Things to do in Suffolk

Days out, Family, Activity

Posted by Ed on 19th January 2021

Suffolk

It is said that Suffolk is a great place to be a postman because there are no hills, but you’re bound to think this East Anglian county is special for other reasons because this ever up and coming holiday destination has plenty of interesting and fun places to visit for all the family, romantic couples, and groups of friends. Look even closer and you will find yourself in a county full of lesser-known beauty spots and attractions that are high in culture and fascinatingly historic.

Many of Suffolk’s visitor attractions are superb choices for family days out, whilst others have artistic points of interest for those with a never-ending thirst for knowledge. There are free places to visit for those on a smaller budget too. Come to Suffolk for an outdoor activity-packed holiday, or tarry along the streets and promenades of the county’s many market towns and seaside villages. The county also has its fair share of stately homes and castles – many of which are open to the public – and a few may even be recognisable from famous films.

If you have children in tow, fear not, there are wagon-loads of all-weather options across Suffolk to uncover and for those of us with four-legged friends, there’s no need to leave them out of the fun as there are a wealth of pet-friendly places to take them along to as well.

Cottages in Suffolk


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Towns in Suffolk to visit

The county is divided into several lovely, contrasting regions: The Brecks, Stour Valley, Waveney Valley, Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Shotley Peninsula, and the Wool Towns. The county town is the thriving and interesting Ipswich. Other large places of note include the picturesque and enchanting Bury St Edmunds; the sleepy Felixstowe that’s also home to the bustling cargo docks; the UK’s most easterly town Lowestoft, and the home of British horse racing, Newmarket.

Ipswich

Ipswich

Ipswich is the county town, or capital if you like, and although the town centre is thriving and built up, it still retains the look and feel of a market town. The town centre is characterised by its blend of homely architecture and modern trappings. A high proportion of shops are independently owned, rubbing shoulders with high street brands. Venture down to the regentrified town’s Victorian docks where you’ll find a varied selection of eateries and inspiring night spots too. 

Ipswich has more than its fair share of cinemas with an IMAX screen at the multiplex; for something off-mainstream head to the Ipswich Film Theatre. One of the most memorable and fun landmarks is the ‘Giles’ statue of his cartoon character of Grandma – it peers up towards the window where Carl Giles used to scribble down his famous creations. Ipswich Tourist Information offers guided walks of the town between May and September, so you can take in highlights like Cardinal Wolsey’s College, the Jewish cemetery, the ruins of Blackfriars, the breweries, Henry Tooley’s tomb and Ancient House. Another favourite for visitors is to climb aboard a showboat and enjoy a leisurely a tour down the River Orwell to the Shotley Peninsula. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and the river course within sight of many local landmarks including the Orwell Bridge.

Top things to do in Ipswich:

Stay nearby at: The Skyscraper | Sleeps 6


Newmarket

Newmarket

Newmarket is the birthplace of British horseracing and in 2016, the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and British Sporting Art opened. It’s a must-see for anybody looking for days out in Suffolk with an interest in the sport and you can find a home for retired racehorses at the museum too. Newmarket hosts up to five race meetings per year which cause the town to come to life.

Join the Discover Newmarket tour where you can learn all about the Jockey’s Club, and see the gallops, trainers’ yards and the National Stud. A special treat for early birds is to take a walk down by the gallops at dawn to see the jockey’s train.

Top things to do in Newmarket:

Stay nearby at: Wheelwrights | Sleeps 4


Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds

Nestled in the heart of Suffolk is the sleepy market town of Bury St Edmunds, home to a weekly street market, a selection of eateries and a wealth of history. Abbey Gardens is one of the top beauty spots – this 14-acre park at the centre of the town is the site of a former Benedictine abbey that was sacked in 1539 and visitors are welcome to walk amongst the columns and walls to picture how the edifice looked centuries earlier.

At the opposite end of the park, you will find views of the imposing Abbey Gate and St Edmundsbury Cathedral. The ordered gardens are well-maintained and over 20,000 plants are bedded for summer displays. Elsewhere in the park, you’ll find the Appleby Rose Garden, the Pilgrim’s Herb Garden, the Sundial Fountain, an aviary, and a large children’s play area. It’s a wonderful place to unwind, take in the surroundings and read a book, or eat a picnic. If you’re looking for free things to do in Suffolk, it’s an oasis worth seeking out.

Top things to do in Bury St Edmunds:

Stay nearby at: The Cart Lodge Hepworth | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog


Felixstowe

Felixstowe

If you’re searching for romantic things to do in Suffolk, there are some very pleasant walks along the coast in Felixstowe. One of the best is around the large nature reserve that separates the gigantic 18th-century Landguard Fort from one of the busiest shipping channels in England. Tours of the impressive ex-military edifice are available, so you can see a pristine example of a Martello tower – it is also home to Felixstowe’s town museum.

Birdwatchers love the reserve. Find Jacob’s Ladder at low-tide and if you’re lucky, you can make out the remains of a Roman Fort, or as scholars speculate, a remnant of the lost city of Dummoc. Follow the Suffolk Coast Path up the river estuary and it leads to the deep-water port in Felixstowe, where you can watch colossal ships being loaded with cargo crates at the John Bradfield Viewing Point. Surprisingly popular, there was nowhere for the public to come and see the goings-on at the port until the port authority decided to cater to the demand with a café, viewing deck and ferry to Harwich (connecting Suffolk to Essex).

Top things to do in Felixstowe:

Stay nearby at: Daisy's By The Sea | Sleeps 2


Historic attractions in Suffolk

Elveden Hall

Elveden Hall

Now owned by the Guinness brewing family, Elveden Hall is perhaps best known for being the home of the exiled Duleep Singh, owner of the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire. The Maharajah is buried in the church at Elveden. The house featured in several films such as Tomb Raider (2001), and Princess Caraboo (1994). It has a farm shop and café that can be visited. 

  • Location: Elveden (IP24 3TL)
  • Prices: Free to enter
  • Opening times:  Elveden Inn is open daily 7.30am-10pm, please see website for shops and café.
  • Stay nearby at: Willows Retreat | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Helmingham Hall Gardens

Helmingham Hall

The moated Helmingham Hall and Gardens makes for a memorable day out. Privately owned, its Grade I-listed gardens are a delight to behold and wander around. The family host some excellent events like car shows and gardening exposés. With its unique architecture and endless gardens, it’s bound to become a firm favourite on your list of things to do in Suffolk. Serious film fans will know Helmingham Hall from the Merchant Ivory film, The Golden Bowl. 

  • Location: Stowmarket (IP14 6EF)
  • Prices: Adults £7.00, children £3.50
  • Opening times:  View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: East End Dairy | Sleeps 4

Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo

Sutton Hoo is the site of England’s most famous archaeological find. In May 1939, Basil Brown excavated the site of a Saxon ship burial. Treasures, now seen at the British Museum, were found in the burial chamber and include a ceremonial helmet, gold and gems, dress fittings, a shield and sword, a lyre and silver pieces.

Sutton Hoo is now managed by the National Trust and has a visitor centre and trails around the ship burial site and other excavation points on the estate. There is a family-friendly exhibition in the visitor centre where you can see a display of some of the finds from the burial mounds. Also, head to the Ipswich Museum for further articles unearthed at the site. The Exhibition Hall has a larger-than-life scale replica of the ceremonial helmet above the entrance.

  • Location: Woodbridge (IP12 3DJ)
  • Prices: Adults £15.00, Children £7.50, Family £37.50
  • Opening times:  View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: Monterey | Sleeps 10

Places of interest in Suffolk

Walberswick Beach

Walberswick Beach

Suffolk has 50 miles of coastline and much of it can be walked via the Suffolk Coast Path. The path runs along riverbanks, sea walls, marshes, heath, foreshore and clifftops. The county also has some great beaches. Predominantly shingle and pebble, some of the best examples of unspoiled coastal Britain can be found here.

Enjoy the stony expanses and streams that criss-cross the marshes and beaches at Walberswick; speculate which wooden crossing inspired Philip Wilson Steer’s famous impressionistic masterpiece, hung at the Tate Britain, called The Bridge. Follow Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw’s walk and discover why this lovely beach and village inspires painters to this day. Amenities at Walberswick include cafes, shops and friendly restaurants. If you’re looking for Suffolk things to do with your four-legged family members, this dune-backed beach is dog-friendly and just a few miles from Southwold for even more seaside strolls.

  • Location: Southwold (IP18 6TT)
  • Prices: Free (parking charges may apply)
  • Opening times: Always open
  • Stay nearby at: Little Hawthorn | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Orford Ness

Orford Ness

The National Trust managed Orford Ness is a wonderful obscurity. Once a top-secret military base and home to early atomic and radar test programmes, it is now a nature reserve and SSSI, perfect for relaxing day trips in Suffolk. Only accessible by a ferry from the village of Orford, this unusual destination is strictly controlled due to the nature of the classified tests run on the peninsula and because of its rare combination of natural elements. There are some very unusual structures to visit which make for a unique experience.

There are some superb opportunities for birdwatching here and you can walk to the lighthouse at Orford Ness and along the shoreline. Perhaps the strangest sight on the reserve is the National Trust’s nuclear missile (yes, you read that right.) Facilities at Orford Ness are few and basic, so pack a picnic, drinking water and comfortable shoes… and don’t miss the ferry back! 

  • Location: Woodbridge (IP12 2NU)
  • Prices: View the prices here
  • Opening times:  View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: Friston's Holly Cottage | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Rendlesham Forest

Rendlesham Forest

The truth is out there. In fact, the truth may well be in Suffolk. The most talked-about UFO incident in the UK happened in Rendlesham Forest near to an army base (RAF Woodbridge) and is referred to as ‘the British Roswell Incident.’ There is a walk through Rendlesham Forest which is called the UFO Trail to capitalise on the reported sightings that blighted the area one night in December 1980. This is certainly one of the more unusual places to go in Suffolk and could be one for Mulder & Scully.

  • Location: Woodbridge (IP12 3NF)
  • Prices: Free (parking charges apply)
  • Opening times:  Open daily 9am-4pm
  • Stay nearby at: Friston's Forge Cottage | Sleeps 3 + 2 dogs

Kids days out in Suffolk

Suffolk is a great destination for young families with many attractions and activities to entertain young ones. Here’s a varied introduction to some of the best family days out in Suffolk to take your brood on your staycation:

The East Anglia Transport Museum

The East Anglia Transport Museum 

Children love a transport museum: there’s something special about visiting showcases of old cars, lorries, buses, trams and trains. It’s almost like a child’s toybox blown up on a massive scale. The East Anglia Transport Museum is a real treat for visitors; much of the collection is made up of trucks, buses and government vehicles that were once in service in Ipswich, Lowestoft and the wider East Anglia region.  

  • Location: Lowestoft (NR33 8BL)
  • Prices: Adults £9.00, children (5-15) £6.00
  • Opening times:  View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: Golden Rise Cottage | Sleeps 6 + 3 dogs

Africa Alive!

Africa Alive!

Wall-to-wall African animals await your children in this entertaining diversion. If you’re wondering what to do in Suffolk with the kids, this rogue’s gallery of primates, quadrupeds, reptiles and birds is bound to entrance everyone that turns up! Africa Alive! Is set within 100 acres of stunning Suffolk countryside, and as well as spotting a host of wildlife, kids can look forward to indoor and outdoor adventure play areas, and a variety of displays, feeding talks and animal encounter sessions.

  • Location: Lowestoft (NR33 7TF)
  • Prices: Adults £10.00, children (3-15) £5.00, under 3’s £1.00
  • Opening times:  View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: Hillside – Geldeston | Sleeps 4 

Pleasurewood Hills

Pleasurewood Hills

Suffolk’s own theme park is stuffed to the hedges with rides and mad attractions to keep your gang happy for days. There are rides for everybody at Pleasurewood Hills: from thrill rides for mums and dads, to family rides and carousels for the youngest. The facilities are excellent and exhaustive; just bring your courage.

  • Location: Lowestoft (NR32 5DZ)
  • Prices: View the prices here (based on height)
  • Opening times: View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: Reedham Riverside | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Partyman World of Play

Partyman World of Play

Partyman World of Play is the only company operated by children’s entertainers, so when in Ipswich, head into the world of climbing, tumbling and scrambling. This is soft play with the volume and experience turned up to 11. With huge, themed play structures and a superb array of colourful slides, this could be a good solution for your family if the weather is less than perfect. 

  • Location: Ipswich (IP3 8AX)
  • Prices: View the prices here
  • Opening times: View the opening times here
  • Stay nearby at: Fields Edge | Sleeps 4

Map of things to do in Suffolk


Holidays in Suffolk

As you can see Suffolk has millions of interesting and fun places to discover and take your family. We have some lovely holiday cottages across Suffolk, close to all of the attractions mentioned in our guide. Why not take a look at our collection of holiday cottages and let what you find inspire your escape to Suffolk?

Cottages in Suffolk


Further inspiration

Browse our informative guides to Suffolk for more inspiration for your next break:

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.