The Suffolk Coast is well known for being a place for walkers and cyclists. Gorgeous heather, dramatic coastal views, pretty villages, and golden fields await the explorer, along with rivers, streams and tributaries.
They undoubtedly add to the character of the region, but while some are traversable by bridge, or even a long stride, others such as the Alde require a long diversion to the nearest road bridge. At least it would, were it not for the four foot ferries of The Suffolk Coast.
Every year these unsung heroes of The Suffolk Coast enable hundreds of walkers and cyclists to explore the region, and it’s estimated that by taking the four ferries you save over 75 miles of travel on the inland roads.
Find out more information, timetables and contact information with this great guide:
The River Blyth finishes its long journey to the sea by widening into a sixty metre channel in between Southwold and Walberswick. To cross it by road bridge requires a nine mile diversion, but thanks to a small rowing boat, people, bicycles and dogs can reach the other side in about two minutes for a nominal fee of 90p per person. The crossing was made by rowing boat until 1885 when a floating bridge chain ferry was started, initially hand-cranked before being replaced by a steam ferry.
Improvements to the harbour in 1942 made operation of the steam ferry too difficult, so the rowing boat made its return to service and thus it has been ever since. The service is run from April to the end of October by a small group of rowers.
Butley Ferry is rowed by volunteers across Butley Creek between Orford and Butley. It’s an optional (but very enjoyable) link on the Suffolk Coast Path, and Regional Cycle Route 41. Operating on weekends and Bank Holidays between Easter and October, it’s said to be the smallest ferry in Europe, so small that it can’t even take tandems!
Further south the River Deben separates Bawdsey and Felixstowe Ferry, a small fishing hamlet named for the service that has transported people across the water for centuries. The Bawdsey Ferry also runs from Easter until October and again is an optional part of the Suffolk Coast Path and Regional Cycle Route 41. Unlike its northern counterparts, the Bawdsey Ferry is a powered vessel, and also acts as a water taxi, taking boat owners to their yachts moored further out.
Harwich Harbour Ferry
At the southernmost point of Suffolk the Stour and the Orwell meet, acting as the boundary between Harwich in Essex and Shotley and Felixstowe in Suffolk. Shuttling between these three towns is the Harwich Harbour ferry. The bright yellow boat carries up to 58 passengers and makes its journeys amongst the towering passenger and container ships coming in to the Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich between Easter and the end of September.
The ferry services are located in the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), one of Britain’s finest landscapes. The AONB covers 155 square miles and receives special protection because of its outstanding landscape, heritage and wildlife. Perfect for exploring!
There are plenty of ways to explore on water along the rivers and Suffolk's coast. Lowestoft Water Taxi provides regular daily trips between the attractions of Lowestoft and Oulton Broad. Sailing Barge Victor and Sailing Barge Cruises run from Ipswich, along with the Allen Gardiner River Cruise Restaurant and Orwell Lady River Cruises, Big Dog Ferry at Beccles Quay, Iken Canoes near Snape, Waveney River Tours operates from both Snape and Oulton Broad,along with Oulton Dayboats, Deben Boat Trips from the beautiful Waldringfield Quay and of course the Lady Florence in Orford. You can find out more about all of these great ways to explore below.