The golden beaches, stunning landscapes and superb wildlife found along the North Norfolk coastline has won international recognition and is now a favourite amongst holiday-makers from far and wide.
From salt marshes and tidal mud flats, to beach huts and historical ruins, the Norfolk shores are rich with hidden secrets and untouched treasures, so we’ve hand-picked a few of our favourites that are all, without a doubt, well worth the visit…
Recently voted the ‘Best Beach in the UK’, Holkham boasts an unspoiled 4-mile stretch of sand and coast, lined with pinewoods which are home to the most unusual flora and fauna. It is no surprise that the nature reserve, the largest in the country, is popular amongst walkers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Even Hollywood has picked out the national treasure for its raw and dramatic beauty. In the closing scenes of John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love, the beach provides a stunning setting as Gwyneth Paltrow is washed up on the shores of Virginia and strolls across the landscape. Holkham was again met with international recognition in 2018, when the reserve was transformed into an ‘elusive Area X’ for sci-fi movie, Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman.
The spectacular landscape is best viewed a-top the brand new 360 degree ‘Lookout’ and visitors center. The cafe is also well worth the trip. The food and drink are fantastic, entirely local, and eco-friendly - even the ice-lollies are wrapper-free!
Just two miles east-wards, follow the shores and the pinewoods, and you will come to Wells. Popular amongst holiday-makers and famous for its picture-perfect beach huts, Wells offers another spacious stretch of coastline. The beach is perfect for the family with the shallow pools in The Run at low tide. Make sure to listen out for the hooter - when this sounds, it’s time to retire to the beach before the tide comes in.
Beyond the other side of the pines, the busy harbour town of Wells-Next-The-Sea is just a 25-minute walk away. Famous for its classy eateries, gift shops and endless fish and chip shops, Wells is definitely one of Norfolk’s more luxurious seaside holiday destinations. The town is also one of two joined by the longest 10 1/4” narrow gauge stream railway in the world. The 4-mile track runs through the beautiful North Norfolk countryside all the way to the village of Walsingham, which itself is rich with medieval history waiting to be discovered.
Blakeney Point, a ‘National Trust Treasure’, lies just north of the charming town of Holt, and is famous for its 6.4km beach as well as its sand dunes, salt marshes and tidal mudflats. Popular for crabbing, sailing and pleasure craft, Blakeney is great for the kids and families with much to offer beyond the striking views and landscape.
Having become a popular destination for a variety of migrating birds and home to the largest seal colony in England (with over 2,700 seal pups born in 2017), Blakeney Point has achieved international recognition for its wildlife. Whilst the Point is fenced off for breeding season (late October to late January) to protect and monitor the colony, the best way to visit the seals is by boat from neighbouring quays at Morston and Blakeney. Boats go at high tide once a day in the Winter, and twice in the Summer. If you’re lucky you’ll be allowed ashore.
Blakeney itself is home to wonderful restaurants, tearooms and pubs, perfect for anything from afternoon tea, a light lunch, or a traditional Sunday roast. The Wiveton Bell is definitely one to try - an award-winning pub serving a seasonal and locally sourced menu with, of course, a roast dinner to die for.
Another family favourite, Cromer, offers a more traditional Victorian seaside town and holiday destination which sits proudly on a cliff overlooking the sandy beaches which, at low tide, are perfect for walking, playing and relaxing.
From the promenade, home to Cromer’s Theatre and Fun Fair, you can enjoy a view of the town and the coast, however the best view is found 172 steps high, at the top of the Church tower.
Cromer is filled with beautiful, historic Victorian buildings, galleries, museums, and tea rooms - make sure to try the local delicacy, Cromer Crab, famous for both its quality and taste.
Between 17th and 23rd August 2019 one of Norfolk’s most popular annual summer events, Cromer Carnival, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Expect action-packed fun from parades and aerobatics displays, to fun runs and competitions.
Hunstanton, another Victorian seaside town, is our only west-facing resort, and therefore the sunniest of them all. The cliff-edged beaches are spacious and perfect for enjoying the sea and the rock pools. The area is also popular for water sports, particularly windsurfing and kitesurfing. Hunstanton’s seafront amusements include Crazy Golf and Pitch-and-Putt, and in the summer months, Searles Sea Tour takes visitors to see the seals on a Wash Monster, a WWII amphibian craft.
Throughout the town, a selection of beautiful gardens now make up a self-guided Horticultural Trail, beginning at the Tourist Information Centre and stopping at 14 locations around the town, including a specially designed ‘Sensory Garden’ where you may touch, hear and smell and plants and sculptures.
Holme Dune Nature Reserves
Our final pick of North Norfolk’s unspoiled treasures is Holme, itself a true “area of outstanding natural beauty”. The beach is remote and perfectly peaceful - look left and you’ll see as far as Hunstanton’s striped cliffs, and look right and you’ll see sand, pebbles and sea for miles. Famed for its various historical remains, including ‘Seahenge’ and an old target-railway used for artillery training during WWII, Holme attracts a steady flow of visitors all year round.
The reserve is particularly popular for its wildlife as the area attracts many migrating birds, and is home to numerous wildlife species, such as natterjack toads, butterflies and dragonflies. Follow the footpaths and you’ll come to the Holme Bird Observatory - whilst you need to be a member to enter, you can purchase a day permit which allows you to spend some time watching the wildlife on your walk. Depending on the weather, you’ll spot the observatory team at work ringing the birds.
There’s a reason why North Norfolk beaches are some of our most treasured spots in the county - go and experience them for yourself!
Words: Jess Bradbury
Photos: Hannah Hutchings & Jess Bradbury