Our Expert List of Things to Do in Suffolk
Home to history, culture and a beautiful coastline, Suffolk should definitely be top of your list.
The gentle county of Suffolk is quintessentially British. With more than 50 miles of glorious coastline, a fascinating history and an impressive artistic pedigree, you can’t go wrong with spending some time here. And whether you’re hoping to relax on the beach or trying to persuade your family to go on a grand tour of the county’s attractions, you’re certain to have a fabulous time. Read on for Plum Guide's curated list of things to do in Suffolk.
Explore Bury St Edmunds
One of the historical gems of the county, taking in Bury St Edmunds should be top of your list of things to do in Suffolk. Home of Suffolk’s only cathedral, your inner nerd can geek out over the historical buildings here, including houses that were built in 1700s and the ruined Bury St Edmunds Abbey, surrounded by gardens that you enter through an impressive Norman gateway.
If you’re more interested in hops than history, the famous Greene King brewery is also located here. It’s been brewing ale for more than 200 years, and you can taste the expertise in its products. Just make sure not to overindulge when you go on a brewery tour, or your family will never let you live it down.
Enjoy a vintage show on Southwold Pier
If you feel like you deserve a certain level of poshness when you’re on holiday (we know that you do, and you’re so right), Southwold is the place you should be. For a stay with plenty of luxury and a sea view, this home will see you right. Known for its famous beach lined with pastel huts, its top-notch restaurants and for the gentle feel of the town, exploring Southwold is one of the best things to do in Suffolk, and it's one of our favourite places to visit in England too.
The highlight, however, is Southwold’s pier. Unlike many other piers, it’s not known for its fairground rides and candyfloss, but instead for its fascinating ‘Under the pier show’ featuring the wacky, inventive machines of a man called Tim Hunkin. Line up to ‘Whack a banker’ (that one could hit close to home for you) or ‘Rent a granny’ (which would come in helpful when you struggle to find a last-minute babysitter).
Ride on the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway
For all you closet trainspotters (we know you’re out there), this steam train and railway museum will really get your engine going. As well as a museum with interesting exhibits about the history of the local trains and rail travel in general, you can climb aboard the steam engine and live your dreams of watching the world go by with your head out the window, fulfilling your Railway Children fantasy. When you arrive back into the station, chat to the friendly and knowledgeable staff, all dressed in period costume, about all the train facts you can think of. Definitely bring your camera for this one.
Get to know Woodbridge and Sutton Hoo
In 1939, Sutton Hoo became the new home of the most important archaeological Saxon site in the country. A 30-metre-long burial ship was discovered, as well as many treasures and trinkets that changed conceptions of how the Saxons worked and lived. Now you can visit a reconstructed version of the burial chamber (and perhaps take some notes so that when the time comes you can procure one equally as impressive for yourself) and learn all about the history of the Saxons in East Anglia.
The nearby town of Woodbridge is also an important part of Suffolk, and worth spending some time in if you’re near the area. A maritime centre for hundreds of years, it has an impressive traditional harbour on the River Deben. There’s also the Woodbridge Tide Mill, which has been grinding flour for more than 800 years.
Visit Benjamin Britten’s giant shell
The charming town of Aldeburgh’s connection with the famous British composer Benjamin Britten is well known. He lived in Suffolk and loved the county, immortalising it in his opera 'Peter Grimes'. If you can visit Aldeburgh during the town’s annual arts festival which celebrates his work, then you’ll enjoy the town at its best, but its rustic appeal holds year-round. Stay at this colourful beachside house and you’ll get to be first in line for the town’s famous fish and chips, best enjoyed on a blustery day at the beach.
Hardcore opera fans (we see you out there and we support your expensive, black-tie-required habit) will want to visit the evocatively simple grave of Britten and his partner Peter Pears, found in the churchyard of St Peter & St Paul. But if your children won’t deign to be dragged there, the scallop shell memorial on Aldeburgh beach is where you want to go. Designed by artist Maggi Hambling, it’s a fitting tribute to the composer - and kids will love clambering over its metal surface.
Travel on a tiny ferry
Suffolk is criss-crossed with many coastal paths, and they’re well worth spending some time exploring (if you can manage to drag your kids away from their phones and yourself away from that beach thriller you brought with you, however). To cross the broad estuaries of the creek-ridden coast, you can travel on the tiny, four foot wide ferries that take passengers safely across the water. From Orford to Butley, Bawdsey to Felixstowe and Felixstowe to Shotley/Harwich, a ferry journey is the only way to travel. They’re so adorable, you’ll never want to take the tube again. Suffolk is one of our new holiday destinations, which reflect a desire to get out of the city and explore the great outdoors. For more things to do in Suffolk, we've put together a guide to Ipswich, a surprisingly fun little town boasting plenty of natural beauty.