Naturally fun for everyone!
RSPB Minsmere is a fantastic coastal nature reserve that's perfect for families. Start your adventure at the visitor centre to find out about the latest activities and events, plot your route and get an idea of what wildlife to look out for at this beautiful spot on the Suffolk coast. How to get there
Minsmere is a great day out. Families will love the Wild Zone where kids can build a den, or play in the specially-built child-sized sand martin tunnels and bittern nest. Children can also hire an Explorer backpack for self-guided wildlife discovery. A regular programme of events and activities includes guided walks, pond dipping, art activities and much more. There's a choice of countryside walks through Suffolk's beautiful coastal, wetland and woodland scenery. The spacious wildlife hides offer excellent views of a wide variety of wildlife throughout the year. The cafe serves a superb range of locally-sourced, home-produced food and the RSPB shop stocks everything you need to help give nature a home in your garden.
They also offer Birthday parties in their Discovery Centre
Discover and play
There’s something to suit everyone at Minsmere. Visitors with little ones can enjoy shorter walks along our buggy-friendly paths, while serious walkers can stride out along our longer, wilder trails.
Kids can let off steam in our Wild Zone natural play area: pretend to be a bittern in our brilliant child-sized nests, climb through a giant sand martin tunnel then build a den in the woods!
Minsmere is home to a staggering variety of wildlife. Keep your voice to a whisper as you scan for secretive bitterns in the reeds. Look out for elegant, black and white avocets - our RSPB emblem! - feeding in flat wetlands. And if you're lucky, you could spot otters from the Island Mere Hide. We also have adders, lizards and water voles.
Relax and enjoy
Take time out at our child-friendly café, where you'll find everything from convenient child’s lunchboxes and snacks to hot meals prepared using local fare. We have high chairs and baby change facilities available - just ask.
And don't leave without browsing our gift shop, perfect for picking up treats for yourself and your garden wildlife at home.
Come to Minsmere to enjoy fantastic food made with local produce, whilst relaxing in a beautiful location. You can enjoy a hot meal like lasagne or a veggie bake, try our homemade soup, or just have a cup of tea and a big slice of cake.
We’re especially proud of our cheese scones – people come from miles around to eat them!
The spacious Minsmere café is a great place to visit all year round, with big meals and sandwiches made to order, and a large range of sweet treats. Hot and cold drinks are always available, so it’s worth a visit whatever the weather. We serve our own exclusive coffee that is grown, imported and roasted by us. It's Fairtrade, organic and certified bird-friendly by the Smithsonian Institute, so now you can help save nature simply by enjoying a great cup of coffee!
The café is open 9.30 am-4.45 pm from February-October, and 10 am-3.30 pm from November-January.
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Ducks begin to leave in March and the first wading birds move through on their way north. Avocets and Mediterranean gulls return to breed among the black-headed gull colony on the Scrape, followed in mid April by the first common terns. Look for the dramatic switchback display flights of marsh harriers above the reedbeds and listen for deep booming call of the elusive male bittern. In the woods, listen for the beautiful songs of nightingales and various warblers or drumming great spotted woodpeckers. Sand martins return to nest outside the café and the first dragonflies emerge in late April. Look for Dartford warblers and woodlarks on the heath, or a basking adder, fresh from hibernation.
Look for young avocets, common terns and gulls on the Scrape. The first spotted redshanks, ruffs and other wading birds begin to return from the Arctic from late June. Bitterns are often easiest to see on their feeding flights, as they bring food back to their hungry chicks. Young marsh harriers flap hesitantly over the reeds. Look for an excellent variety of butterflies and dragonflies flitting, dashing and buzzing around the reserve. Hobbies may hunt the dragonflies above the reedbeds. Rare plants such as yellow horned-poppy flower on the dunes. The heaths turn a stunning purple as the heather begins to flower, while nightjars churr at dusk, when you may spot a glow-worm too.
Migration is in full swing with a continuous stream of birds passing through. Wading birds on the Scrape may include curlew sandpipers, little stints or ruffs, and perhaps a rare visitor from North America. Duck numbers increase as first the teals, then other species return. Brent geese may head south offshore from late September, and the Bewick’s swans may arrive in late October. Calm mornings are a great time to spot bearded tits in the reedbed. Kingfishers are most easily seen. Flocks of starlings or marsh harriers may gather at dusk. The red deer rut is the star attraction on the heath during October.
Large flocks of ducks gather on the Scrape and grazing marshes, with teals and wigeons most numerous. Look for Bewick’s swans, smews and goldeneyes among them. Birds of prey may include marsh and hen harriers, peregrines, barn or short-eared owls. Otters are occasionally seen on Island Mere or reedbed pools. The visitor centre feeders attract large flocks of tits and finches. Woodcocks are sometimes seen during cold weather. Large flocks of red-throated divers and great crested grebes can be seen offshore.
- Visitor centre
- Information centre
- Car park : Large car park on site, including wheelchair bays and parent and child bays. No overnight parking. Space for two coaches by advance booking only.
- Disabled toilets
- Baby-changing facilities
- Picnic area
- Binocular hire
- Group bookings accepted
- Guided walks available
- Good for walking
- Pushchair friendly
Seven hides and a public viewing platform. Three of the four hides overlooking the Scrape are wheelchair-accessible. The fourth is accessible via the beach, as is the public viewing platform. Two hides overlook the reedbed. One of these is accessed via steps, the other is fully wheelchair accessible from a layby at Scotts Hall. The final hide, in the woodland, is accessed via steps. A watchpoint overlooks the reedbed from a low hill.
- The Coast Trail is a 2 mile circuit. Allow about two hours to complete this.
- The path takes you through scrub, reedbed and shingle beach with four hides overlooking the shallow pools known as the Scrape. Access to North Hide and along the North Wall is wheelchair and pushchair accessible.
- Access to East Hide is via the beach, then continuing past the public viewing platform and the sluice to South and West Hides.
- These two hides are wheelchair and pushchair accessible from the visitor centre via a woodland walk.
- The Island Mere Trail is a 1.5 mile circuit through woodland with two hides overlooking the reedbed. Bittern Hide is accessible only via steps. Island Mere Hide is wheelchair accessible from a layby at Scotts Hall, about 300 metres from the hide. The return route from Scotts Hall to the visitor centre takes you through the woods to Canopy Hide (accessible via steps) and the Whin Hill Watchpoint. This route is not currently wheelchair accessible.
- A new Woodland Trail is signposted from close to the Whin Hill Watchpoint to the bridleway from Eastbridge to Dunwich, returning via Scotts Hall. This is circular walk is about one mile.
The café sells hot and cold meals and drinks, which are made using local Suffolk produce wherever possible.
- Hot drinks
- Cold drinks
- Hot meals
- Cold meals
The shop sells a large selection of bird food, gifts and birdwatching equipment. Our staff are trained to offer expert advice on which products will suit you best.
The shop stocks:
- Binoculars and telescopes
- Bird food
- Bird feeders
- Outdoor clothing
If you are visiting Minsmere as a group, please contact us in advance to check availability. We will meet all pre-booked groups on arrival to give a quick introduction to Minsmere, highlight what species have been seen recently or what events are taking place, and answer any questions. Guided walks may be available if requested at the time of booking. Please note that we can only accept two group bookings per day
- Entry free for members. Non-members admission charges apply. Carer or essential companion admitted free with disabled visitor
- No dogs, except Registered Assistance Dogs, water at visitor centre
- A mobility scooter and manual wheelchair are available to borrow, booking essential
- Check our opening times
- Check accessibility for events and activities.
- How to get here
- Darsham railway station is 5 miles (8 km) from the reserve
- The nearest bus stop with scheduled buses is in Leiston, 4 miles (6.4 km) away
- Advanced booking of accessible transport from Darsham and Saxmundham Railway Stations or Leiston bus stop. Call 01728 833526 or visit Suffolk Onboard website
- Car parking
- 243 car spaces, two coach spaces two and eight Blue Badge spaces, 80 m from visitor centre via a sloped path
- Drop-off outside visitor centre – beware of vehicles and pedestrians
- Level and even pea gravel surface
- No lighting
- No height restrictions.
- Visitor centre and shop
- Pedestrian access by a tarmac sloping path from Blue Badge parking or steps closer to the visitor centre. Enter through heavy doors, opening outwards. A door bell is provided for assistance. Ground floor, tiled, step-free and level throughout with a slight slope on entry. Clear print displays. Low counter section. Chairs available on request. Good lighting. Portable hearing loop.
- The shop is in the visitor centre next to the tearoom. Space limited in places. Portable hearing induction loop. Good lighting. Some goods maybe difficult to reach. Staff available to assist.
Three signposted trails. A mix of different paths, both flat and undulating, where walks can be enjoyed. Some nature trails and hides are adapted for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Benches on many parts of the trails.
Seven hides and a viewing platform with ramped or level entry into four hides (North, West, South and Island Mere).
Toilets and baby changing facilities
Three accessible toilets located in the shop, outdoor toilet block and Discovery Centre. Baby changing facility in all three accessible toilets.
Tearoom next to shop. Level surface, tiled floor and step-free throughout. Upright chairs without arms. Mix of self-service and staff assistance. Additional seating outdoors. Accessible toilet in shop. Contrasting crockery.
One table is 550 feet (170 m) away from the visitor centre with a wheelchair space. Visitors are welcome to consume their own food and drink here. Outside tables for tearoom customers.
Two classrooms In the Discovery Centre. Level throughout and flexible layout. Carpet and lino flooring. Good lighting. Clear print displays. Hearing loop. Accessible toilet.
Help us improve accessibility by sending feedback to the Site Manager
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