Go on a road trip to the beaches of Suffolk, where you can discover quaint coastal villages and shingle-and-sand shorelines facing the North Sea. Besides offering charming seascapes, most of Suffolk’s beaches make for wonderful escapes, set away from the crowds.

    You'll find stretches of coastline that are part of nature reserves with thriving habitats for bird and wildlife in Suffolk. Some beaches in this area are even rich in history, with iconic buildings on the sand that hark back to the WWII era. Mostly a 2-hour drive northeast of London, these beaches in Suffolk make for a great road trip through East Anglia.

    1

    Shingle Street

    A desolate beach… not a street

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    Shingle Street is a quiet and beautiful coastal stretch south of Woodbridge that’s seemingly untouched – though it did have a brush with WWII. It was evacuated in 1940 and turned into a minefield in anticipation of a German invasion, but remained desolate after it was cleared and declared safe.

    As its name suggests, the scenic stretch is all shingle, and there isn’t really a street – you’d need to cross some marshes to get there. Your reward lies in the unspoilt seascape with plenty of bird and wildlife. The waters are calm and swimmable – though it can get cold most times of the year.

    Location: Woodbridge IP12 3BE, UK

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    2

    Orford Ness Beach

    The longest shingle spit in Europe

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    Orford Ness Beach, part of the Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, is where natural beauty intertwines with wartime history. See a unique play of contrasts in its old military structures known as pagodas, formerly used in British atomic bomb research, now serving as viewing spots for admiring the shingles and marsh.

    A lonely abandoned lighthouse built in 1792 partly gives the beach its desolate atmosphere. You’ll need to plan ahead to visit Oxford Ness, as access is strictly controlled by the National Trust to protect the fragile habitats. Escorted visits are provided to keep both the environment and visitors safe.

    Location: Orford Quay, Orford, Woodbridge IP12 2NU, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)139 445 0900

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    photo by Ashley Dace (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    3

    Covehithe Beach

    Take a rural countryside walk to this sandy shore

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    Covehithe Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand part of the Benacre National Nature Reserve in Suffolk. The waters are calm and great for a swim or paddle out and, with plentiful nature nearby, you're bound to see birdlife during your day at the beach as well.

    Park your car by the villages before following down the narrow path and past some dunes and fields – you can only access the beach by foot or bike. You’ll come across one of the beach’s old icons, the massive ruins of St Andrews Church, which stands tall above a grassy field.

    Location: Benacre National Nature Reserve, Covehithe, Beccles NR34 7JW, UK

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    4

    South Beach, Lowestoft

    Fun in the Suffolk sun for the whole family

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    South Beach is where you can bring the whole family for a fun time with plenty of sand and space, and calm waves to safely swim in. Well facilitated, there’s even wheelchair access from the promenade to the edge of the water. It’s good for young and old, save for the furry member in the family – dogs aren’t permitted here.

    Lowestoft’s South Beach has a few cafes and food outlets right by the beach. Sandy Toes is a local favourite where you can grab an ice cream, and The Thatch is a cool spot for coffee and baguettes. Looking for some more family fun? Check out the skating rink and arcade on Claremont Pier.

    Location: Lowestoft NR33 0DE, UK

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    5

    The Denes Beach, Southwold

    A beach for the whole family – even the furry members

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    The Denes Beach is the main stretch of sand and shingle just south of the fun-filled Southwold Pier. The beach is wide with a few dunes that add to its scenic appeal, and its further southern end is backed by marshes before the mouth of the River Blyth.

    The beach is a great family weekend destination – it’s dog-friendly, too. From Denes, you only need to go for a short walk north into Southwold for refreshments or visit the old seaside town. Getting to the beach is easy, with ample parking available behind the dunes.

    Location: Ferry Rd, Southwold IP18 6HQ, UK

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    photo by william (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    6

    Felixstowe Beach

    Soothing sunrises and afternoon strolls

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    The sand, shingle and pebble-strewn Felixstowe Beach stretches for around 4 miles with a promenade where you can enjoy your scenic strolls. Mornings at the beach are dramatic as the sun rises over the calm waters of the North Sea. Fine Edwardian buildings, Felixstowe’s Sea Front Gardens, and the colourful beach huts are among the appealing sights to check out on your walks, and afternoons at the beach are just as pleasant.

     The waters off Felixstowe are calm and safe to swim in, with beachgoers occasionally taking their kayaks out for some good paddling time. More family fun awaits at the Ocean Boulevard Fun Park nearby as well as at the Felixstowe Pier with their fun rides and games.

    Location: Felixstowe IP11 2DF, UK

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    7

    Thorpeness Beach

    A steep, shingle beach between a boating lake and the North Sea

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    Thorpeness Beach is a steep, pebble and shingle beach north of Aldeburgh, which complements the seaside village of the same name with its large golfing course and boating lake. Though you can’t build sandcastles here, the beach’s calm and scenic appeal are among its main draws.

    The seascape often has local fishermen setting up their rods along the shore and you have lovely views of the seaside houses. A 10-minute stroll takes you to a boating lake known as Thorpeness Meare. Spot The House in the Clouds, a water tower built in 1923 and reconstructed in a mock-Tudor style with its upper part visible above the trees.

    Location: Leiston IP16 4NT, UK

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    photo by John Myers (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Walberswick Beach

    One of Suffolk’s best beaches to escape the crowds

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    Walberswick Beach is a long and unspoilt sandy beach just south across the mouth of River Blyth from The Denes Beach in Southwold. It’s backed by low-lying dunes with marshes, and the beach itself is part-sandy and part-pebbly.

    The beach has a dedicated campsite section and you’ll often find families kiting and crabbing near the northern end. Meanwhile, further south it gets more relaxed – often clothing optional. There are ice cream trucks near the parking area, and you can easily stroll to the nearby village to shop or stop by local cafes for refreshments.

    Location: Southwold IP18 6ND, UK

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    9

    Dunwich Heath Beach

    Coastal lowland area with rich heathlands filled with wildlife

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    Dunwich Heath Beach is part of an unspoilt coastal hiking route that's home to many species of birds due to its rich heather and gorse throughout the summer months. These heathlands are unmistakable due to their bright purple colour when in full bloom and line the sides of this walk.

    Near the beach, you'll find the Greyfriars ruins of a 13th-century monastery, Mount Pleasant farm (which is being used to restore the area back to grass and heather by the National Trust) and Minsmere Nature Reserve, where you can enter the many hides, including one up a tree, to view animals and birds. Don't miss the Coastguard cottages, with stunning views of the sea and cliffs. By timing it right, you may also be able to stop for a snack at the cottage tea rooms.

    Location: Coastguard Cottages, Minsmere Rd, Saxmundham IP17 3DJ, UK

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    10

    Aldeburgh Beach

    Come for the views, admire the art, and enjoy fish and chips

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    Aldeburgh Beach offers a traditional English seaside escape in Suffolk with a tranquil shingle beach that’s lined with pretty pastel-coloured houses on its seafront. Walk further down the shoreline and you’ll come across fishermen’s huts.

    To the beach’s north, look out for Scallop, a 4-metre-tall art installation designed by Sudbury-born sculptor Maggi Hambling and put together by Aldeburgh father-and-son blacksmiths Sam and Dennis Pegg. Feeling peckish? Fresh catches of the day from the local fishermen mean great servings of fish and chips – head to local chippies like Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop for a treat.

    Location: Crag Path, Aldeburgh IP15 5BP, UK

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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