Summer sun on a Suffolk beach
Suffolk has a lovely coastline with a superb variety of beaches from the utterly remote where you are unlikely to meet anything other than the occasional ground nesting tern to family fun beaches with miles of sand, fish and chips (all very refined) and even a pier.
There is something for everyone at Felixstowe. To the southern end there are seafront amusements. A ferry service takes foot passengers, their dogs and bikes across the estuary to Harwich.
To the north of Felixstowe is a rather smart heathland golf course, a smattering of beach huts and if you are happy to walk as far as the estuary at Felixstowe Ferry, a charming fish and chip restaurant and sheds selling newly caught fresh fish. A ferry service operates from Felixstowe Ferry taking foot passengers, their dogs and bikes across the Deben Estuary to Bawdsey.
Beyond the main beach at Felixstowe is a vibrant little town centre with an eclectic mix of high street and locally-owned shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants. There is a railway station with an hourly service to Ipswich, from where you can travel to London, Norwich or Cambridge.
What sort of beach can I expect? A long stretch of predominantly sandy beach shelving quite steeply in places to the sea with a wide promenade running alongside.
Along the seafront there are award winning Edwardian gardens and multi-coloured beach huts, artisan ice cream and great fish and chips, bird watching at the nature reserve or discover how past generations defended our coastline at the magnificent fort and museum
Activities for the children: Traditional seafront arcades include ‘penny pusher’ and ‘grab arm’. At Ocean Boulevard, there are drifting karts and adventure golf. Right beside the sea, is The Martello Park, where children can swing, slide, climb and get wet with fun play areas while at Manning's Amusements there are traditional waltzer and other rides.
For something a little quieter walk along the beach to Felixstowe Ferry for an afternoon's crabbing or a river trip.
Once a fishing village with 30 boats, this hamlet has many more birds than it has people.
What sort of beach can I expect? Simply a row of coastal cottages, houses and a martello tower and (as the name suggests) an enormous shingle beach. Much loved by writers and artists it is a truly wild and inspirational location. Also very popular with wind and kite surfers, the beach is NOT ideal for swimming as currents are strong.
Activities for children: No ice cream or candy floss, but a wild and wonderful place for a visit. Stay at Barn Owl Barn where there is a plunge pool and large games barn for lots of fun for all the family.
Shingle Street is a wildlife haven with rare shingle plants and ground nesting birds. A walkers and bird watchers paradise.
The upmarket seaside town of Aldeburgh will suit most people, from families, writers, artists and music aficionados to city folk in need of a quick, cultured getaway and that invigorating salty North Sea breeze.
Enjoy watching the fisherman haul their boats onto the shingle as they prepare to sell the day's catch from their rustic huts?
Beyond the beach, Aldeburgh also has a chic side with an eclectic mix of mainly individually-owned shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants - not forgetting a sprinkling of wonderfully atmospheric pubs and nationally-acclaimed fish and chip shops to indulge in the most delicious fish and chips you might ever eat.
What sort of beach can I expect? A long stretch of predominantly shingle beach shelving quite steeply to the sea with a wide promenade running alongside - perfect for relaxing strolls at sunset. Note that there are some sandy areas too (these are particularly exposed at low tide.)
Activities for the children: There's a notable absence of amusement arcades in Aldeburgh, not that the children will mind when they're busy flying their kites and sailing their model yachts on the boating lake. Stay right in the High Street at Dart Cottage
Built in the 1900s, this quirky seaside village (located a stone's throw north of Aldeburgh) holds fairytale appeal, having been created by local landowner Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie as a fashionable resort ''for people who want to experience life as it was when England was Merrie England'' after he purchased the Sizewell Estate back in 1910.
So began the process of transforming a sleepy fishing village called Thorpe into a somewhat quaint but utterly charming resort called Thorpeness, complete with predominantly Tudor-style architecture and a 64-acre, one-metre deep Meare.
This remains one of the village's key attractions and was dug by hand on the site of a silted up mere that once served as Aldeburgh's northern harbour.
Like Aldeburgh, you're guaranteed to find the usual mix of creative types in Thorpeness and family members young and old will relish an opportunity to soak up its unique atmosphere, which is so very different to that offered by your run-of-the-mill seaside destination.
What sort of beach can I expect? The beach consists of steeply shelving shingle, with some sand at low tide. Dunes and low cliffs start to the north of Thorpeness, whilst the southern end forms the Haven Nature Reserve.
Activities for the children: The village has all-round appeal for children, who will love exploring the Peter Pan inspired islands of the Meare by rowing boat and witnessing what appears to be a House in the Clouds (another of Ogilvie's architectural legacies, originally designed to provide storage capacity for a basic water supply to the village.) Shore Cote perfect for two families or a group of friends. Go through the gate to the beach
All that is left of Dunwich is a village street, superb museum, a pub, church, an excellent fish and chip restaurant beside the beach and a few clinker built fishing boats.
Dunwich was once a major town, with over 20 churches, a priory and many shops. Coastal erosion wiped out most of the town – the museum in the High Street gives you and your children a really good understanding of both the history of this amazing village and the effects of coastal erosion on the towns and inhabitants of the east coast.
There is a large car park close to the sandy beach which is great for all the family, take a picnic or enjoy the fish and chips – they are scrumptious.
If you have had enough of sunbathing or swimming you can walk south to Dunwich Heath (National Trust) where there are hides for birdwatching over the lagoons. RSPB Minsmere is another mile south. North of Dunwich is Dingle Marshes, a great area for walkers, birdwatchers and dog walkers. The walk to Walberswick is a joy. Stay at Bridge Cottage
It has been described as "Notting Hill on Sea" which hardly reflects its sandy beach and dunes but Walberswick is well known for a host of arty inhabitants – including film writer Richard Curtis and his partner Emma Freud, Bill Nighy and many others. Painters flock to the village throughout the year and it has been the focus of several books and films over the years.
There are some fascinating houses including the wonderful and very contemporary Seaview in the village, two great pubs and a small selection of shops, a deli and a nice little tea room.
Down at the quay you will find the ferry; operated by an oarsman or woman who will skillfully row a boatload of people across the mouth of the Blyth river to Southwold (there is also a footbridge)
The Harbour Inn is a great stopping off point on your way to the tow (a mile further north) then you can follow the coast path past fish sheds and fish restaurant before reaching the main town.
Like Aldeburgh, Southwold is quite upmarket with a good selection of individual and national boutiques, some really good bakers, a deli, restaurants and a number of great pubs as well as a large Adnams shop. The seafront is delightful and there is a wonderful old fashioned pier with original penny slot machines and games.
Activities for the children: We have already mentioned the pier, but there is also a boating lake and a delightful sandy beach. You can take boat trips on one of the large RIBs from the estuary entrance – some are a bit stomach churning, but you can take a gentle trip down the estuary towards Blythburgh or out to sea to see the seals. Take the family to Amory House, just 5 minutes from the beach