Strategically located on the estuaries of the Orwell and Stour rivers, Harwich, Essex is a town with a rich maritime history and significance, and a heart-stopping landscape. Once a naval base and heavily fortified, it now is one of England's most populous ferry ports and comprises a soothing place for tourists and locals alike, where they can rest and have fun.
Perhaps the most welcome and fitting introduction to the old town of Harwich is the gorgeous 15th century building that lends itself perfectly to the intimate and charming Swan House Gallery which exhibits artwork of notable local artists. The extremely informative curators, Katrina and Roger Olive will pleasantly surprise you with their friendliness and will make the overall experience an absolute delight.
Of the many attractions worth visiting, the sandy Dovercourt Bay Beach is definitely on top of the list. With its blue flag status and perfect waters it is ideal for surfing, snorkeling, kitesurfing, canoeing, sailing, boating, jet-skiing, and, of course, swimming. Plus, it is located within easy reach of Hamford Water National Nature Reserve, a fantastic site where you can see over-wintering waders and waterfowl, grey seals, and numerous bird habitats. Other activities on the promenade include a skate park and a boating lake that are certainly worth visiting. As for those into golf, the Harwich & Dovercourt Golf Club is a magnificent 9-hole course that will sharpen your golfing skills.
For romantic sea views and amazing sunsets, Halfpenny Pier is the place you want to be. Stop for a bite while out walking or during a bike ride, or enjoy your cup of tea and chat to the locals, in a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere, before you explore more of this picturesque town. Now, if you still feel restless, there is always a festival going on in Harwich, such as the annual Harwich Festival of the Arts and the Beer Festival, where you can have some more fun and enjoy live music, food, and drinks!
Steeped in history, Harwich is also notable for its lighthouses and Georgian buildings, such as the Guildhall, home to the Harwich Town Council. There are two impressive lighthouses that now serve as museums and are called High and Low. Other attractions of historical interest include the restored Electric Palace Cinema, the Low Lighthouse on Harbour Crescent, and the Harwich Lifeboat Museum. We could not omit the Harwich Maritime Museum that houses interesting displays on commercial shipping and navy history. One of the remaining Napoleonic forts, the Rebout Fort on Main Road is a fantastic circular-shaped 200ft in diameter fort of the 1800s that is now an Ancient Monument. There is also a museum with a large number of replica firearms and the original guns on display and you may be lucky enough to witness battle re-enactments occurring in the summer months. That aside, the Tread Wheel Crane carries a long history, as it was used for more than 300 years to bring cargo ashore.
Finally, Harwich has hosted numerous notable visitors over time, including members of the European and British royalty not only for its rich maritime past, but also for being the hometown of master of the world-famous Mayflower (the ship that took the Pilgrim Fathers to the US), Christopher Jones, and other prominent persons of the 1800s and 1900s.