Let's staycation in...Felixstowe

Colourful beach huts at Felixstowe

Colourful beach huts at Felixstowe - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In its Edwardian heyday, Felixstowe was one of THE places to be if you ‘did like to be beside the seaside’. 

Fastforward to today, and seaside town is experiencing a new-wave heyday. Investment has swept the seafront, bringing with it a new pier, the Martello Park development, Beach Street, and flourishing gardens that have never looked better. 

New businesses, from restaurants and cafes, to independent gift and lifestyle stores, have breathed life into the high street and its offshoots too.  

Let’s explore. 

Inside one of the rooms at The Orwell Hotel, Felixstowe

Inside one of the rooms at The Orwell Hotel - Credit: Bushfire Photography

Where to stay in Felixstowe 

The Orwell hotel makes an excellent choice for a comfortable stay in Felixstowe. 

Behind the grand Victorian façade guests will find both classic and contemporary rooms, from singles to suites, each with free WiFi, TV, tea and coffee making facilities, and an ensuite bathroom. 

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A range of special events is hosted at the hotel throughout the year, and it’s a popular venue for weddings, with functions of 10 to 300 catered for in the dedicated function suites. 

The elegant restaurant is open from breakfast through to dinner, with one of the best afternoon teas in town served within The Library, which offers a touch of glamour with its tall, ornate ceilings, leather upholstery and twinkling crystal chandeliers. 

General manager Laura Horne says: “Felixstowe has so much to offer. I love to browse the independent boutique shops on the high street, take in the sea air with a stroll along the seafront or, if I fancy something more historic, I visit Landguard Fort. Beach Streets shops and the amusements are a must-visit if you’re in the town – I recommend the Waffle Shack. And if I have family visiting, I take them to Martello Park. It’s great fun.” 

Find out more at theorwellhotel.co.uk 

A seafood pasta dish at Alba Chiara

A seafood pasta dish at Alba Chiara - Credit: Archant

Where to eat in Felixstowe 

Fish Dish - An award-winning fish and chip shop close to the pier, which serves some of the best chips not just in Felixstowe, but in Suffolk – the owner specifically chose a variety of potato that makes the fluffiest, crunchiest-edged version of the Brit takeaway classic. Fish can be grilled or battered (arriving with homemade tartare sauce). And there are other homemade, hearty dishes to enjoy too, including fish pie, steak and onion pie and five types of chicken Parmo (a northern classic). 

Alba Chiara - Looking straight out to sea, this is a fantastic, authentic Italian eatery, specialising in pinsa romana – the original pizza, made with a slowly-fermented, light, crusty dough. There are daily specials. And the homemade pasta and gnocchi is simply delicious. 

The Alex - A café bar where diners and drinkers spill out onto the sea-facing tables even in less than sunny weather for a spot of people-watching. Casual, but classy, you can stop in for cake and coffee, a glass of wine with nibbles, or a full meal, from brunch of bubble and squeak cakes with fried eggs and roast tomato sauce, to fresh mussels in white wine, garlic, cream and herbs. 

View Point Café - A rite of passage for any newcomer to Suffolk is sitting in the car next to the port, watching the shipping containers come in with a bag of chips on your lap. Once you’ve done that, graduate to the café here, which serves really very good no-nonsense homemade food, including great value breakfasts, homemade pie, and delicious, creamy Welsh rarebit. 

Little Ice Cream Co - An artisanal ice cream shop across from the pier, making wonderful ice cream in more than 80 changing flavours, using milk from their own dairy herd nearby. Great coffee and baked goodies are also available, as are simple lunches. 

The Greenhouse Café - A plant-based café serving tasty cakes, all-day brunch and lunches – with a real focus on using ingredients and suppliers that are kind to the planet. Think loaded pancakes, giant bowls of dahl with pickled chillies and homemade flatbreads, their own homemade nossages (meat-free sausages), and a Reuben sandwich made with roasted, marinated celeriac.  

Ferry Boat Inn - Nip over to Old Felixstowe and immerse yourself in the history of this charming pub, which brings together an oldy-worldy bar and modern dining room. There’s something for everyone on the menu at the family-friendly pub, from home cooked ham, egg and chips, to chicken curry, local cod, salmon fishcakes and veggie burgers. Local fish and meat are used throughout the dishes. 

Ruby and Scarlet is known for its range of quirky homewares Picture: Ruby and Scarlet

Ruby and Scarlet is known for its range of quirky homewares - Credit: Ruby and Scarlet

Where to shop in Felixstowe 

Onion Vinyl – A cool independent shop selling new and used records, as well as CDs, DVDs and even tapes. A great space for browsing, and finding albums you never knew you needed – or have been looking for forever. 

Tea + Kate – A gift, lifestyle and homeware studio specialising in sustainable, made-to-last, beautiful products made by craftspeople. Find everything from fragrance and candles, to prints, lamps and lighting, stationery and furniture in store. 

Stillwater Books – Don't pick up your holiday read at a service station on your way to Felixstowe. Instead, make a pitstop here, where there are tomes for all ages and interests, including the latest bestsellers to sink into. 

Ruby & Scarlet- An expansive ‘mini department store’ curated with something to catch the eye at every corner. Be that a cutesy Jellycat toy, plump decorative cushion, or something from the truly delightful selection of kitchenalia.  

Felixstowe seaside town terrace gardens

Felixstowe seaside town terrace gardens - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Things to do in Felixstowe 

A touch of history – Head for Landguard Point where there is plenty to keep you occupied for a morning or afternoon. After walking in the nature reserve, pop in and explore the maze of intriguing tunnels, rooms and fortifications that make up Landguard Fort – from where the military staged its defence against the last seaborne invasion of England against the Dutch in 1667. It re-opens on April 1 from Thursdays to Sundays, 10am to 5pm, with entry free for English Heritage members, £5.50 for adults, and £2.50 for five to 17-year-olds. Felixstowe Museum re-opens from April, initially just at weekends and on bank holidays, noon to 5pm. Here, browse the town’s fascinating collections, including a mammoth tooth and medieval coins. Entry is £4 for adults or £1 for children. 

Inside Landguard Fort

Inside Landguard Fort - Credit: David Falk

A view from Felixstowe Pier

A view from Felixstowe Pier - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Pier fun – All along Felixstowe seafront you’ll find slot machine type businesses and kiss-me-quick attractions, but some of the best are at the modern pier. Spotlessly clean and modern, there’s everything from 2p machines, to the latest technology using VR, and even mini bowling.  A café/restaurant on the pier offers refreshments, and there’s ice cream and doughnut, and fish and chip concessions too. 

Felixstowe's links golf club hugs the coastline

Felixstowe's links golf club hugs the coastline - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A round of golf – Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club sweeps along the coastline, offering 18 and 9-hole courses on undulating true-links terrain. You can pay and play on the 9-hole course every day. That’s £15 for adults and £5 for under 18s. 

Catch crabs – Avoiding the foot ferry, you can cast lines for crabbing off the jetty here. And you can also launch watercraft such as kayaks, to run up the river. 

Go for a walk – Felixstowe's promenade is four miles from end to end. A lovely walk, with lots of places to stop for a cuppa on the way. Maybe hire a beach hut in Old Felixstowe to relax in afterwards with a nice cuppa.

Ride on the ferry – Harwich Harbour Ferry operates from Felixstowe to Shotley and Harwich (see online for times and days) with a single fare to Harwich £5 for adults, £4 for children and £1 for a dog or bike. Deben Ferries from Old Felixstowe to Bawdsey, operates at weekends from Easter through April, 10am to 5pm and then daily from May to October. It’s £3 one way or £4 for a return. Children are £3 and dogs free. 

Take in a show – The Spa Pavilion is a fantastic venue, modernised in 2015, and including two dining spaces, and a comfy auditorium where upcoming shows include The Best of the West End on April 16, Marvels of Mystery on April 22, Giovanni Pernice on April 28, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical, from May 13 to 15.