From the Norfolk-Suffolk border at Hopton-on-Sea, with the exception of the harbour’s mouth between Gorleston-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth, there is an unbroken stretch of fabulous sandy beach all the way up to north Norfolk. The B1159 will take you to Cromer.
Gorleston is Great Yarmouth’s quieter sister, but it has a magnificent beach backed by a low cliff with esplanade walks, popular with dog walkers. The Pier Hotel was featured in Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis’ Yesterday movie.
Just across the river Yare is Great Yarmouth, one of the top holiday destinations in the UK and a mecca for families and fun-lovers who want to enjoy a traditional seaside break. The action here focuses on the Golden Mile, with its two piers, amusement arcades, rides and attractions. At the northern end of the Golden Mile, by the racecourse, the beach is tufted with marram grass and dunes and is perfect for dog walking. Look out for the revamped Venetian Waterways, the Hippodrome Circus, the last purpose-built circus building in the country which retains its water spectacular, and take a ride on the wooden rollercoaster at The Pleasure Beach.
At Caister-on-Sea you’ll see one of the two independent lifeboat stations in the UK (the other is a little further up the coast at Hemsby), famous for its crews’ bravery. Close by is Scratby and California, named after the California, USA gold rush because some 16th century gold coins were found on the beach here in 1848.
After Hemsby, with its seaside cafes and amusements, we come to Winteron-on-Sea, which has a wonderful beach which offers popular walks across the dunes (where you might find terns, natterjack toads and the odd adder). Sights here include the pastel-painted, thatched Hermanus roundhouses. The spot is fast becoming popular with windsurfers… and seals!
Horsey is unique in that it’s a coastal village which is on the Broads. The National Trust-owned Horsey windpump has a top deck from which you can gaze out across Horsey Mere. There are riverboat trips and the Mere itself can be easily walked around. Arthur Ransome featured Horsey in a number of his stories, and John Betjeman documented a magical swim in the Mere in his poem East Anglian Bathe. Head down to the beach and you might see the local colony of seals bobbing about in the water, people-watching.
There are more good beaches at Waxham, Sea Palling, Eccles-on-Sea and Cart Gap, all of which are protected by flood defence works. Sea Palling has some shallow horse-shoe bays.
Sadly, nothing can be done about coastal erosion at Happisburgh, which is slowly slipping into the sea. The picturesque red and white striped lighthouse stands defiantly on the cliff.
This is also the focal point of the Deep History Coast, where the earliest human footprints outside the Great Rift Valley in Africa were found… meaning the first tourists to this country came to visit Norfolk!
Finally, before reaching Overstrand and Cromer, you’ll come to Mundesley, a cheery spot with a good sandy beach and line of colourful beach huts.