Felixstowe stretches for five miles along the Suffolk coast. It rises above award-winning beaches with cliffs topped by Victorian and Edwardian homes before tapering at both ends. A nature and wildlife reserve guarded by the muscular Landguard Fort marks its southern tip and the charming hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry is at its northern end. Along its two miles of promenade are sandy and shingle beaches, amusements, the Beach Street “box park” that is bursting with places to eat and hosts DJs on Saturdays and – new for this summer – a beach park and big wheel.
Felixstowe gets busy with beachgoers in high season, but shoppers come year-round for the town’s independent and vintage stores.
Love Felixstowe is a six-day festival that starts on 2 September and culminates with stage five of the Tour of Britain cycle race on 7 September. The Women in Arts and Music celebration is held twice a year in October and March, while Felixstowe’s book festival arrives each June and its carnival every July, visitfelixstowe.org.uk.
How to get there
Felixstowe unfurls along the coast between the River Deben in the north and River Orwell in the south. Its railway station is served by Greater Anglia. The No 77 bus connects the railway station with the seafront and also heads to Landguard Fort. Coastal Wizard Taxis (01394 27555) charges £6 to £7 for the five-minute trip from the station to the pier.
Where to stay
The Orwell Hotel is a fine Edwardian building opposite the station with fancy plasterwork, high ceilings and a classic breakfast room. Some of its 60 rooms are undergoing refurbishment (doubles from £60, excluding breakfast).
The family-run Grafton Guesthouse on the promenade has eight rooms. The top floor of the Victorian building has a balcony with sea views. Doubles from £80, including breakfast.
Up with the sun
Tasty plant-based dishes can be found at The Greenhouse Café. Think celeriac “celami” slices with sauerkraut and pickles in toasted sourdough, or pan-fried sweetheart cabbage with creamy roasted garlic hummus and caramelised onions. It is open from 10.30am to 3pm, Wednesday to Friday, and 10am to 3pm on Saturdays.
Independent shops line Hamilton Road. Dip into Treasure Chest Books and browse more than 60,000 second-hand volumes. For pre-loved vinyl, try Grooveyards Records or Onion Vinyl on Orwell Road. Suffolk Living sells gifts for the home, including some Felixstowe-branded choices.
Take a tour of Landguard Fort, which was first established by King Henry VIII at the mouth of the River Orwell to defend the approach to Harwich Harbour. It was the site of the last opposed seaborne invasion of England, by the Dutch, in 1667. The invaders were repulsed by the Royal Marines. The current fort dates largely from the 18th century and is maintained by English Heritage.
Afterwards, perch at the neighbouring View Point Café to watch ships being loaded at the biggest container port in Britain – it is a hypnotising sight.
Time for a sundowner
Grab an al fresco terrace table at Fludyers Hotel on the seafront. While there, download a marine tracking app for your phone, which can tell you everything you need to know about the ships you see passing along the coast
Alba Chiara is a popular family-run Italian restaurant that has been serving up pinsa (stretched pizza), pasta and seafood since 2019. Among the dishes on offer are giant arancini and linguine with locally caught blue lobster.
Hit the beach
Felixstowe Pier and South Beach, both Blue Flag-accredited, are divided by two miles of groynes. Lay your towel south of the pier and you’ll be close to the amusements and ice cream vendors. North of the pier, the beach is backed by the restored Victorian-era Seafront Gardens. Those seeking wilderness should head to the end of the promenade for quieter beaches on the shingle spit at Landguard Nature Reserve.
Café Bencotto, housed inside a former fire station and open daily, is all forest green banquettes and exposed brickwork. Dishes are rooted in Mediterranean flavours. Try sweetcorn fritters with smashed avocado, pancetta, tomato and fried egg.
Time to relax
Walk to Felixstowe Ferry along the coast and then back to town along the Tomline Wall, a sea defence dyke named after Colonel George Tomline, who established the Port of Felixstowe in 1875. Start at Golf Road Car Park (20 minutes’ walk from town). Here, head down to the shore via stairs. Turn left, passing wildflowers, colourful beach huts and dog walkers.
Close to The Dip kiosk, look for the outline of Walton Castle, a late Roman “Saxon Shore” fort, in the water. Spot swimmers and sailing boats and, in the distance, the red-brick Bawdsey Manor – home to the world’s first operational radar station, which played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain.
Beyond are the Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club course and two Martello towers built to protect against invasion by Napoleon’s forces in the 19th century.
At Felixstowe Ferry, you’ll find fishing boats, lobster pots, a fishmonger, moored pleasure boats, the River Deben ferry (daily, May–September), the Ferry Boat Inn and Winkles Café.
Return to town via a raised path next to the green (signposted) that leads – via the Jam Box (selling home-made rhubarb and ginger jam etc) – to the overgrown Tomline Wall path (10 minutes in).
Take a sharp left at a junction where you will see a golf club sign absolving it of responsibility should you be hit by a ball. The flower-filled path weaves its way between the town’s 18-hole and nine-hole links courses and attracts birds and butterflies. You’ll emerge on to Cliff Road, where the No 76 bus will take you back into town.
A final treat
The Little Ice Cream Company in Undercliff Road West serves up to 100 delicious flavours of Suffolk ice cream made from the Holstein dairy herd three miles up the road.
Three things you might not know about Felixstowe…
1) In 1936, the American socialite Wallis Simpson stayed at a house in the town for six weeks as she awaited her divorce so that she could marry King Edward VIII, who gave up the throne to do so. A plaque marks the former site of Beach House, close to the Fludyers Hotel.
2) Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known “Lawrence of Arabia” for his exploits in the First World War, later helped to develop motor torpedo boats while based at RAF Felixstowe, now the site of the container port.
3) South Beach Mansion, an elegant Italianate mansion overlooking the beach, hosted Augusta Victoria, Empress of Germany and Queen of Prussia, in 1891 and ex-King Manuel II of Portugal in 1912.