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Seafood lovers’ guide to the East of England

6 Nights Itinerary

With such a diverse coastline, from tidal salt marshes and creeks to huge estuaries and sheltered harbours, it’s no surprise that the East of England is renowned for its shellfish and seafood.  


Choose Your Day…
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 1
Mersea Island
Head over the causeway for oysters

Seafood, Essex

A short drive from Colchester, the estuary island of Mersea is a place of pilgrimage for oyster lovers. Once you’re across the Strood, the ancient Roman causeway that links the island to the mainland, you’ll immediately feel your worries dissolve away and you’ll have your appetite whetted by the salty tang of coastal air.

The unassuming Company Shed is the place to head, and the seafood platter the dish to order – described by Jay Rayner as ‘the star of the show’. But be warned, only a small number of tables can be reserved and the queues can be long if you don’t arrive early.

Handily, just 100m along the Coast Road, is the West Mersea Oyster Bar where you can indulge with some Colchester Natives and a glass of white wine. The bonus is that it takes bookings and also has things like fish and chips on the menu.

On the east of island is the Mersea Island Vineyard which has a brewery too and Mehalah’s Seafood and Game Restaurant, a sister to the Company Shed. If you’ve got a bit more time take a 20-minute sightseeing trip around the bay with Lady Grace Boat Trips. In Winter they take fishing expeditions for sea bass, cod and whiting and trips to see the wading birds.

Day 2
Traditional smoked fish

Orford, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is well-known for its 12th century castle (look out for references to the Merman of Orford while you’re here. Yes, a Mer-man!) built by King Henry II and charming, backwater village, but it’s the local food offering that is the highlight. Pinneys of Orford have been growing oysters at Butley Creek since the 1950s and the traditional smokehouse supplies freshly smoked fish every day and their boats bring in a variety of local fish. Taste their fabulous wares at the Butley Orford Oysterage or buy from the shop. There’s also great local food to be found at Pump Street Bakery, The Jolly Sailor, Crown and Castle – or take a cruise and meal on the Lady Florence.

How about a tour of the National Trust-run Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, a shingle spit and former Atomic Weapons Research Establishment and transmitting station for the BBC World Service.

Day 3
Fish and chips at the seaside

Seafood at Aldeburgh

The Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival in September is probably the best of its kind in the East of England, but don’t worry if you’re not around for that, as Aldeburgh itself has plenty of food options, not least buying straight from the fishermen’s shacks on the shingle seafront, perched next to the boats. There’s great seafood at The Regatta and The Brudenell but the star here is Aldeburgh Fish and Chips on the High Street – just look out for the queues stretching along the road. Get your ‘fish suppers’ wrapped in paper and enjoy them al fresco on the seafront or get a drink from the pub next door and eat them in the beer garden. Afterwards get dessert from Ives Ice Cream Bar or Harris & James.

While you’re here, don’t miss the nearby fantasy village of Thorpeness, built in the 1920s as a recreation of ‘Merrie England’ with mock Tudor houses and a boating mere with Peter Pan’s Neverland at its heart. To find it, just head to the House in the Clouds.


Day 4
Enjoy beer from the Coast

Beach huts at Southwold

Set in aspic in 1953 on the day of The Queen’s Coronation and preserved as a characterful, picture postcard seaside town ever since. That wouldn’t be an unfair description of the delightful Southwold, home of the wonderful Adnams, award-winning brewer, hotelier and wine merchant. You can tour the brewery or distillery, take in artisanal food on the High Street, or enjoy one of Adnams’ many pubs and restaurants – we recommend The Crown, the newly-refurbished Swan and, it’s said, the best pint of Southwold ale can be enjoyed at The Nelson.

But if it’s the road less travelled you like, head down to Blackshore Harbour. Along the puddled rough track lined with boatyards and marine services are some excellent fish shacks and diners, like The Harbour Café, The Sole Bay Fish Company, Samantha K’s Fresh Fish and Mrs T’s Fish & Chips. Long gone are the days when The Harbour Inn had a chip shop deep fat fryer in the galley and served in newspaper wrapping, but there’s still nothing better than a cod and chips and a pint of foaming Adnams bitter in this traditional, nautical-themed, old fisherman’s pub.

To walk it off, head over the bridge and saunter to quaint Walberswick which for many years hosted The World Crabbing Championships, and then get the rowing boat ferry back.

Day 5
Great Yarmouth
The East Coast's premier seaside resort

Great Yarmouth seafront

As an alternative to the artisanal how about a bit of kitsch – a trip back to your bucket and spade childhood in Great Yarmouth, the east coast’s premier seaside resort, with its Golden Mile of amusements, rides and attractions. As an alternative to all those oysters and shellfish, try freshly-cooked donuts (impossible to eat without licking your lips – try it), candlyfloss, a 99 ice cream or sticky rock – you can see it being made at Docwras on Regent Street.

Staying with our seafood theme, not to be missed is the award-winning Time & Tide Museum, built in a Victorian curing house when Great Yarmouth was home to the huge herring fleet. In fact, there were so many – 1,163 in 1913 – it’s said that you could walk across the River Yare boat-by-boat and on October 23, 1907 fishermen brought in nearly 80 million herring in one day.

Day 6
Our equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef

Fish and chips, Cromer

Three things to know about Cromer. Firstly, its hinterland has the highest point in the East of England, specifically at Roman Camp. Don’t let anyone tell you Norfolk is flat. Secondly, it’s home to the last end-of-pier theatre in the world, which has superb variety shows in the Summer and at Christmas. And thirdly, offshore here is the world’s longest chalk reef, our very own version of The Great Barrier Reef. And it’s here that the eponymous crabs feed and what makes them the tastiest, juiciest crustacean in the country.

You’ll find Cromer crab on the menu around the town, or buy it dressed from the many fishmongers or from the fishermen’s’ front doors. How do you dress a crab? With those claws, very carefully.

Another highlight of Cromer is, of course, fish and chips. Head for the quaint and well-established MaryJanes or No 1, with unrivalled views over the beach and pier, and owned by Galton Blackiston, Michelin-starred for his Morston Hall fine dining. Or get take out and head for a bench on the seafront. Don’t forget lashings of vinegar and salt. Go on, you’re on holiday.


Day 7
Norfolk Coast AONB
Outstanding Natural Beauty


Our advice would be to explore by car or cycle (or use the excellent Coasthopper buses) and discover Nelson’s birthplace at Burnham Thorpe, our very own ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ at Burnham Market, the Palladian Holkham Hall and its beach that was voted best in the country by readers of the BBC Countryfile magazine, Wells-next-the-Sea with its 200 higgledy-piggledy, multi-coloured beach huts, Stiffkey, home of the ‘Stewkey Blues’ cockles, Morston from where you can take a boat to see the seal colony at Blakeney Point and Cley-next-the-Sea, home to some of the best birdwatching in the UK.

This stunning stretch of the coast is all tidal creeks and salt marshes, making it the perfect location for mussels and oysters. The range of options is innumerable. For instance, at Brancaster you could try the casual Crab Hut by the harbour, get it fresh at The Fish Shed, or cross the road to The White Horse, where you can sit out on the terrace with a seafood selection platter and take in the stunning view of Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve.

Shellfish? No, this is you time, time to enjoy the wonderful seafood of the east coast.