Ray Island

Credit - Dave Watts

Ray Island Beach
This atmospheric island surrounded by beautiful and mysterious saltmarsh is not only home to an array of amazing wildlife like Short-eared Owls, it's provided the inspiration and setting to a number of classic literary novels.


Sampson's Lane

OS Map Reference

A static map of Ray Island Nature Reserve

Know before you go

40 hectares

Parking information

Boat access only


Access is by boat only, to designated moorings. There is no access across Bonners Saltings, and saltmarsh is liable to flooding at high tide


No dogs permitted

When to visit

Opening times

Open all year round via boat

Best time to visit

April to July

About the reserve

The remote Ray Island rises out of a maze of saltmarsh next to Mersea Island, the atmospheric marshes inspiring a number of gothic novels including the classic literary novel, Mehalah, and the best selling The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry. For years the island has been the subject of ghost stories, from escaped bears to Roman centurion marching through, where the thunder of imaginary hooves can almost be heard.

Rough grassland covers the reserve, along with patches of Blackthorn and Hawthorn thickets, favoured by finches all year round, and a freshwater pond. Voles scurry through the thickets, attracting many birds of prey such as Long-eared Owls, Short-eared Owls, Barn Owls and the occasional Hen Harrier that passes over the island.

Fringed by saltmarsh and filled with Lax-flowered Lavender, Golden Samphire and Sea Rush, the cries of breeding Redshank, Oystercatcher and Shelduck fill the summer air across the island. 

Come winter and many wintering waders and wildfowl return to their seasonal home on the island, where they can be heard calling across the saltmarsh and displaying in incredible murmarations above the shingle beach,

Bonners Saltings, the marshland between the island and the Strood is private property, so access is only available via boat.

Contact us

Environmental designation

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)