9 great places to enjoy the best of nature in Suffolk

Cormorants at RSPB Minsmere

Cormorants at RSPB Minsmere - Credit: Paul Geater/Archant

With its coastal landscapes, heaths and woodlands, Suffolk is renowned for its wildlife. Here are nine suggestions for places where you can see nature close up.

When visiting any reserves, it's advisable to check before travelling on what Covid-19 measures are in place, and also in case there are any short-notice changes to admission arrangements.

A stonechat at Minsmere

A stonechat at Minsmere - Credit: Paul Geater/Archant

RSPB Minsmere

As featured on TV's Springwatch, Minsmere is the most famous nature reserve in Suffolk, and one of the best-known in the whole of the UK. 

You can expect to see a host of birds, possibly including avocets, bitterns and bearded tits and other wildlife, which may include an otter near the reedbed pools. 

A wide range of children's and family activities are being held at the reserve, including pond dipping sessions, which need to be booked and have an extra fee. For full details and to book, see the RSPB website.

Opening times: The reserve, hides and car park are open from dawn to dusk. The visitor centre and toilets are open from 9am to 5pm daily, and the shop and cafe from 10am to 4pm.

Admission charges: For non-members, adults £9, students £6, children £5 (first child gets in free and also free for under-fives.) 

Dunwich Heath

Dunwich Heath - Credit: Mick Webb/iWitness

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Dunwich Heath and Beach, National Trust

Just next to Minsmere, this nature reserve is another great place to discover wildlife, with a huge expanse of heathland.

This nature reserve, with its vast expanse of heathland, is great to explore, and you may spot insects and mini-beasts as well as birds.

Nature trails and ideas for family activities can be downloaded from the National Trust website. Dogs are allowed, but you need to keep them on a lead and stick to footpaths until August 31 to protect ground-nesting birds.

Opening times: The heath is open from dawn to dusk daily, but the car park is only open from 9am to 6pm and locked at other times. The tearoom is currently closed for eating in, but the kiosk is open.

Admission charges: For non-members, £6 to park your car.

Bradfield Woods Picture; Phil Morley

Bradfield Woods Picture; Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Bradfield Woods National Nature Reserve, Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has a whole network of nature reserves around the county, including this ancient woodland near  Bury St Edmunds.  

Admission to SWT sites is free. However, a number of special events for children and families are being held at the charity's sites over the summer, which need to be booked in advance and these do have charges.

There are five miles of signposted trails to walk, with three different coloured trails. You can pick up a trail guide under the notice board near the entrance or at the visitor centre.

Many different butterflies and birds and some small mammals can be spotted here, and facilities include toilets and a picnic area. It can be muddy, so remember your wellies!

Opening times: The reserve is always open, with the education centre opening for events.

Admission charges: Free, donations welcome.

Family of swans, plus other wildfowl at Lackford Lakes, one of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves y

Family of swans, plus other wildfowl at Lackford Lakes, one of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves you can visit for free. - Credit: Archant

Lackford Lakes, Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Another SWT site near Bury St Edmunds, Lackford Lakes is a real haven for wildlife, with reeds, meadow and woodland.

You may be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher here, as well as colourful dragonflies and ducks.

There are hides (time in each hide is currently limited) and walking trails to follow, most of which are surfaced paths, as well as an outdoor play area, shop, cafe and toilets, including an accessible toilet.

Opening times: Reserve and car park open daily from 8am - 5pm, Fridays open till 8pm. Toilets and the shop are open from 10am to 5pm, and catering from 10am to 4pm.

Admission charges: Free, donations welcome.

An otter spotted at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft Picture: CHRISTOPHER CROSS

An otter spotted at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft - Credit: christopher Cross

Carlton Marshes, Suffolk Wildlife Trust

If you are a dragonfly fan, this reserve near Lowestoft is the place to go, as an amazing 28 species of the insects have been spotted here.

More than £4million was granted by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to create a major nature reserve and visitor centre here, which is the southern gateway to the Broads National Park.

The landscape is described as the "Broads in miniature", with a huge array of birds, from barn owls to bearded tits and wild flowers, as well as cattle grazing.

There are walking trails, with a firm path for wheelchairs and pushchairs around part of the marsh, bird hides, an outdoor play area and picnic area, plus a cafe and toilets.

Opening times: Daily from dawn to dusk.

Admission charges: Free, donations welcome.

The sun won't be sticking around for the Easter weekend sadly

Orford Ness is a unique wildlife habitat - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, National Trust

One of the most unusual nature reserves you will ever see, this wild and remote shingle spit is the largest in Europe.

Access is only via the National Trust ferry Octavia, from Orford Ness, which must be booked.

Once you reach the reserve, you can follow trails through a stunning landscape, where there are many military buildings. Wildlife you may spot ranges from Chinese water deer and big brown hares to barn owls and birds of prey.

Visitors can also see two exhibitions, the Island of Secrets exhibition in the NAAFI and Artangel's Afterness exhibition, with headsets for an immersive poetry tour.  

Opening times/booking: The reserve is open at weekends from 10am to 5pm, but it is essential to book your visit and ferry slot online well in advance, with tickets currently in high demand.

Admission charges: For non-members, there is a £12 charge for adults and £6 for children aged five to 17, including the ferry fare. Members pay the ferry fare only, £4.50 for adults and £2.25 for children. There are also parking charges, which vary.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust's reserves like Redgrave and Lopham Fen are closed. File picture: GREGG BROWN

Redgrave and Lopham Fen, one of Suffolk Wildlife Trust's reserves - Credit: Gregg Brown

Redgrave and Lopham Fen National Nature Reserve, Suffolk Wildlife Trust

This site is the largest valley fen in England and one of the most important wetlands in Europe. It's close to the Norfolk border, with Diss being the nearest town.

There are more than 270 different plant species, as well as birds including hobbies and barn owls, and you might just be lucky enough to spot the rare Fen Raft Spider. Grazing cattle and Konik ponies are also at the site.

The woodland trail on the site is currently closed due to unsafe trees, but there are still plenty of paths to explore.

The site includes a fully accessible education centre with disabled toilet and a picnic area.  

Opening times: Open daily all year round.

Admission charges: Free, donations welcome. 

Work to prevent the Orwell Bridge closing in high winds could be delayed until the spring. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Orwell Country Park near the Orwell Bridge - Credit: Archant

Orwell Country Park, Ipswich

Operated by Ipswich Borough Council, this 470-acre site is bordered by the Orwell Estuary and the A14, and includes ancient woodland, heathland and mudflats.

There are three main sites to explore, Bridge Wood, Braziers Wood and Pipers Vale,  known locally as "the Lairs".

Birds you may spot in the country park include species such as skylarks, peregrine falcons, black-tailed godwit and golden plover. There are also many plants, fungi and insects to spot on your walk.

There are six pedestrian entrances and two car parks, at Piper's Vale and Bridge Wood. There are some benches but no facilities such as toilets.

Opening times: Open daily all year round.

Admission charges: Free.

Dragonflies at Lakenheath Fen

Dragonflies at Lakenheath Fen - Credit: Paul Geater/Archant

RSPB Lakenheath Fen

This RSPB reserve has transformed these carrot fields near Brandon into a wetland haven.

During your visit, you could spot birds including kingfishers, marsh harriers and cranes, as well as mammals such as otters and water voles. 

Although the visitor centre is currently closed, the outdoor welcome point is open daily.

There are nature trails to follow and a picnic area, and there are also refreshments and toilets available.

Opening times: Car park, reserve and hide open from dawn to dusk daily. The outdoor welcome point and toilets are open from 9am-5pm on weekdays and 9am-4.30pm at weekends.