If you asked a Brit about Harwich, on England's eastern coast, he or she might say, “That’s just a ferry port.” Well that it is, but it's also much more. In recent years, the seafaring town has attracted its share of leisure cruise ships, especially in the spring, summer, and fall. With good reason: It's well-positioned as an embarkation port for itineraries headed east to the Baltic, and northeast to the Norwegian coast and the North Cape.
What We Love
Accessibility from London: It’s so easy to reach Harwich from London’s Liverpool Street Station; hourly trains take just 90 minutes to reach port. If you have time before your boarding, drop off your luggage and head to Harwich Town (two additional stops on the train, or for hardy walkers, it's just over a two-mile trek) located at the end of the peninsula that sits at the junction of the Orwell and Stour rivers.
Best Known For
Harwich Maritime Heritage Trail: Harwich has a rich nautical heritage — much can be evidenced along this historic route that includes the location where the Mayflower was built; the Low Lighthouse Maritime Museum; the Lifeboat Museum; and the Redoubt Fort built in 1808 to thwart an invasion by Emperor Napoleon’s army. Another fascinating site: the Electric Palace, one of the oldest continuously operated cinemas in Britain, which — remarkably – remains in its original condition.
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Who It's Best For
Historians: In addition to the abovementioned route, Harwich is also home to handsome historic buildings dating as far back as the 16th century, with most from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Beach Lovers: The water may be a bit chilly for Yanks, but there are still some pretty spots of sand, particularly at Dovercourt on the south side of the peninsula. Near the dock, seafood lovers can indulge in the mussels at the Pier Hotel.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Rain Is Frequent: A rain shower is not an unusual occurrence — as are accompanying gusts of wind from the North Sea. So venture out prepared for the elements.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.