Located west of Cambridge and northwest of London, Suffolk is a particularly scenic area of England that includes a long coastal stretch of beaches and small towns. The region is known for its historical sites and museums and a summer destination for those looking to spend time by the sea. Whether you want to explore the English countryside or want to hang out at the beach, Suffolk is a great destination for travelers, including those with kids. Here are 12 of the best things to when visiting Suffolk.
Visit Bury St. Edmunds
The historic market town is a charming example of an English village, showcasing over 1,000 years of history. Don't miss the St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and the ruins of the Abbey of St. Edmund, which can be found in the picturesque Abbey Gardens. The Abbey was once a famous pilgrimage spot in England, and visitors can learn about its legacy or take advantage of the town's great shopping and restaurants. Bury's theaters, including The Athenaeum and the Theatre Royal, are also worth a visit for lovers of plays and literature.
Stroll Around Ipswich
Another of Suffolk's popular destinations is the town of Ipswich, which can be found along the River Orwell. It's a charming, historic spot with lots of shopping, cafes, and galleries, and the town is known for the Ipswich Museum and Gallery. Don't miss Christchurch Park, which houses the 500-year-old Christchurch Mansion, and the Ancient House, dating back to the 14th century. Ipswich's waterfront is especially picturesque, and visitors can take boat cruises along the river. Ipswich is also home to Ipswich Town F.C., the only professional soccer team in Suffolk, so you may want to stop by a match during your visit.
Explore the National Horse Racing Museum
Newmarket was once the home of Charles II's racing palace. Today, that legacy can be experienced at the National Horseracing Museum, a five-acre site in the center of town where you can meet actual racehorses. It comprises three main areas, including the National Horse Racing Museum in the Trainer’s House and King’s Yard Galleries, Packard Galleries of British Sporting Art in Palace House, and, most importantly, the horse retraining ground. It's a good visit for kids and adults alike, and the museum often puts on special events and workshops for visitors.
Visit Framlingham Castle
Located in Framlingham, Framlingham Castle was originally built in 1148. Henry II destroyed that structure, and today visitors can see its replacement, which was constructed by the Earl of Norfolk. It has an extensive history, as you can imagine, and the castle has recently become more famous as the subject of Ed Sheeran's "Castle on the Hill." The English Heritage Site welcomes visitors most days of the year, and parking is available for a fee (although it's free for members). Don't skip the cafe, which serves up Tudor-inspired dishes.
Boat on Orford Ness
Head to Orford Ness, a "cuspate foreland shingle spit" on the coast of Suffolk, to experience a boat tour or a scenic stroll along the shore. The Ness is located in the Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, known for its water and wildlife views. Orford River Trips, which launch at Orford Quay, take guests around Havergate Island and past the RSPB Bird Reserve, an experience not to be missed. Tours are seasonal and depend on the weather, so call the company in advance to hear a recording of upcoming times. Tickets aren't available in advance; you just show up and pay (and enjoy).
Tour Sutton Hoo
Discover the site of two early medieval cemeteries near Woodbridge. Known as Sutton Hoo, the cemeteries, created for the Anglo-Saxons, date back to the 6th and 7th centuries and are now a National Trust property. Visitors can explore the site and its museum, which houses various exhibitions and a sculpture representing the Anglo-Saxon ship buried at Sutton Hoo. The site is also family-friendly, with frequent activities scheduled for kids, including the "Treasure Travel Trail." There is also a cafe, a used bookstore, a gift shop, and several walking trails. Tickets can be purchased in advance online, although it's not necessary to buy them ahead of time unless coming around a holiday.
See a Play at Theatre Royal
Located in Bury St. Edmunds, the Theatre Royal is a restored Regency theatre and one of eight Grade I listed theaters in the U.K. It's run by the National Trust and frequently presents a vibrant calendar of plays, musicals, live music, and stand-up comedy, including three of its own in-house productions a year. It's been renovated with modern amenities (like more bathrooms), but the theater's historic vibe remains, making it a must-do while touring Suffolk. Check the calendar in advance online, and be sure to book tickets ahead of time for the more popular events. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the theater to learn more about its storied past.
Grab a Ticket to Latitude Festival
Held every summer, Latitude Festival is one of England's best music festivals. It takes place in Henham Park, near Southwold, and features popular bands, comedy, yoga, and family-friendly activities. Most attendees opt to camp, either in tents or in one of the more expensive glamping areas, but you can also buy day passes. Be sure to grab tickets far in advance, especially if you want one of the nicer campsites. There's even a family campsite, and kids of all ages are welcome, as long as you follow the rules to keep those 16 accompanied by an adult. Latitude is notably more laid back than Glastonbury, making it a good option for travelers who want a fun experience in the English countryside.
Tour Greene King Brewery
Based in Bury St. Edmunds, Greene King is one of the U.K.'s biggest brewers and pub owners. The brand dates back to 1799, and visitors can stop by Greene King's Westgate Brewery to learn more about its history and how the beers are made. Book a guided tour and try a tasting of several brews in the Beer Café, which is open Tuesday through Thursday (and also serves food). Tours can be booked in advance online or by phone, and it's recommended to make a reservation if you are coming on a summer or bank holiday weekend.
Swim at Aldeburgh Beach
Suffolk has many nice beaches, but Aldeburgh Beach is one of the area's best. It's located alongside the seaside town of Aldeburgh, which boasts quirky historic buildings and a selection of fun shops. The beach is marked by the iconic Scallop sculpture, designed by local artist Maggi Hambling, and the sandy stretch is great for a stroll or to lay out during the warmer parts of the year. The beach is a favorite for locals and tourists and can be quite busy on summer weekends and bank holidays. Look for Aldeburgh Fish & Chips when you're ready for lunch.
Ride the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway
Climb aboard the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, fondly known as the "Middy," during a stay in Suffolk. The standard gauge heritage railway was originally constructed to help with farming, but it was never completed and hence never officially opened. Today the public can ride a section of the railway that stops at recreated stations, with steam trains running from Brockford Station throughout the year. Check the calendar online to book ahead. Popular events, like the Christmas-themed Santa Specials trains, tend to sell out in advance. Most of the MSLR Museum, which houses artifacts and memorabilia, and the trains are wheelchair accessible.
Drive Along the Suffolk Coast
The best way to experience the Suffolk coast's beauty is to take a drive through its seaside towns and scenic landscapes. Start at Walberswick Beach and head south past the Dunwich Heath and Beach. There's plenty to see and do along the way, including Orford, Felixstowe, and Ipswich, which is found slightly more inland. You can spend a day exploring or make it a long journey, with overnights in some of the towns or campgrounds along the coast. Be sure to bring a map or opt for GPS since cell service can be spotty in parts of the area.