If you want to see the full gamut of Norfolk’s seaside offering then the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the place to start, and the best way is on the Coasthopper bus, or walking and cycling.
The area – protected like a National Park – is book-ended by King’s Lynn in west Norfolk and Winterton-on-Sea on the east coast near Great Yarmouth.
It includes traditional seaside towns like Hunstanton, otherwise known as Sunny Hunny and the only east coast resort that faces west (we like to tell newcomers that the land they see in the distance is Holland… it’s actually Lincolnshire, and you can just make out the Boston Stump across The Wash) and Cromer, which has the last end-of-pier theatre in Europe and is home to the famous eponymous crabs.
From Hunstanton’s stripey cliffs and shallow tidal water, which makes it perfect for activities from paddling to rockpooling and kitesurfing, the coast quickly turns to magnificent beaches, including Holme-next-the-Sea (where Seahenge was discovered), Brancaster and Holkham (don’t forget to the visit magnificent Holkham Hall too).
Take a short detour into the Burnhams, which includes Thorpe, birthplace of Lord Nelson, and Market, a delightful village based around a large green with boutique shops that have given it the nickname of Chelsea-on-Sea.
Wells-next-the-Sea is a quaint quayside town with lots of higgledy-piggledy streets to explore, try a spot of crabbing or jump on the little train that takes you to the beach where you can count the long stretch of colourful beach huts.
The area is also a land of salt marshes and tidal creeks, where you can experience the marshes at Stiffkey (pronounced by locals as Stewkey).
Take a boat trip from Morston to see the seal colony at the end of Blakeney Point (boats go at high tides, twice in the summer) or buy smoked fish and pottery at Cley-next-the-Sea (pronounced Kly)… you’ll know you’re approaching when you see the windmill.
Norfolk’s (indeed, the East of England’s) highest point is in the area of outstanding beauty, after the coast climbs to gently undulating cliffs. There are attractions galore, from the military museum at Muckleburgh near Weybourne, to delightful Sheringham, West Runton (where a 600,000-year-old mammoth skeleton was found) to Cromer.
At Sheringham take a trip on the North Norfolk Railway, otherwise known as the Poppy Line, or try to catch a glimpse of it as it steams through the beautiful countryside, trailing billowing smoke.
National Trust-run Sheringham Park is worth visiting too, for the enormous and colourful rhododendrons or just to marvel at the view from the top of the watch tower (you can see all the way down to the end of Blakeney Point). The Trust also run Felbrigg Hall near Cromer.
The area is great for year-round birdwatching too, particularly the wonderful Winter Wildlife Safari. Stop off at the reserves at Holme, Titchwell, Holkham, Blakeney and Cley-next-the-Sea.
And if you love your seafood, you’ll see many fishermen selling their wares outside their homes. Look out for samphire, mussels, oysters, cockles, crabs and lobsters.
Onwards to the east, the glories of Poppyland – Overstrand, Trimingham et al, with their wild cliffs and miles of beaches – and further east still, the expanses of Waxham and Winterton-on-Sea are also in this area and waiting to be discovered.
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