Dotted with quaint seaside resorts that have doggedly refused to sell their souls to
tourism, the Suffolk coast offers everything from traditional fish and chips by
the pier to natural wonders in abundance.
Eat and drink
Adnams has been brewing in Southwold
since 1872 and is known for its cask ales, which you can try in 70 pubs around
East Anglia. In Southwold, Adnams offers one-hour brewery tours followed by a
30-minute tutored beer tasting. Its Cellar & Kitchen Store stocks beer,
wines and kitchenware (brewery at Adnams Plc; tour dates and times on website;
The Pinney family have been cultivating oysters at the Butley Orford Oysterage for more
than 50 years. They have a fish shop by Orford Quay, selling fish from their
smokehouse at nearby Butley Creek. For a hearty seafood meal – say half a dozen
oysters to start (£7.70, followed by fish pie (£12.50) – the family restaurant
on the market square serves simple but delicious dishes (see website for
Good old English seaside food is given star treatment at Regatta, a contemporary restaurant
in Aldeburgh. The celebrated ownerchef trained at Le Gavroche and runs regular
events, such as Hand Dived Scallop Week and Japanese Gourmet Evening. Dishes
such as smoked prawns with garlic mayo (£5.75) and confit of Gressingham duck
with Toulouse sausage cassoulet and chips (£13.50) are standard menu offerings
(171 High Street).
The coastline north of Aldeburgh is popular with birdwatchers, with RSPB Minsmere flickering with airborne
activity year-round. There’s a mix of woodland, wetland and coastal scenery,
and species to look out for include the avocet, bearded tit, bittern, marsh
harrier and nightingale (dawn–dusk, visitor centre 9am–4pm Nov–Jan, until 5pm
rest of year; walks £7.50).
Comprising Walberswick, Hen Reedbed and Dingle Marshes
reserves, Suffolk Coast National
Nature Reserve is a natural wonderland of reedbeds, hay meadows, grazing
marshes and a variety of woodlands. Home to hundreds of bird species, otters,
natterjack toads, water voles, five species of deer and rare butterflies, it
can all be accessed via a web of public footpaths.
Ness is the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe. Once used as a secret
military testing ground, it’s now home to a nature reserve and many rare wading
birds, animals and plants. There are information boards and military bunkers
along a three-mile path. Ferries run from Orford Quay: the last ferry departs
at 2pm (Sat only Apr–Jun and Oct, 10am–2pm Tue–Sat Jul–Oct; admission including
ferry crossing £7.20).
Coastal towns and
Southwold is the kind of genteel seaside resort where beach huts cost an
arm and a leg – some sell for as much as £100,000 – thanks to the lure of the
town’s sandy beach and pebble-walled cottages. Take in views from the
cannon-dotted clifftop and visit the impressive 19th-century lighthouse; then
enjoy fish and chips at the traditional pier or hit the waves with a boat ride.
One of the region’s most charming coastal spots, the fishing
and boat-building town of Aldeburgh has an understated charm. Handsome pastel-coloured
houses, independent shops and art galleries, and ramshackle fishing huts line
the High Street, while a sweeping shingle beach offers big-sky views. There���s
also a lively cultural scene and decent fish and chip shops.
North of Aldeburgh is a trail of serene and little-visited
coastal heritage towns that are gradually succumbing to the sea. The village of
Dunwich was once the Anglo-Saxon capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles,
but numerous storm surges over the centuries have washed away most of the
original settlements. There’s still a large shingle beach, birdwatching at
Dunwich Heath and The Ship at Dunwich, a good pub with rooms.
The A12 is the main road accessing coastal Suffolk, and the area is most
easily reached by car. Ipswich is the hub of the region – trains run from London Liverpool St
(1¼ hours; from £16), Norwich, and Bury St Edmonds. From Ipswich you can get a
bus to Aldeburgh (1¼ hours). Bus connections to Southwold are limited, but the
town can be reached from Norwich via Beccles on the 146 then 524 buses. For
local transport information contact suffolkonboard.com
Where to stay
Set in lovely gardens, Dunan House
is a charming b&b with three guest rooms. The artistic owners have filled
the house, which is a 10-minute walk from Aldeburgh beach, with artworks and
colourful rugs. Breakfast is from local, wild and homegrown produce (41 Park
Road; from £75).
is a beautiful 15th-century house in Southwold, with pargetted ceilings,
original elm floorboards and a medieval window. There’s also an excellent
restaurant serving local food (56 High Street; from £140).
A step away from Aldeburgh’s shingle beach, The Brudenell Hotel has 44 stylishly
decorated rooms, many with calming sea or river views. On sunny days, take
breakfast out on the seafront terrace (The Parade; from £180).
The article 'Mini guide to seaside Suffolk' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.