Beautiful beach and brewery tours: The visitor's guide to Southwold

The busy beach at Southwold in the hot weather on Thursday, June 25 Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Southwold is a popular tourist destination on the Suffolk coast - Credit: Denise Bradley

A gem on the Suffolk coast, Southwold may be small but has plenty to offer tourists looking for a day out or a short break by the seaside.

Here's everything you need to know about visiting the resort.

What is Southwold famous for?

Southwold was once a fishing port and still retains its harbour and iconic lighthouse, two features which help attract thousands of visitors every year.

southwold lighthouse on a sunny sinday morning Photo: Philip Jones

Southwold Lighthouse was built in 1890 and remains standing to this day - Credit:

The town is in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and lies at the mouth of the River Blyth, which leads to Laxfield.

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Where is Southwold and how do I get there?

Tucked away on the east coast, Southwold is around three miles off the A12 south of Lowestoft. It is around 32 miles from Norwich and 35 miles from Ipswich, which is a drive of around an hour each.

The Southwold Harbour repairs aim to make it safer for boats using it. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Southwold Harbour remains one of the resort's most popular tourist attractions - Credit: Nick Butcher

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The resort doesn't have its own railway station, with the nearest stops on the East Suffolk line at Halesworth, Brampton and Beccles. Bus services run between Halesworth and Southwold, with the journey taking just over half an hour.

How much is parking in Southwold?

The 75-space Godyll Road car park was free but East Suffolk Council is set to introduce charges between 8am and 6pm daily. As part of a pilot scheme, two hours parking will be charged at £1.50 and up to four hours will be £3. There is no return after four hours.

There is a RingGo-managed car park off North Road which is free for the first 30 minutes, but costs £1.50 for two hours, £3 for four hours and £4 for all day between 8am and 6pm.

Another RingGo car park in Ferry Road charges the same prices for the same times.

However, visitors looking to stay for a few nights are likely to get free parking with their accommodation - whether that is at a hotel or a holiday let.

What shops are in Southwold?

Like many of east Suffolk's towns, Southwold prides itself on being home to a plethora of independent traders. While there are still some big names - such as a Tesco Express and East of England Co-op supermarket - the high street is lined with small businesses eager to bounce back from the Covid lockdowns.

Adnams Southwold Store and Cafe. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Inside Adnams' dedicated store near its brewery - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

There are clothing retailers such as Denny of Southwold and Gun Hill, gift shops like High Tide and a number of other firms including Trespass, Mountain Warehouse and Adnams' official store.

Where is there to eat and drink in Southwold?

No trip to the seaside would be complete without a portion of fish and chips, and you're never far from a chippy in Southwold. Places such as Marks in High Street, the Little Fish and Chip Shop in East Street and Mrs T's by the harbour frequently have queues out the door when the sun is shining.

The Red Lion, Southwold. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Red Lion, Southwold. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

You can also find a range of ice cream vendors along the seaside, including Beaches and Cream in Queen Street and Harris and James in East Street.

For a sit-down meal or a relaxing pint, you will certainly be spoilt for choice when picking out a pub. The Sole Bay Inn under the famous lighthouse has an extensive menu and serves a range of Adnams' famous tipples, while the Red Lion is another pub popular with tourists. 

Where is there to stay in Southwold?

Being a popular tourist destination, Southwold has a selection of guesthouses and hotels to suit a range of budgets.

The Swan, which overlooks the resort's marketplace, is one of the most recognisable buildings in town. It is around 200 metres from the beach and has free parking, two restaurants and a butler service.

The Swan Hotel in Southwold which has been awarded four red stars by AA inspectors Picture: ADNAMS

The Swan hotel is one of the most recognisable buildings in the town - Credit: Adnams

Slightly further down the road is the Crown, a 14-bedroom hotel which dates back to 1740. The hotel prides itself on its informal setting and also offers a back bar and an outdoor seating area.

On the edge of the town is the Blyth, an Edwardian building that has been restored as a hotel. It also dog-friendly, making it perfect for families looking to take their pooch on holiday.

Aside from the traditional hotel offer, many properties in Southwold are owned as second homes and are let to tourists throughout the year. Sites such as Airbnb are likely to have a wide range of places to stay.

What entertainment is there in Southwold?

Being on the coast, Southwold's long stretch of beach is one of the reasons thousands of people flock to the town every year. There is also a pier towards the north of the resort that includes an arcade, café and sights of the sea.

Southwold's outdoor cinema has made a return this year and is showing a wide range of films throughout the summer in a bid to boost the town's economy. Located on the Common off Godyll Road, movies such as Bridget Jones's Diary and Mamma Mia! are being screened on selected dates in August and September.

An aerial view of Southwold's Outdoor Cinema, ahead of its return for 2021. Picture: My Southwold Bu

An aerial view of Southwold's outdoor cinema, which returned for 2021 - Credit: My Southwold Business Partnership

Southwold Arts Centre in St Edmund's Hall will be showing a range of family-friendly performances this summer now that Covid restrictions have eased.

Adnams was founded in 1872 in Southwold and still operates from its brewery in the centre of town. Tourists can go on tours of the brewery and distillery and see how the beers, ales and spirits are made.

Aside from the beach, there's plenty of activities for kids to take part in to. The pier's arcade should keep youngsters occupied for several hours and crabbing is available to try in Walberswick, a short ferry ride over the River Blyth. Or try Southwold Maize maze  - Hiding within the main maze are six sea creature boards for you to track down.

Behind the scenes at Africa Alive!: Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Africa Alive, which is home to more than 80 species of animals, is a short drive from Southwold - Credit: Victoria Pertusa

If you've brought a car on your trip to Southwold, you might also want to venture a few miles up the A12 to Kessingland for a family day out at Africa Alive. Formerly known as Suffolk Wildlife Park, the zoo is set on 80 acres of land and is home to more than 80 species of animals from around Africa.

Is there a museum in Southwold?

Southwold is home to a small cottage museum tucked away in Victoria Street. Its website claims to host an "astonishing collection of objects, paintings, photographs, models and wildlife exhibits" detailing the history of the area.

The museum is currently closed due to Covid, but is set to open again later this year.

What famous people come from Southwold?

Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell - real name Eric Blair - is perhaps the most famous name to come out of Southwold. Orwell frequently stayed at his parents' home in High Street before penning the novels that propelled him to international fame.

Richard Curtis, one of Britain's most successful comedy screenwriters, lives near Southwold. His 2019 film Yesterday features a budding singer-songwriter from Lowestoft and was shot across Suffolk.

Richard Curtis at the outdoor screening of his film Yesterday in Southwold

Richard Curtis is among many famous names to have lived near Southwold - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

Composer William Alwyn and his wife Doreen Carwithen spent several decades living near Southwold. Alwyn died in the town in 1985, aged 79.

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