reach the end of the bungee run. Test your combat skills on the gladiators or …
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Kayaking activities in Essex Test out our fleet of sit-on-top and traditional kayaks. Our instructors will guide you through all the basic strokes allowing plenty of time to practice your skills through fun games and challenges. You’ll then be able to explore the local waterways and get up close and personal with some fascinating wildlife! …
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Kit karts

Kit karting activites in Essex Kit karts are the perfect mix of a team-building exercise coupled with the excitement of riding your creation down one of our hills. Groups will work in two teams to build soapbox-style go-carts from the kit of parts and instructions supplied by the Instructor. Once the challenge is completed, group …
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Low ropes

Low rope activities in Essex The floor is lava! Our low ropes courses have a series of low-level challenges with interconnected ropes, planks, wires and tyres. The aim is to support your teammates to move around the platforms of the course without touching the ground Designed to test and hone the group's cooperation and communication …
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Off road biking

Off-road cycling activities in Essex Enjoy the ride. Our centres are perfectly situated to cater for all levels of off-road biking. Each site presents plenty of challenges, from obstacle courses to build your skills to gentle woodland trails and more technical routes. And our proximity to some of the best single-track in the country allows …
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Orienteering and map skills

Orienteering activities in Essex This activity teaches the important life skill of map-reading. Our instructors will guide groups through a series of mini-exercises to introduce; points of the compass and orientating a map interpreting symbols features using scale and pacing Participants then head off to complete courses and challenges of increasing difficulty around our beautiful …
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Pedal karts

Pedal karting in Essex Ride our pedal-powered go-karts around the specially designed street circuit and race track. These robust karts are suitable for ages 7 to adult and are equipped with forward and reverse gears and brakes. A series of exercises will teach the basic rules of the road and driving etiquette. Riders will also …
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Pioneering activities in Essex Work together to build various structures from a kit of wooden poles, ropes plus tarps and barrels. You'll learn a variety of useful knots and traditional lashing techniques. A medieval-style catapult, a bridge or even a go-kart could be your goal. The session finishes off by testing out your creations - …
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Stand up paddle boarding (SUP)

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) for schools and groups in Essex The latest addition to our paddle sports line-up - the exciting sport of stand-up paddle boarding - or SUP - is an excellent way to develop water confidence, and build core strength and balance. You’ll be on your feet and exploring the beautiful rivers, creeks …
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Swimming activity days in Essex At Mersea, our 25m long, 1 metre deep heated outdoor pool can be hired for a swim or with our pool games for a fun session. All sessions are supervised by a qualified Lifeguard. Learning outcomes Click below to find out which learning outcomes this activity promotes. Resilience Being able …
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Team challenge and problem solving

Team challenge and problem solving From mental puzzles through to team challenges, we'll test your ability to work together, communicate and think fast. Spider's web, mazes, blindfold trails and sheep pens are just some of the tools used to test your problem solving skills. The activities not only offer the opportunity for groups to go …
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Zip wire

Zip wire activities in Essex A fun personal challenge. Participants are connected to a wire 12 metres above the ground, before stepping out into thin air and embarking on a 100m descent. The experience will have you pleading for a second go! Learning outcomes Click below to find out which learning outcomes this activity promotes. …
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Mersea image gallery

Some photos to give a flavour of what it’s like at Essex Outdoors Mersea

How to find us

Essex Outdoors Mersea, Rewsalls Lane, Colchester CO5 8SX