Day trips to the coast? Yes, of course, but much better if you stay over for a few days and really get to know somewhere. With around 500 miles of coast, the East of England has many superb coastal towns to enjoy. Here’s our top 10 favourites…
Wells-next-the-Sea is a quaint little town of higgledy-piggledy streets, fish and chip shops and ice cream parlours, with a quay where you can buy shellfish. Walk (or take the little train) to the beach and count the long line of colourful beach huts. If it’s low tide, the beach will be huge!
Close by is Holkham Hall and Estate and its beach, voted the best in Britain by readers of BBC Countryfile magazine.
Charming Southwold is an eternal favourite with Suffolk visitors and residents alike. Lined with picture-perfect beach huts and the odd beach café selling bacon sarnies, tea and ice cream, and just a stone’s throw from a high-street lined with independent shops, great pubs and award-winning restaurants. As well as the beach and Southwold Pier (with its quirky amusements), explore the Lighthouse looming over the town, the local market and vintage fairs.
While you’re here take a tour of Adnams’ Brewery and Distillery.
Norfolk might be a little flat, but Cromer is at the highest point in East Anglia! A thriving town, Cromer has great beaches and the last end-of-pier theatre in Europe with variety shows in summer and winter. In the town museum you can learn about the world’s largest mammoth skeleton that was found nearby. The town is famous for its eponymous crabs, which are succulent and tasty because they feed off a chalk reef just offshore, the longest in the world.
On Norfolk’s wild and unspoilt north coast and within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Blakeney is a gem of a village. Between you and the sea is the Glaven estuary and Blakeney Spit, a four mile long shingle and sand spit at the tip of which live the country’s largest colony of Common and Grey seals. Take a boat trip from Morston Quay with Beans Boats to see them.
At Wiveton Hall you’ll discover a fabulously chic restaurant and Wiveton Downs is a designated Dark Sky Discovery site.
This is a good base from which to explore Georgian Holt, Wells-next-the-Sea, Sheringham and Cromer.
Classic Hunstanton, otherwise known as Sunny Hunny, is the only east coast resort that faces west, which means you see stunning sunsets. It has safe, shallow water which makes it popular for kite-surfing, landboarding, sailing and water skiing. Check out the stunning striped cliffs of carrstone and red and white chalk that rise above the sea to the north of the town. There’s great birdwatching at nearby Holme-next-the-Sea and Titchwell.
Great Yarmouth is a traditional seaside resort with mile upon mile of glorious sand, attractions including the Pleasure Beach (with one of the last wooden rollercoasters) and Hippdrome Circus, but it has a great history too, with close trading links to Holland – many fishermen from Zeeland relocated here. The Mouth of the Yare, after which the town is named, was established by a Dutch engineer Joas Johnson in 1668. See more history at the Time & Tide Museum, where you can learn about the town’s herring industry.
The quirky village of Thorpeness already has a lot to offer as a day visitor destination, including the Peter Pan-inspired boating mere, mock Tudor buildings, a house floating above the clouds and an acclaimed golf course. The lovely shingle beach simply adds to the magic. Look out for the futuristic Dune House, created by renowned Norwegian architects Jarmund/Vigsnæs and Living Architecture.
Sheringham is a little gem of a coastal town, tucked away near Cromer. The small town has a traditional seaside feel, with lots of little shops, a museum, a small seafront where the beach all but disappears at high tide, and a little theatre called… The Little Theatre! Highlight of your visit will be a steam train trip on the North Norfolk Railway, also known as The Poppy Line.
Be there at the right time of year and you might be able to take part in Crab and Lobster Festival or the 1940s weekend.
Aldeburgh is a seaside town on the Suffolk coast, home to one of the best fish and chip shops in the country and the greatest classical music festival this side of Vienna. Not enough? Head along the independent high street full of book stores, delis, ice cream stores, restaurants and galleries and spoil yourself rotten. After, amble up to the most iconic seaside sculpture – Maggi Hambling’s Scallop. If you fancy a quiet night, head to Aldeburgh cinema; an arthouse movie theatre which has shown films since the early 1900s.
Orford is a diminutive gem – an ancient fishing village with greater charm than cities a hundred times its size. Despite its size, Orford has a lot to offer. Mysterious folk tales, eerie landscapes, the Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, a majestic castle, an RSPB ‘Havergate’ island full of wildlife, an award-winning bakery, an artisan smokehouse and a famous oysterage are just some of those things.
And one more for luck…
As the port from which the Mayflower captain Christopher Jones departed on the voyage across the Atlantic for the New World in 1620, Harwich will be the focus of much attention in 2020 when Mayflower 400 is celebrated. Jones’ house is by the harbour close to The Pier Hotel and Restaurant.
Situated on the estuary of the rivers Stour and Orwell, Harwich has a dramatic location. Across the water you see Felixstowe and Landguard Fort which defends the approach to Harwich harbour. This was the site of the last opposed seaborne invasion of England, by the Dutch in 1667, repulsed by the Royal Marines in their first land battle.