The Best Things to Do in Ipswich
Explore England's eastern coast with our list of things to do in Ipswich
If you’re eastward-bound and doing a bit of Suffolk-ationing (as opposed to simply Suffolk-ating), then Ipswich is the ideal stop for you, just a few hours east of London. It’s chock full of old-world delights and Victorian buildings by the Orwell River, which may sound a little…Orwellian…but is actually a rather pleasant and scenic area.
This fairly large town has a bucolic and rural feel, with farms that’ll delight the little ones and plenty of family-oriented activities and events. There’s even a football team that was once the pride of the region and featured in the Premier League. Now, they tend to yo-yo between the second and third tier, but it’s still worth going. If you’re any good, maybe they’ll let you play and elevate the standard. That’ll show the doubters (your family members).
Football fan or not, we’ve put together a list at the Plum Guide of the best things to do in Ipswich, the historic town between the River Orwell and the North Sea.
Outstanding Areas of Natural Beauty
They may sound like a bit of a mouthful, but Outstanding Areas of Natural Beauty seems to be an official designation for parks and things, and is often abbreviated to OANB. So, when you see it on the signs, now you know what it means. You’re welcome.
Exploring the beautiful outdoors is one of our favourite things to do in Ipswich and the surrounding area. We've got some pretty gorgeous homes in pretty gorgeous places around here, too; the whimsical Nestled in the Woods comes with a tennis court, swimming pool and boating lake. We're not kidding.
Anyway, back to exploring Ipswich. Start with the Suffolk Coast and Heaths. Or start with the Dedham Vale. It doesn’t really matter what you start with, to be honest. The point is, they're both OANBs. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths is all marshes, ancient woodland and beaches. With luck, you’ll be there on a sunny day and venture into the sea. The Dedham park may sound a little menacing, or like a deceased pig, but it’s made up of a chalk valley and the River Stour. The Dedham Vale served as a muse for John Constable’s 1828 painting, which he rather unimaginatively titled ‘Dedham Vale’. Say what you see, John.
Paintings and the like
If that last sentence tickled your artistic senses, then you’ll love this paragraph. Ipswich is a hub of art, with a few galleries spread across the town. Admire the period furnishings and antiques displayed in the Christchurch Mansion, which contains the Wolsey Art Gallery. Here you’ll find more paintings by that nature-loving John Constable, and this is apparently one of the world’s most important collections of his work. There’s also a pretty reputable selection of Thomas Gainsborough’s paintings.
In the city centre lies the more general Ipswich Art Gallery. It is in a former art school and showcases all sorts of temporary exhibitions and intriguing collections.
Bring your kids to the farms
Not forever, that is. Just for a visit. To show them what life could be like, because if they're going to treat their bedrooms like a pig sty, then...
Anyway, you're in this bucolic part of East England, the rump on the right side of the country, depending on which way up you’re holding the map. Did you know that some cultures don’t have words for left and right, but rather use compass points? They’ll say, ‘Hey John, pick up that map to the northeast of you… no, not that one, the one slightly north-northwest of that." And you think you’re not learning anything from the Plum Guide?
Anyway, the Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm makes for a great family day out. There’s a play area with a tyre swing hovering precariously over the water (don’t get any ideas mum/dad/the mischievous parent). Rush through the maze of hay and check out the cute little pigs. Don’t eat them. Or do, we’re not some moral arbitrator, we’re a travel guide. But do check out the cute little piggies and do impressions of Babe, before saying hi to the sheep, llamas, goats and donkeys.
Let your kids pet the goats at the Hollow Trees Farm Trail, and grab some breakfast in their kitchen. Pick up all sorts of local produce and flora in the garden centre shop, brave yourself for the spooky barn and lose yourself in the corn maze.
Wander along the Waterfront
The Ipswich Waterfront is at the heart of the culture and activity in the centre of the town. Stroll along the promenade and pick out your favourites from the many boats. Not to buy, of course, but to take photos of, providing their owners aren’t sitting there in the nude or any other compromising position. In fact, maybe avoid taking photos of all these people, and stick to the harbour. (You're welcome to sit in the nude in a Plum Guide home, mind you. We recommend you do it in style in this stately abode).
The Neptune Marina has a blend of postmodern and classical architecture, mixing the old with the new. Enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants overlooking the water or stop at a café in the afternoon to watch people go by. Chat to students at the University of Suffolk campus and tell them about what Ipswich was like in your day, as they politely nod along.