The southern gateway to the Broads National Park, Carlton Marshes nature reserve is a huge expanse of water, woodland and marshes, home to a wide variety of fantastic wildlife.
There is an adventurous playscape for children, a visitor centre with café and shop, accessible and all-weather trails, which makes it the perfect family day out.
At just over 437 football pitches in size, this large reserve offers plenty of space and fresh air, with wide open skies and unbroken views of the surrounding countryside. You can get away from it all and enjoy the very best of Suffolk’s amazing wildlife.
Plan your visit
The nature reserve is open from dawn until dusk, seven days a week and is free to enter, although donations are very welcome.
The car park opens at 9am and closes at 7:30pm (This time is subject to season). If you would like to arrive earlier or stay later, limited out of hour parking is available at the car park entrance, before the gate.
Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Visitor Centre & Toilets
Open seven days a week
- 10am-4pm (April 2021 -October 2021)
- 10am-3pm (November 2021 -March 2022)
Our café serves hot food daily until an hour before closing. The indoor café seating area and barista seating outside closes 15 minutes before the Visitor Centre.
Closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
On the 21st of September, the Visitor Centre will be CLOSED all day. Toilets will remain open for visitors of the reserve.
Our hides are open from dawn until dusk.
Where to find us?
Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 8HU
OS Map Reference: TM508920
Telephone: 01502 359480
How to find us:
By car & bicycle:
From Norwich, follow the A146 south towards Lowestoft. When you are in Carlton Colville continue on the A146 ‘Beccles Road’. Turn left on to Burnt Hill Lane when you see the signs for Carlton Marshes nature reserve. Follow the lane over the railway line and the reserve car park is signed on the left.
From Ipswich, follow the A12 ‘London Road’ north towards Lowestoft. When you enter Lowestoft, continue on the A12 ‘Bloodmoor Road’, then at the roundabout take the third exit onto the A1117 ‘Elm Tree Road’ and carry on straight until the T-junction traffic lights. Turn left at the lights onto A146 ‘Beccles Road’ for 0.5 miles. Turn right onto Burnt Hill Lane when you see the signs for Carlton Marshes nature reserve, follow the lane over the railway line and the reserve car park is signed on the left.
Bicycle racks are located near the visitor centre. There is no cycling on the trails apart from the main track which leads off from Burnt Hill lane.
The nearest station is at Oulton Broad South. Enjoy a scenic 0.8 mile walk (18 mins) to the reserve.
Travelling from Ipswich take the Lowestoft train, disembark at Oulton Broad South (the penultimate stop). The service is run by Greater Anglia.
Travelling from Norwich take the train to Lowestoft and disembark at Oulton Broad North (the penultimate stop). From the train station make your way to Nicholas Everitt Park where you can pick up signage to the reserve. The service is run by Greater Anglia.
The Boarder bus service 146 (Norwich to Southwold) stops in Carlton Colville, opposite the Crown PH. You then need to walk 1.3 miles (24 mins) adjacent to the A145 ‘Beccles Road’ and then walk down Burnt Hill Lane (take care, there is no footpath - you will be walking at the side of the road)
Car parking and entry
We do not charge for entry or car parking, the visitor centre or the reserve trails but in order to keep us running, we suggest a donation of £5 per car. Continuous support of the Trust enables us to do amazing work for wildlife here at Carlton Marshes and across the county. Our members are incredibly important to us and make a real difference to Suffolk’s wildlife. You can join Suffolk Wildlife Trust at Carlton Marshes or online.
There is a coach drop-off space, if you are planning on bringing a group, please ensure you have pre-booked your visit.
Electric car charging
Suffolk Wildlife Trust is committed to sustainable travel and has joined ‘Plug in Suffolk’ partnership with Suffolk County Council and renewable energy provider Bulb. There are two Tap and Go EV charging points located in the car park. Simply tap your credit or debit card to start and pay for charging. No booking required.
Facilities and access
At Carlton Marshes our café provides a range of snack and lunch items, from tasty traybakes to local sausage rolls there's something for everyone to enjoy during their visit. The Visitor Centre hosts indoors seating with stunning open views out onto the marshes providing a comfortable vantage point to watch wildlife such as marsh harriers soaring by. Outdoor seating is available on our open veranda where water vole can be seen feeding in the dyke below. Picnic tables are situated at the rear of the building in full view of the playscape so families can relax while children enjoy playing on our natural playscape. Dogs are only allowed inside the centre if owners wish to order takeaway items and are welcome at all outdoor seating located at the Visitor Centre.
Vegertarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available daily.
From bird feeders to children's toys, there is a large selection of products available at Carlton Marshes. Why not treat yourself or a loved one to locally made jewellery or explore the world of birds with our wildlife guides? Collection is also available from our online shop.
Please note that not all products online are available instore
What to see
An astounding 28 species of dragonfly have been spotted here. Carlton Marshes lie in the Waveney Valley at the southern tip of the Norfolk Broads and is part of the Suffolk Broads. It comprises a jigsaw of grazing marsh, fens, peat pools, short fen meadow, tall fen (called 'tall litter fen'), dykes, pools and scrub. Mostly man-made, these habitats have developed over hundreds of years of traditional management and now host specialised wildlife.
What to do
There is always something new and exciting to find at Carlton Marshes. Throughout the year we have a range of trails and activities to get children and families closer to nature including...
- Big Butterfly Trail £2 (Summer Holidays 2021)
- Bug Kit Hire £2
With miles of nature trails to explore and some cosy viewpoints to hide inside if the weather is a little damp, the reserve is a great place to visit all year round.
It’s not all about the amazing animals and plants you can see though. Listen to the sound of the wind through the reeds, catch the call of a chiff chaff in the summer and listen out for the tell-tale plop of a water vole entering the water.
Events & Activities
At Carlton Marshes we run a host of activities from early years groups to adult workshops to encourage all ages to connect with nature.
Volunteering at Carlton Marshes
We are looking for enthusiastic people to help promote the work of Suffolk Wildlife Trust at Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre.
Bring your school to Carlton Marshes
Your day here will reflect the landscape, habitats and history of Carlton Marshes and we will work with you to design a bespoke visit to meet the needs of your group.
Bring your group or party to Carlton Marshes
We welcome groups or parties to Carlton Marshes (in line with current Government guidelines). Please let us know at least two weeks in advance of your arrival so we can be sure to accommodate you. If there’s an activity you’d like to take part in, or perhaps take a private tour or function, this can be arranged. Please give us a call on 01502 359480 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wild Birthday Parties
Hiring Carlton Marshes Activity Room
Visitor Centre Activity Room
Our visitor centre activity room is situated within our main visitor centre building, with easy access to our café. Equipped with tables, chairs, WiFi, a screen and projector, the room can be configured theatre style or with table layouts. Accommodating up to 50 people (Government restrictions may apply), this is a great space to host a meeting or a small workshop.
Please contact email@example.com for availability and bookings.