Although only two hours from London by road, the area surrounding Suffolk Yacht Harbour is one of the most unspoilt and beautiful parts of England, officially designated one of the UK's 40 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The River Orwell is flanked by the Ore and Deben rivers and marshlands to the north and the Shotley peninsular to the south. The east coast is only a few miles distant by land or sea.
The area is rich in environmental and historical treasures, providing interest for all members of the family. Visitors will also find a selection of excellent local pubs and restaurants. And if you enjoy walking and wildlife, the opportunities are endless. Just set off along the river bank either south towards the Port of Felixstowe, or heading north towards Ipswich, where you will find SYH's own nature reserve, managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
Places to eat
If you need a meal while in harbour, you need look no further than Haven Ports Yacht Club, conveniently located in the red lightship. If you need some exercise then the Ship Inn, Levington, is only a mile away on foot and has excellent reviews.
If you fancy a film, the nearest cinema is in Ipswich, where you will also find concerts and a theatre. For outdoor pursuits, why not try a round of golf at Priory Park ? Their nine-hole golf course enjoys panoramic views over the river Orwell estuary.
For groceries, don't forget the convenience store in SYH chandlery. For a more extensive shop, Sainsbury's at Warren Heath is the nearest superstore. Ipswich is the nearest large town, with most of the high street chains and the big warehouse shops on the outskirts. Suffolk is also rich in specialist shops, notably for antiques, clothes and local produce and many of the market towns still retain traditional family owned shops. Try Woodbridge, Hadleigh, Aldeburgh, Southwold, or Lavenham for an interesting morning's shopping and coffee.
Exploring on the water - places to visit
There are any number of interesting voyages to be made within a day's sailing from the harbour.
For the adventurous, crossing the North Sea to Holland or Belgium, or heading across the Thames Estuary and then across the Channel to France is well within reach.
There are many attractive destinations much closer at hand on the beautiful and sheltered waters of the Suffolk and Essex rivers.
For restaurants, cinemas and abundant nightlife, head upriver and lock into the historic Wet Dock at the heart of Ipswich.
If a more tranquil riverside scene is more to your taste, Pin Mill is the nearest, and one of the most popular, “ports of refuge” on the Orwell.
Or head up the Stour, and enjoy the peaceful anchorage off Erwarton – or pick up a mooring at Wrabness.
The Walton Backwaters are one of the East Coast’s greatest treasures, whether your taste is birdwatching and seal spotting on tranquil Hamford Water, barbecuing on the beach at Stone Point, or heading into Walton on the Naze itself, for traditional seaside fun.
Heading up the coast, there is a bewildering choice for the cruising sailor. Head up the river Deben to Woodbridge, or stop on the way to sample the delights of Felixstowe Ferry, Ramsholt or Waldringfield.
Brave the entrance of the Ore, and visit Orford, with its ancient castle, or carry on upriver to Aldeburgh, home of the fabled Festival, and reputedly the best fish and chips on the coast.
Just a little further, but still well within a day’s sail from Levington, are the contrasting seaside towns of Southwold (with its challenging entrance), Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.
Alternatively, head south from Harwich Harbour (don’t forget you can stop in Harwich itself for a run ashore) to the Blackwater Estuary, where again the cruising yachtsman is spoiled for choice: Bradwell, Brightlingsea, West Mersea, Tollesbury and Heybridge Basin, not to mention Maldon if you don’t mind taking the ground, all offer different attractions.
Just a little further south is the River Crouch, and Burnham, historic centre of East Coast yachting, with four yacht clubs to choose from and many more pubs and restaurants.
It may take a little more than a single tide, but perhaps the most exciting cruising destination within easy reach of Levington is the Thames itself. Stop at Queenborough, or visit the historic Naval Dockyard at Chatham, or head up to St Katharine’s Dock just below Tower Bridge or Limehouse Basin for a taste of London life.
Suffolk Yacht Harbour could hardly be better placed, right at the centre of such an interesting and varied cruising ground.
Exploring on land - places to visit
If you want a day off from the boat to explore the local area by land, here are a few places you may find of interest:
RSPB Minsmere Nature Reserve - One of the most important wildlife areas in Britain
Snape Maltings - World famous music centre, with shops and restaurants
Sutton Hoo - Historic Anglo Saxon Burial Mound (National Trust property)
Flatford Mill - Home of John Constable