Why the north Norfolk coast is a great place for nature-loving families to visit

Why the north Norfolk coast is a great place for nature-loving families to visit

On the eastern side of the UK, jutting out into the north Sea, lies north Norfolk. This mainly flat, coastal area was often the first port of call for Viking and Danish invaders. Nowadays, it holds plenty of treasures for nature-loving families. Here are just a few.

Our story

We visited Norfolk last Easter. One day we drove up to the beach at Hemsby. It’s just over the north Norfolk boundary, but it’s similar to a lot of the beaches along the northern strip, from Hunstanton to Happisburgh. The beach was wide, with pale yellow sand, and dunes speckled with rough, prickly grass. The sun’s strong rays were tempered by a light wind, which ebbed away as the day wore on. Although this part of the UK is warmer than further north, the winds from the continent can sometimes make Norfolk feel cooler than the coastal south-west. But in early April it was warm enough to paddle, and the salt in the air was accompanied by the delicious tang of traditional British fish and chips. Next time, we’ll remember our kite.

Helmsby

Stunning beaches

There are enough beaches along north Norfolk’s 93-mile coastline to keep sand-dwellers happy for weeks. Sea Palling‘s sea defences make the waters calm, for swimming and watersports. Wells-next-the-sea, voted the most dog-friendly beach in the UK, is lined by pretty candy-coloured beach huts. Hunstanton is overlooked by striking terracotta-coloured cliffs, and Brancaster is wide, open and flat. It’s as beautiful in the winter as it is in the warmer months, as you can see in this post by Truly Madly Kids.

Perhaps the star among north Norfolk’s beaches, though, is Holkham, a peaceful, sandy beach where a smattering of crab boats have replaced Viking ships and large sailing vessels. Larks, finches and pipits flock in the bay. A walk through the pinewoods near the shore will take visitors past honeysuckle and dragonflies. Down on the beach’s sandy dunes, it’s not uncommon to see marsh orchids and forget-me-nots.

To read more about a trip to north Norfolk’s beaches and coastal towns, read this post by Mums Gone To

Exciting marine life

Holkham isn’t the only place where families can see wildlife. At Hunstanton Sea Life Centre otters, sharks, rays and a sea turtle called Ernie bring marine life into focus. Children can touch starfish, sea anemones and crabs, or visit the seal rescue centre.  The pups usually ended up at the centre after being separated from their mothers. Families that want to see seals in their natural environment, can take a boat trip from Morston or Blakeney to see England’s largest colony on Blakeney Point. Smaller seal colonies are dotted along the coast, including at Horsey Beach.

Norfolk

Outdoor activity centres

For families that like to ‘do’ as well as ‘see’, the north Norfolk coast’s activity centres can provide all sorts of fun. Family adventure days at the Hilltop Outdoor Centre feature climbing walls, high ropes, zip wires, archery and a daredevil air jump. The centre is set in 26 acres of woodland overlooking the sea at Sheringham. A little further inland, near the market town of Fakenham, Pensthorpe Natural Park was the home of BBC’s Springwatch for a number of years. It’s a 700 acre biodiverse nature reserve with a 7,000 square metre play area. Climbing frames, rope bridges and swings, plus an 11-m high slide tower, all blend into the natural environment of trees and rolling hills. Barn owls, oystercatchers, goldfinches and skylarks frequent the nature reserve, but if the weather’s too miserable for bird-spotting, families can retreat to the indoor Hootz House play area.

Gateway to more attractions

Norfolk isn’t all about beaches, of course. There’s plenty to do further inland, within easy reach of the coast. Bewilderwood features fairytale creatures in a woodland setting, which children can explore using high ropes and climbing frames. On our own trip to Norfolk we spent a day at Wroxham Barns, a farm-plus. As well as bunnies and guinea pigs to pet, ponies to groom and sheep to feed, the children romped in the mini fairground, and made appliqué shapes while we picked up some mementoes in the craft shops. We even got to see an experimental circus act, performed during the school Easter holidays.

Wroxham Barns

Pony grooming at Wroxham Barns (in bunny ears, crafted on-site!)

Wroxham is on the edge of the Broads National Park, which runs for 125 miles, all the way down into Suffolk. The waterway, created by peat-miners in the 14th Century, is home to over a quarter of the rarest plants and animals in the UK. There are plenty of cycle routes, suitable for all levels. A pedal alongside the waterways may take cyclists past dragonflies, swallowtail butterflies, kingfishers and even otters. Or families can hire a boat to meander down the water, like Tin Box Traveller did. You can read about it in this post.

Where to stay

SALT Norfolk offer boutique, special holiday retreats along the north Norfolk coast. From rustic, airy barns to cosy, elegantly furnished stone cottages, SALT has a tantalising range of properties for people who want to stay close to the sea. They even offer a quirky converted Victorian convenience block, just metres from the beach at Sheringham. Just check out their website to find out more.

This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.

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27 Comments

  1. March 8, 2018 / 1:11 pm

    Ah lovely Norfolk! It really is a gorgeous part of the country and thankfully, not too far away from me. I love the accommodation on the SALT website – it’s encouraging me to stay longer and not always be a day-tripper!
    Thanks for including my post – I hope it gives some inspiration to readers.

  2. March 8, 2018 / 9:58 pm

    Norfolk is the perfect place for family holidays it has everything: beaches, broads, rivers, churches and the fine city of Norwich.

  3. March 8, 2018 / 10:31 pm

    I am ashamed to say I haven’t yet visited Norfolk!! I clearly need to, it looks stunning and so much to do too. I would love to take a boating holiday along the broads:)

  4. March 8, 2018 / 10:45 pm

    Ah this brings back happy memories I haven’t visited Norfolk for so many years we holidayed a lot when I was a child/teen and the beaches were just stunning x

  5. March 8, 2018 / 11:44 pm

    Norfolk is fab, isn’t it? We loved out stay last summer, did so much and still had plenty of things we wanted to do. Our day on The Norfolk Broads was great fun. Thanks for mentioning it!

  6. March 9, 2018 / 11:23 am

    I’ve got to go to Norfolk for a meeting in a couple of weeks, I’m wishing I could stay a bit longer now!
    Nat.x

  7. March 9, 2018 / 5:37 pm

    We’d love to explore more of the North Norfolk Coast. We’ve been to Burnham Market and the gorgeous Holkham Beach but would very much like to see more of that coast as we love Suffolk so much. Thanks for sharing your great ideas on #FarawayFiles

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:37 pm

      A pleasure. We only scratched the surface on our trip!

  8. March 9, 2018 / 6:18 pm

    Even though we live just next to the beach, I always get excited when I see and read about other coast lines! Looks magnificent. Just something about putting your feet in the waves… #farawayfiles

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:38 pm

      Indeed. So relaxing!

  9. March 9, 2018 / 8:09 pm

    Somewhere I would love to explore more- those wonderful beaches and so much to do, especially Bewilderwood. I am even more tempted after reading your tips.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:39 pm

      I’m keen to go back, Cathy. It’s the sort of place I can imagine families return to, year after year.

  10. March 10, 2018 / 9:17 am

    Being relatively close to this part of the UK has been the best thing about being here temporarily, it is just so beautiful. Lots of lovely tips, thank you! x

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      Ah yes – something to make the most of while you’re here!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      We need to go back – we missed them last time!

  11. March 10, 2018 / 10:07 pm

    I love Norfolk. It’s our fav beach destination. Hoping to return this summer. I love Wells and the long stretch of sand, you can have so much space to yourselves even at the height summer.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:47 pm

      I’m keen to see the little beach huts there!

  12. March 11, 2018 / 8:21 am

    I visited the Norfolk Broads with my parents when I was little and really loved it there (though it wasn’t their favourite holiday by a long shot!). I’ve been wanting to go back ever since and explore the beaches rather than the waterways. I’ve heard a lot about Wells Next The Sea and Bewilderwood so they would definitely be on my must-do list if we ever make it over to the East Coast – it’s a little tricky for us to get to from where we are but I’m sure the journey would be worth it.

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:48 pm

      It can be a bit out of the way, but there’s something about its isolation that makes it even more charming.

  13. March 11, 2018 / 8:37 pm

    We are really hopeful that we will get down to Norfolk this year, some of my husband’s family live there and we really want to visit them this year if we can and see those beautiful beaches….even more so after reading your post!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:53 pm

      Ooh, I’d be interested to see what you think of it!

  14. March 11, 2018 / 9:16 pm

    Oh I love Wells and Holkham. Norfolk is one of our favourite UK places to visit. You’ve reminded me that I must book in another visit!

    • Nell
      Author
      March 13, 2018 / 2:53 pm

      Yay! Look forward to reading about it.

  15. March 14, 2018 / 7:17 am

    It is a lovely city to explore – and definitely better out of peak season when you’re walking!

  16. March 27, 2018 / 5:14 pm

    I haven’t visited Norfolk for years and I hadn’t realised there was so much on offer for families to see and do. I will have to start thinking about visiting the area for a staycation now I’ve read this

    • Nell
      Author
      March 29, 2018 / 9:11 pm

      I really is full of delights, Zena. Writing this post has made me keen to return!

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