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Broads at Coltishall

The 15 BEST things to do in the Broads

The unique Broads National Park are 125 miles of navigable, lock-free waterways that are a haven for wildlife and include many family-friendly attractions. They’re also the only English National Park with a city in it – Norwich. And, would you believe, the Broads are also man-made. Read on and you’ll discover why…

Explore the Broads

Who needs Venice when you can take a day boat out from Wroxham? Better still, take one out for a whole week. Enjoy the tranquillity, the birdlife and beautiful countryside of Britain’s largest protected wetland as you slip along.

Listen out for a booming Bittern or catch sight of a rare swallowtail, Britain’s largest butterfly, which is unique to the Broads.

Oh, and by the way, there are more miles of navigable, lock-free waterways here than in the aforementioned Italian city – 125 miles!

A scenic view by train

Bure Valley Railway

Boats aren’t the only way to get around the Broads – you can go by train too! There’s the Bure Valley Railway, a heritage narrow gauge steam railway which operates between Wroxham and Aylsham. Or you could take a regular train on the Bittern Line, operating between Norwich and Cromer-Sheringham with a stop at Wroxham.

Shop at Roys of Wroxham in the Norfolk Broads – it’s the world’s largest village store! Yes, really! Their range of locally-sourced food is excellent too. Stock up before you take a boat out.

Relax by the water at Fairhaven

Fairhaven Water Garden

Spend an afternoon lazing around Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, a secret hideaway in the heart of the Norfolk Broads. There are wonderful woodland walks, gardens rich in wildlife with an eclectic mix of native and cultivated plantings plus a private broad – if you’re lucky you’ll get it all to yourself!

Hire a bike and cycled around the Broads’ villages – don’t worry, your calf muscles won’t be straining. There are lots of shortish cycle routes through quaint and picturesque waterside communities, like Ranworth, Salhouse and Woodbastwick, where you can stop for a refreshing pint of Norfolk Wherry (see below) And if you’re in Ranworth, you can climb to the top of St Helen’s church, the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’, and get a superb view of the Broads.

Broadland and Broads, Norfolk

Meet the Crocklebogs, Twiggles and Boggles at BeWILDerwood, a huge forest of family fun and adventure. You’ll be entranced by storytelling, boat trips, marsh walks, jungle bridges, treehouses and zip wires.

Head to the fantastic visitor centre at Whitlingham Country Park and try out canoeing, sailing or paddleboarding. Or take it easier on the solar-powered Ra boat – Norfolk is the combined sunniest/driest county so there’ll be plenty of power!

Visit the junior farm at Wroxham Barns. There are activities every day: you can groom the horses, collect eggs from the henhouses, feed the rabbits and, in Spring, bottle feed the lambs. Be warned: you’ll want to take them home.

Get up close to a windmill, one of Norfolk’s best-known landmarks (although most of them operated drainage pumps across the Broads and Fens, so they’re not strictly windmills). Windmills probably came from the East with returning Crusaders, and at one time this region had the densest population of them in the country. The brick tower mills with movable, boat-like wooden caps and four wooden sails covered with canvas are unique to Norfolk. The tallest on the Broads is the Berney Arms High Mill, built in the 1860s, which you walk to from Great Yarmouth or visit by train – it’s a request stop on the line to Norwich.

A Roarr-some adventure

Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure
‘Isn’t it time you came’n’saurus,’ say the prehistoric creatures at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park. And why wouldn’t you – it’s Norfolk’s number one visitor attraction!

Have a pint of Woodforde’s wherry sitting outside the brewery tap, the thatched Fur and Feathers at Woodbastwick (ask for a traditional handle jug). A pond with ducks, cows mooing in the nearby fields, sun on your skin… you’ll be in heaven. (They do brewery tours too).

Visit Wheatfen, famous naturalist Ted Ellis’ nature reserve at Surlingham, south of Norwich and close to the river Yare. There’s a rewarding circular walk where you can learn about the medieval inundated peat diggings that became the Broads. Yes, the Broads are man-made!

Take a trip on a wherry, Norfolk’s very own native boat. Oak and clinker-built with a single large black gaff sail, it’s a wide, shallow-draughted boat with a keel, designed for the Broads and able to take 25 tonnes of goods. Big wherries worked the lower river systems, but smaller, 25-feet boats could extend their reach up-river by slipping their keels and lowering their masts to shoot bridges. On retirement, wherries were often sunk to strengthen riverbanks, but there are still some left, being used as pleasure boats. 

Watch the sunset behind Breydon Water and Halvergate marshes at Roman Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth. When the Romans were here in the first century AD our famous seaside resort didn’t even exist! Longshore drift and the prevailing north-west tides created the sand spit across the estuary mouth much later.

Learn more about the area at the Museum of the Broads at Stalham Staithe. They’re man-made you know, the result of medieval peat digging for fuel. Have we told you that already? You can get out on the water from the museum on an electric boat or a steam boat. It's the only way to see the Broads.

Broads villages, market towns and churches