Southwold: A Quintessentially English Seaside Resort

12 August 2022

Southwold, on England's East Coast, is one of the few spots in England where time seems to have stood still. It’s the sort of place where people are likely to say hello as they pass. Its beaches are sandy and lined with pastel-coloured beach huts, pale pink, blue, mauve and yellow, some of which can be rented.

The traditional 19th-century pier has several restaurants, one of which serves freshly caught fish and chips. There are also several gift shops, and a quirky amusement arcade. Towards the end of the pier is one of the must-sees of Southwold, a water clock made of metal that incorporates the silhouette of two gentlemen. When the clock chimes, the men drop their trousers and their ‘pee’ waters the flowers, which then blossom. When the chimes stop, the trousers come up and the flowers go down. At the very end of the pier, whatever time of the year, there are always people with their fishing rods, braving the North Sea winds.

Near the pier, but set back from the sea, is the Southwold Boating Lake & Café. The café has a veranda overlooking a children’s boating lake - a haven for ducks and a lovely spot to stop for a coffee or afternoon tea. A nice touch is that the owners have thoughtfully provided rugs, when needed, to shield against the wind. At the entrance is Southwold Heritage 12-hole Adventure Golf with each hole featuring aspects of the town’s history.

Brewing in Southwold goes back to the 1600s and the town is well known as the home of Adnams, who established a brewery here in 1872. In November 2010, Adnams expanded, opening a distillery producing gin, vodka, and whiskey. Tours of the brewery and distillery run throughout the week, finishing with a tasting. At the end of the high street, they have a shop and café situated in a massive warehouse. A great place for finding novel cooking utensils and presents, as well as stocking up on wine and spirits.

Hidden away, but just around the corner from the shop is the fascinating Southwold Museum. The museum is manned by volunteers so is only open from 2 – 4pm. Entry is free, and the volunteers are happy to point out the ‘must see’ items. This includes the Southwold Rudders, more than one thousand years old, which were found by local fishermen in the 1980s. A reconstructed Viking ship shows how the rudders would have been used.

The majority of the shops in the high street are still independent. One of them houses the Amber Museum, the only one in the UK dedicated to amber.

On Monday and Thursday mornings, the marketplace in front of the town hall has stalls selling anything from fruit and vegetables to flowers and clothes.

I always thought lighthouses were positioned on a cliff’s head and not in town but Southwold’s lighthouse is inland. A white tower, nestling between several houses there is a climb of 113 steps. Sadly, it is closed for 2022, but will hopefully reopen in 2023. It is worth visiting for the panoramic views of the North Sea, the Sizewell Nuclear Power Station to the South and Lowestoft to the North.

Southwold is a great place for eating local, freshly caught fish, particularly fish and chips. Queues form by the Little Fish & Chip shop in the town centre but better still is their dog-friendly restaurant the Sole Bay by the harbour where booking is recommended. At its entrance, is a fishmonger, with some fish caught by their own boat and others smoked in their own smokery. They will also ice pack fish if you want to take some home. The specialty in the restaurant, from the amount of people ordering the dish, seems to be the platters of seafood.

The harbour is also where the local ferry, a manned rowing boat, provides a quick way, rather than going by foot via a bridge, to the neighbouring village of Walberswick.

Six miles from Southwold, a new sustainably-built outdoor theatre has been built in the midst of Suffolk woodland. During the summer, Thorington Theatre is hosting over 40 shows with something for everyone - from Shakespearian classics to Wind in the Willows, operas and stand-up comedy!

A short drive from Southwold at Saxmundham, bordering on the sea, the woodlands and wetlands of RSPB Minsmere cater for everyone who loves nature. Because of its rich and varied landscapes within the reserve, there are lots of wildlife among the reedbeds, wet grasslands, shingle vegetation and lowland heath. Bring binoculars, although they can also be hired. Dotted around are covered look-out posts, which have pictures of the birds you are likely to see. Fortunately, bird watchers also enjoy sharing their knowledge so when visiting it’s always worth asking someone nearby if you need help identifying something. Adjacent to the shop, a café serves home-cooked light lunches which is fortunate as it’s very easy to spend a whole day there!