Access to the site is by ferry from Orford Quay. Orford Ness is the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe containing a variety of different habitats including brackish lagoons and grazing marsh. This area provides an important location for breeding and passage birds.
This area was a secret military test site from 1913 until the mid-1980s.This is one of the largest shingle spits in the country measuring about 10 miles from Slaughden to North Weir point. It has been formed by the southerly movement of shingle and has grown over the centuries at an average rate of 16 yards a year. The spit has good examples of shingle plants including the yellow horned poppy the purple flowering sea pea and sea kale.
The mud flats and marshes beside the river are dominated by areas of sea lavender and sea purslane and provide important feeding and roosting areas for wildfowl and waders. Havergate island is now a bird reserve famed as a breeding site for Avocets in the past the island had many associations with smugglers including the notorious Margaret Catchpole. During World War I there was an experimental airfield on Orfordness and in World War II it was used for ballistic experiments. An old hanger and the pagoda like buildings can still be seen.