Suffolk Coast AONB

Dunwich Heath, Suffolk Coast & Heaths, Suffolk, England
Dunwich Heath, Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB ©

Suffolk Coast & Heaths – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in the county of Suffolk in the East of England. The area was first designated a AONB back in 1970, the area covers over just over 400 square kilometres and includes the five estuaries at Alde, Blyth, Deben, Orwell and Stour and miles of coastline. Suffolk Coast & Heaths is one of the most easterly AONBs in England along with the Norfolk Coast AONB. The area is well known for its coastline, estuaries, tranquillity, wildlife habitats and landscapes.

The local population of approx 24,000 live in local villages and towns located across the AONB such as Aldeburgh, Southwold and Thorpeness. The area covered under the AONB designation covers an area starting from close to Kessingland in the north down to the River Stour in the south next to the international port of Harwich. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Ramsar Sites and National Nature Reserves.

The key features and special qualities of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB include the undeveloped coastline, rural landscapes, range of wildlife habitats, cultural heritage and historical sites and settlements. The area is important for wildlife and habitats with a number of protected sites. The key features combined with the peace, tranquillity, unspoilt nature of the site and open and extensive views makes the area special.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, agriculture and tourism. The scenic area is a popular place for visitors and attracts visitors for day trips, short breaks, holidays and for a number of recreational activities including water sports. There are a number of scenic historic villages and towns located in the AONB, including Bawdsey and Covehithe. Main settlements located close by include Ipswich, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

The area is popular for outdoor activities including sailing, surfing, river cruising, swimming, wildlife watching, walking and cycling with a range of routes and trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy the tranquil environment, natural largely unspoilt coastal scenery with far reaching views offering some of the finest natural beauty in England.

Quick Facts

Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1970

Population: 24,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 403

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): 37

National Nature Reserves: 4

Scheduled Ancient Monuments: 38

Ramsar Sites: 5

Main Settlements close by: Ipswich, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

Located in: Suffolk.


The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB is located along the scenic Suffolk coast in the East of England. The East of England and its range of attractions including the AONB do not have the highest profile among visitors; however the area is a hidden gem offering plenty for visitors to see, do and experience. The Suffolk Coast offers visitors a scenic coastal haven away from the crowds.

The AONB includes five estuaries and a number of beaches ranging from popular family beaches to isolated coves. The tranquil and peaceful area enjoys a relatively remote location offering visitors a place of contrast away from the traffic and congestion of the cities and towns.

The AONB includes a number of small settlements, the AONB area itself is relatively sparsely populated with no major towns or cities falling within the AONB boundary, local settlements include as Aldeburgh, Southwold and Thorpeness. Suffolk Coast & Heaths are home to a number of landscapes including shingle beaches, marshes, estuaries, forests, heathland, farmland and crumbling cliffs; each of which has its own landscape character.

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB has a rich history and includes the closest unspoilt coastline to London; the area is of national importance for its landscape, ecology and geology. Local towns located close to the AONB border include Felixstowe, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Ipswich. The local towns provide convenient places from which visitors can tour the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB and surrounding areas in Suffolk and Norfolk.

The protection given to the area with its AONB status means the commercial development in the AONB area has been limited in order to help protect and maintain the special qualities of the area. The area is located to the south of the Broads in Norfolk & Suffolk; the relative low profile of the area and its remote location means visitors can enjoy much of the AONB area away from the crowds. The proximity of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths and The Broads means time permitting visitors could explore both in a trip to the East of England.

The location in East of England means the AONB is easily assessable from across the East of England, the Midlands, Southern England and Northern England. From Newcastle, Durham and much of north east England the area is 5.5 to 6 hours by car, from Leeds it is 4 hours by car, from Birmingham and much of the Midlands it is 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes. From Liverpool and Manchester it is approx 5 hours to 5 hours 30 minutes.

From Cambridge and much of the East of England it is 1.5 to 2 hours by car. From South Wales it is 5 hours to 5 hours 30 minutes by. From London and much of southern England it is 3 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes drive by car.

Tourist Information Centres and information points are located at various locations in and close by to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. Inside the AONB there is a tourist information centre in Aldeburgh, there are also ones located at Woodbridge, Felixstowe and Ipswich close to the AONB. The tourist information centres can provide visitors with useful information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas.

Each of the tourist information centres has knowledgeable staff with valuable local knowledge with information on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres provides a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area. At the centres visitors can find out about local events, public transport options and accommodation facilities.

Local Accommodation includes a range of hotels including historic and contemporary, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, holiday homes and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Aldeburgh, Orford and Southwold. Towns located in the area including Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and the county town of Ipswich, provide good access to local facilities and accommodation from which to explore the AONB and the surrounding local areas in the east of England.

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB provides a place for visitors to explore a place of remote wilderness by the coast surrounded by natural scenery and landscapes where it is possible to get away from it all. There are a number of small dispersed settlements in the AONB, many of the towns and villages in the AONB have preserved their history, traditions and heritage and include a number of local attractions and places of interest.

Local Towns and Villages include Aldeburgh located within the AONB area, the coastal town is located on the River Alde in Suffolk. Historically the town was a busy port and home to the ship building industry; later Aldeburgh became a popular seaside resort. The town is known for its 19th century architecture; examples include the villas along the seaside promenade.

The high street includes a number of independent shops and boutiques including bookshops, antiques stores and the Aldeburgh cinema. The local facilities and amenities in Aldeburgh makes it a convenient place or visitors to base themselves from when exploring the area. Notable buildings include Moot Hall, a historic Grade I listed building dating back to the dating back to the 16th century, the building includes the local museum.

Local attractions include the well known Aldeburgh Festival, founded back in 1948 the Aldeburgh Festival Music and the Arts is a festival devoted primarily to classical music over the years it has become a very popular and highly regarded festival that takes place annually in June. The main site for the festival is in Snape Maltings; an arts complex best known for its concert hall. Visitors to the festival can see and hear an eclectic range of music from well known classics to more contemporary works. There are also a number of visual arts on show too with a number of exhibitions curated each year to compliment the musical programme.

Southwold is a seaside town located 17 miles north of Aldeburgh along the Suffolk Coast. Historically the town established itself as a fishing port and today the local economy is based on tourism. The town includes a sandy beach with beach huts and includes a pier with seaside attractions that showcase its qualities as a British seaside town. The popular beach and local facilities and attractions make the area popular with families.

Southwold includes a number of independent shops along with a number of well known high street names. The town is a market town and hosts markets on Mondays and Thursdays. The town includes a number of cafes, pubs, delis and restaurants offering a choice of cuisines. The Adnams Sole Bay Brewery offers guided tours where visitors can learn about beers and spirits.

Southwold Pier dates back to 1900, it is over 600 feet long and was rebuilt back in 2001. The pier is home to a number of attractions for visitors, the traditional amusements include the penny pushing machines, there is the house of games area, under the pier show, waterclock, telescope and much more. There are a choice of eateries serving a choice of cuisines including traditional fish and chips, fresh seafood and more.

Thorpeness is located 2 miles north of Aldeburgh, the scenic village is located on the Suffolk Coast, the compact village attracts many visitors during the summer holiday season and a popular day trip destination. Historically a small fishing village; Thorpeness has been described as 'weird and quirky'; the fascinating village includes a number of notable mock Tudor buildings and buildings in a Jacobean style.

Thorpeness become a place for London's well to do during the 20th century when it was transformed by Glencairn Stuart Oglivie, a Scottish barrister in to a fantasy village. The Meare is an artificial boating lake that includes islands, each island is named in the theme of Peter Pan. Visitors can use rowing boats to explore the lake further. The Meare is the venue for the Thorpeness Regatta; where visitors can see boat races along with fireworks displays.

Local attractions include the Grade II listed House in the Clouds, a water tower built back in 1923, currently the building is used to provide holiday accommodation. To the north of the village is the RSPB North Warren Reserve, a nature reserve with Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) status. The reserve is well known for its population of European Nightjar and Eurasian Bittern and a number of other birds. There are coastal habitats with areas of dune, woodland, grassland and lowland heath, visitors can see a number of mammals at the reserve including Red Deer, Adder, Otters, Badgers. Insect species found here include butterflies and dragonflies.

Felixstowe is located approx 29 miles south of Aldeburgh on the edge of the AONB. The seaside town is famous for its four miles of sandy beaches, its pier and promenade and traditional seaside attractions making it a classical British seaside resort. The town offers all the seaside attractions along with carnivals, adventure golf, open air theatre and art exhibitions. The range of facilities, amenities and accommodation available in the town means it is a popular place for visitors to base themselves from when exploring the Suffolk Coast AONB.

Local attractions include Felixstowe Museum that showcases the history of the town, visitors can see exhibitions, displays and artefacts chronicling the town's history through the years from Roman times to the World Wars and on to the new Millennium.Landguard Fort is under the care of English Heritage, the historic fort dates back to the 16th century. Visitors can go on guided tours that explains the fascinating history of the fort, its history and architecture whilst the Ghost tours recall more spooky and scary stories associated with the fort over the years.

Walking offers visitors the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to discover the AONB and the surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB includes a choice of landscapes and terrain, offering shorter and longer walks for walkers of all abilities.

Walks include Aldeburgh Town Marsh Trail, a 4 mile walk along raised river banks and fields. The Suffolk Coast & Heaths Path is a 50 mile walk from Felixstowe in the south to Lowestoft in the north taking in the best of the coastal scenery, landscapes and local attractions.

Cycling provides both a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to explore the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB. There are a number of quiet country lanes, bridleways, forest tracks, scenic coastal routes and more challenging terrain making the area suitable for cycling. There are a number of cycle routes in the area these include; the Suffolk Coastal Cycle Route is a 88 miles circular route from Felixstowe to Dunwich that goes through the market towns of Woodbridge and Framlingham and a number of quiet scenic roads along the coast.

Visitors to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB in the east of England will find a quiet and scenic coastal area that retains its historic character and sense of remoteness. Visitors can explore a number of historic villages, market towns and seaside resorts in and around the AONB. A visit to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB offers peace and tranquillity where visitors can enjoy the natural environment and landscapes along with a number of outdoor activities.

How to Get There

Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The coastal town of Aldeburgh is located in the AONB area; providing a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation, facilities and local amenities. Located approx 110 miles from central London. From London take the A11, A12, then the A406 North Circular and the M11 motorway. At junction 8 of the M11 exit on to the A120(E) towards Colchester, then continue along the A12, A14(E) then back on to the A12. Continue on the A12 until the junction with the A1094 and exit on to the A1094 that goes to Aldeburgh. The approx journey time is 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 30 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

From London Liverpool Street station there are regular services to Ipswich train station. The journey time is approx 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on service, connections and time of day. From Ipswich there are bus services to Aldeburgh in the AONB via the First in Norfolk & Suffolk number 65 service to Aldeburgh, the approx journey time is 1 hour 25 minutes.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular coaches available from London Victoria Coach station to Ipswich. The approx journey time is 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours 30 minutes depending on connections, time of day and traffic. From Plymouth, visitors can use local bus services to destinations in the AONB. Coach services to Plymouth are provided by National Express

Contact Details

Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB
Dock Lane
IP12 1PE

Telephone: +44 (0)1394 384948

Website: Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Suffolk Coast & Heaths (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB in the East of England ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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