Harwich - Hook of Holland Ferry tips
Harwich seems to be a popular starting point for a European cycling holiday. Most published accounts seem to involve getting to Harwich via train to Ipswich, then cycling, or alternatively driving to Harwich and leaving a vehicle there.
We frequently head off using the overnight ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. We live near Woodbridge in Suffolk and would strongly recommend getting to Harwich starting out from Woodbridge. To get to Harwich for the evening sailing to Holland, you’d need to leave Woodbridge around 1pm – unless you plan to break your journey – eg at the Sutton Hoo visitor centre which is on your toute to Bawdsey, just beyond Melton.
So.. leave Woodbridge and cycle on the B1438 to Melton, then on the B1083 to Bawdsey. (We hang left at Shottisham to get to Bawdsey via Alderton. It’s a wee bit longer than directly on the B1083 but it’s a quieter route with a sea view.) At Bawdsey there’s a foot ferry across the River Deben to Old Felixtowe. Check the ferry is operating before making this journey, and expect to help the ferryman load and unload your bikes. There’s a white “paddle” thing (think large table tennis bat) at the end of each each jetty to attract the ferryman’s attention should you arrive to find he’s at the other jetty. Once you’ve disembarked at Old Felixstowe, cycle around Felixstowe seafront to Landguard Fort to catch the ferry to Harwich. Again, expect to help load your cycle. Solos will go inside the boat – but tandems are strapped to the prow like a figurehead! We bring our own nylon straps! It’s the largest and possibly only ferry in the UK that “docks” by beaching itself bows first onto the stony beach at Landguard Fort.
Embarkation and disembarkation is via a gangplank at the prow. At busy times its best to book this ferry (online if you like) – especially if you’re riding a tandem. And don’t be late! If you’re booked on the last one out of Landguard Fort and miss it, you’ll not cycle to Harwich in time for your crossing! Incidentally, the Landguard Fort to Harwich ferry began life as a lifeboat on the “Canberra”!
The last ferry from Old Felixstowe to Harwich departs around 1800 – so you will have plenty of time to kill in Harwich. We cycle to Morrisons and sit in their café. There’s plenty of places to park your bike within sight of the tables
Morrisons café isn’t the greatest place to kill time waiting for a ferry – but it beats the waiting room at the ferry terminal with its temperamental hot drinks machine and overpriced crisps and chocolate machine. Use the time to buy your evening meal perhaps to eat on the ferry and breakfast goodies, rather than pay the prices on the ferry.
The ferry terminal is a mile or so from Morrisons via cycle paths or roads.
The ferry terminal waiting room for foot passengers and cyclists is clean and warm and usually empty with a good view of the road and rail traffic going through security to board the ferry. Take great care if you choose to cycle onto the ferry! The steel plate surface can be slippy. Those with experience cycle on board with ease – but it’s a bit challenging and if in doubt, wheel your bike on board! The bike stowage area on board is a series of waist high steel tubes to lock your bike to. There’s always more bikes than locking places, and not all cyclists are particularly fussy about damaging their paintwork – let alone other peoples! Pack a couple of nylon straps and perhaps put pipe insulation on your frame if you’re precious about your paint job. If the crossing is rough, bikes can topple and fall on one another.
This route sure beats the A120 HGV racetrack, or the busy and hilly B1352 as a cycling route to Harwich.
The main problem using the Harwich ferry if you arrive in the area by car is where do you leave the car when abroad? We sometimes think we’d like to help by allowing Tandem Club members to park on our drive when abroad – but we’re unsure of how to offer this service securely and safely for both parties. If you have an idea how we could do this, please reply to this posting.
If you want to offer your parking space you can sign up with Justpark or Parkonmydrive. I've used both when using the Hull ferry and they are significantly cheaper than the P&O car park. However, limiting yourselves to tandem club riders may prove difficult if that's your wish.
Thanks for the interesting analysis of using the ferry.
Sure a lot of people will find the information useful.
A good place to park is in Dovercourt next to the football ground, which is free, opposite Asda. You can cycle up the hill (east) to meet the cycle route to the ferry.
Pleased to say that the new inner city Greater Anglia trains do indeed have space for a tandem (the old trains had a guard cabin so loads of space). We fitted our Circe Helios with 20inch wheels in Coach D, which has 5 fold down seats where bikes can go. A tandem with full size wheels would struggle, but would fit if you took off the front wheel. Number of bikes is limited though so you do need to reserve, and the change over in Manningtree is very tight (andtthe lifts are too small for a tandem) but the conductor has been happy to wait for us to lug all our gear to the platform
Anyone who is taking a trip to the Netherlands, and going via Hull.you are more than welcome to park your vehicle at my house if you like. I live 90 mins from the port of Hull, a short ride up the side of the Estuary, over the Humber bridge, a chance to take in some spectacular sights of the Humber river and the city of Kingston Upon Hull. then jointhe costal path that takes you to the port. if you want to leave your car atmy place just let me know in advance.
26 Sept 2020. Harwich - Felixstowe ferry sadly damaged in today's high winds and heavy seas. Hope it's back in action soon.