Some people may think of paddling as taking out a canoe, a kayak or a SUP, but when you’re at the seaside in Norfolk, it’s about one thing… walking barefoot through shallow water at the shoreline.
Yes, a day at the seaside can be about ice creams, building sandcastles or digging a big hole to put dad in (never head first!), but the essence of, and indeed the very beginning of humans enjoying the coast, was dipping your pinkies in the briny at the edge of the beach.
In fact, the earliest human footprints found outside the Great Rift Valley were discovered in Norfolk, at Happisburgh. They were over 800,000 years old and they were made by a family of four, two adults and two children, and profs from the English Natural Museum believe they were paddling at the seashore.
After all, what’s a more satisfying way to cool down on a hot summer’s day than dipping your feet into refreshing, cool water… maybe splashing your family too! Wiggle your toes in the sand and see them sink slowly as the waves move gently in and out. Feels great, but don’t lose your balance!
You need to find a spot where the water’s not too difficult to walk in and, should there be pesky stones or slippery sections, you may choose to wear jelly shoes.
So kick off your shoes, roll up your trouser legs and head to the water’s edge!
Here are our top 10 places to seaside paddle when you visit Norfolk…
The quieter neighbour of energetic Great Yarmouth, the beach here has been getting bigger over recent years, creating a gentle slope and shallow water away from the harbour’s mouth.
When the Victorians built their railway lines to the coast, this was one of the first… and helped popularise the idea of working class people going to the seaside, whipping off their shoes and socks, rolling up their trouser legs and braving the North Sea. Not a lot has changed!
And at Great Yarmouth you have the added allure of the seafront razzamatazz: the amusements, the rides, the attractions. All great, but that there’s nothing as simply delicious as a paddle. And it’s free!
Longshore drift has dramatically changed this pretty little seaside village’s seashore in recent years. It’s meant the fabulous beach café has closed (boo!) but it’s also creating a little reef that in turn is making a new area of shallow water… perfect for paddling (hooray!).
Nearby Waxham, Scratby and California are good for paddling too.
For over half a century the east coast of Norfolk has been dramatically impacted by coastal erosion, no more so than at Happisburgh. This is, remember, where those ancient footprints were found. And you can walk in their footsteps. Or, rather, paddle!
To prevent coastal erosion here, a series of granite boundaries were made a little way offshore. The impact of that? Perfect, shallow lagoons in which to paddle! Just don’t get too adventurous by swimming out to the stone blocks – the tides get very strong.
Sleepy little Mundesley is too easily overlooked, with Cromer just to the north, but it’s a delight of a seaside experience, with some local amenities and a long beach ideal for paddling.
Great for paddling at high tide by the family area and the beach huts, we think it really comes into its best at low tide, when you can walk out for a mile or so along The Run, the channel that allows boats in and out of the port, and be paddling all the way! Just remember the tide comes in very quickly. When you hear the hooter, make your way back.
Great at high tide, by the seashore just as you come off the boardwalks, this enormous, gently-sloping beach is best with the water going out when large shallow pools are left behind. Great for paddling in calm water… or going the whole hog with a bracing swim. We say bracing, if it’s a hot day, the water will be like a nice bath.
This National Trust beach is mahoosive! Ideal for paddling along the seashore. Head eastward and you’ll see Norfolk’s very own Treasure Island… Scolt Head.
You’re now in the estuarine Wash which is rather more shallow than when the Vikings came through here on their way inland to Thetford and Bury St Edmunds. Paddle on the seashore and explore the rockpools left behind by the tide. Who knows what you might find.