15 hot summer activities
Words by Oliver Hurley
There are plenty of adventures to be had across East Anglia this summer, to suit all ages and budgets – whether it's the thrill of a rollercoaster ride or an under-the-radar rock festival, or the more gentle pursuits of fossil hunting or boating on the Broads. And, best of all, they're all accessible by train.
1. Ride the Rage rollercoaster in Southend
Adventure Island, situated on the Western Esplanade in Southend-on-Sea, dates back to 1918, when it was known as Sunken Gardens. Today, it packs in over 50 attractions and rides across seven acres – and if you're feeling particularly fearless, then you'll want to head straight for a rollercoaster known as Rage. It's around 22 metres high and features a 97-degree drop, a vertical lift hill and a vertical loop. If that's a bit too adrenaline-fuelled, why not explore Southend's pier instead? At over a mile long, it's the longest pleasure pier in the world.
Nearest station: Southend Victoria
2. Climb the Gazebo at Sheringham Park
Sheringham Park, which is run by the National Trust, is a beautiful landscape park and woodland garden that boasts fantastic coastal views. For the finest panorama though, you'll want to head to the gazebo viewing tower in the centre of the park, from where you can see for miles over the surrounding woodland and out towards the North Sea. The park also features a colourful wild garden, and the area is packed with wildlife, including woodpeckers, skylarks and butterflies.
Nearest station: Sheringham, then catch a bus to the main entrance
3. See the sunrise in Lowestoft
Located 10 miles south of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft is Britain's most easterly place. Head to the viewing platform at the right time at Ness Point and you'll be one of the first people in the country to view the sunrise – it's not uncommon to see people in deckchairs waiting for the first rays of the day to creep over the horizon. New for 2019 is the First Light Festival – a summer solstice celebration with a twist, taking place from midday on 22 June to midday on 23 June. Designer and social entrepreneur Wayne Hemingway is curating this free, 24-hour multi-arts party at the precise easterly point – Lowestoft South Beach – where the sun first hits Britain. Stay up on this shortest of nights (sunrise is at 4.30am) and enjoy silent discos, film screenings, kids foraging areas and a foodie night market – plus dance tunes from big-name DJs.
Nearest station: Lowestoft
4. Go crabbing in Cromer
Norfolk is the perfect spot for crabbing as the crustaceans are drawn to the region's estuarial and creek waters. In Cromer, they're particularly succulent as they feed off the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds – the world's longest chalk reef. All you need is a piece of string or line, a weight and bait. See who can catch the heaviest specimen, look after them in water-filled bucket and then return them to their natural habitat. Try crabbing off the pier, where the crabs are said to be particularly partial to mackerel or squid bait.
Nearest station: Cromer
5. Watch racehorses train at Newmarket gallops
Gallops are the tracks used by horses to train between race meetings, and the sight of thoroughbreds in action is something to behold. Newmarket Heath is the principal place to see gallops, and is home to a 2,500-acre area on which horses are trained every morning, reaching speeds of around 40mph. For a further equine fix, visit the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art in Newmarket afterwards.
Nearest station: Newmarket
6. Go wild at the Maui Waui festival in Suffolk
Priding itself on being "one of the best-kept secrets in Suffolk", the Maui Waui Festival of International Music is a 3 day family-friendly festival of music, performance and arts, taking place from 23 to 25 August at Peakhill Farm in Theberton. Featuring accomplished and undiscovered bands, DJs playing everything from electro-swing to trance, circus and cabaret, expect a riot of colour and creativity. Highlights include an aerial stunts workshops and Afrobeat bands on the new World Music Cafe stage, plus ethical food stalls and a designated kids’ area.
Nearest station: Cambridge, followed by a short taxi ride or bus journey.
7. Build a sandcastle at Frinton-on-Sea
What better way to spend a sunny summer's day than by heading to the seaside? The beach at Frinton, lined by rows of colourful beach huts, has just the right sort of golden sand for creating an imposing sandcastle. And once you've worked up an appetite by creating your fortress-in-miniature, treat yourself to fish and chips or handmade pizza at Cafe 19 or, for highly rated cuisine with a Mediterranean twist, try Avenue Bistro further down the same street.
Nearest station: Frinton-on-Sea
8. Explore Ipswich waterfront
Positioned on a bend in the River Orwell, Ipswich has been a port since Saxon times and, when the wet dock area was built in 1842, it became the largest enclosed dock in the UK. Regeneration of the area began in 1997 and today it's a hub for days and nights out, with numerous places to go for food, drink and entertainment. The waterfront also hosts the Ipswich Maritime Festival, which this year takes place on 17–18 August and includes street performers, historical re-enactments and a fireworks display on the Saturday night.
Nearest station: Ipswich
9. Get on your bike in Norwich
This summer the Great British Cycling Festival comes to Norwich and over four days, from 27–30 June, celebrates all things bicycle. There's plenty to see and do: the national road championships will feature some of the country's best riders, while the national cross-country series will showcase elite mountain-bike action. The event culminates on the Sunday with Let's Ride Norwich, a family cycling day during which the roads will be closed to other traffic.
Nearest station: Norwich
10. Go fossil hunting at West Runton
The coastline of West Runton in Norfolk is a prime location for uncovering fossils, thanks to the West Runton Freshwater Bed – a 5ft-thick layer of mud deposited by a river around 600,000–700,000 years ago. The remains of mammals, fish and freshwater shells are common finds and, in the 1990s, the bones of a mammoth were discovered here. While you might not find the remnants of a giant elephant (it's more likely you'll come across ammonites – the fossilised shells of small extinct snail-like creatures), there's still lots of fun to be had in searching for prehistoric remains. Norfolk Wildlife Trust also runs Fascinating Fossils events on West Runton beach between July and October.
Nearest station: West Runton
11. Explore the Broads by boat
The Norfolk Broads are made up of over 125 navigable lock-free waterways located in beautiful countryside, making them the UK's largest nationally protected wetland: rare wildlife here includes swallowtail butterflies, bitterns, otters and water lilies. The best way to see the Broads is, of course, from the waterways themselves, and there's no shortage of options. As well as boating holidays, you can hire a day boat, take an organised tour or, for something slightly more energetic, go canoeing, kayaking or paddleboarding.
12. Take part in Norwich Pride
The 11th Norwich Pride, a celebration from the LGBT+ community for everyone, takes place this year in the city centre on Saturday 27 July. The family-friendly event will be packed with stalls and entertainment taking place throughout the day, but the highlight will undoubtedly be the colourful spectacle of the huge march – last year almost 10,000 people took part.
Nearest station: Norwich
13. Take a walk along the Norfolk Coast Path
Running for a total of 84 miles, the Norfolk Coast Path takes walkers through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that's made up of seaside towns, tidal marshes and woodlands. There are numerous routes of various distances available along the path – the Norfolk County Council website has plenty of suggestions for both circular and linear walks. A good starting point is the 4.5-mile stretch between Sheringham and Cromer – download a map of the route here.
14. Enjoy a traditional day at the seaside in Great Yarmouth
Picture the British seaside and you think of candyfloss, amusement arcades, sandcastles, piers and sticks of rock that look as if they might just glow in the dark. All of which are available in (buckets and) spades in Yarmouth. Its golden mile, which runs between Wellington Pier and Britannia Pier, takes in Joyland children's fun park, cafes and restaurants, arcades, an 18-hole adventure golf course, boat trips to watch the seals at Scroby Sands, the Sea Life Centre and, of course, the Pleasure Beach.
Nearest station: Great Yarmouth
15. Thrill at the Duxford Air Shows
The Imperial War Museum Duxford is home to a variety of annual air shows. Flying Legends takes place on 13–14 July and is the biggest classic aviation event in the world, featuring everything from Spitfires to a Bristol Blenheim bomber. The Red Arrows will also be appearing on the Saturday. Meanwhile, Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show takes place on 21–22 September, and brings to life Duxford's finest hour as an important Second World War fighter station. The Greater Days Package includes return train tickets from any Greater Anglia station to Cambridge station, a courtesy shuttle bus, event tickets and tickets for the Flightline Walk.
Nearest station: Whittlesford Parkway, then take the 7A bus from Duxford Road