Visiting Harwich?

There are festivals and events throughout the year but none (sensibly!) normally coincide with the Shanty Festival!  Dates are usually available on the Historic Harwich website and the 2024 programme (from the Harwich Town Residents Association) is available at many of our regular venues – click the image for full size:

See the bottom of this page for a zoom-ish map of the places mentioned.

Harwich is an historic port, dating back to the 13th Century. Whilst the oldest evidence of Harwich’s past has been erased, we have original cobbled streets, 16th & 17th century buildings (and pubs!) Don’t forget the 16c house of the master of the Mayflower – Christopher Jones –  at 21 Kings Head Street. Tours are available via the Harwich Society.

At the Western end of Harwich Quay is the impressive Trinity House national operations centre, which faces Trinity Pier. Trinity House has a long association with Harwich but at present there is no exhibition or public access. See below, however, regarding a former Trinity House Lightvessel LV18. Pictured are the Trinity House operational HQ plus the Trinity House flagship THV Patricia off Trinity Pier. The current master of Trinity House is HRH The Princess Royal, who has previously used the Royal Quarters aboard THV Patricia. The ‘Pat’, as she is locally known, had previously deputised for the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The expanse of water in front of Harwich Quay is the River Stour, a safe anchorage for centuries. The far bank of the river is in Suffolk. To the left (westwards) is Parkeston Quay, now known as Harwich International Port. This is home to the modern Netherlands ferries and cruise liner terminal as well as a variety of cargo and marine support services. The far bank includes, at the Western end, Shotley Point. This was formerly a Royal Navy training school. Behind that is the entrance to the River Orwell, then upstream to Ipswich. Over the the far right is the port of Felixstowe. Beyond that is the North Sea. 

The quayside has encroached further into the river as the centuries went by but did you know it was only a few meters from Christopher Jones’ house and the Alma at the start of 1600? Ha’Penny Pier was the boarding point for the ‘packet’ boats in the mid 1800s, taking mail and passengers to Belgium and the Netherlands. It is a rare example of a still-working wooden pier and is frequently a venue for music and art, as well as the departure point for the harbour ferry and seal watching trips. Visiting boats can moor on the pontoon.

The Ha’Penny Pier Visitor & Information Centre has tourist information, can book tours and stocks Shanty merchandise! You’ll find it in the former booking office.

Not far from the pier is a memorial to the Kindertransport evacuation from Germany/Austria and the low countries of 1938/1939

Behind the memorial is the LV18 – a former Trinity House Lightvessel. This lightvessel is unique that it retains the original accomodation and fittings. Since leaving the Trinity House fleet It has been the host of radio broadcasts celebrating the pirate broadcasters of the 1960s & 1970s, whilst also appearing in a number of films, TV programmes and music videos! Open daily (usually) during the warmer months.

Close to the LV18 is the RNLI station. Harwich RNLI is one of the busiest in the country, there is an onsite shop and the lifeboat(s) are very often visible near the bow of the LV18.

There is also a Lifeboat Museum, owned and managed by the Harwich Society. Follow the road from Harwich Quay, past Navyard gates, and keep a look out for the red buoy.

If you pick up the promenade (on the far side of the lifeboat museum) then you’ll next reach Harwich Green. The first structure here is the man-powered Treadwheel Crane, which was used from the 17th century to hoist cargoes and wood in Navyard.

The two lighthouses by the Green are the High & Low lighthouses; the Low Lighthouse hosts Harwich Maritime Museum.

The Time & Tide Bell is on the seaward side of the Low Lighthouse, it was inaugurated during the 2022 Harwich Shanty Festival.

The High Lighthouse is open weekends May to September (plus Bike Run & Shanty weekends)

A few minutes walk from the High Lighthouse, towards Dovercourt, is the Redoubt Fort. This is a Napoleonic drop fort which is now owned by the Harwich Society. Open Sundays most of the year and weekdays in the warmer months. It’s also home to various festivals throughout the year (see schedule at the top of this page).

On the way back into Harwich you’ll pass (again?) by the Harwich Museum. This is a recent addition to the town with plenty of local cultural and historical information – including the long running comedy Hi-Di-Hi that was filmed in Dovercourt.

Returning to the cobbled streets you’ll find the Electric Palace behind St Nicholas Church. This is a true cinematic gem from the early 1900s! It still has a full programme of films,music and other arts.


Heading back towards Dovercourt, and past the Redoubt, you’ll reach the ‘other’ local fort – Beacon Hill Fort, on Barrack Lane. It re-opens after a winter break on 22 May 2023 and will be open each weekend until the end of the season. Photo to come.


All photos (except HTRA flyer) are by & © Shiraz Turvey