Oh man alive, does Norfolk have sand. That’s rhetorical, by the way. We have 90 miles of coast (some say it’s 93 when the tide’s out) so it’s a given that we have sand.
Breathe in the fresh sea air of the tranquil Norfolk coast and listen to the cries of the gulls and the waves crashing against the shore. You’ll find huge expanses of honeyed beaches backed by marram and sandy dunes. Lie back and relax and watch the scanty clouds skipping across the big blue sky. Get your binoculars out and do some birdwatching. Or just laze around, trickling warm sand through your fingers and digging your toes down as deep as they’ll go.
Action-packed – Great Yarmouth
The beach at Great Yarmouth runs parallel to the Golden Mile so you can wander from the ice cream shack to your deckchair with the minimum of effort. There’s crazy golf, trampolines, boat trips, donkey rides, and a range of attractions and amusements. No chance of the kids getting bored here. Nearby Gorleston beach is excellent too.
Family fun – Wells-next-the-Sea
Wells-next-the-Sea has a lovely wide sandy beach, backed by pine woods, but it’s quite a distance from the town. Hop on the little railway which runs between the two and save your legs. Colourful beach huts add charm while there’s also a lifeguard on duty for added peace of mind. Youngsters will love splashing around in The Run at low tide, at which time you can walk a mile or so out to its end.
Great for dogs – Brancaster
Drive up Beach Road in Brancaster, park close to the golf course, and then stride out onto the flat sand. Turn right and you’ll head towards the tidal salt marshes of Scolt Head; left and you’ll be faced with a huge expanse of doggie playground. Remember to bring a stick or ball.
Hidden away – Horsey
The eastern coast of the county has lots of little hideaways where you feel you have to place to yourself, but a great one is Horsey. Tucked down a little track it has no facilities – just peace and quiet. From the top of the marram-covered bank (marram is an original East Anglian word, deriving from Old Norse words for sea and grass) you might be able to spot a few basking seals… if they’re not up on the beach, sunbathing. Nearby is National Trust Horsey Windpump.
Hollywood connection – Holkham
Holkham Bay gained worldwide publicity when it featured in the Gwyneth Paltrow Oscar-winning movie Shakespeare in Love. The beach is enormous, totally unspoilt and has been voted the best beach in Britain. There’s a large car park, managed by the Holkham estate, and then a pleasant walk on boardwalks through the pine woods before you reach the beach proper.
Theatrical appeal – Cromer
The Pavilion Theatre on Cromer Pier boasts an annual summer show which draws crowds from far and wide. The surrounding Cromer beach is flat and sandy and you’ll see the crab boats dragged up at the foot of The Gangway – a reminder not to leave without sampling a fab crab sandwich.
Rockpooling and beach cricket – Hunstanton
Roll up your trousers at Hunstanton and go for a paddle or take the kids crabbing in the shallow salty rock pools. For the more adventurous, the shallow open water here (it’s at the mouth of The Wash) is perfect for kitesurfing. The cliffs look like a layered cake, and the seafront retains the air of a Victorian seaside resort – unsurprisingly, as it was purpose-built as a bathing resort in 1846. Now known as Sunny Hunny, this is our only west-facing beach, so you can see incredible sunsets. Look to the horizon and you can see Holland… okay, it’s Lincolnshire really!
Best sand dunes – Winterton-on-Sea
Winterton-on-Sea has probably the best in Norfolk. Seek out a little secluded spot for yourself and relax. You can hear the squeals of children in the distance, their laughter carried along on the gentle breeze, yet it all seems so far away, your eyelids grow heavy as the sun warms your skin and you drift in and out of a summer’s snooze.
Old world charm – Mundesley
Mundesley looks as if it’s been preserved in aspic, which gives it a unique traditional appeal. There are good facilities on the cliffs, so stock up before heading down the steep steps to the large flat beach. It was the Victorians who made it fashionable when the small community had its own railway station.
Best for birds – Holme Dunes
So many to choose from, but Holme Dunes and Titchwell have something for everyone. A walk from the excellent visitor centre down to the sandy beach takes you past reedbeds and shallow lagoons, which are often full of birds. Sit on benches or watch from spacious, wheelchair-accessible hides. The well-stocked shop at Titchwell has a wide range of RSPB gifts and books and a large selection of telescopes and binoculars.