Official Visitor Website

Broads wildlife and top 10 Broads wildlife spots

The Broads National Park is the largest wetland area in the UK and one of the most important in Europe, and it’s a haven for birds and all kinds of wildlife. Indeed, there are more rare species in the Broads than anywhere else in Britain.

You can see Grebes, Herons, darting Kingfishers, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the rare Bittern… or might hear their ‘boom’. You might also see the rare and beautiful swallowtail butterfly, Britain’s largest which is only found in the Broads, and these days it’s not unusual to spot an otter poking its whiskered snout out of the water.

The reeds are filled with birdsong, while overhead, Marsh Harriers and Barn Owls quarter the skies. It’s the only place in the UK where Cranes breed in the wild.

Spring and autumn bring hosts of migrant birds, and huge flocks of waders and waterfowl spend the winter here – meaning any time of year is perfect for bird-watching.

Twenty-five species of freshwater fish, including eels, are found in the Broads, making it also a popular place for fishing.

An internationally important wetland, the Broads is a member of the National Park family, and includes some of Europe’s most special nature reserves, with no fewer than 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Some broads are tidal and the nearly two thousand acres of water vary in their levels of salinity and acidity, creating a diverse range of habitats.

Over time the Broads are silting up, with expanses of reed beds traditionally cut for thatch trapping sediment. Alder carrs have formed, bordered by fens and reclaimed grazing land.

Barton Broad
Wheelchair-friendly boardwalked paths through the woodland take you to a lookout where you can spot grebes and herons.

Fairhaven Water Garden
Unique garden that offers an accessible taster of the local landscape, and boat trips.

Hickling Broad
The wildest broad, with bird hides, a visitor centre and regular boat trips.

Horsey Windpump

National Trust Horsey Windpump
See Cranes overhead at Horsey Mere, and seals on the nearby beach, especially in winter when the Greys have their pups (Commons have their June-August).

Hoveton Great Broad
Part of the Bure Marshes Nature Reserve, and a good place to see Swallowtail butterflies.

How Hill Nature Reserve
Nature trails and magical trips through reeds and narrow dykes on the Electric Eel. Enjoy the Broads countryside either on foot, by following the footpaths or nature trail, or by boat. Either way you are sure to spot some outstanding wildlife in this unspoilt and peaceful corner of Norfolk at Ludham.

Ranworth Staithe, Broads

Ranworth Broad
Boardwalks through the reeds and woodland, boat trips and a conservation centre. Track down the common alder. The tree thrives in damp soil like the carr woodland here, a stage of vegetation midway between fen and drier woodland, derived from the Old Norse word kjarr, meaning a swamp.

The floating Broads Wildlife Centre at Ranworth Broad is run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. You can park at Ranworth village and walk along the interpretive boardwalk, which provides lots of information about the various habitats you pass through, or take the electric ferryboat. Ranworth is a spectacular location for birdwatching with Cetti’s Warbler, Common Tern, Great Crested Grebe, Redpoll, Siskin, winter wildfowl and Cormorants just a few of the species you can hope to see.

Strumpshaw Fen
Family-friendly RSPB reserve with woodland, reed and meadow habitats for birds of all kinds. The RSPB’s reserve at Strumpshaw Fen is in the heart of the Norfolk Broads. A number of nature trails lead you through the varied habitats, including reedbeds and woodland and in the summer Strumpshaw is the perfect place to enjoy Broadland meadow flowers.

Upton Broad and Marshes
Peaceful haven for Swallowtail butterflies (above), Hawker dragonflies, water voles and otters.

Wheatfen Nature Reserve
Once the home of naturalist Ted Ellis, who called this stretch of reeds and dykes ‘a breathing space for the cure of souls’.