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Wells-next-the-Sea beach huts

21 best experiences in Norfolk for 2021

With the vaccine cavalry on the horizon we may soon be on top of the pesky pandemic and we can get out and about again. Norfolk’s a fab place to enjoy the great outdoors all-year-round so we’ve come up with 21 experiences for you in 2021.

Remember to Know Before You Go and make sure you abide by the Government restrictions of the day.

If you’re coming, book your accommodation in advance to make sure you get what you want.

Where to stay

With over 125 miles of navigable, lock-free waterways, the Broads National Park are a great place to get out on the water and enjoy stunning countryside and amazing wildlife that you won’t see in a car. Just pack a picnic, or find a waterside pub or eaterie for your lunch. If you’re a little more adventurous, why not hire a canoe.

Day boat hire

If you’re at RSPB Snettisham for daybreak your early escape from a warm duvet will be rewarded with the magnificent sight of tens of thousands of wading birds doing aerial acrobatics. The type depends on the time of year – for instance, avocets March to August and bar-tailed godwits in Winter. From October to February there are also huge numbers of pink-footed geese who rise from the mudflats of The Wash at first sun and head inland to feed. You’ll hear them first, and then skein after skein takes off over your heads. Pack a flask and enjoy - it’s a sight you’ll never forget.

Birdwatching in Norfolk

Norfolk has some of the finest sandy beaches in the country on its 90 mile seashore. If it’s traditional seaside you want then look no further than Great Yarmouth, with a huge beach to make sand castles and lots of amusements, attractions and eateries too. Cromer and Hunstanton are our other resorts, but there are wilder beaches including Brancaster, Winterton-on-Sea and Sea Palling.

Norfolk top 10 beaches

Take a boat from Morston Quay with Temples or Bean Brothers and there’s lots of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ when you encounter the seals at the tip of Blakeney Point.

The four mile-long shingle spit hosts both large grey seals and the smaller common, or harbour seal.

The greys pup over Winter, but with less daylight there are fewer boat trips than in Summer, when the common seals pup. A good way to differentiate the seals is that the commons have a ‘banana’ position where they raise their head and tail.

Where to see the seals

Depending on the Covid situation, we might soon be able to visit our outdoor attractions again. We’ve got some great zoos, but for the natural world try Pensthorpe Natural Park, BeWILDerwood or Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden. For a lost world experience, try Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure.

Attractions in Norfolk

The sunsets are stunning along the north coast of Norfolk, but the best has to be at Hunstanton, otherwise known as Sunny Hunny. Why? Because it’s the only east coast resort that actually faces west! Stand on the stripey cliffs or on the beach below and marvel at the sumptuous colours.

Hunstanton

Get away from light pollution in areas such as Breckland or on the coast and you’re likely to be rewarded with stunning star spectaculars on a clear, cloudless night.

There are two destinations that are designated Dark Sky Discovery Sites, Wiveton Downs and Kelling Heath Holiday Park, both in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

If you’re lucky you might get to see the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, the seven stars of the Orion constellation, Milky Way or interstellar dust clouds with the naked eye.

Explore north Norfolk

There are also stargazing opportunities in the Norfolk Broads.

The Cretaceous period left the north east corner of Norfolk’s coast with chalk cliffs that are home to many fossils. Try looking at the base of the cliffs and on the seashore at Trimingham, Sidestrand, Overstrand and Mundesley, particularly in Winter and Spring after high tides and winds have lashed the cliffs.

At Happisburgh, an Ice Age flint axe was found and near million year-old human footprints, the oldest evidence of man found outside the Great Rift Valley in Africa, where man came from!

Deep History Coast

In these Covid times, you’ll probably want to escape the crowds, so if you’re thinking of surfing, think Norfolk rather than Cornwall.

Cromer is the best place to learn, with its defined sandbars created by the world’s longest chalk reef. Glide Surf School is the place to go. Close to the iconic Victorian pier they offer surf and stand-up paddleboard lessons.

If you’re already a seasoned surfer, then you might find good breaks at Gorleston-on-Sea, Sea Palling, Winterton-on-Sea, Mundesley and East Runton.

Glide Surf School

The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust Welney is a great place to explore nature all year round but it’s particularly magnificent during the winter when thousands of Whooper and Bewick’s swans travel from Siberia. Covid allowing, you might be able to take part in the sunset swan feeding – always a thrill!

Welney Wetland Centre

Only planted in the 1920s, Thetford Forest is a wonderful eco adventure. Head out on the walking and cycling trails and you might discover red deer and fabulous birdlife. Closer to High Lodge forest centre there’s Go Ape for aerial antics, as well as archery, playground and restaurant.

Breckland and Thetford Forest

October-ish heralds the start of the rutting season, where stags vie for females by locking antlers with each other. To see this spectacular, wear drab-coloured clothing and step cautiously.

There’s a large herd on the Holkham Estate, where you can enjoy a fab meal at The Victoria, see them at Gunton while you enjoy a sumptuous food at The Gunton Arms or at Houghton Hall. 

Holkham Deer Park

Even if you’re not allowed into the magnificent stately homes, you can still stride out on some fabulous estates in Norfolk, including Oxburgh, Felbrigg and Blickling, where you can track down the mausoleum pyramid. The best views are at Sheringham Park, where from the gazebo or tower you can look down the coast towards Blakeney Point.

Stately homes

Never heard of a pingo? They’re round and shallow lakes from the last Ice Age and they’re only found in the Brecks of Norfolk. If pingos pique your interest there’s an 8-mile trail to explore.

Pingo Trail

Norfolk’s an ideal location for crabbing because the naughty nippers just love our estuaries and creeks. Take your crab line, bait and bucket to the quays at Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea, or the tidal creeks at Burnham Overy Staithe, Brancaster Staithe or Titchwell.

Some try crabbing off Cromer Pier as well, but the best crabs in the seaside town are the edible kind – they’re the tastiest and most succulent in the country because they feed off the world’s longest chalk reef!

Crabbing in Norfolk

This area has the best overall climate in the country but we do sometimes get some precipitation from Cornwall, Wales or Scotland. Don’t despair! This is the time to pull on your wellies and go a squelching in the mud, puddles and on the seashore.

Our favourites are around the broad at the University of East Anglia, where you can also take in the Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Trail, and at Burgh Castle, where you can explore the remnants of a Roman fort.

Welly walks in Norfolk

The largest and best-preserved mammoth skeleton in the world was found at West Runton in the 1990s by dog walkers. Fortunately the pooch didn’t get its teeth into the situation, but we do know that the animal was part eaten by hyenas. How? Well, some of the bones had hyena teeth marks on them and dissected fossilised hyena poo was found to contain mammoth bone. Yuk!

Nowadays you can scour the beach and, if you know what you’re looking for, you might find a mammoth tooth. Alternatively, the beach here is great for rockpooling.

Rockpooling in Norfolk

Deep History Coast

You’re going to need everyone to get their fingers and toes out to count the beach huts at Wells-next-the-Sea. You might also want to take a picture for your Instagram account because the higgledy-piggledy, brightly-painted wooden huts are one of the county’s best sights.

While you’re here, explore the pine forest with its walking trails and nature signs, and if you’re here at low tide you can walk more than a mile to the end of The Run where you might just about see the sea before it starts to come back in again.

Beach huts

We blame Noel Coward for once claiming, in Private Lives, that Norfolk is flat. Really? Well, let us tell you, Cromer Ridge is the highest point in East Anglia. Take your cycles on the Quiet Lanes and you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views of the coast. For info, the ridge was created by the terminal moraine of a glacier from the last Ice Age.

Cycling in Norfolk

You can enjoy outdoor spaces in Norwich like Mousehold Heath and the Plantation Gardens, but a favourite walk is along the river Wensum, the longest, biggest and most significant of 160 chalk rivers in the country.

You’ll get to see the city in a different perspective – Norwich Cathedral and Pulls Ferry, where Caen stone was unloaded for construction almost two thousand years ago, 14th century artillery blockhouse Cow Tower, Bishop Bridge which was at the heart of Kett’s Rebellion, and medieval cobbled streets.

Or you could canoe along the river or join it at Whitlingham, where there’s an outdoor adventure centre and a decent walk around the broad.

Norwich Canoe Hire

Norfolk is ideal for putting on your walking boots. Our landscape is a bit Goldilocks and the Three Bears – not too steep, not too flat, but somewhere in the middle.

There are over 1200 miles of serious walking trails in Norfolk, with many long distance routes criss-crossing the county, taking in coast, the Broads, forests and open countryside. There are also many circuitous routes as well to enjoy.

Walking in Norfolk

Family fun in Norfolk

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