Within easy reach of both London and the Midlands, Suffolk is the smallest and mildest of the East Anglian counties. Perhaps its biggest draw is the coast, home to two of Britain’s most alluring seaside towns – Aldeburgh and Southwold – with Minsmere RSPB Reserve and the ancient settlement of Dunwich at the center of some glorious stretches of moor, heath and woodland.
People also come to Suffolk to visit ‘Constable Country’ – a string of bucolic villages bordering Essex, famously painted by the English landscape painter. Meanwhile, further inland, the old woolen towns of Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds are handsome destinations for a lazy weekend. Even Ipswich has an upgraded water area and interesting attractions. All in all, Suffolk is an easily accessible and diverse region for a weekend trip – or longer.
Explore our interactive map below for all the local highlights, and scroll down for our suggested day-by-day roundup of the best things to see and do.
For further Suffolk inspiration, see our guides to the city’s best hotels, restaurants, nightlife and things to do.
Start with an excellent breakfast just outside Ipswich at Milsom’s Kesgrave Hall, followed either by a visit to the waterfront district and Christchurch Mansion in the center of town – or in the opposite direction to Woodbridge, where you can wander the sights and shops of the riverside and the old city centre, before heading to Sutton Hoo. Much better known since the 2021 movie “The Dig,” starring Ralph Fiennes, the site is the burial site of a warrior king who was buried in a forty-year-old ship with a treasure chest of possessions in the early seventh century. You can see the main burial mound, as well as several others.
Have lunch on the unruly pig. It was ‘Dining Pub of the Year’ in the 2021 ‘Good Pub Guide’ and regularly ranks among the UK’s best gastropubs, serving local and seasonal British classics with a twist, featuring local oysters alongside Italian delights such as crispy arancini and focaccia, bistecca alla Fiorentina and ossobuco. For more suggestions on the best restaurants in the area, see our guide.
Leave the pub and head up through the wilderness of Rendlesham Forest to little Orford, with its castle and harbor – before heading to Aldeburgh. Here you can enjoy a walk along the seafront, followed by an ice cream at Ives or a cup of tea and a cake at Two Magpies Bakery. Next, visit the home of local hero Benjamin Britten – The Red House – on the outskirts of town. You can visit the house itself, with its wonderful collection of 20th-century British art, it has a museum packed with artefacts relating to the composer, and you can also see the library, still filled with Brittens and Pears’ furniture collection, books and paintings, and the studio where he composed War Requiem and other late works.
After this you head inland to Framlingham – and its wonderful ‘castle on the hill’ – Framlingham Castle and the Tudor tombs at St Michael’s Church. You can walk right around the 12th century defensive walls, still topped with the Tudor style, and enjoy fine views of the surrounding countryside.
For dinner, head to the Station Hotel, also in Framlingham. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a real foodie joint, with a regularly changing menu featuring fantastic, fresh and seasonal fish and meat dishes, and wood-fired pizzas Thurs-Sat.
Afterwards, stop for a pint at the King’s Head in nearby Laxfield. This ancient watering hole is unusual in that it has no bar per se – just a room full of barrels into which the staff disappear to take your order, while you make yourself comfortable in one of the pub’s wood-panelled rooms. For more pubs in the area, see our guide.
Have breakfast at The Crown in Westleton before heading to the coast at Dunwich, where you can walk to the RSPB reserve at Minsmere. Spend the rest of the morning walking the lagoons, watching the birds and perhaps spying the odd otter amongst the reeds.
Afterwards you can have fish and chips at the Flora Tea Rooms in Dunwich just behind the beach, lunch in Walberswick at The Anchor, or cross the river on the foot ferry and stroll up to the excellent Sail Loft for a meal by the dunes. The latter is a beach restaurant with an almost Mediterranean feel: it has the feel of a funky seaside cabin, with rustic furniture, bare floorboards and fresh fish dishes alongside steaks and other house favourites.
Then drive to Southwold – to explore the pier and take a walk along the beach. Afterwards, take a tour of Adnams Brewery – for famous Suffolk ales and gins – before heading inland to explore the towns of Beccles and Bungay. Tours of the brewery are regular and very popular, taking about an hour to see the main features of the brewery and taste an ale or two.
On your way between the two towns, stop at Fen Farm Dairy to buy some locally made cheese and butter. It is home to perhaps the best cheese to come out of Suffolk in recent years: the creamy, golden Baron Bigod, made with unpasteurised milk from grass-fed cows.
You’ve definitely earned a pizza at Oakfired in Beccles. There are all kinds of exotic toppings on the menu, but it doesn’t get better than their simple margherita with proper mozzarella and a perfect blistered crust.
To round off the day, take the Big Dog Ferry for the beautiful 5km river journey to the Locks Inn in Geldeston, a unique riverside pub recently saved from extinction by the local community. There is live music, Sunday afternoon sessions, folk evenings and a thousand other inventive offers to lure you here. It feels very remote, and is one of the few pubs most easily reached via the river.
Don’t write Felixstowe off: outside the container port is a pleasant seaside resort that also includes the little-known riverside village of Felixstowe Ferry. Even the harbor has its moments, with a beachside wildlife reserve, military forts (which you can visit), and the chance to catch the ferry over to Essex or the Shotley Peninsula.
For a small county, Suffolk has more than its fair share of conspiracy theories. Rendlesham Forest is Britain’s “Roswell”, home to one of the country’s most infamous UFO sightings in 1980. Nearby Shingle Street was forcibly evacuated during the war: some say in anticipation of a German invasion, others claim it was to test new experimental bombs.
Peasenhall is a pretty village not far from the A12 and has one of the best village shops going – Emmets, who cure their own ham. Bacon and sells all kinds of Spanish goodies.
Did you know?
Suffolk is home to over 500 medieval churches, the second largest concentration in the world. Only Norfolk has more.
The beginnings of Retreat East came from owner (and architect) Dominic Richards’ idea to offer a kind of second home in the countryside, without all the trappings of admin, cleaning and maintenance. Guests who become members (there is an initial purchase fee, followed by an annual fee) are allocated a minimum of 10 nights each year. Now you can also stay as a one-time guest. Imagine stylishly converted barns with beamed ceilings and freestanding baths, walks you can take from your doorstep, a kitchen garden with superb seasonal ingredients and a hot tub in a sun trap.
More places to stay
Occupying a prime location on Ipswich’s impressive waterfront, Salthouse Harbor Hotel blends the town’s maritime heritage with a unique contemporary style. Public spaces are enlivened by quirky modern sculptures and contemporary art – alongside imaginative objects picked up on the owners’ travels abroad. It’s a winning combination, which also respects the warehouse’s heritage and takes advantage of its fantastic location.
Prices given by Booking.com
With a combination of enthusiasm and an irresistible eye for detail, Five Acre Barn’s owners have created the ultimate modern b&b in the grounds of their Suffolk home. A world away from old seaside guesthouses, it’s a perfect base for seeing the best of the Suffolk coast. The style is hard to pin down, but the building itself has been nominated for various architectural awards and is relentlessly modern.
Doubles from £100.
The Sibton White Horse is a cozy village pub in a prime location, offering comfortable rooms and plenty of atmosphere. It is best known for its food, which is hearty, locally sourced and a cut above the norm. For long-time lovers of all things Suffolk, White Horse’s location is a great one: in the center of a peaceful cluster of picturesque inland villages – Sibton, Peasenhall and Yoxford – but also just a short drive to the coast at Walberswick and Dunwich. For more suggestions on the best hotels in the area, see our guide.
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What to take home
Don’t leave without a bottle or two of Adnams beer – or a tipple from St Peter’s Brewery. For seafood lovers, Pinneys Of Orford also sells a fine selection of smoked local fish, pâtés and fresh fillets: available from the shop and restaurant, or delivered straight to your door. The Baron Bigod cheese and unpasteurised butter at Fen Farm Dairy near Bungay, and home-made bacon at Emmets in Peasenhall, are also worth a considerable detour.
When to go
The beauty of East Anglia is that it is one of the driest – and sunniest – parts of the UK. Winter can naturally be a little bleak in remote villages and coastal towns, but you’re just as likely to visit on a bright, sunny day as a dreary day.
Summer can be busy along the coast and in the more touristy places inland – Lavenham, for example – but the crowds are rarely overwhelming and it’s easy to get off the beaten track.
Know before you go
Suffolk is a small but unusually diverse county, with a rural interior that gives way to a coastline that can feel quite detached from the rest of the county. Interspersed with creeks and coves, it hosts a number of coastal towns and villages literally at the end of the road to nowhere, from Shingle Street and Orford to Aldeburgh and Dunwich.
Basically, the A12 divides inland and coastal Suffolk, forming somewhat the backbone of the county – with the green fields and woodlands of rural Suffolk to the left, and the moors and moors of the coast to the right.
As with most English counties, public transport is sparse and if you want to see a lot you need a car. But important towns are connected by train, with two lines running from Ipswich in the south – one to Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds (and eventually Cambridge), and another to Lowestoft, stopping at Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Halesworth and Beccles. possible jump-off points to the coast.
Suffolk has gained a decent reputation for food in recent years, with restaurants and other establishments making the most of its abundant local produce – such as Blythburgh pork, Copella apple juice, Aspall cider, and of course two of the UK’s biggest regional brewers: Adnams and Green King. It has always had a great variety of local pubs, some of them relatively unchanged and in picturesque locations, but many with a strong renewed emphasis on serving local, seasonal food. As such, you will never go hungry, or indeed thirsty, while here.
Martin Dunford divides his time between East Anglia and London. A great fan of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and the Suffolk Coast, he is never happier than when following ancient footpaths between medieval churches and old pubs.