Beach huts on Wells beach, north Norfolk

Top 10 coastal towns to visit in East Anglia

Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh is a world-renowned seaside town on the Suffolk coast, home to the best fish and chip shop 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, restaurants and galleries and spoil yourself rotten. After, amble up to the most iconic seaside sculpture in the shape of a Scallop. If you fancy a quiet night, head to Aldeburgh cinema; an arthouse movie theatre which has shown films since the early 1900s.

Where to stay: Located on the beachfront at Aldeburgh is the whitewashed White Lion Hotel, ideal for recharging the batteries and experiencing the surroundings which once influenced Britten.

Where to eat: The Seafood & Grill restaurant at The Brudenell Hotel not only offers panoramic sea views and al fresco dinning, its food is superb and has recently been awarded 2 AA rosettes.

Great Yarmouth

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 to eat: Try the chips on the Market Place – they’re cooked in beef fat and are delicious with lots of salt and vinegar. On the seafront, order doughnuts and watch them being made while you lick your lips.

Where to stay: Fritton Arms is an upmarket pub with rooms a few miles from Great Yarmouth – take a stroll by the lake before supper.

Snape

Not literally on the coast, but on the River Alde, Snape is a welcoming and thoughtful place of tranquillity, offering breath-taking views of reeds, marshes, sea and vast skies. After a walk to Iken church (Anglo Saxon gem), head to the Victorian maltings for a spot of shopping at the sophisticated homeware emporium, to its many galleries or take in a concert at Aldeburgh Music, the home of the great British composer Benjamin Britten.

Where to stay: For convenience, base yourself in one of Snape Maltings many stylish self-catering cottages. Expect great walks, shops, galleries, deli, café and a pub, all onsite.

Where to eat: The Plough and Sail gets top billing and is onsite at Snape Maltings, the Victorian set of buildings dedicated to culture, shopping and eating.

Wells-next-the-Sea

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!

Where to eat: Quirky Wells Beach Café is great for snacks and meals after a brisk walk on the sand.

Where to stay: The Crown Hotel is a former coaching inn, tucked away on the edge of a tranquil tree-lined green in Wells-next-the-Sea.

Orford

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.

Where to stay: Located in the heart of this food haven and sitting within the walls of the 12th century Orford Castle, The Crown and Castle invites you to relax and contemplate life whilst sampling a smorgasbord of unpretentious food.

Where to eat: Butley Orford Oysterage has been in the Pinney family for 3 generations. Sample some of the freshest and finest seafood around.

Cromer

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. The town is famous for its crab, which are succulent and tasty because they feed off a chalk reef just offshore, the longest in the world.

Where to eat: No 1 Cromer is a fish and chip restaurant with stunning views over the pier. Otherwise find a café where you can get a fresh crab sandwich – you can taste the sea.

Where to stay: Try a traditional seaside hotel like Virginia Court Hotel or the award-winning Georgian Grove.

Thorpeness

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.

Where to stay: A stay in more unique surroundings is a must. The House in the Clouds couldn’t be any more extraordinary; a converted old water tower with magnificent views of the heritage coastline.

Where to eat: For something relaxed and informal, head to The Dolphin, a cosy pub serving great pub grub. Or for a light lunch or coffee and cake, The Kitchen at Thorpeness makes an excellent choice.

Hunstanton

Classic Hunstanton, otherwise known as Sunny Hunny, is the only east coast resort that faces west, which means you see stunning sunsets, has has safe, shallow water which makes popular for kite-surfing, landboarding, sailing and water skiing. Check out the stunning striped cliffs of Carr stone and red and white chalk that rise above the sea to the north of the town.

Where to eat: The Dabbling Duck is a little inland at Great Massingham but if you want to eat where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge eat then this is the place for you!

Where to stay: Heacham Manor is a luxury country manor house hotel with golf course and spa facilities.

Southwold

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, explore the Lighthouse looming over the town, the local market and vintage fairs.

Where to stay: Catch the rowing boat ferry from Walberswick to Southwold for a place to stay for the night. Choice is endless. Choose from smart, quaint self-catering accommodation to hotels with old charm, such as The Crown or The Swan.

Where to eat: Finally, head to Southwold, where after a tour of the famous Adnams Brewery to see exactly how they create that fabulous taste, you can dine at the two AA Rosette Sutherland House.

Sheringham

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 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.

Where to eat: Have some traditional seaside fayre, like fish and chips, or try to hunt down the local delicacy – Sheringham Lobster.

Where to stay: The Links Hotel is a recently modernised Victorian hotel with 9-hole golf course.