On my bookshelf I have a 1914 Ward Lock travel information to Felixstowe. I’ve had it for years and it introduces the city I grew up in with phrases that make me smile every time I learn them. “There is in Felixstowe and its surroundings, a combination of grace, prettiness and interest which lingers pleasantly in the memory when the visitor returns to regions less captivating.” It’s essentially the most gorgeously alluring description of my home city that I’ve ever encountered and, whereas my smile could as soon as have been adopted by a hoot of incredulous laughter, lately I take the phrases at face worth and respect them.
I’m not the primary individual who has ever been responsible of questioning Felixstowe’s charms. When I inform folks the place I’m from, the dialog normally shifts rapidly to Southwold or Aldeburgh. And I do perceive why. As a young person, I regarded out of my bed room window and noticed transport containers. It’s solely as a customer that I’ve come to understand Felixstowe for the colourful and really numerous place that it’s and, lastly, I recognise the grace and prettiness which was proper below my teenage nostril all alongside.
Shore factor … boats at low tide. Photograph: Chris Terry for the Observer
OK, so it isn’t essentially the most modern city on the Suffolk coast and I’m not about to argue that it’s the prettiest both, however it’s infinitely extra engaging than may be anticipated of the UK’s largest container port. The pier is the brand new gem on the seafront, however there’s lots extra that sparkles. Just reverse, the Alex has been a favorite spot to dine and take a look at the ocean for many years. Not to this point again, it was a proper tea room from a forgotten age, however in the present day it’s a pleasant fashionable cafe and brasserie with a menu to make anybody completely satisfied. Downstairs, you’ll discover scrumptious all-day breakfasts made with domestically sourced substances whereas upstairs gives a broader selection. The seafood medley and chips is each bit pretty much as good accurately and the salt-baked beetroot, tomato and feta tarte tatin comes with my private suggestion. There are cocktails, too, together with a scrumptious espresso martini, or you may get pleasure from a pint of Adnams’ Southwold bitter if that’s extra your tipple.
Wallis Simpson laid low right here as she waited for the divorce that would go away her free to marry Edward VIII
Further down the promenade, Grade II-listed gardens rise in terraces up the cliffs and, on the high, Edwardian mansions stand proud and supply a reminder of the grandeur of Felixstowe in its heyday. Of these, essentially the most spectacular is the big Harvest House, which stands above the Spa Pavilion. Today, Harvest House is a retirement complicated, however its exterior is definitely no much less spectacular than when it opened in 1903 because the Felix Hotel. The lodge’s best-known visitor arrived in 1936. Wallis Simpson laid low right here as she waited for the divorce that would go away her free to marry Edward VIII and shift the course of British historical past.
Stories are all over the place in Felixstowe. A brief stroll from Harvest House will convey you to a luxurious residence block on Bath Hill. This is all that is still of the Bath Hotel which closed in April 1914 after being nearly totally burned to the bottom by suffragettes. In an ironic twist, there’s now a plaque commemorating the fire-starters, Evalina Burkitt and the fabulously named Florence Tunks. Fortunately, Burkitt and Tunks didn’t do any everlasting injury to Felixstowe’s lodge commerce. There are loads of locations for in the present day’s guests to remain. A very good choice is the Fludyers Hotel. Edwardian on the surface and fashionable on the within, it has a welcoming bar and restaurant, and better of all a heated terrace looking to sea. There are many guesthouses, too, however it’s possible you’ll really feel such as you’re staying at your nana’s. In reality, the worth of rooms right here is refreshingly cheap wherever you select to remain.
Life’s a seashore hut: ‘It’s infinitely extra engaging than may be anticipated of the UK’s largest container port.’ Photograph: Chris Terry for the Observer
But Felixstowe is far more than well-known lost motels and historic hyperlinks to decided ladies. Positioned between two estuaries, the city gives some startling and assorted landscapes. To the north is the picture-postcard space referred to as Felixstowe Ferry. Stilted seashore homes stand subsequent to the River Deben on the level the place it joins the North Sea. Wooden kiosks promote freshly caught seafood, crusing dinghies zigzag by means of the water and every thing smells powerfully of fish. An precise passenger ferry – image a rowing boat with an outboard engine – carries clients throughout the uneven estuary to Bawdsey. And for these who would fairly follow dry land, the Ferry Café unsurprisingly has a terrific popularity for its fish and chips. But the highest vacation spot on this nook of Felixstowe might be the Ferry Boat Inn. Fish is huge on the menu right here, too – and extra Adnams ale – all loved in impeccable 15th-century consolation.
To the south is the Orwell estuary and the Landguard peninsula. Much of it is a nature reserve, however at its tip is Landguard Fort, a sprawling world of cement and stone that appears like a stage set for Game of Thrones. It’s a captivating place to go to and, even on a sunny day, it could really feel extremely desolate. A brief stroll away is the View Point, the place folks sip tea in parked automobiles or within the View Point Café and watch the fixed comings and goings of a busy port. There’s a ferry right here, too, taking foot passengers throughout to Harwich – if their stomachs can stand it. And, after all, there are cranes. A row of them disappears across the headland. And anybody who thinks this sounds ugly ought to sit on the cafe’s terrace with a fisherman’s breakfast or a cream tea and simply watch the drama. There’s a hypnotic magnificence to all of it that might have come straight out of the thoughts of HG Wells.
Top cliff … ‘Further down the promenade, Grade II-listed gardens rise in terraces up the cliffs.’ Photograph: Chris Terry for the Observer
Back within the city centre there’s nonetheless extra to get pleasure from, particularly for anybody who likes to learn. The Treasure Chest and Poor Richard’s Books are two labyrinthine secondhand bookshops, and Stillwater Books is a stunning little place promoting new stock.
An Adnams store brings a style of Southwold to the excessive road and quirky delights akin to Vintage by the Sea are one other signifier of the city’s buoyancy. One weekend each summer season there’s a e book pageant, too. But crucially, all yr spherical, the entire place feels lived-in vigorous. And that’s as a result of Felixstowe is a city that has lots to draw vacationers with out being solely a vacationer city. For me, that’s its actual successful magic.
Way to go
Doublesat The Fludyers Hotel from £99 B&B. Return rail fares from London to Felixstowe begin from £35
Three extra superb, much less well-known coastal locations
Filey, North Yorkshire
Photograph: David Clapp/Getty Images
This Edwardian seaside spot between Scarborough and Bridlington is a seaside basic, full with promenade, boating lake, horseshoe-shaped sandy bay and a bandstand. There’s a nature reserve, birdwatching and even porpoise sightings in summer season. Walk alongside the sandy seashore all the best way to Filey Brigg, a finger of rock reaching into the ocean, look throughout to Filey Bay and, in late summer season, look out for minke and sei whales.
Sitting on the Aln Estuary, Alnmouth, like Filey, has a wonderful sandy seashore, distinctively colored homes and buckets to do past the compulsory castle-hopping. Within the Northumberland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it has glorious birdwatching alternatives and coastal walks and biking alongside the Coasts and Castles Cycle Route. Try an fragrant go to to Howick Hall, home to the Earls Grey, as within the tea (howickhallgardens.org).
As seaside gems go, Maldon is as nostalgic as a stick of rock. It has an Edwardian promenade, seashore huts, a playground, a splash park, nice pubs and, for nature lovers, salt marshes and birdwatching. Water infants can go crusing or you may constitution a Thames crusing barge (keep in a single day if you wish to) to take you throughout the Blackwater Estuary. There are coastal walks that lead you thru boatyards and quaysides, in addition to to Heybridge Basin. Lunch is your reward, on the waterfront Old Ship pub. Alternatively, purchase picnic provides from the Maldon Smokehouse.