Suffolk’s varied and picturesque coastline is indented with several waterways - the rivers Orwell, Deben, Alde and Blyth. For walkers and cyclists taking to the coastal paths, there are local ferry services on hand to transport parties across these watery stretches, providing a clear run through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, all the way to Holland!
The four ferries connect the Stour & Orwell Walk and the Suffolk Coast Path from Harwich to Walberswick, and in taking these four ferries you can save over 75 miles of congested inland roads!
Harwich in Essex is situated on the estuaries of the Stour and Orwell rivers. The harbour area is popular, owing to the many riverside footpaths and cycle tracks, and birdwatchers are well catered for with feeding waders on the extensive mudflats of both rivers. Visitors can enjoy views of the towering passenger ferries arriving from Holland and Denmark, as well as the hundreds of yachts sailing through the harbour to their marinas up river.
The Harwich Harbour Foot Ferry, which has been in operation since 1912, is the only public ferry that connects Essex and Suffolk.
Carrying up to 12 passengers, it operates between Harwich’s Ha’Penny Pier, Felixstowe’s John Bradfield Viewing Area on View Point Road, and Shotley Marina.
For boat enthusiasts, a walk through Harwich harbour would be complemented with a trip on the Harwich Harbour Foot Ferry to Felixstowe, home to Europe’s largest container terminal. Take a seat at View Point Cafe, to which the ferry runs, and enjoy stunning views across the estuary to the Shotley Peninsula, with the vast container ships coming into the Port of Felixstowe passing by.
Harwich is connected to the Hook of Holland, making it a popular destination, or departure point, for cyclists travelling across the Netherlands and Britain. The harbour’s ferry caters for these fitness enthusiasts. Find out more about the Hook of Holland crossing here.
The ferry was recently taken over by the Zemann’s, an Anglo-Austrian couple based in Kettleburgh, Suffolk, when the previous owner announced that the boat would retire. Read more here. The ferry operates from Easter until the end of September and carries about 14,000 passengers on average each season. Click here to see the ferry timetable.
Contact number: 07919 911440
Stay in Pin Mill: River View (sleeps 4) sits in the hamlet Pin Mill and overlooks the water meadows and the estuary. Pin Mill is famed for it's connection to Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons and two of his works are based in Suffolk. Ransome lived in Levington on the opposite side of the river Orwell and when he wrote he looked across to Pin Mill.
The next river to intersect Suffolk’s coastline is the Deben, which separates Bawdsey from Felixstowe.
Steeped in military history, with Bawdsey Manor - the birthplace of radar - and a pleasant shingle beach, Bawdsey is a popular part of the coastline for history enthusiasts and walkers. Deben Ferries’ foot ferry connects Bawdsey with neighbouring Felixstowe Ferry, which otherwise can only be reached by a 25 mile road trip around the Deben river.
Felixstowe Ferry is a small fishing hamlet, a coastal stroll or 10 minute cycle from the main seaside town. It is home to the Felixstowe Boatyard, a traditional family run boatbuilding firm and centre for boat sales and moorings to rent, and a lovely fresh fish stall and smokehouse.
Cyclists and walkers can catch the foot ferry in either direction, creating a seamless route along the coast, northwards of Felixstowe.
It operates from April (at weekends only) and daily from May to October. Just wave the bat at the end of the jetty to call the ferryman! The ferry also operates a river taxi service.
Contact number: 01394 282 173
Stay in Bawdsey: Wheat Barn (sleeps 4) and 5 Ferry Road (sleeps 4) are both situated by Bawdsey Quay, with views of the boats and water. Martello Tower Y (sleeps 6) is situated at East Lane at Bawdsey close to the shingle beach an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The creek at Butley is a tributary of the River Ore, surrounded by wonderful marshland. The Butley Ferry is run by volunteer ferrymen of the Alde & Ore Association, who every year row cyclists and walkers over the creek, from Easter Saturday until the end of September. The ferry provides a link between Orford, Boyton and Butley for pedestrians and cyclists along the Suffolk Coast Path. The 10 mile ride from Bawdsey Quay to Butley Creek takes cyclists inland through the Suffolk Coast and Heathland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Find out more about ferry crossings here.
Contact: 07913 672499
Attempts to reinstate a ferry between Orford and Aldeburgh were attempted in 2011, but were sadly unsuccessful.
Cyclists making their way towards Southwold must travel a little further inland to Snape, crossing the River Alde by road bridge there, before continuing back down to the coast, or connecting with the A12 and travelling up towards Yoxford.
Stay in Butley: Butley Mills comprises 5 individual apartments within a converted former working mill, overlooking the marshes. The complex can also be rented out as a whole, sleeping a total of 18. Butley Barn (sleeps 14) and The Old Cafe (sleeps 6), tasteful barn conversions in the countryside, can be let separately, or both together (sleeping 20), and each have access to a state of the art fitness suite and training pool.
Stay in Orford: Quay View (sleeps 4) sits on the riverfront making for ideal access to Butley Ferry as well as the nature reserve Havergate Island. The Moorings (sleeps 4), a traditional fisherman's cottage, also lies close to the quay and, conveniently, is staggering distance from the pub.
The Suffolk Coast’s fourth and final foot ferry crosses the mouth of the River Blyth, which separates the coastal village of Walberswick from its seaside neighbour, Southwold. A simple row boat, rowed by the fifth generation of the same family, it accommodates pedestrians, cycles and dogs, and operates between April and October. The river can also be crossed via a bailey bridge.
As well as it’s rugged beach, Walberswick boasts several shops and galleries, tearooms, and two great pubs. Crabbing is a popular past-time here, Walberswick being the former home of the British Crabbing Championship.
Southwold, with its more manicured beach, is home to a delightful pier, towering white lighthouse, and fun coloured beach huts. You will find an array of pubs - Southwold is home to Adnams’ sole bay brewery - and various top quality eateries.
To find out more about the ferry timetable, click here.
Contact: 01502 724729
Stay in Walberswick: Seaview (sleeps 8) is modern and spacious, with AGA cooking range, and a sun drenched balcony with views to the sea.
Stay in Southwold: Amory House (sleeps 10) is an elegant Victorian villa in the heart of the town. Walton House (sleeps 10) is situated in one of the loveliest streets in Southwold and is a short walk to both the beach and the highstreet. Travel 5 miles inland to Henham and stay at Cravens Manor (sleeps 6 or 12), a beautiful property with lots of land a large outdoor swimming pool.
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