Southwold is a seaside town in the English county of Suffolk. It’s famous as the home of the Adnams Brewery which makes some of my favorite beers (Broadside is a must-try). There are lots of things to do in Southwold from touring the brewery to days at the beach, exploring the pier, and so much more.
Some of the top places to visit in Southwold include the Lifeboat Museum, St Edmunds church, and the lighthouse. In summer the town comes alive with lots of fun events from the Lattitude Festival to a summer theater and lots of wonderful nature walks along the coast and heathland.
Southwold is one of my favorite weekend getaways thanks to the many wonderful walks, pubs, restaurants, and boutique shops in the town. It’s an ideal place for camping and the nearby heathland is considered an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Below, you’ll find some of the best things to do in Southwold and top Southwold attractions. From sampling the refreshing delights of the Adnams Brewery to exploring this sublime stretch of the North Sea coastline, this is one destination you’ll want to add to your UK bucket list.
If like me you’re a beer-lover, then taking a tour of the Adnams Brewery is a must, and one of the top things to do in Southwold. Adnams has been brewing beer in the town since 1872 and its beers (and wines and liquors) are enjoyed up and down the country.
There are three different tours available; a brewery tour, a distillery tour, and a gin-making experience. I’ve done the brewery tour a couple of times and always find the experience fascinating. There’s a tasting at the end which includes some of the mainstays of the brewery as well as some limited-edition brews.
The brewery and distillery tours cost £25.00 and last 1.5 hours, while the gin-making lasts 2.5 hours and costs £95.00 (as someone who loves a good gin, I’m looking forward to having a go at making my own on my next visit to Southwold). The Adnams Brewery is definitely one of the top attractions in Southwold.
The next best thing about Southwold (after the beer of course) is its lovely stretch of sandy beach. Colorful beach huts line the promenade and these can even be hired for the week. With gently sloping soft sand and clear waters, hitting the beach is one of the best things to do in Southwold for families.
The southern end of the beach is a wilder stretch with sand dunes backing onto heathland. This area of outstanding natural beauty is a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife, as well as a great place to escape crowds.
There’s a surf school and rental shop at Southwold Campsite where you can hire boards (surf and body), wetsuits, and even bicycles. Southwold is a great place for beginners thanks to the small swells, but if you’re looking for big waves then Cornwall is the top surfing spot in the UK.
Like many UK seaside towns, Southwold has its own pier jutting out 620 feet (190 meters) into the sea. The pier is a great place to walk and take in the views of the town and coastline, but also one of the best places to visit in Southwold for entertainment.
On the pier itself, you’ll find an exciting assortment of shops, cafes, and amusements from the boardwalk restaurant to the arcade, game zone, treasure chest gift shop, and a good old-fashioned chippy (fish and chip shop). The historic pier is definitely one of the best places for sightseeing in Southwold.
The pier is one of my favorite places to grab a bite to eat and definitely one of the most fun things to do in Southwold for families. The pier is open year-round from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm in winter and 9:30 am to 8:00 pm in summer.
The Lifeboat Museum is one of the best places to visit in Southwold to learn about the town’s seafaring history. Inside, you’ll find the 129-year-old Alfred Corry lifeboat which operated for 25 years between 1893 and 1918. The vessel was launched 41 times during this period and saved the lives of 47 sailors.
As well as the lifeboat, the museum houses an extensive collection of photographs and other displays charting the history of the town. This fun and educational museum is one of the best free things to do in Southwold, but please consider giving a donation to help keep the restoration going.
During the summer months, the museum is open daily from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, and only at weekends during the winter.
One of the most impressive things to see in Southwold is the lighthouse in the center of town. The iconic whitewashed tower rises above the rooftops to warn passing ships of the shallows around the coast.
The lighthouse dates back to 1887, though it was automated in 1938 and is now unmanned. This grade two listed building is 102 feet (31 meters) tall and includes two keepers’ cottages at the bottom.
As it’s still a working lighthouse it’s not possible to go inside, but it can be seen from many places around the town and makes for a great Insta photo opportunity.
Walberswick is a small village across the River Blyth which has a rowing boat ferry that crosses back and forth. These wooden rowing boats hold up to 12 people and leave whenever they have a fare, so it’s recommended to book in advance. The village is surrounded by gorgeous sand dunes and has its own beach.
The ferry runs daily from the beginning of April to the end of October and costs £2 for adults and £1 for children (what a bargain). The Walberswick ferry company also offers boat trips out on the River Blyth which is another great option if you want to spend longer on the water.
The High Street and town center are filled with interesting boutique and independent shops selling everything from arts and crafts to jewelry, second-hand books, and local produce. There’s a market every Monday and Thursday in the marketplace selling fresh foods, flowers, and more.
You may not be surprised to learn that Adnams has a shopping outlet in the town where you can pick up beers, wines spirits, and gifts too. Southwold really is one of the most charming little towns in the UK and I love browsing the interesting selection of shops for local specialties (particularly from the Adnams shop).
Another of the town’s most popular shops is the Southwold Amber shop and Museum. The talented folks have been crafting jewelry out of amber since 1987 and this is a great place to look for gifts and souvenirs.
What better place to lose yourself for a while than in a giant maize (corn) field? Though probably not the best idea to watch Stephen King’s classic horror Children of the Corn before you do.
The Southwold Maize Maze is a great day out for the whole family and includes two large mazes to get lost in, a double zip line, jumping pillows, go-karts, an excellent cafe/restaurant, and some scenic nature walks. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Southwold without a doubt.
The Maize Maze is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm from April to October. A family ticket costs £32.00 for four people and can be booked online.
Named for King Edmund the Martyr (who also lent his name to the nearby town of Bury St Edmunds), this large and rather splendid-looking church dates back to the 1430s. It’s one of the top places to see in Southwold for its impressive 13th Century architecture.
Along with the lighthouse, St Edmund’s Church is one of the town’s major landmarks. Exploring the inside is encouraged and you’ll note some interesting features such as the stained glass windows, abnormally high nave, and intricate carvings and paintings throughout.
The church is open to the public to explore or attend a mass and even hosts concerts throughout the year. Exploring this ancient church is another one of the great free things to do in Southwold.
The Southwold Arts Centre is the town’s premiere place for entertainment from live music to pantomime, coffee mornings, and the prestigious Summer Theatre. There are events year-round, so check the website to see what’s going on during your stay.
The Summer Theatre is an open-air performance put on by the Arts Centre and takes place on Southwold Common. Past performances have included Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a kids King Arthur workshop, and the Wind in the Willows (one of my childhood favorites).
If you’re looking for fun stuff to do in Southwold during the warmer months, then be sure to head to the Summer Theatre, which is also one of the great things to do in Southwold for couples.
Southwold has a small harbor mostly for visiting pleasure boats with the odd fishing or shrimp vessel coming and going. The harbor is located inland a little on the River Blyth and there are a couple of excellent restaurants with outside seating and scenic views to be found here.
It’s a short but pleasant walk from the town center and this is where you can catch the ferry to Walberswick or hire a boat.
The landscape around the harbor consists of heath and farmland and is a great place to blow away the cobwebs before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the pubs or restaurants nearby (see below for more).
Lattitude is one of the UK’s top music, arts, and food festivals and one of the best things to do near Southwold in July. Pulp, Sophie Ellis Bexter, the Proclaimers, and the Lightning Seeds have all been confirmed for 2023. Lattitude is a little different from other rock festivals as it’s a family-friendly event.
In addition to some of the UK and Europe’s top talent, there are children’s workshops, nature walks, food and drink stalls, and a whole host of other entertainment options set within the gorgeous Suffolk countryside 5 miles from Southwold. The festival takes place within the stunning surroundings of Henham Park and has been helping visitors create unforgettable experiences for 15 years.
There are lots of options for camping from a family campsite to boutique “glamping” experiences. Or you could just stay at one of the Southwold hotels I’ve recommended below. There are a range of tickets to choose from, from day to weekend, and those with camping available which can be booked online.
One of the most popular places to visit near Southwold is the village of Dunwich a few miles down the coast. As a child, I remember being told the story of an underwater town with a church bell that still rings, though I’ve never managed to hear it myself.
In the year 1086 Dunwich was a thriving port town of around 3000 people, however, nowadays all that’s left is a tiny coastal village with a population of around 100 residents. Coastal erosion and storm surges mean that the ancient town now lies under the sea and scientists have indeed mapped streets below the water using sonar.
Dunwich is a charming place in and of itself, but the fact that it’s England’s answer to Atlantis means it shouldn’t be missed. It’s an eight-mile drive or a five-mile hike from Southwold to Dunwich (I recommend the walk).
The ancient woodland at Reydon Woods is a great place to take a walk at any time of year. In spring the forest floor explodes into a sea of blue as the bluebells come out of their wintery slumber. In summer it offers a cooling escape from the heat, and in fall the colors erupt into a fiery crescendo of reds, yellows, and oranges.
There’s a four-mile (6.6 km) circular walk from Southwold to Reydon and back which takes in some of the most picturesque parts of Suffolk. This is definitely one of my favorite short hikes around Southwold and one I’ve done many times – I love the mixed landscape of beach, riverbank, creek, and marshland.
My favorite pub in Southwold is the Sole Bay Inn and I’ve spent many a pleasant summer evening in its quaint beer garden – you can’t miss the pub as it’s right next to the lighthouse. Enjoying the food and drink (yes, Adnams of course) is definitely one of the best things to do in Southwold at night.
In addition to all the beers, ciders, wines, and cocktails you can drink, the pub also serves lunch (12:00 pm to 2:45 pm) and dinner (6:00 pm to 8:45 pm).
You can expect good, hearty pub fare such as local fish and chips, burgers, steaks, pasta, and salads.
Below, I’ve put together some itineraries of things to do around Southwold to make planning your trip easier. Whether you have just a day, or much longer, these itineraries take in the top tourist attractions in Southwold and will help you get the best out of your stay.
With just a day in Southwold take a tour of the Adnams Brewery before heading to the pier for fish and chips and to admire the stunning views of the town and coastline.
See the lighthouse in the afternoon, visit St Edmund’s Church, and take a walk along the sand dunes. If it’s a nice day don’t hesitate to jump in for a dip or hire a board from Southwold Surf Hire. In the evening head to the Sole Bay Inn for a meal and a pint.
With a little more time in Southwold, you can afford to slow down and take things at a more relaxed pace. Follow the above itinerary, but save at least a day for the beach and a walk along the dunes. Start at the pier and make your way down the beach and inland to the harbor and back to the town again.
For a third day, explore the boutique shops and the market (if it’s a Monday or Thursday for the market). Check out the Lifeboat Museum, and consider the circular walk to Reydon Woods if it’s a nice day.
One week is a good amount of time to explore all Southwold has to offer and take in some of the beautiful nearby places. Spend a day getting lost at the Maiz Maze and returning to Southwold in the evening for dinner at Le ROC at the Harbour.
Use another day to explore the mysteries of Dunwich and see if you can hear the church bells chime. The fish and chips at Dora’s Tea Room are some of the best in the country – I speak from experience!
Any spare time you find can be spent at the beach, playing arcade games on the pier, or taking one of the many nature walks or hikes in the area.
Southwold is a very small town with no distinct neighborhoods (really it’s more of a village), so wherever you stay will be no more than a few minute’s walk from any of the places to visit in Southwold. I’ve listed three excellent accommodation options for your stay below.
This stylish yet homely Sutherland House Hotel right in the center of town is a stone’s throw from the lighthouse and beautiful St Edmund’s Church and just a five-minute walk from the beach. The romantic building dates back to 1455, but you’ll find all the mod cons you need for a comfortable stay. Click here to book.
This four-star hotel is located in the center of town yards from the beach. All bedrooms include a Nespresso machine, flatscreen TV, WiFi, and an ensuite bathroom. There are also two onsite bars and restaurants; the Still Room and the Tap Room. Click here to find out more.
This gorgeous three-bedroom cottage is just a few hundred yards from the beach and is the perfect place for families. There’s a patio and terrace, a fully equipped kitchen, a large living room with flatscreen TV, and WiFI throughout. Click here to check the price.
Don’t miss these great places to eat in Southwold.
The Sole Bay Fish Company is definitely one of the top restaurants in Southwold and has an excellent location right next to the small harbor. There’s a takeaway fish and chip shop (the Little Fish and Chip Shop) and a sit-down restaurant specializing in shellfish and other seafood.
This stylish but inexpensive restaurant by the harbor has a menu of British and European cuisine with rustic dishes like my favorite Beef Bourguignon, homemade fishcakes, and a light lunch menu. A great place to sit and watch the world go by with well-prepared dishes using local ingredients.
Along with the Sole Bay Inn, the Lord Nelson is one of my favorite pubs in Southwold thanks to its perfect location on the seafront, Adnams on tap, and decent menu of pub classics and specialty pizzas (the Black Dog with garlic mushrooms, smoked hame and mascarpone is a must-try).
The best way to get to Southwold is undoubtedly by car and this is how I’ve always traveled with friends. Southwold is 120 miles (193 km) from London and just 30 miles (48 km) from Norwich. From London, you can take the A12 and from Norwich the A145. To get to London fly into Gatwick, Heathrow, or Stansted.
It’s also possible to reach Southwold by public transport by taking a train from London or Norwich to Halesworth and then taking an (infrequent) bus or a taxi for the final 9 miles (14 km).
Getting around Southwold is easy as everything is within walking distance, though if you want to explore further afield a car will be necessary as public transport in this part of the country isn’t so reliable.
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Southwold.
Southwold is most famous as the home of the Adnams Brewery which has been brewing beer in the town since 1872 (I recommend trying their Regatta).
Summer, and July in particular, is the best time to visit Southwold as the weather is perfect for swimming, surfing, and bodyboarding. There are also some great events in July such as Lattitude Festival.
Southwold is definitely worth visiting for its beautiful coastline, many great pubs and restaurants, and nearby attractions such as Dunwich.
Southwold is the perfect place for a long weekend and four to five days is enough to see all the major attractions and spend time at the beach.
Southwold is incredibly safe. Suffolk is among the top 20 safest counties in the whole of the UK, and sleepy Southwold is no exception. Take standard precautions; don’t leave valuables on display, and only swim when lifeguards are on patrol in summer.
Taking a tour of the Adnams Brewery is one of the most popular things to do in Southwold, as well as visiting the beach and pier.
The town beach, also known as Denes Beach is the best (and only) beach in Southwold, though there are plenty of beautiful nearby beaches too such as Walberswick and Dunwich.
Southwold is most famous for its drinks made by Adnams (Regatta, Broadside, Ghost Ship, and Southwold Bitter), however, one of the best foods to try by the sea is fish and chips.
Now you know what to do in Southwold, the gorgeous coastal town on the Suffolk coast. This really is one of my favorite places to go for a few days rest by the sea thanks to its awesome array of untamed nature, pleasant walks, and some of the best pubs in the country (well, there is a brewery on the doorstep!).
Whether you want to eat fish and chips on the pier, go birdwatching along the marshes and sand dunes, or grab a bodyboard and catch some waves, there’s something for everybody. Don’t forget one of the best seasons to visit is summer with so many great festivals like Lattitude to look forward to around this time.
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