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.
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.
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. Over towards the east of the county, in ‘poppyland’ – given its name because of the wild poppies that grow everywhere – Cromer‘s worth a trip. I’ve written about things to do in Cromer here.
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.
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 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.
Where to stay
This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.
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