We spend a lot of our time researching far-flung places to take the kids (as well as actually travelling to far-flung places), but we are guilty of neglecting our own back yard. The grass is always greener and quite frankly, the weather is always better. You know the story!
But despite the weather, there are many beautiful places in the UK to explore and we are putting them on our list. One place we do visit a lot, however, is Suffolk. I grew up on a farm in Suffolk near the coast and although we don’t live there now, I cherish those childhood memories of hanging out at the beach with friends and having so much freedom to explore during endless summer days. I absolutely believe that it is one of the best areas in the UK for getting the kids out and about to enjoy nature.
The great thing about Suffolk is that it is still very rural and quaint and this is what people fall in love with and why they return year after year. If you are considering a stay-cation around the Suffolk coast, or are visiting from abroad, here are the top family-friendly activities you must consider.
1. Eating Fish & Chips on Aldeburgh Beach
Aldeburgh is top of many people’s list of places to visit in Suffolk. It is 2 hours from London and boasts some of the best Fish & Chips in the country. Queues form out of the door at lunchtime but once you have your fish & chips (wrapped), you can take it and eat it on the beach with a beautiful setting of colourful Victorian seafront houses behind you. As a side note, Aldeburgh also has one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK and you can head there if you want to get out of the rain.
2. Learning about Suffolk farming life at Easton Farm Park
Easton Farm Park is a great place to spend the day if your kids love visiting farm animals. Easton Farm Park is home to some Suffolk Punch horses who used to do all the heavy work on farms in Suffolk before the heavy machinery came along. When you see them you will understand why they were used on farms for this type of work. They are absolutely enormous but are sadly veering towards extinction! Our boys loved the petting corner where they got to hold rabbits and they had a go riding a pony. There are lots of playground areas including an enormous bouncy pillow.
The kids can drive around in their own little pedal tractors (free of charge) which you can pick up from the main entrance. Be warned, there may be a little pushing required to get up some slopes! If you are unlucky enough to have wet weather in Suffolk, you could head here for their heated indoor play area and cafe.
3. Safari time at Africa Alive
Africa Alive is located just off the A12, 2 miles south of Lowestoft. Whilst we prefer not to see animals in captivity, we were pleasantly surprised with the layout of the park as the animals have lots of space and the park is associated with a number of animal conservation projects. The animal encounters were really informative, especially meet the meerkats and feeding the giraffes. The boys loved getting the stamps around the park and collecting their medal at the end. The park is quite large so if you need a break from walking, there is a free safari road train which is a fun way to get around. Always check for deals online and book in advance to get cheaper tickets.
If you like to get out for coastal walks through heathland, you must stop by Dunwich Heath which is a National Trust site. There are some great walks along paths that crisscross through the heath. Along the way you will find little information stations, telling you about the flora and fauna. We love going at Easter when they run a fun and educational Easter egg hunt. They also have a few Geocache sites if you are into that. Our boys had a go for the first time this year and they loved it.
They have a lovely little tearoom where they sell ice creams which is usually our bribe for when the boys are flagging on our walks. We haven’t actually needed to bribe them here though because they love the interactive and educational aspect to the walks. No bikes are allowed and dogs must be kept on leads here. Entrance is free but there is a car park fee (although if you are a National Trust member you get free parking).
5. Explore a typical British seaside town
Southwold is a great example of a British seaside town. It’s not very large and you can easily walk around it, visiting the lighthouse, the pier and the all-important beach huts. In 2018 a beach hut sold for an outrageous £150,000!!
If you take a stroll along the pier the kids will enjoy looking at their distorted reflections at the wacky wall of mirrors and there is a water powered clock. Not to be missed is the Under the Pier show where you can see around 20 weird and wonderful interactive mechanical creations. If the weather is not great, you can do a tour of the world famous Adnams brewery. If you’re not a beer fan, they also have their own range of wine, gin, whisky, and Prosecco!
6. Peter Pan themed boating in Thorpeness
Boating on Thorpeness Meare is such a fun day out. You can hire the boats by the hour (rowing boats and kayaks). The water is only about 50cm deep, but you don’t want to fall in because it has a very sludgy bottom (yes we did find out the hard way!) The experience very much reminds me of Swallows and Amazons where you tie up your boat and hop off onto islands to explore. It is probably the kids favourite day out. It’s a great choice on a sunny summer’s day and if you were really organised, you could take a picnic with you to have on the boat or on an island, although there are lots of swans and geese around so you need to watch out for their poo!
When you are out in the middle of the meare, you’ll get a great view of the famous House in the Clouds which you can actually rent as your self-catering holiday accommodation if you fancy something a little different.
Make sure to pop into the Tearoom next to the Meare for an ice cream or slice of cake or lunch after all your exertions. They have an enormous choice of interesting sweets too. I have a feeling the twin 6 year old sons of the owners might have had a say in what gets stocked as it was a complete dream for our 6 year old! Also worth checking out for lunch is the Dolphin Inn along the road which has a great beer garden!
7. Crabbing in Walberswick
Going crabbing was one of my favourite childhood activities, and Walberswick is the place to do it. You need a bucket, a line, some bacon and a lot of skill! There is a little local shop that sells all of the necessary equipment if you don’t have it. There are hundreds of crabs of all sizes and you will have no trouble getting them on the end of the line, but getting them up and out of the water is another matter! They are not edible (as far as I know) so they are always put back for the next child (or big kid) to catch. We have competitions to see who can catch the most or the largest. We then have a crab race at the end when we are releasing them.
If your kids are into castles, Framlingham castle is a great one to visit – and there is usually some kind of child-friendly activity being run through the summer. It was originally a simple Motte and Bailey castle built in the middle of the 12th Century but that was destroyed and what you see now was built around the beginning of the 13th Century. Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England here and Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Castle on the Hill’ is based on it as he grew up in Framlingham.
There are beautiful views across the Mere to the castle and lots of green space for them to run around, including round the moat and up the slopes to the castle. The town of Framlingham itself is a beautiful little market town and well worth a little wander round. I could be called be biased because this is where I grew up, but in 2006 it was voted ‘Best place to live in the Country’ by Country Life magazine so I am not alone in thinking it is lovely.
9. Family-friendly Latitude Festival
Latitude festival has been going since 2006 and is held around the middle of July each year. It’s located in the grounds of Henham Park just off the A12 near Southwold and is definitely worth considering if you are in the area, even if you just pop in for the day. It has been growing in popularity with families and in 2018 it won best family festival at the UK festival awards. There is a kids area with lots of fun activities, an enchanted garden, a woodland area for kids 12+ and a separate family camping area. It attracts huge acts each year and this year the headline acts are George Ezra, Snow Patrol, Lana Del Rey.
Located on the road to Southwold, the Maize maze is a great morning or afternoon out. Each year the farmer grows his field of maize and cuts out ever more elaborate mazes (only open in the summer months when the corn is fully grown!). There is a kids one and an adult one. So far we have found the kids one challenging enough! There are stamps to collect and if you complete the collection, you get to claim your prize. There are also enormous bouncy pillow trampolines and tractors, playgrounds, pedal-powered go-karts and a dressing up box!
Snape Maltings is a leading UK centre of the arts. Music, Arts, Crafts all housed under the roofs of re-purposed Victorian warehouses – set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are lots of family-friendly events through the year, like family singalongs to hit musicals and child-friendly concerts. During the month of August they host the Snape Proms which offers a huge array of musical events. You can also head there to eat or to take scenic boat trips along the River Alde or just go and take a walk and enjoy the outdoor sculptures.
12. Orford Castle and fine dining
The main draw to Orford used to be just the castle which is one of the most well-preserved keeps in England but nowadays Orford is also known for its great selection of pubs and restaurants serving delicious food. After visiting the castle and taking a wander around the cute little village, you’ll have worked up an appetite ready for a delicious lunch.
We love the Jolly Sailor as it is simple, good food with a great beer garden. Although seafood is not always a favourite with the kids, you should check out Butley Orford Oysterage (Pinney’s of Orford) and make sure to leave room for something sweet from the Pump Street Bakery.
13. Exploring the Suffolk Heritage coastal beaches
Most of the beaches in Suffolk are very stony and whilst you may prefer a beautiful white sandy beach, there are still hours of fun to be had on a stony beach. We love to walk along the rugged coastline (a very good workout as you take 2 steps forward and 1 back!). The beaches stretch for miles and miles and there is hardly ever anyone on them. The most deserted is around Dunwich. Also check out Thorpeness, Aldeburgh, Southwold and Walberswick.
We love to collect stones on these walks. Look out for the ones with holes all the way through as these can be threaded onto string to make a necklace. There is also quite a lot of amber and the boys love to find gems (worn down old pieces of glass). We also have competitions to see how far we can throw stones out to sea (one way to avoid carrying back all those stones!).
Our favourite beach is Dunwich. It has such an interesting history. Although it was once one of the largest towns in the country in the 11th Century, it all fell away into the sea during storms in the 13th and 14th Centuries, There isn’t much there at all now, although you can get some excellent Fish & Chips or an ice cream at the Flora Tea Rooms after a long beach walk.
The last time we were there, a whole load of Suffolk farmers turned up driving their old tractors. They all parked up and came to the tea room for fish & chips. Something you would probably only see in Suffolk!
14. Forest walks around the Suffolk coast
There are lots of forests around the Suffolk coast and many of them are great for walks or bike rides with kids. We love to go in May and early June when the rhododendrons are out. This was taken in Dunwich forest but there is also Tunstall forest, Westleton heath and Dunwich heath as mentioned above.
The great thing about forest walks is that the tree canopy provides great cover if the weather isn’t the best so you can still get outside. Just make sure to bring some wet weather gear with you!
So those are our favourite things to do around the Suffolk coast with the kids. If there is anything you think we have missed, please leave us a comment and we will incorporate it!
Top Tips for visiting Suffolk
- You will need a car to explore Suffolk properly. There is a rail network but trains are infrequent and taxis are not that common, particularly when Lattitude is on and about 40,000 people descend on Suffolk!
- Bring your waterproofs and wellies. The weather around the Suffolk coast is very changeable due to coastal winds, and although I like to affectionately refer to it as sunny Suffolk, there is the occasional rainy day. Most activities are outdoors so to make sure you don’t miss out, throw on your waterproofs and get out and explore!
- Check out little villages where you will find some great country pubs serving fresh, local produce. We have another post on the best family-friendly Suffolk pubs.
If there is anything specific you would like to know, we’d love to hear from you. We are always recommending Suffolk to our friends and everyone has a great time!