More than half of the UK’s containerised shipping business is handled at the Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk. The Orwell Estuary is protected by Landguard Peninsula, an apt name for an appropriately guarded location.
The Landguard fort here is one of the finest preserved artillery forts in England, and it marks the site of the last seaborne invasion of the country, which occurred in 1667. During Victorian times, Felixstowe became popular as a holiday destination when the upper class came to “take” the spa water.
Live entertainment and an Edwardian pier are among the structures that line the seafront’s ornamental gardens, which date back to that time. The Felixstowe seafront is certainly one of the town’s top attractions and stretches from the Felixstowe Ferry to Landguard Point and holds a wide promenade that extends almost the entire length of the serene beach. Old Felixstowe boasts so many worthwhile attractions, including charming eateries, hotels, and eventful holiday parks.
Let’s explore some of the top attractions and things to do in Felixstowe, a delightful town in East Anglia.
Harwich Harbour has been defended by the Landguard Peninsula ever since 1540 against approach.
A Dutch force of 2,000 men tried to land at Felixstowe Beach in 1667, but they were repulsed by the Royal Marines, who fought their first land battle here. This was the last opposed seaborne invasion that England ever experienced.
The fort had existed in its current configuration since the early 18th century when it was rebuilt. Outside batteries were added in the last century. Here, you’ll find the lovely View Point Cafe, where you can enjoy a hot coffee and a delicious meal.
An audio guide is required to navigate the fort’s maze of rooms and passageways, which was decommissioned in 1956.
You can find out about the firepower this facility once boasted from the magazines, but to get the best view of the Port of Felixstowe, you must climb the Harwich bastion.
At three miles down the coast from Felixstowe Pier, you’ll find Felixstowe’s quieter side. The ferry is a charming nautical village at the mouth of the River Deben.
There’s a pub, a sailing club, old boat sheds, and weatherboard houses on the shore, as well as houseboats and small fishing vessels floating in the estuary waters. You can purchase fresh fish right next to the water in the mornings.
The Martello towers at Felixstowe Ferry (Napoleonic period coastal defence structures) preserve the shoreline. You may reach this enchanting spot by foot from the main promenade.
Wander around the village first before taking the ferry to Bawdsey Manor or continuing up the Deben Estuary. At the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War in 1338, Edward III used the King’s Fleet to assemble his navy near the shore before heading inland.
Landguard Fort, in the East of England, is home to the Felixstowe Museum, which is stuffed with relics from the town’s maritime heritage.
From examining mammoth tusks, fossils, cannon balls, Roman ceramics, Medieval coins, and exploring a submarine mine and finding out about medical history to learning all about the steamers that used to dock at Felixstowe Pier, you can learn a lot about the town’s maritime and social history at the museum.
Felixstowe was a Coastal Forces base in the Second World War, and you can still see aircraft seats, models, and RAF uniforms from that time period. Archaeological finds from the Landguard Peninsula, dating from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD, are on display at the museum. These include pottery, coins, and jewellery.
Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club
There are only 246 link courses in the world, and Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club is one of them. It is also the only link course in Suffolk.
The Martello Course has been named Championship Venue of the Year by England Golf since 1980, and the golf course continues to pick up new awards each year. The green fees are £60, and the unique coastal scenery, including other Martello towers, is not forgotten quickly.
For a less formal round, Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club has a nine-hole pay-as-you-go course beside the River Deben. On Sea Road, Adventure Golf provides water gardens and Mesoamerican statues as a background for putting practice, where families can enjoy a round.
Felixstowe Seafront Gardens
Felixstowe has earned the nickname ‘Garden Resort of East Anglia’ due to the string of eight Edwardian and Victorian seafront gardens north of the pier between the shore and the town centre. These charming gardens are situated on terraces descending down the cliff from the Spa Pavilion, creating a continuous pleasurable environment.
A pump room was built when the Seafront Gardens were completed, allowing visitors to “take” the naturally occurring spring water that flows from the cliff’s rock.
The gardens extend for a kilometre along the seashore and still have much of their original landscaping, paths, and early-1900s embellishments.
An oasis of Pulhamite grottos, colourful flowerbeds, fountains, waterfalls, and beautifully clipped shrubs encloses charming old shelters and sculptures.
The structures that have survived for more than a century are identified on a heritage trail.
Landguard Nature Reserve
Visit Landguard Nature Reserve to see the great shingle spit on the southern tip of Suffolk’s magnificent coast. It comprises around 33 hectares of shrubbery and wildlife. There are many rare and unusual plants, military history, migrating birds, and the busiest container port in Britain, where huge ships arrive and depart.
The local community values the Nature Reserve for its wildlife conservation value, in addition to its status as a Local Nature Reserve. The SSSI designation is conferred on sites that are of national importance for nature conservation.
Route 51 is a wonderful trail for biking around the tip of the peninsula, where you can get a glimpse of the estuary mouth. Bring your binoculars if you want to see some of the rare and resident birdlife.
Landguard Visitor Centre
There is a visitor centre next to the Felixstowe Museum and Landguard Fort, where you can learn about the history and ecology of the area.
There are hands-on displays and multimedia screens for children to get acquainted with, as well as a cafe serving an indulgent salad, a full meal, or a hot winter drink.
There is a ferry at Landguard Visitor Centre that takes you across the estuary to Harwich, where you can take a walk through the old, quaint streets.
John Bradfield Viewing Area
Just outside Landguard Visitor Centre, the shingle beach provides the best view of one of the UK’s busiest container ports, coined the John Bradfield Viewing Area. You can get a close-up look at Felixstowe Port’s massive container ships as they navigate one of the busiest lanes for shipping in the world.
More than 30 shipping lines operate at Felixstowe Port, where 3,000 ships arrive from 400 ports worldwide each year.
You can gaze at the Harwich/Shotley ferry as it makes its way across the channel, dwarfed by the enormous container ships. In addition to the ships, you can look north and west to see the Orwell and Stour Estuaries or east to the Shotley Peninsula and the towns of Harwich and Dovercourt.
The Grove and Abbey Grove
Around the early 1800s, The Grove was planted in one of the few remaining areas of mature wood on the Felixstowe peninsula.
A variety of trees and shrubs can be found along shady paths and tracks, including oak and sycamore. Nesting birds, wildflowers, and insects, among other wildlife, thrive here.
Abbey Grove, a Woodland Trust Millennium Woodland, is adjacent. In December 1998, sapling oaks, field maples, sweet chestnuts, ashes, and wild cherries were planted along with hedgerows of guelder rose, hawthorn, wayfarer, spindle, and blackthorn.
In the 1990s, when the Port of Felixstowe was upgraded, this site at the mouth of the River Orwell was selected as a wetland habitat for migrating and nesting birds as a replacement for the Fagbury Mudflats, which had been destroyed in the process.
The fact that Trimley Marshes were once farmland is incredible, given that it was not until that time that they became reedbeds, pools, and wet meadows.
Large numbers of greenshank, curlew sandpiper, and common sandpiper sandpipers come to the muddy banks in spring and autumn to forage. Because of its coastal setting, you may be able to view some species that are rare to these shores, including lack-winged stilts, stilt sandpipers, and pectoral sandpipers.
Felixstowe Pier has been a focal point on the waterfront since 1905, and it has had a troubled history. More than 110 years ago, the pier had its own railway station and was a landing spot for steamers that took people from Felixstowe to locations like Great Yarmouth and London.
The pierhead was destroyed during World War II to prevent the Germans from using it as a landing stage. In 1999, safety considerations led to the closure of the remainder of the pier, which had slowly decayed over decades.
At the shoreline end of the land, a multimillion-pound redevelopment has just been completed, providing a family entertainment centre with an amusement arcade and vintage ten-pin bowling.
There’s also a fish and chip shop, an ice cream parlour, and the Boardwalk Cafe Bar, where the whole family can enjoy the distant sea views.
The Martello Tower, which sits on the lawn and has just been restored, is named for the Napoleonic coastal defence.
More than 750,000 bricks compose this structure, and after the Napoleonic invasion, it became a radio station and a coastguard station in WWI.
There are two refreshment kiosks open from April to October at the park, which has a large area of grass for picnics during beach trips.
Felixstowe Leisure Centre
Felixstowe Leisure Centre offers a comprehensive range of facilities, including activity-based classes and programmes ideal for family fun during the school holidays. The main swimming pool is joined by teaching and baby pools, as well as a thrill slide. A sauna, steam room, and whirlpool are all available in the health suite, which is adjacent to the swimming pool.
Landguard Bird Observatory
The Landguard Conservation Trust, a registered charity, runs the Landguard Bird Observatory and is dedicated to documenting and studying the wildlife areas of the Landguard Peninsula.
The monitoring of the bird population at the Landguard Nature Reserve is an important part of the work of the Observatory. Every year, a report is prepared, highlighting the achievements of the previous year and providing a comprehensive account of the bird population. The Landguard Nature Reserve is located behind the Bird Observatory, which is situated in a former military installation that offers panoramic views.
Manning’s Amusement Park
Manning’s Amusement Park, built around an Art Deco pavilion in 1932, provides hours of enjoyment for youngsters and adolescents. An amusement arcade, a fairground, crazy golf, old-fashioned fair games, a ten-pin bowling alley, and a lively Sunday market are all available. You will be spoilt for food choices with fruit machines, chip shops, and an extensive food court providing you with all the delights you may desire.