Away from the busy port, this small Suffolk town offers quiet streets of pretty houses at affordable prices. Words: Lesley Gillilan
Seaside homes in this Suffolk town are treated to grandstand views of the huge cargo ships that slide in and out of the Orwell Estuary. This is, after all, one of Europe’s busiest container ports. But forget the port for a moment: there’s another side to Felixstowe.
Half a mile north of the estuary and you’re in Old Felixstowe, where handsome terraces of period houses slope down to the sand-and-shingle beach of a traditional seaside resort. There is a pier, a Spa Pavilion theatre and a promenade lined with Edwardian rockery gardens – Grade II listed they’ve earned the town its reputation as ‘the garden resort of East Anglia’.
Continue north along the coast and Felixstowe Ferry offers yet another side to the town. A step back in time – and a far cry from the towering cranes of the container port – this little hamlet on the Deben Estuary is all beach huts, weathered timbers, boatyards and crab pots. From here, you can cross the Deben on a foot ferry to Bawdsey. Once on the other side, you’re only 45 minutes from Aldeburgh – where houses tend to be smaller and almost twice the price.
Karen Banham of local estate agent Banham Dark says that she rarely sees the kind of down-from-London buyers who tend to head for Suffolk’s better known coastal towns. Their loss, perhaps. ‘Felixstowe is fabulous,’ she says. Describing it as a ‘village in a town’, she loves the Victorian-Edwardian architecture, the mix of generations and the friendly community. ‘You can’t stand in a supermarket queue without talking to someone.’ The container port? ‘Honestly, I often forget it’s there,’ she says.
WHERE TO BUY
In its heyday, between 1880 and 1930, the combination of prosperous port and popular seaside resort brought money into Felixstowe, and the town has some beautiful architecture – particularly rich in large, ornate family houses dating from the Edwardian period. Prime addresses include Undercliff Road (right on the seafront), the streets which run off Sea Road (Arwela, Buregate or Holland Roads) or almost any of the quiet streets in Old Felixstowe. For the best sea views look for period properties on Wolsey or Hamilton Gardens, on Bath Hill or on Cliff Road which heads towards Felixstowe Ferry and the local golf club.
Apart from the occasional millionaire house, premium properties rarely top the £750,000 mark, and you can buy a lot of house and garden (and even a sea view) for under £500,000. A few streets inland six- or seven-bedroom period homes sell for around £400,000. You don’t have to venture far from the seafront to find four-bedroom terraced houses for £250,000. Rentals range from £475 for a two-bed semi up to £1,400 for a four-bedroom detached.
Aside from busy summer days on its Blue Flag beach, Felixstowe is a quiet-life kind of place (between the Deben and the Orwell estuaries there are four miles of sand and shingle, so you can always find an empty spot). Outdoor highlights include the Suffolk coastal cycle route which loops around the town, the walk from Brackenbury Fort to Felixstowe Ferry, the Landguard Peninsula with its historic fort (open to the public). Get close to the port at the John Bradfield Viewing Area with its View Point Café; or take a foot ferry across the Orwell to Harwich in Essex. Felixstowe has a golf course and an old-fashioned tennis club. Annual events include a Book Festival.
The 90-mile journey to London by road takes around two and a half hours, making Felixstowe just a little too far for a city commute, even if you take the train. A branch line travels from Felixstowe to Ipswich, where you can pick up mainline services to Cambridge, Norwich and London (Felixstowe to Liverpool Street takes around an hour and 50 minutes). The nearest airports are Norwich International and London Stansted.
The town’s secondary school is Felixstowe Academy which, according to Ofsted, ‘requires improvement’. In the independent sector, there is the co-ed Felixstowe International College or, for girls, nearby Ipswich High School.
There is obviously no getting away from the fact that the container port is just up the road – around 40 per cent of Britain’s container trade sails in and out of Felixstowe. However, it can be exciting to watch the world's largest vessels moving in and out the port, and a busy port means jobs, and those jobs support local businesses and a more lively year-round community.
PAY A VISIT
The Fludyers Hotel (thefludyers.co.uk)
On the seafront, just yards from the beach, the former Fludyer Arms offers 12 guest rooms over a lively bar and restaurant in a restored Edwardian pub. The rooms are furnished with super-king beds, Lloyd Loom chairs and driftwood mirrors – some have balconies and knock-out sea views. Classic British-Mediterranean food is served in a panelled dining room; and the bar’s terrace is perfect for sundowners. B&B from around £95 a night.
CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
Average house prices: June 2021. Source: Rightmove