Things to do

Discover things to do in Harwich and the surrounding areas


History & Heritage




Harwich Festival

The Harwich Festival presents an annual Festival (rated in top 10 by The Sunday Times) and also stages a wide range of concerts and events throughout the year; these include music, spoken word and visual art exhibitions.

A Community Hub is situated in the The Harwich Arts & Heritage Centre (annexed to the Mayflower School) where you can take part in a host of activities such as workshops and see how the local community works together to celebrate its uniqueness.

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Harwich Shanty Festival

Despite its small size, the historic town of Harwich can boast the second largest Shanty Festival in the U.K. attracting artists and visitors from all over the world. The second weekend in October sees this seaport town fill with singers, musicians, pirates, street theatre actors, maritime craftspeople and more. The sound of rousing shanties can be heard in the many real ale pubs in town, along the quayside, onboard historic ships and up at the fabulous Redoubt Fort as Harwich fills with the colour and sound which typifies the Shanty Festival. Shanty trains, barge trips, concerts, workshops and historic re-enactment are just some of the activities on offer, the vast majority of it free of charge. For further details visit or follow on Facebook or @harwichshanty.  Dates for 2019 are 11-13th October and in 2020 8-11th October.

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Dovercourt Leisure Centre

There are a wide range of family activities available along the promenade, including an impressive range of sport and leisure facilities at Dovercourt Leisure Centre. Adjacent to the beach there is also a putting green and crazy golf (during the summer months) a boating lake and a small amusement arcade. Dovercourt also has its own Skating Rink, which is suitable for all ages. Skate hire is available and details of opening hours can be found on the website.


Dovercourt Library

Dovercourt Library has become more of a “community hub” for the town and is situated on Kingsway. There is wide range of information and interesting facts about the area with details of places to visit and seasonal town celebrations and events. Tickets for many of the events can also be booked here. Free WIFI is available. Open daily (except Weds and Suns) Tel: 0345 603 7628 / 01255 503499

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Tricky Escape Harwich

Tricky Escape is an exhilarating live escape game situated in Harwich.  Locked in a room with the rest of your team you have an hour to decipher the challenges and puzzles to make your escape. Part game, part theatre, fully immersive and challenging.  Test your skill, logic and teamwork, can you handle the pressure and escape in under 60 minutes?

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History & Heritage

The Trinity Light Vessel

The Trinity Light Vessel is the last surviving example of a manned light vessel in British waters, which has been preserved in its original configuration and restored to a high standard of authenticity. The LV18 has already hosted various events, from Offshore Pirate Radio revivals to shanty singing and on-board exhibitions. Now that it has a permanent home at Harwich Quay it will be made available for a range of other functions. LV18 is open daily from 11am – 4pm March – end October.

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Harwich Redoubt

Harwich Redoubt is a circular fort built in 1808 to defend the port of Harwich from Napoleonic invasion. Currently open as a museum, the Redoubt is the largest ancient monument in the UK being restored by a voluntary group. Exhibitions include a large number of replica firearms. Battle re-enactments and other events are held during the summer months. (Open Sundays only 10am-4pm).

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The Guildhall

The Guildhall is the town’s only Grade I Listed Building and its present design dates from 1769 and remains the meeting place and administrative home of the Harwich Town Council. The Carvings Room was once used to hold prisoners waiting to be tried or sentenced and etched into the bare, wooden walls of the room are elaborate carvings of ships, gallows and symbols to ward off evil spirits, all of which date from the late 18th century. Guided tours are available by prior arrangement. (Open 9.30am – 1.00pm Mon, Wed & Fri) Tel: 01255 507211

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Harwich Maritime Museum

Harwich Maritime Museum, located in the former Low Lighthouse, was built in 1818 as one of a pair of lading lights for the harbour entrance. The museum is full of nautical memorabilia from photographs and paintings to ships and bottles and lighthouse bulbs. There are displays on the Royal Navy, including uniform and badges, and local commercial shipping. A fantastic view of the shipping activity in the harbour is obtained from the top floor. Harwich Town rail station is five minute’s walk from the museum which overlooks the harbour. On street parking is available close to the museum. The museum is accessible by foot via the foot ferry from Felixstowe. (Open Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays 11am-3pm from 1st May to 31st August).

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Harwich Lifeboat Museum

The Harwich Lifeboat Museum houses the old Clacton offshore lifeboat the “Valentine Wyndham-Quin”, which is a 37ft Oakley class of lifeboat. She was stationed at the Clacton Lifeboat station between 1968 -1984 and completed many honourable services. She was moved from Cromer to Harwich and the old Lifeboat boathouse was re-opened and refurnished to accommodate her. The lifeboat museum now contains a large collection of general and local lifeboat artefacts. Today the lifeboat museum is run by the Harwich Society and is open to the public during the summer period.

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Electric Palace Theatre

Historic Harwich is a lively and exciting place surrounded by wonderful history and heritage. No more is this apparent than in the Electric Palace Theatre/Cinema which is one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas in the country dating back to 1911. The cinema closed in 1956 after 45 years, interrupted only by the 1953 floods, and was listed as a building of sociological interest in September 1972. The now Grade II* listed building re-opened in 1981 and runs as a community cinema showing films every weekend and special live music events.

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Ha’Penny Pier Visitor Centre

The Ha’Penny Pier Visitor Centre is located on the Quay. Not only will you find a fascinating exhibition about the Mayflower, this is where the Harwich Society volunteers are based and where guided walks start. Tel: 01255 553610


The High Lighthouse

The High Lighthouse is 150 yards from the Low Lighthouse (Maritime Museum) and were leading lights for the channel into Harwich Harbour, but disused from 1863. The Lighthouse is 90 feet high and has 100 steps to the top where you can experience stunning views over the Harbour and Town. Various exhibitions are housed here during the summer months. (Open from May to mid October, Saturdays only, 11.00am to 3.00pm).

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Harwich Harbour Foot Ferry

The Harwich Harbour Foot Ferry, which can accommodate up to 58 people on a brand-new boat, takes foot passengers and cyclists every hour from the Ha’Penny Pier across the Harbour to Shotley and Felixstowe.

Daily services operate seasonally, with the first ferry starting at the beginning of the Easter Holidays 2018. Additionally, they offer river trips/sun downers starting from Harwich, Felixstowe or Shotley or anywhere on River Orwell or River Stour. Information about the service is displayed on the Ha’penny Pier.

Tel: 01728 666329

Seal watching

Seal watching trips are offered all the year round from Harwich to Hamford Water National Nature Reserve. On some days there are as many as 70 Seals on the mud waiting for you!

The seal trips are with the vessel “SEAL SPOTTER” and takes between 90-110 minutes, depending on tide and other vessels. The boat can take up to 12 passengers at a time. Waterproof clothes and an extra layer is advisable. Tickets can be booked online at (The booking tool knows the price, availability and how many seats are available.) Gift coupons are also available online. Departure point is from the Ha’ Penny Pier, Harwich.

Tel: 01728 666329 or [email protected]

The Essex Way

There are many great walks one can choose from which take in some of the fantastic history and picturesque countryside. The Essex Way is a long-distance footpath stretching for 82 miles right across Essex. Although it officially starts in Epping and ends in Harwich it is signposted both ways! If you only wanted to do part of it, a 16 mile walk will take you to Manningtree, where you can pick up a train to return you to Harwich. This route will take you cross country to the Stour estuary, through to Wrabness and then through Copperas Wood, a 12 hectare nature reserve that has been traditionally used for Sweet Chestnut and Hornbeam coppicing. You’ll also pass Grayson Perry’s innovative house known as ‘A House for Essex’, which is on Black Bouy Lane.

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Bobbit’s Hole

The area’s nature reserves and bird sanctuaries provide excellent opportunities for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Bobbit’s Hole in Dovercourt is a small freshwater lake bounded by secondary woodland and is a valuable wildlife pocket attracting a number of bird species including the Kingfisher. for information see Visit Essex.

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Harwich Beach

Harwich Beach is located on the confluence of the Stour and Orwell estuaries and offers an ever-changing seascape of boats and ships going into both Harwich and Felixstowe ports. The beach is a rare example of an emerging dune system in Essex, where the coast is predominately saltmarsh. This beach is good for walking, swimming and exploring the many historic attractions nearby such as the Treadwheel Crane.

Harwich beach is sand dotted with sea plants, and is a resting place for fishing boats.

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Dovercourt Bay

If you like a peaceful seafront location with shelving sandy beaches then Dovercourt Bay is ideal. The beach holds a Blue Flag for excellence, an award that it has held for many years. The beach offers a wide range of family activities along the promenade including an impressive range of sport and leisure facilities, but it’s the golden sand that is always a highlight for visitors.

Dovercourt Bay is home to two cast iron lighthouses, the High and the Low lighthouses – one on the beach and one-off shore; they were in daily use until 1917 and restored in the 1980s. When standing on the high promenade above the beach, there are superb panoramic views over a wide expanse of the North Sea and neighbouring Felixstowe point. Visit The Beach Guide for more information.



North Sea Cycle Route

There are plenty of opportunities for cyclists to ride in and around both towns as well as from further afield. The local train service also welcomes cyclists, so whatever your route, experience or stamina, there is always the choice of going home by train! Part of the route is a 25 miles ride, which forms part of North Sea Cycle Route. This starts in Harwich and proceeds along quiet country roads and onto the Wivenhoe Trail and then along the River Colne to Colchester. This is where you can catch your train back to Harwich. In the opposite direction, why not take the foot ferry from the Ha’penny Pier to Felixstowe and then over the River Deben at Bawdsey. It provides an attractive route on quiet country lanes to Orford, Framlingham and Woodbridge on Route 41.

It’s worth noting that The National Cycle Route which starts/ends in Harwich is suitable for all members the family as well as the more discerning cyclist.

Regular cycle events take place such as the annual Tour de Tendring.

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Dovercourt Skate Park

The brand new Dovercourt Skate Park, which is situated alongside the leisure centre, is free and open all the year round and can be used by skateboarders, BMX bikes, inline skates and scooters.


Quiver Windsurfing Centre

If you fancy a go at windsurfing, paddle boarding or other water based activities, then head to the Quiver Windsurfing Centre in Dovercourt Bay. Tuition and the hire of windsurfers is available, as well as SUP, Kayak & Pedalos.


Harwich ‘Parkrun’

Harwich ‘Parkrun’ organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone and are free, safe and easy to take part in. Every Saturday at 9.00am. The event takes place in Cliff Park, Dovercourt. Please register before your first run.


If you’ve only an hour to take in this charming town, then heading to the Ha’penny Pier is a must. Depending on the time of day you can see the fishermen haul in their catch, witness the sun going down on the coast or simply sit and watch the world go by.  As you walk down you’ll see the Lightvessel LV18 and the Harwich foot ferry on your way to coffee and cake at the Café on the Pier. There are certainly worse ways to spend an hour!

If you find yourself in this pleasant part of England’s east coast for a morning there are plenty of things to see and do. If you can wake at the crack of dawn it’s worth heading to the Ha’penny Pier to watch the day’s catch come in or perhaps try a spot of crabbing. The Lightvessel LV18 is moored here, which was used in the 60s and 70s for illegal off shore pirate Radio, and now home to a fantastic little museum which is well worth a visit.

From here it is a stone’s throw to the magnificent Pier hotel, where you can enjoy coffee or brunch in lovely surroundings.

If beaches are what you’re after, a visit to Dovercourt Bay is essential for its golden sand and panoramic views over the North Sea and Felixstowe Point. Here you can see the High and Low lighthouses which were in use until 1917.

Pop into cosy pub, the Alma Inn, after a bracing beach walk for traditional ales and a freshly caught lobster lunch.

The Redoubt Fort is a hidden gem, and Harwich’s must-see attraction. Allocate an afternoon to look round the battlements and unusual exhibits. Battle re-enactments, ghost hunts and beer festivals are held here throughout the summer months, so check the calendar to plan your visit.

There are many great accommodation options if you are looking to spend a weekend in Harwich, and plenty of activities to choose from while you are there!

Make sure to stock up on provisions for your stay at The White Coffee House, or drop into the Harwich Town Brewing Co. for a tour and some locally brewed ale (pre-booking is a must).

Seal watching tours depart for Hamford Water from The Quay on Ha’penny Pier, and are the only way to see and appreciate the creatures in their natural environment. This is a great trip for photography and wildlife enthusiasts, and is great fun for the whole family. When you return to the pier it is well worth checking out the Lifeboat museum before lunch.

Head to the Electric Palace Theatre in the afternoon to see the latest blockbuster, indie film, or National Theatre Live Production, and soak up the atmosphere inside the cinema’s beautifully restored interior. (Unfortunately the Electric Palace is currently closed for refurbishment, due to reopen in 2020).

Finish up the evening with dinner and drinks at the NAVYÄRD Bar.

Before you leave Harwich, make sure to visit the carefully restored Redoubt Fort with its excellent sea views and its weaponry collections. Finish your visit with traditional English fish and chips nearby at Piseas Chippy!

Things to do in Harwich


Dovercourt Bay

Ha'penny Pier

Further Afield