Southwold pier

Every now and then, it’s good to escape expensive, commercial theme parks and soft play centres in favour of a free (or low cost) day out with the kids. Especially if you get to enjoy it too!

So if you’re visiting the beautiful county of Suffolk, what are the options for entertaining the kids for free?

Holiday Cottage Compare takes a closer look...

Where is Suffolk?

The East Anglian county of Suffolk borders Norfolk to the north, Essex to the south and Cambridgeshire to the west.

It has been home to painters Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable as well as composer Benjamin Britten, who founded the world famous Aldeburgh Festival.

A relatively hill less and low lying area, it has over 45 miles of wonderful coastline to explore. Indeed, The Suffolk Coast and Heaths is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.  And it’s not hard to see why!

With its Blue Flag beaches and picturesque seaside towns of Aldeburgh and Southwold, visitors can select between shingle beaches or long expanses of sand to spend the day by the sea in some of Suffolk’s quintessentially English seaside towns.

Alternatively, the historic Wool Towns, including Lavenham, which was crowned ‘England’s Best Preserved Medieval Village’ are definitely worth a visit. As are the historic towns of Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich.

And fans of horse racing will already be familiar with its capital at Newmarket.

What can we do in Suffolk with the kids for free?

Southwold lighthouse suffolk

1.Visit the Grandpa In My Pocket lighthouse in Southwold

Younger visitors to Suffolk who spend any time watching BBC’s CBeebies will be delighted to discover that the lighthouse in Southwold is one of the settings for the children’s TV programme ‘Grandpa In My Pocket’.

The programme features a grandpa, played by James Bolam, who own a secret and magical ‘shrinking cap’ that only his grandson knows about.

The large white lighthouse can easily be found dominating the skyline, right in the middle of Southwold town centre, which is brimming with lovely independent shops, cafes, delis and restaurants.

‘Grandpa In My Pocket’ has also been filmed on Southwold Pier, which is a fantastic attraction in itself for all age groups, with its many quirky, moving machines designed by inventor, Tim Hunkin.

Other locations for the programme include nearby Aldeburgh and Walberswick.

Aldeburgh lifeboat

2.Go boating in Aldeburgh

Talking of Aldeburgh, this is another wonderful Suffolk seaside town, harking back to Victorian times when well-off visitors from London would spend their summer on its picturesque beach front.

Its charm still attracts visitors of all ages today, keen to browse its independent shops and cafes as well as celebrate the life of one its most famous inhabitants, composer Benjamin Britten (the beach ‘Scallop’ sculpture by Maggi Hambling commissioned to celebrate his work is definitely worth a walk to).

All kids love the beach at Aldeburgh, which, unlike Southwold, is shingle – perfect for energetic little ones who need to burn off some steam – or for the quieter painters in your group who might like to sit and decorate some of its millions of beach pebbles!

There’s also a lifeboat station in Aldeburgh, which you can visit for free, to see both the boat and tractor unit in its housing – or if you’re lucky, on a training night, you can see it launch for real. Perfect kid’s entertainment!

And, for children with a model sailing or powered boat, there’s a gorgeous, elevated boating pond, just up from the lifeboat station, for even more hours of free entertainment.

House in the Clouds

3.Step back in time in Thorpeness

It’s also just a short coastal walk from Aldeburgh to the rather quirky village of Thorpeness, which was built in the 1920s by Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie Ogilvie, in an attempt to create the ideal holiday village “for people who want to experience life as it was when England was Merrie England”.

Thorpeness remains unspoilt today and its ‘Peter Pan’ boating lake is a great attraction for young people who can rent rowing boats from spring to the end of the summer. Or just relax on its shores with an ice cream.

Thorpeness is also home to one of Suffolk’s most famous follies - the ‘House in the Clouds’ – which is essentially a cottage perched on a tower, some 70ft up in the sky! Originally built to disguise a water tower, it’s now a much loved land mark – especially by kids - and can inevitably be seen from a good distance away.

Rendlesham forest

4.Look for UFOs in Rendlesham Forest

If your kids love the woods then Rendlesham Forest, near Woodbridge, is the ideal safe space – well away from traffic - full of interesting woodland walks and trees to climb.

There’s also a brilliant, free kids play area comprising equipment for children of all ages, including a climbing wall, zip wire and swings.

Space fans will also appreciate the UFO walk, inspired by nearby sightings of UFOs in December 1980. Keep your eyes peeled!

kids in Dunwich heath

5.Run wild on the heaths

With most of the coastline of Suffolk to be found in The Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), there’s clearly plenty of opportunity to escape the crowds and spend a day exploring these 155 square miles of stunning landscape packed with wildlife.

Brilliant (and free) entertainment all year round, kids love the freedom to really run wild across these tranquil landscapes, looking for hundreds of species of fungi in the autumn, trying to spot rutting deer or having a picnic in the warm summer months.

For additional refreshment, why not grab a coffee and cake whilst the kids play at Dunwich Heath & Beach, a National Trust site home to some special species such as the Dartford warbler, nightjar, woodlark, ant-lion, adders and much more.

Need somewhere to stay in Suffolk?

If you fancy staying a while in Suffolk, then we have just the holiday cottage for you!

You can choose to browse one of our many Suffolk holiday cottages or if you prefer, let us do the hard work for you.

Just contact our concierge service and tell us what you are looking for in your next holiday cottage.

We aim to get back to you with tailored suggestions within 24 hours.

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