Things to do in Southwold

Southwold, Suffolk a  fabulous Victorian seaside town on the Suffolk coast with an amazing beach,  beach huts, Southwold pier,  a working lighthouse, fantastic local pubs, art galleries, good food in great restaurants, shops, the Southwold Summer Theatre, Southwold museum; there’s even an amber shop!  A beautiful town with a warm welcome, lots of places to visit, something for everyone and lots of local and natural history.  Southwold is easily accessible by train from London Liverpool Street into Darsham station which is then a 15 minute taxi ride to Southwold. 

Let’s begin at the Southwold Pier, it’s hard to miss reaching out into the sea, pointing towards the Sole Bay (the sea area not the pub)!  It was reconstructed in the early 2000s –

The Rusty Weed by Chris Williamson

in fact it is the only 21st century pier in Great Britain! Since then, many tens of thousands of people have strolled along its deck, and visited the Cafes and restaurants, amusement arcades, and looked at the famous water clock, created by Tim Hunkin. Tim is also responsible for the crazy machines in the under the Pier show! The restaurant on the pier has fabulous views in both directions out to sea and of the town. It’s warming and comforting no matter the weather conditions. On a sunny day you can sit outside with a lovely glass of wine, an Adnams beer, or maybe a cup of tea and a slice of cake, watching the people on the beach.  You will often see fishermen at the very end of the pier, pulling in their fish.  Also, at the pier, you will see your first reference in Southwold to George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, 1984 and the rest of his literary treasure trove. Southwold was and still remains a literary lover’s dream. The pier is one of maybe a dozen places you can buy ice creams in Southwold.

Close to the pier, you’ll find a mini golf course which is an absolute must if you’re visiting Southwold even for the day. And then a bit further on you’ll find Southwold boating lake with its café, crazy golf and boat hire plus a large car park. During July and August there are several model yacht regattas at the model yacht Pond. There are lots of fun things to do in Southwold which are great fun for young and old and well worth spending a sunny afternoon by the water.

Cocktail hour at the beach hut, Southwold, by Karen SJ Keable

From the southwold pier, you can stroll along the promenade and take in nearly 300 colourful beach huts on your right hand side. The names of the beach huts are often quirky, see how many you can remember! You may also see a seal or two if you watch the waves closely, although probably it’s a black Labrador enjoying a surf. Enjoy the pristine sandy beach and clear water of our Suffolk coast.

If you didn’t fill yourself up at the pier, you can enjoy a coffee and cake or ice-cream at Susie’s café or the Gunhill café on the beach.  If you’re an early riser, you can enjoy a delicious breakfast at either one of the two cafes – certainly in summer. Last summer, the Gun Hill café held barbecues on the beach on a Saturday evening with meat being supplied by the town’s butchers Mills and sons and daughters, definitely one not to miss!


As you’ve been strolling past the beach huts, you will have noticed the Southwold working Lighthouse up to the right hand side which is such a magnificent landmark of the town.  The lighthouse has been guiding boats safely along our shores, according to trinity house’s operational requirements, for over 125 years. The Southwold Lighthouse functions every night and guides vessels along the east coast, the lighthouse beams strobe over the dark night sky and across the town. Adnams are now running tours of the lighthouse – check out their website for details. At the foot of the lighthouse is the Sole Bay Inn serving food and drink. 

The Adnams Brewery and copper house is across the road and has a distillery tour on offer – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity – so Kevin’s done it twice! It’s a sight to behold,

Evening at the Nelly by Stephanie Lambourne

and is a very interesting visit, you’ll get a taste of something at the end. The Sole Bay Inn is the brewery’s Tap Room, where you can comfortably and conveniently taste all of Adnams beers. There are a few other great pubs in the town, the Lord Nelson being another favourite. 

A little further south, from the lighthouse you’ll see the Southwold sailors reading room. The Southwold Sailors’ Reading Room was built in 1864 as a refuge for fishermen and mariners when not engaged at sea, as an endeavour to keep them out of the pubs and encourage them in Christian ideals. On this subject, Southwold boasts St Edmund’s church, ‘one of Suffolk’s finest.’ Situated in the heart of Southwold, just off Victoria street, St Edmunds welcomes families and people of all ages. 

Walking further along the beach you will come to the harbour (although don’t miss out on the Sail Loft, just inland).  Head down towards the harbour entrance to see the Alfred Corry museum dedicated to Southwold‘s No 1 lifeboat,  which was in service from 1893 to 1918. During her career, she was launched 41 times and the crew are credited with saving 47 lives. If you’ve got some spare time it is an interesting visit. Not far away is the new RNLI station with its fantastic rib.  This new rib is being used on many sea rescues, like all RNLI boats, the station is manned by local people.

A favourite place for a takeaway coffee, hot food or a piece of cake is the harbour kiosk. They’ve even got windproof seating there now. We understand that it is open on a summer evening for ice cream and a drink.

Along the moorings, linocut by Rob Barnes

Southwold harbour remains a working harbour with lots of fishing boats, lobster pots and fishing paraphernalia piled up along the harbour, showing off its maritime history.  In recent years many new restaurants, Cafes and in particular chip shops have set up along it’s shores. Many stalls sell wet fish and shellfish, some getting their produce off the fishing boats moored on the landings. The Coastal Voyager is one of the top attractions in Southwold, Marcus and his team will take you out for a thrilling ride on the sea, to see the seals, or a leisurely trip up the river Blyth, one of the things to do in Southwold that should not be missed.  In 2022 an off road, e-biking company was set up at the coastal Voyager shed offering both a leisurely and green and a not so leisurely cycle ride to Dunwich and other places around the coast, staying mostly on green lanes and enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside.

The ferry has operated across the river Blyth since 1236.  It was a rowing boat until 1885, when a chain ferry was put into operation to take cars, cattle and even elephants! The chain ferry was stopped in 1940, when the rowing boat was resurrected as the main ferry across the river. If you want to get to Walberswick, Suffolk in a hurry, this is the way to travel. It holds bikes, several people, children and even dogs.  The ferry woman Dani Church keeps the family tradition alive by continuing to row the ferry following in the footsteps of her Suffolk ancestors.

This area of the river is very popular with the younger generation for crabbing; actually, it’s popular with the older generation too and one of those Southwold things to do! 

The Sole Bay Fish Company and Le Roc are two restaurants and our  favourite places to eat along Southwold harbour, but all of the establishments are very good and worth a try.  Sit outside and watch the passing shipping and harbour life go by.  When you get to the west end of the harbour you come to the Harbour Inn which is a favourite with many people.  It is quirky and quaint and very original. You can see the coastal mark on the walls where the water level has risen to in the past. So take your wellies if you’re visiting in the spring or autumn when the tides are high!

Down on Blackshore, automata by Seth Draper

Southwold sailing club is adjacent to the Harbour Inn they hold several regattas between spring and autumn each year, and have a healthy membership.

You could continue to walk along the river from here passed the disused Mill and along the river up to Old Hall Cafe and Maize Maze…….., or head over the Bailey bridge to Walberswick , along the beach and around the village, but let’s take a right and head up towards the water tower. As you walk along the road, you’ll probably see a couple of swans in the Dykes, and if you’re there at the right time of the year, you may well see some cygnets, so please keep your dogs on the lead.

Walking is one of the top things to do in Southwold, the walks are terrific, unrivalled in Suffolk and the surrounding area.

On the left-hand side, you’re going to go past the clubhouse for the Southwold golf club and the Pitstop café and tennis club. If you’re feeling sporty then this is the place for you. Southwold golf course is a typical links course and very popular with visitors and people of the town, you will see people playing there most days of the week. Note; walkers do have right of way but always keep an eye out for flying golf balls!  The tennis courts have been popular in Southwold for years, decades in fact, they really add to the town’s amenities and are great for families.

There are two water towers in Southwold, Suffolk the old one has been turned into a business premises some years ago. The new one, an important landmark, stands slightly taller, both are architectural features of the Southwold landscape appearing in many paintings and photographs of Southwold. Just opposite the water towers is the sports and social club quarters for the local rugby football and cricket clubs. This is a really nice facility which adds to Southwold town’s amenities. On Saturdays in the season it is really nice to meet other local people  whilst watching and supporting our team.  A post match pint can be enjoyed in the club house, followed by fish and chips from the chip shop.

Continue walking straight ahead and you’ll soon reach the many independent shops of Southwold  High Street.  See our blogs on “Favourite independent shops” or” Places to Eat” in Southwold (to follow).  The Southwold Town Cryer can often be heard on the High Street announcing important events that are taking place in Southwold.  Hilariously I once heard him announcing half price Cornish pasties at the pasty shop at the end of the day, Kevin was tempted!

Southwold also boasts a tiny cinema called the Electric Picture Palace, which was opened in 2002 by Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. Michael has several connections with the town as a boy he stayed in the Dunburgh guesthouse (which we used to own and run) on the seafront nearly opposite Southwold pier. You may see Michael’s film about his time here in Southwold; ‘East of Ipswich’ playing at  the Electric Picture Palace.  Showings here can be enjoyed in true vintage Southwold style – head on down to the box office to find out.  

So much to do in such a small town, Southwold has it all. From golf to live music, George Orwell to Southwold Books, from tiny side streets to music festivals, from the denes beach to the Southwold Lighthouse. Why not visit and get the best of Suffolk without using your car.