Lips licking fun and frolics on the 99

Not just one but two open top buses – whisk their way down the promenade in sunny Southend-on-Sea – the 68 which heads to lovely Leigh on Sea and the brand new 99 to sumptuous Shoeberryness! Both are brilliant and run by entrepreneurial Ensign, one of the UK’s most customer centric transport companies! Today, we’ll focus on the new kid in town, the 99, in which every bus is painted in the colour of a Rossi ice cream! There’s a double cone of fun with these two routes and the 99 will certainly having you lick your lips with anticipation!

From the historic Southend Pier to the serene Shoeburyness, each stop on this journey presents unique attractions, stories, and a touch of quirkiness and intrigue that make it memorable. Above and exposed to the elements atop the bus upstairs, there is always a sense of occasion with the cool sea breeze compelling on a warm day and the sound of waves crashing and salty sprays when the wind is blowing, providing just as much ambience, when the weather is inclement! There’s nothing to flake here – it really is a thrill a minute trip!

Pier poetry in motion

Starting at Southend Pier, the longest pleasure pier in the world, this iconic structure stretches an impressive 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary. Originally opened in 1830, it has seen numerous reconstructions due to fires and storms but remains a beloved symbol of Southend. Walking its length or hopping on the pier train offers breathtaking views and a sense of history, connecting visitors to the golden age of British seaside holidays. Southend Pier has even hosted some famous faces; Sir John Betjeman, the celebrated poet, was a frequent visitor and admirer of its architectural charm.

Flanking the north of the Pier is Adventure Land which is home to 40 incredible funfair rides and offers thrills and spills even before the ride on the 99! It’s not for faint hearted and flakey as hair-raising, adrenalin-rushing rollercoasters contrast with more traditional helter skelters and dodgems, this is a start to the day like no other or great end in the evening’s bright lights, so make sure you have a soothing ice cream from Rossi’s Parlour next to Adventure Land and take it on the bus!

Penguin Paradise 

Onto the 99 open top bus and just two stops away is the Sealife Adventure Centre which is a haven for marine fanatics. Home to a diverse array of sea creatures, this aquarium offers an immersive experience into the underwater world. Among its quirky attractions is an impressive display of jellyfish and the playful antics of penguins. The centre not only entertains but also fascinates with its tutelage in marine conservation, making it a favourite among families and eco-conscious customers.

Bygone brilliance

As the bus rolls into Southchurch, where history buff’s delight, customers are transported back in time. The area is anchored by Southchurch Hall, a medieval moated manor house that dates back to the 14th century. Today, it functions as a museum, where folk can explore period rooms, beautifully manicured gardens, and exhibitions detailing local history. Notably, the hall’s connection to the illustrious Tudor period adds a regal flair, as it was once visited by Henry VIII.

Continuing east on this action-packed bus, Thorpe Bay offers a different kind of charm with its elegant bygone seaside ambiance and almost Neapolitan appeal. This area is known for its row of quaint beach huts, which add a splash of colour to the coastline. The promenade is perfect for a leisurely stroll, where you might encounter locals partaking in water sports or simply enjoying the sea breeze. Thorpe Bay has been home to several notable personalities, including Sir David Amess, the late MP for Southend West, who was a beloved local figure and a passionate advocate for the town.

The journey then takes you along Thorpe Esplanade, a scenic route that runs parallel to the sea. This stretch is ideal for capturing panoramic views of the estuary, especially on a sunny day. The esplanade is lined with beautiful gardens, beach huts and art installations, providing a tranquil escape from the busier parts of town. Cyclists and joggers frequent this route, drawn by its serene and invigorating atmosphere.

Uncle Tom’s treat!

Next, the bus arrives at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a historic pub and local landmark. Despite its name’s somewhat controversial origin, the pub has become a beloved watering hole with a storied past. It offers a warm, rustic atmosphere and is famed for its hearty meals and welcoming vibe. The pub’s terrace is a perfect spot to unwind, offering lovely views of the sea while enjoying traditional British fare. Local folklore suggests that it was once a smugglers’ haunt, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to its charm.

Further along, Gunner’s Park presents a fascinating blend of history and nature. This expansive park, part of the Shoebury Garrison conservation area, is steeped in military history. Originally established as a defensive fortification in the 19th century, the park still retains remnants of its martial past, including barracks and gun emplacements. Today, it serves as a peaceful retreat with ample green spaces, walking trails, and opportunities for bird watching. The park’s historical significance is complemented by its natural beauty, making it a must-visit for both history aficionados and nature lovers.

Gateway to London and the North Sea

The final stop on this captivating adventure, is Shoeburyness, a corner of Essex that boasts a rich, vibrant tapestry of history and scenic beauty, where the Thames meets the North Sea. Known for its expansive beaches and tranquil vibe, Shoeburyness has been a significant site since Roman times. The area is also notable for its role in military history, particularly during both World Wars, when it served as a key defensive and testing site. One of its most intriguing spots is the Shoeburyness Boom, a World War II-era underwater barrier designed to protect against enemy submarines. This unique piece of wartime ingenuity can still be glimpsed at low tide, a stark reminder of the area’s strategic importance.

Shoeburyness is also famed for its artistic connections. The painter Edward Bawden, a prominent figure in British art, spent part of his life here, drawing inspiration from the local landscape. His works often reflect the serene and understated beauty of the Essex coast, cementing Shoeburyness’ place in the cultural fabric of the region.

Open Top ice cream and sauce all round

As the sun sets on a fab day out, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that the open-top 99 from Southend Pier to Shoeburyness offers halcyon fun and fascination aplenty for scenic thrill seekers, from historical landmarks and natural beauty to quirky local spots and fascinating personalities. Each stop reveals a different facet of Southend-on-Sea’s charm, making the journey as delightful as the destinations themselves. Whether you’re a history fan, a nature lover, or simply looking to soak in the coastal ‘kiss me quick’ vibes, this barnstorming scenic sojourn is a rollercoaster of a ride and promises a memorable adventure through one of Essex’s most beloved and magnificent of seaside towns. To plan your fab trip, be sure to check out

99, Southend Pier to Shoeburyness