With its independent boutiques, pubs and cafes and gorgeous Georgian architecture, the historic riverside town of Woodbridge makes a brilliant base for a staycation.  

Off the A12, it’s a breeze to get to – and if you want a car-free break it’s easily accessible by public transport, with regular train services between Ipswich and Lowestoft. 

Set on the River Deben, the former port was once a hub for shipbuilding and sail-making. And it’s just a stone’s throw away from Sutton Hoo, the famous archaeological site where an Anglo-Saxon ship burial was uncovered in the 1930s.  

It’s time to explore. 

Where to stay in Woodbridge 

The Bull Inn, on Market Hill, is a charming former coaching inn with a rich history. 

Once a regular stopping house on the route between Norwich, Ipswich and London, its earliest recorded mention is from the Ipswich Journal in October 1726 - and a wooden panel inscribed with the date 1675 suggests it dates back even further.  

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Famous former guests have included the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, author Daniel Defoe, Winston Churchill and, more recently, Robert De Niro, who stayed there while filming at Elveden Hall.  

During the 1939 Sutton Hoo expedition, archaeologists working on the site stayed at The Bull Inn and often brought back finds for identifying and cataloguing before they were sent on to the British Museum.  

During the last three years, owners David and Sarah Clarke have embarked on refurbishing The Bull, while painstakingly retaining its olde worlde charm and it offers a range of accommodation. 

The spacious master suites, which overlook the Shire Hall, Market Hill and St Mary’s Church, are perfect for a romantic getaway – there are king beds, a lounge where you can kick back and relax, and beautiful en-suites. 

Or for a really special occasion, book the second-floor luxury four-poster room, which has views over Market Street and down scenic Chapel Street. 

See bullinnwoodbridge for more information – including details of their off-peak staycation packages, the Gastro Staycation and Staycation Plus. 

Where to eat in Woodbridge 

The Woodyard 

Our food editor, Charlotte Smith-Jarvis, was blown away on a recent visit to this new-ish pizza joint in Deben Wharf. 

The dough is slow fermented and rolled fresh to order and pizzas are cooked on an Italian biscotti stone. 

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Her verdict was that the result is as good as anything she’s eaten in Rome’s Trastevere district. And brilliant value for money too – pizzas are between £10 and £14 and desserts around £5. 

The salami and Nonna’s meatball ragu pizzas come particularly highly recommended – and they’ve mastered the art of the salad too.  

The Bull Inn 

With a focus on serving traditional British dishes using fresh, local, seasonal produce, the menu at The Bull Inn tends to change weekly to take advantage of the best ingredients. 

The bar and restaurant have oak beams, an early 16th century original screen – and, perfect for an autumn or winter staycation, a cosy open log fire to warm up in front of. 

They’re serious about their wine here, so each dish on the menu comes with a pairing suggestion to help you to navigate the list. 

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So for starters, for example, they suggest that the wild venison croquette with mouli radish, hazelnut mayonnaise and pickled walnuts (£9) is accompanied by Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc or a Pinot Noir. 

And for mains they recommend pairing the slow roast free range local pork belly with colcannon mash, broccoli, apple sauce and crackling (£18) with Friels Cider, Riesling, Grenache, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc. 

The Galley 

With its brightly painted exterior, you can’t miss The Galley at the top of Market Hill. 

And the Mediterranean vibe continues inside. Think sharing meze platters (£20 for two) with pitta bread crafted by hand, mains (£22 each) including grilled seabass and baked aubergine with a variety of meaty or veggie fillings and desserts (£8) including baklava, Turkish delight ice cream and rice pudding with sharp lemon curd. 

Christine’s Patisserie and Tea Rooms 

This gorgeous café in Thoroughfare is well worth stopping off at to refuel. Open from breakfast time through to afternoon tea, it serves up a great range of bagels, hearty Buddha bowls and savouries. And the selection of cakes is a sweet-toothed delight – the chocolate and peanut butter tart sounds divine.  

The walled garden is a lovely spot on a sunny day. 

Things to do in Woodbridge 

Visit the Tide Mill 

One of Suffolk’s best-known landmarks, Woodbridge Tide Mill, is still grinding grains and producing flour as it has done for hundreds of years. 

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Most days you can see the impressive oak water wheel turning – and you can buy the mill’s flour when it’s in stock.  

The mill is open this weekend, November 26-27, then closed for the winter. Check out when it’s due to re-open at woodbridgetidemill.org.uk 

Walk along the riverside 

Stretch those legs, take a picturesque ramble along the riverside and explore the boatyards.  

And don’t forget your binoculars – the River Deben is home to around 150 species of bird. In the winter you might spot wading birds such as godwits and curlews. 

Enjoy shopping 

Market Hill and Thoroughfare are packed with independent shops.  

The Cactus Club pop-up has returned to the town for six weeks, showcasing the talents of almost 30 traders based in and around Suffolk at its shop in Thoroughfare.  

Run by Emily Hicks of Pink Cactus and Co the idea is to support independent makers in the run-up to Christmas – look out for hand-poured soy candles and wax melts by Smith & Co, terrariums by The Copper Cacti, prints and cards by Lorna Hill and much more. 

Other stores we love are Browsers Bookshop, Tilly and Grace boutique, Chenevix Jewellery, which specialises in bespoke and remodelled pieces, and Les Chocolats Belges.  

Go for a drive 

Ufford Park is home to the only two-tier driving range in Suffolk, plus there’s an award-winning 120-acre, 18-hole, par-71 course. Or for some family fun, try your luck on the Congo Rapids Adventure Golf – look out for the T-Rex and Brachiosaurus! 

See uffordpark.co.uk for details. 

A trip to Sutton Hoo 

The inspiration for the Netflix film The Dig, Sutton Hoo is home to one of the most important archaeological discoveries in history. 

It was here, in the summer of 1939 that archaeologist revealed an Anglo Saxon burial mound packed with extraordinary treasures, including the famous Sutton Hoo helmet (now on display in the British Museum) which shed new light on life in early England.  

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The Sutton Hoo Ferry Cliff Walk is a beautiful three-mile walk which takes you through woodlands and fields and has spectacular views over the River Deben. 

Note that during the winter while the National Trust estate is open daily for walks, the High Hall exhibition, Tranmer House (the former home of Edith Pretty who owned the land where the burial ship was found)café, shop and bookshop are open at weekends only.  

See nationaltrust.org.uk for details. 

Catch a movie 

Perhaps one of the most picturesque locations for a cinema, the Riverside has a packed programme of the latest releases – plus there’s all-day dining and evening cocktails at A Listers bar and music venue.