9 things to do in Suffolk if you’re visiting for the first time

Vines at Dedham Vale Vinyard, one of Suffolk's many wine producers

Vines at Dedham Vale Vinyard, one of Suffolk's many wine producers - Credit: Dedham Vale Vineyard/Archant Archives

Suffolk with its rivers, large areas of open space and miles of coastline is full of natural wonder well worth a trip but where do you start if you are a first time visitor?

From fantastic walks in Constable County to spectacular beaches at Covehithe and Dunwich to Framlingham Castle, here we give you some suggestions.

1) Explore an area of outstanding natural beauty

Just walking anywhere near the River Stour in south Suffolk and north Essex is like stepping into a John Constable painting.

The celebrated British landscape painter, who was born in East Bergholt, drew inspiration from the village and surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty including Flatford and the Dedham Vale. 

Most of the walks are off-road and there are several nice glamping sites and B&Bs nearby. 

A couple paddle boarding on a lake at sunsest

Paddle board at Alton Water in Stutton where you can even hire out a mega board for groups - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

2) Get into water sports

Alton Water in Tattingstone has over 400 acres of walks along with watersports. 

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Whether sailing, fishing, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddle boarding, there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

For more information email Anglian Water or call 01473 328408. 

A warm but breezy day on Dunwich beach

Dunwich Beach in north Suffolk - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown / Archant

3) Beaches, a great coastline and more beaches! 

Another area of outstanding natural beauty is the Shotley peninsula with its cliffs, creeks and dunes, while nearby Felixstowe makes a great day out with fish, chips, and a beautiful pier. 

Going further north, Dunwich Beach is easy to drive to with a car park open 9am to 6pm. and is not too far from the seaside destination of Southwold. 

Kessingland and Pakefield beaches near Lowestoft are also easy to drive to while Covehithe near Southwold is a sandy beach that is only accessible by foot or cycle.

A beacon will be lit at Framlingham Castle next summer for the Platinum Jubilee

Framlingham Castle near Woodbridge - Credit: BARRY PULLEN/IWITNESS

4) Like Ed Sheeran or medieval history? 

Framlingham Castle, in east Suffolk, is the inspiration for local singer Ed Sheeran's Castle on the Hil is a great place to see history up close. 

Originally built as a Norman castle, by 1148, it was twice breached, first by Henry II of England, who destroyed it in the aftermath of the Revolt of 1173–1174, and secondly by King John in 1216. 

It regularly holds outdoors events for kids including sword fighting and puts on performances during the summer. 

Run by English Heritage, booking has to be done online.

5) Go to Ipswich Waterfront and watch the world go by

The waterfront in Ipswich looks like a pretty postcard all year round with great bars, cafes and restaurants.  

You will regularly see people cycling and roller-blading past  the luxury yachts and boats. 

You can also book Orwell Lady boat trips from one hour to three and half hours to go up and down the River Orwell or eat aboard one of the floating restaurants. To book your trip see here.

Ipswich Maritime Festival

Ipswich Waterfront during the Maritime Festival - Credit: All About Ipswich

6) Don't miss seeing the story of Netflix's The Dig up close

Netflix blockbuster The Dig, released earlier this year, based on the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon ship at Sutton Hoo, is likely to draw crowds to the site of the National Trust site.

The film starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan tells the story of how Basil Brown was asked to investigate the mounds by Edith Pretty, which led to the unearthing of the Great Ship Burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939. 

You have to book ahead, under Covid restrictions, please go here for more nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo.

7) Visit Bury St Edmunds for theatre, lovely bistros, and a Cathedral

Bury St Edmunds - the home of Saint Edmund, the original patron Saint of England - is not far from the nature of Bradfield Woods and Ickworth and also makes a good day trip from Cambridge on the East Anglian train line. 

Known as a food lovers paradise, there are several independent brunch, cafes and restaurants serving everything from French fine dining to tea rooms and Asian cuisine.

You can also have a walk around St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the ruins of the Abbey of St Edmund in the Abbey Gardens as well as take in a performance at The Theatre Royal.

A beacon will be lit in Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds next summer for the Platinum Jubilee

The pretty Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

8) Get to know local artists 

Sudbury, another Stour Valley setting in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, inspired another artist Thomas Gainsborough and is home to a museum displaying the artist's work - which is currently being redeveloped. 

In the meantime check out the Jessica Muir gallery and glassmaking at Hart Glass in the town.

It also has a rich history in the wool trade along with nearby like Lavenham, considered one of the best-preserved medieval villages in the UK.  

St Peter's church in Sudbury Picture: GREGG BROWN

St Peter's church in Sudbury Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

 9) Visit all the cute animals

Head to Jimmy's Farm and Wildlife Park and Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm, both near Ipswich, where you can see exotic animals like Zebras and Tapirs along with rare farmyard breeds.

Colchester Zoo and Africa Alive! near Lowestoft are also not far from central Suffolk for a day plan. All need to be booked online. 

Alice eating her birthday cake at the farm near Ipswich

Alice the Camel eating some cake at Jimmy's Farm and Wildlife Park - Credit: Jimmy's Farm & Wildlife Park