Ipswich is a small city in Queensland on a bend near River Orwell. Ipswich is one of the oldest towns in the United Kingdom. With thousands of heritage buildings that tell the story of a rich historical past, parks and nature, there are many things to do in Ipswich.
Ipswich’s rich past makes it a desirable getaway for history lovers, who will enjoy wandering past elegant architecture. Queensland’s oldest provincial city provides a well-preserved connection to the past, but it also has a vibrant city culture with bars and restaurants.
Here you’ll find a regenerated dock that once served as a foreign trading post for the Hanseatic League, and later, in the 17th century, it was a point for the embarkation point for those seeking colonies in New England.
Check out the many sights to discover while in Ipswich:
It opened in 1895, covering 70 acres of landscaped lawns alongside two arboretums planted with exotic trees in Christchurch Park.
The park was the site Priory of the Holy Trinity until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, and the Tudor Christchurch Mansion took its place later in the 16th century.
The Upper and Lower Arboretums are Ipswich’s horticultural highlight, and their paths wind past herbaceous borders, flowerbeds, a bandstand, and a croquet lawn.
While pet-sitting in Ipswich, we visited the park daily to take our dog walking or to play fetch with the ball. You will see many locals enjoying a picnic, exercising, or playing a game of soccer.
Check with the Christchurch Park website to find festivals or music events during your stay in Ipswich.
A wealthy London merchant Edmund Withypoll tore down the Priory of the Holy Trinity and built himself this grand house in the late 1540s.
The Christchurch Mansion is a breathtaking heritage piece with an authentic Tudor kitchen, a Georgian saloon, splendid assortments of fine art and decorative art, and toys and games from the Victorian period.
Explore Lady Drury’s Cabinet, painted panels from the early 17th century. There are some beautiful displays of pottery and glass, as well as paintings by Thomas Gainsborough. The kitchen is not to miss with its impressive fireplace that opens in a Tudor arch.
All Saints Church
The 19th-century All Saints Church sits on Chevalier Street with various styles, the tower’s decorated details, and the perpendicular aisle windows with grand arches. The church opened in 1884, led by Richard Munro Cautley.
Located in a building dating back to 1881 is the Ipswich Museum, filled with the heritage and natural history of the region.
The gallery chronicling the town’s origins has Anglo-Saxon weapons, jewelry, and other burial objects, as well as full replicas of the famous discoveries at Sutton Hoo (Anglo-Saxon) and Mildenhall (Roman). Like many English museums from the Victorian era, the Ipswich Museum owns a large zoological collections presented in elegant glass cabinets.
The Suffolk Geology Gallery is filled with fossils spanning 70 million years, comprising the teeth of a megalodon, a giant Eocene shark, and the remains of other sea life uncovered in Suffolk’s red crag deposits.
- Hours: Tuesday -Thursday 10:00 – 16:00, Tours are offered on Saturdays 10:00 – 16:00 and Sunday 13:00 – 16:00
- Admission: Adults $10 for 1 house/ $15 for 3 houses
Due to the River Orwell, Ipswich has been a place of trade since 700 AD. The dock was expanded in 1842 and, at the time, was the largest enclosed dock in the country.
The imposing Old Custom House on Common Quay soon followed and is now utilized as a conference center. The Waterfront has been a huge renovation project since the 1990s. Old warehouses have become eateries and stylish homes, while sleek new apartment blocks have cropped up on once fallow ground.
The 250-berth Ipswich Haven Marina opened in 2000, and its yachts have brought a continental flair to the Waterfront.
Taking a stroll on the Waterfront is a great place to enjoy dinner or stop for drinks.
The Ancient House
On the corner of Butter Market and St. Stephen Lane, the Ancient House is a fine merchant’s residence constructed around the 14th century.
The facade was embellished with wood carvings and pargeting (ornamental plasterwork) in the 1660s. Later, Charles II gave the coat of arms emblem. Flanking this are four bay windows, each decorated with a figure representing the four continents of the world that were known in the 17th century: Africa, America, Asia, and America.
The house is owned by Ipswich Borough Council, which gave it a thorough restoration in the 1980s, and is occupied by a branch of the homeware brand Lakeland.
St. Mary le Tower
Ipswich’s St. Mary Church on Tower Street came to the fore during the reign of the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor in the 11th century.
And it was in the churchyard that Ipswich’s town charter was drawn up under King John in the year 1200. The current building is the fourth to stand on this spot and dates almost entirely from the middle of the 19th century.
Go in to see the pulpit, which was carved in 1700, while the organ has been adapted from an instrument installed by 17th-century master organ-maker Renatus Harris.
If you have time, stop by at lunchtime for the classical concerts being held inside from May to October.
Church of St. Lawrence
This 15th-century Church of St. Lawrence has the world’s oldest ring of five church bells.
In 1882 the church underwent a comprehensive rebuilding, adding striking flintwork in geometric designs. The tower has a checkerboard confection of diamond shapes and figures of angels.
Since the parish was very small, the church was declared redundant and was passed on to the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust. It stayed empty for years and fell into rubble until the city restored it to serve as a community center and café.
Ipswich Transport Museum
This former trolleybus depot has been the home of the Ipswich Transport Museum with a trove of more than 100 vehicles belonging to local transport operators like the Eastern Counties Omnibus and Ipswich Corporation Transport.
It’s a dream for those that love anything machinery transport, from wheelchairs, prams, and bicycles to fire engines, mobile cranes, beautiful vintage buses, trolleybuses, and trams.
The Bedford, AEC, and Bristol buses from the 40s, 50s, and 60s are a delight, as is the Ipswich Corporation Trolleybus, dating to 1933. These big-hitting exhibits are accompanied by vintage signs, posters, timetables, and models.
- Hours: Sundays 11:00 – 14:00, Weekdays 13:00 – 16:00
- Admission: Adults 7.50
Approximately 10 miles outside Ipswich is Sutton Hoo, where you will find two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries from 500 – 600 AD.
In 1939 a ship burial filled with silver from Byzantium, dress fittings in gold and gems, a sword, shield, and other war outfits.
Today, the helmet is on display at the British Museum. You can walk the rolling mounds and get an inside story at the visitor center. The exhibition holds the contents of mound 17, including a bone comb, weapons, and pieces from a gold harness.
While in Ipswich, we enjoyed the theater in the forest at Sutton Hoo, seeing the performance of Macbeth. Upon arrival, you could enjoy the preshow atmosphere with a picnic or food and drink from The King’s Road Café. The play took on a modern twist but kept the blood-thirstiest tragedies, crazy witchcraft, passion, and reckless ambition as the original story.
In the center of the historic town square is the Cornhill which has been a gathering place for many centuries. The Cornhill hosts various events such as live music, a Christmas market, and galas.
Fore Street Baths
The Fore Street swimming baths were opened to the public in 1874. The bath house was built to the rising growth in population with residential buildings with no indoor toilets or bathing facilities. However, as the industrial revolution took off in Britain, the government recognized the need for bathing facilities to help reduce illnesses and improve hygiene.
The Fore Street swimming baths are the second oldest swimming pool in the country.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey Statue
Considered one of the most influential people in government at the time, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was a well-respected leader and priest. Born in 1472, Thomas Wolsey was the son of a butcher rather than a nobleman. He received his education at Oxford University and was ordained as a priest in 1498. He served as a chaplain to Henry VII, but his rise to power occurred during the reign of Henry VIII.
The Wolsey Gate is the only reminder of a school founded by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, a native of Ipswich who rose to become the most powerful man in the kingdom under Henry VIII.
Wolsey’s Gate was built to serve as a ceremonial gateway for visitors arriving by the river. In Tudor times, the River Orwell was much broader than it is now, and the gateway and neighboring churchyard must have stood near the water’s edge.
From the 1960s until the 1990s, the theater was left abandoned.
Butter Market Street & The Walk Shopping Area
If you want to do a little shopping, check out the Butter Market Center or other boutiques along the street. The center is a four-level shopping mall with various stores, such as TK Maxx and Boots.
Another great place to find some of your favorite brands and plenty of quirky stores is down High Street through The Walk Shopping area. Many of the buildings are Tudor style making it feel traditional and interesting to explore.
Corn Exchange Theater (The Regent Theater)
The Regent Theater opened in 1929. The theater did not get popular until the mid-1930s and 40s when the invention of the television took away interested theatergoers. In the late 1950s, pop music became a phenomenon bringing international artists to perform at the Regent Theater state.
St. Nicholas Church
St. Nicholas Church was built in the 14th century. It was largely rebuilt during the Victorian period. It is said that Thomas Wolsey was baptized in the church, but this has been disputed.
The church was abandoned and was given to the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust. Later it was sold in 2001 and converted into the St. Nicholas Center.
St. Pancras Catholic Church
St. Pancras Catholic Church, one of the first Catholic Churches in Ipswich, was built in 1861. The church is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Interestingly, housed within the church is the Shrine of Our Lady of Poland, which was given to the church when the Polish Free Army stayed in Ipswich during WWII.
St. Peter’s by the Waterfront
One of Ipswich’s ancient mariners’ churches with Tournai Marble fonts is St. Peter’s by the Waterfront. Although it is stated as marble, it is carboniferous limestone quarried in Tournai.
St. Peter’s is open as a heritage center throughout the year to allow visitors to read more about the church’s history. In the 2000s, it became the home to the Ipswich Charter, It is a growing, vibrant arts center for music and theater.
- Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 10:00- 16:00; Wednesday 12:00 -14:00
St. Stephen’s Church
St Stephen’s is the smallest of the remaining medieval churches in Ipswich. It was declared abandoned in 1978 and remained that way until 1994 when it was restored
and became the new home for the Tourist Information Center. The tourist office closed in 2020.
St. Stephen’s is mentioned in Domesday, but the current appears to be from the 14th and 15th centuries. The building you see today is in the late Perpendicular and Tudor style. Many of the buildings surrounding the churchyard are modern.
The Big Hoot
While visiting Ipswich, the Big Hoot Art Trail was taking place. Throughout the community are 50 individually designed Big Hoot owl status. Each Big Hoot is sponsored by a local business and individually decorated by an artist. The money raised from this event all goes to St. Elizabeth Hospice. Here is a map of the Big Hoot Trail.
Ipswich Market is a small traditional market operating Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm, located next to the Town Hall in Princes Street, Giles Circus, and Queen Street. Managed by Ipswich Borough Council, the market was given its first Royal Charter in 1317 by Edward II.
A wide range of goods is for sale, from clothing and bags, plants and flowers, fresh fish, and local fruit and vegetables. Also, you may have street food vendors offering traditional burgers and sausage sandwiches.
Not far from the city center is the adorable Arbor House serving a selection of local craft beers and a lovely back patio to enjoy the sunlight for an afternoon brew. We enjoyed a late lunch with a Cajun Buttermilk Chicken Burger and a Half Stack Arbor Burger with fries. I must say it was delicious after a long day of sightseeing. The location can be found here.
Honey and Harvey
Getting a late start on our day of sightseeing, we stopped at Honey and Harvey coffee shop for a freshly brewed cup of coffee and white wine. Here you will find uniquely crafted coffees along with popular classics for breakfast. The location can be found here.
Ocean Fish Platter
Looking forward to eating fresh seafood, we checked out reviews on TripAdvisor and decided to make a reservation at Ocean Fish Platter (which is a must, or you won’t find a table). The place was packed with customers. For starters, we had Calamari and Grilled Whole King Prawns. For our main course, I ordered the Fresh Haddock platter. The menu has a great selection, and I am sure you won’t be disappointed. The location can be found here.
Swan and Hedgehog Pub
The Swan and Hedgehog Pub is located in one of the oldest inns in Ipswich. A fun place to enjoy a drink. The beer garden is excellent. The location is here.
The Botanist Bar & Restaurant
The small, friendly bar with an Irish flare is a great place to stop for a ‘brewsky’ or at night for some live music. The Plough offers a wide variety on the menu, such as blackened catfish, fish tacos, grilled turkey tips, and burgers. The location can be found here.
A quaint, lovely Applaud Coffee should be on your list for breakfast. The coffee shop serves great-tasting coffee, home-baked treats, and a few lunch options. Make sure to try the Applaud Big Veggie Breakfast, packed with delicious flavor. The location can be found here.
Not far from where we were petting sitting is The Greyhound, a dog-friendly restaurant that is casual and enjoyable to visit with your pet. The menu changes throughout the season. I ordered the pot roast and veggies while my husband tried the falafel on a stick with hummus. The food was flavorful, and a relaxing place to hang out. The location can be found here.