If you were ever captivated by Billy Joel’s Downeaster Alexa song and the baymen who work the waters around Block Island Sound and Martha’s Vineyard, then Osea Manor on Osea Island might just be for you. Yes, it’s off the Essex coast, but Osea, reachable only at low tide, does a passable impersonation of the genre.
Just a salt-splash from the shoreline sits Osea Manor, externally more Edwardian English than the Nantucket picket of its neighbours, but imposing, grand and turreted. Once an elite detox clinic, it now stares out at its lush gardens and saltwater pool, inviting you to gather your gang of 20, celebrate and make memories.
Walk the 4.4 miles of beaches, or boat, kayak and spot the five species of owl. Potter the 400 acres of rustic gardens, orchards, meadows and salt marshes. Every lungful of sea air here seems loaded with a sort of ultra-oxygen. Get the logs roaring, load up a movie and you might never leave. You can always blame the tide. Or Billy Joel.
How do you like your islands? With extra seclusion and extra life? The life here comes from the Brent geese, the curlews and the five species of owl. The seclusion’s in the gardens and grounds of Osea Manor, on the windblown beaches and in the salty air. Pedal the perimeter on a bike (any bike), kayak, swim, lounge, laze.
Right on site, you’ve got your own beach complete with saltwater pool. You might not want to dive into that, but the Clubhouse is three minutes away with its heated 12-metre pool. Or maybe you’ll want a set or two of tennis? Or just take it easy and hunt for shells and jellyfish. Just 45 miles from London, you can escape absolutely everything here.
From the outside, the Osea Manor is grand, Edwardian and oh-so-English, fit for croquet on the lawn and a picnic by the pool. Inside, the inspiration comes from the US and the Caribbean, just like its Nantucket neighbours. A painstaking restoration has made the house cosy and comfortable as well as traditional.
Gather the clan in the large living room, a colonial-style escape with its monochrome yacht prints, sash blinds and pot plants. This is the place to get the fire going, pick a movie and pile into the popcorn. For escapees, there’s a bulging bookcase and a second lounge with sea views. If it’s pool or table football you prefer, the Clubhouse, a colonial-style former chapel, is just three minutes away.
Wifi is good for basic browsing but don’t expect to stream the entire Breaking Bad box set. This is the late 19th century you’ve entered, and life is all the better for it. You won’t stay here for the modern trappings, yet it’s awesomely Instagrammable. Get together with your family, listen to the sound of the sea and watch the wood burn in the hearth.
Cooking and dining is decidedly different here. You can get an Ocado delivery, but only at low tide. So far, so cool. And the menus around here have the smack of the sea. Cook with Maldon salt, oysters, samphire, seafood and Tiptree jam. Do it all in two wall ovens and two hobs in your country kitchen. Then chuck your pots in the dishwasher.
You’ll eat around the dining table for 20, or out on the terrace with the tables and chairs that face the beach and catch the sea breeze. There’s a gas barbie out there for your open-air steaks and salad. Prefer to take it easy with a Prosecco? Call up our chefs from Gather and Feast for a one-off celebration or a fully catered break.
Head back over the causeway to catch a little crafty crabbiness at world-class seafood restaurant The Company Shed. Or will it be mouthwatering mussels or luscious lobster? For more fine fish, head to the seafood bar and outside dining at the Jolly Sailor at Heybridge Basin, or try the family-friendly dishes at the Queen’s Head at Maldon.
Missed your tide time? Don’t worry. There’s a ten-minute boat service back to the island. Need to order those fresh local ingredients? Maldon’s home to a butcher’s, fishmonger’s and greengrocer’s, although deliveries can be sketchy. Breathe pure sea air, eat clean, go home healthier than a monk at an avocado spa retreat.
So close to the sea, you’ll feel like you’re on a yacht. Pick from ten double bedrooms and enjoy the use of six bathrooms. Hotel-quality linen, four-posters and freestanding rolltops abound.
Bedrooms one, two and three are superking en-suites, while bedroom four is a kingsize that shares a bathroom with five, a superking. Bedrooms six and seven are doubles that share a bathroom, and the remaining three bedrooms all share a bathroom.
Whichever room you choose, you’ll sleep deeply in colonial-style comfort, as you listen to the water lapping the beach and the breeze blowing gently across the sand.
Holidays with kids are all about filling up the memory boxes. A stay at the Osea Manor on Osea Island offers a chance to do that in a unique way. Even the journey here, across the Roman-built causeway, is an adventure as your navigate the seabed and spin your wheels on the beach gravel.
Make it across OK? Great. Now it’s time to rip up the rule book and put the iPad to rest for a while. Hunt for jellyfish and crabs on the beaches that circle the island. Watch out for donkeys and all five species of English owl. Grab a bike and pedal the perimeter. Find the playground.
With rooms at every turn, the Osea Manor is hide-and-seek heaven. When you’ve hunted down your prey, pile into the living room to get a fire going and a movie brewing. Or leap into the shared 12-metre heated pool, head up to the snooker room, or play a little pool in the Clubhouse. Anyone for tennis? The court’s all-weather.
That Clubhouse games room also comes with vinyl and record players – a curiosity for kids – as well as table tennis, games and a small cinema room. If you’ve got toddlers, cots and stairgates are available, and you can bring up to three dogs. This is life as it once was. Free-range fresh air and bags of beachy fun.