Where can you take a boat trip around Suffolk this summer?

The Orwell Lady passes the Freston Tower during a trip on the river.

The Orwell Lady passes the Freston Tower during a trip on the river. - Credit: Paul Geater/Archant

Can't wait to get out on the water again and enjoy boat trips in Suffolk and Essex?

Like most other activities, leisure boating journeys  have been on hold due to coronavirus restrictions.

But some operators are reopening this spring and summer. Here is a selection of trips around the area.

All bookings and information are based on the government's roadmap and subject to change. Social distancing and hygiene measures will be in place and all current restrictions will apply. 

Orwell River Cruises, Ipswich


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You can cruise the River Orwell from Ipswich, on board the Orwell Lady, a purpose-built Thames River Cruise Boat

The Orwell Lady is set to return from April 17 for with sightseeing cruises, using the top deck only. All being well, the lower deck will be accessible from May 17, and music nights will return after June 21.

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You can book a day cruise to historic Harwich Harbour, HMS Ganges at Shotley and the UK’s largest container port at Felixstowe, before returning to Orwell Quay. 

For more details, visit the website.

The historic sailing barge Victor heads out on a river Orwell cruise

The historic sailing barge Victor heads out on a river Orwell cruise - Credit: David Vincent/Archant

Sailing Barge Victor, Ipswich

This historic sailing barge, dating from 1895 and restored in 2006, is offering river cruises to book for summer 2021.

Suffolk Cream Tea Cruises are set to run from June 2 to October 6, and Supper Cruises from June 4 to August 27.

For more information, visit Sailing Barge Victor's website.

The Allen Gardiner floating restaurant operates from Ipswich

The Allen Gardiner floating restaurant operates from Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Lady Florence, Orford and Allen Gardiner, Ipswich

River Cruise Restaurants, which operates these two floating restaurants, is offering dining river cruises to book from May 17 onwards.

You can choose from brunch, lunch, supper or dinner cruises on the Allen Gardiner, either for individual bookings for up to 12 passengers or as an exclusive private charter.

The Lady Florence is based at Orford Quay and offers trips on the Alde and Ore rivers, with breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper cruises, again for up to 12 passengers.

For full details, visit the River Cruise Restaurants website.

The Lady Florence cruise restaurant will be offering sunset dinner trips through picturesque Suffolk

The Lady Florence cruise restaurant will be offering sunset dinner trips through picturesque Suffolk - Credit: River Cruise Restaurants

Topsail Charters, Ipswich, Harwich and Maldon

The company's public river cruises on Thames sailing barges are due to start up again from April 12, initially for up to six people from mixed households, or two households, on a cruise.

From May 17 onwards the groups will also have allocated space below deck and from June 22 it is expected there will be no booking restrictions. Weekends away can be booked from May 18, although again restrictions will apply until June 22.

Trips from Maldon, Harwich and Ipswich include cream tea, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea cruises. Looking ahead to July, you can also book for the Pin Mill Barge Race and Suffolk Rivers weekend.

For more information, visit Topsail Charters online.

Deben Cruises, Waldringfield 

The company runs two-hour boat cruises along the River Deben, with on-board commentary about its wildlife and history, and exclusive evening trips. 

It is planning to start its trips up again from May 17, but is currently only taking bookings for groups, and will announce via its website when individual bookings are available again.

If you wish to make a group booking, visit Deben Cruises website or call them on 01473 736260. 

A new offering from Deben Cruises is Wotsup paddleboards, based in their Surf Shack at Waldringfield. For more details, visit the Wotsup site.

Harbour Ferry, Harwich, Felixstowe and Shotley

This is the only public ferry linking Harwich, Felixstowe and Shotley, and has been operating for more than a century.

The ferry has been completely refurbished, and is now taking bookings for 2021, as of March 29 onwards. Seal watching trips were resuming from the same date.

For full details, visit the ferry website.

Suffolk River Trips, Snape and Orford

River trips on the Alde and Ore rivers, ideal for wildlife watchers, are set to start up again this spring and summer.

Trips from Snape Maltings Quay are planned to resume from April 12, and from Orford starting in mid June. 

 The Orford trips go around the RSPB reserve at Havergate Island and, for keen birdwatchers, a shallow draft launch operates from Snape to get a look at wading birds.

For more information, visit Suffolk River Trips.

Orford Ness National Nature Reserve

National Trust is resuming its ferry trips to see this internationally important coastal nature reserve, which has a fascinating military history, from Easter.

Advance booking via the NT website is essential.

The restored Stour lighter John Constable

The restored Stour lighter John Constable, in a photo taken before coronavirus - Credit: River Stour Trust

River Stour trips, Sudbury and Dedham Vale

The River Stour Trust offers boat trips on the Stour between Sudbury, Great Cornard and Great Henny, and  Stratford St Mary, Flatford, Dedham and Brantham.

Online booking for these trips is not yet available for 2021, but is likely to be soon. The River Stour trust says on its website that it hopes to resume from late Spring/Summer 2021.

For more details, visit the River Stour trust website.

Thorpeness Meare

One of the most popular boating venues in Suffolk,  Thorpeness Meare is set on a 60-acre site, and takes inspiration from Peter Pan, appealing to children and families in particular.

It has a wide range of boats available to hire, including dinghies, larger rowing boats, punts, sailing boats, canoes and kayaks.

The Meare is reopening from March 29, with a range of Covid-19 safety measures in place.

 For full information, visit the Thorpeness Meare website.

Coastal Voyager, Southwold

If you are looking for a boat trip with a difference, this half-hour "sea blast" on board a 9M Rigid Inflatable Boat could be the answer.

The company also offers  river cruises and seal and wind farm trips to Scroby Sands.  For all bookings, call  07887 525 082.

For more details, visit the Coastal Voyager site.

Walberswick to Southwold Ferry

This service normally operates by rowing boat, but will resume using a motor launch to enable greater social distancing.

The ferry is operating from March 29 onwards and runs to demand, so you can just turn up rather than needing to book. The company usually also offers river trips on the Blyth, but these are staying on hold for now.

For more details, visit the website.

Waveney River Tours and Dayboats, Oulton Broad

Self-drive dayboats will be available from Easter onwards for daily or hourly hire. Customers are asked to book their slot by phone in advance.

Tours on the Waveney Princess, which has an open top deck offering panoramic views, are due to start from June 21,  with the River Waveney Marshlands Cruise, along the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

The Oulton Broad Circular Tour  and Victorian Heritage Cruise, following Sir Samuel Morton Peto's historic railway line through the Waveney Valley to the 100-year-old railway swingbridge at Somerleyton, are due to operate in July and August. For more information, visit the website.




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