Award-winning beaches and amazing history, wildlife and culture alongside unusual holiday homes make Norfolk a must-visit UK holiday destination. Famous for the beautiful waterways of the Norfolk Broads, there's something for everyone with a backdrop of golden sands and rich pine forests punctuated with vibrant purple lavender fields.
Wildlife-enthusiasts flock here to see rare birds and waders flying in from the east and the UK’s largest colony of seals and their pups, with snowy white fur coats and big black eyes. This is a romantic place to holiday, particularly for quirky couples or families looking for colour and culture alongside all the usual coastal offerings. Here are your top ten reasons to visit Norfolk:
1. The Norfolk Broads
Known as the ‘Venice of the East’ and one of the most picturesque places on Earth, the Norfolk Broads is a national park with over 125 miles of beautiful winding waterways lined by green countryside and pretty villages. Take a boat trip or hire a boat for the day to explore the lakes and rivers for yourself. No trip to Norfolk would be complete without seeing the Broads.
Famous for its distinctive red and white striped cliffs, the seaside town of Hunstanton, known affectionately as 'Sunny Hunny', is the only west-facing coastal resort in the east of Britain. Enjoying the sun late into the evening, Sunny Hunny enjoys some spectacular sunsets. Hunstanton has an award-winning, sandy beach with safe, shallow water and traditional family seaside attractions. It also offers ideal conditions for sailing, water skiing, windsurfing and kite-surfing.
Half an hour from Hunstanton, near to Wells-next-the-Sea, is Holkham Beach, one of the most attractive and unspoilt stretches of white sand in England with a semi-circular basin that rapidly fills to form a spectacular shallow lagoon at high tide. Backed by dunes and lined with pine woods, the beauty of Holkham Beach was captured in the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’ as actress Gwyneth Paltrow walked across Holkham sand at low tide. Nearby is Holkham Hall, an exceptional 18th-century mansion with a 25,000-acre estate, rich in history, architecture and wildlife. Holkham Hall is still a lived-in family home and the seat of the Earls of Leicester. Marvel at the splendid Marble Hall with its Roman temple-style colonnade and gaze in awe at the breathtaking 50ft-high ceiling before exploring the rest of this spectacular historic house.
For a traditional British seaside resort with a sandy, family-friendly beach visit Cromer. Famous for its beautiful Victorian pier and Pavilion Theatre, Cromer has Europe’s only remaining end of the pier variety show, which takes place in the summer and winter seasons. Cromer celebrates its maritime heritage in style with the famous Cromer Carnival in August plus other events throughout the year including the Cromer & Sheringham Art & Literary Festival and Folk on the Pier in May. Water sports lovers will enjoy surfing and paddleboarding in the sea here while wildlife enthusiasts can take a boat trip to see the largest colony of common and grey seals in England and their newborn pups. Boats leave from Blakeney Harbour and Morston Quay. Dog-lovers booking a pet-friendly holiday in Norfolk will love the new Doggie Diner in Cromer!
Just along the coast from Cromer is Sheringham with its award-winning woodland-lined beach, offering stunning coastal and countryside walks, and a wonderful heritage steam railway. Visit Sheringham Park, which is open daily with far-reaching coastal views, wildlife, plants and flowers all year round. In the centre of the town are a variety of lovely traditional cafes, tea rooms and pubs, a museum and a theatre. The motto of this lovely coastal town is ‘The sea enriches, and the pine adorns.’
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery are well worth a visit. Take a tour of the medieval castle, dungeon and keep, and then see the museum and art gallery which features archaeology, natural history and fine and contemporary art. Make sure you visit Norwich Cathedral, the majestic Norman Romanesque-style 11th-century work of art made from flint and mortar with a spectacular interior and cloisters that is open daily with free admission. The city of Norwich also has excellent shopping opportunities, nightlife and entertainment, and for fine dining, book a table at the superb Roger Hickman’s Restaurant or the excellent and interestingly-named Mermaid’s Slipper Restaurant, where all profits from the restaurant go towards providing meals for some of the poorest children in the world.
There’s a variety of attractions at the Queen’s country residence at Sandringham, which is open to the public. Visit the main house and walk in the extensive beautifully kept gardens and don’t miss the Sandringham exhibition and transport museum, which includes the impressive royal vintage car collection. It’s a full day out for all the family with a country park, children’s adventure playground, nature trails with wonderful woodland paths and a café and gift shop.
Thetford Forest is the largest pine forest in Britain and a Site of Special Scientific Interest that stretches from south Norfolk to north Suffolk. Apart from the walking trails rich in wildlife and plants, Thetford Forest is also home to Grimes Graves, the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain, dating back over 5,000 years. The forest has a huge variety of amazing music, educational and recreational events, with Go Ape and mountain biking trails and bike hire, a children's adventure play area and a pram-friendly giant play sculpture trail. Bring a picnic for a woodland walk or visit the High Lodge Forest Centre which has a restaurant, café and ice cream parlour.
Near the market town of Holt is the extensive and well-hidden ruins of Baconsthorpe Castle, an abandoned moated and fortified 15th-century manor house. This is a tranquil place that is ideal for a picnic alongside the swans, ducks, dragonflies and kingfishers and you might well have it all to yourself. Best walked to as the driveway is not particularly well-kept, there are no facilities but plenty of romantic photo opportunities. A fascinating place to visit, the history of Baconsthorpe Castle can be discovered in the nearby Norwich Castle Museum, or you can download this audio tour before you go.
Norfolk is the best place to see the UK's largest colony of seals and their newborn pups, with their gorgeous snowy white fur coats and big black eyes. You can take boat trips from Blakeney Harbour throughout the year, or from the west coast at Hunstanton in June to August and from the east coast at Horsey during the winter months.
Full of interesting attractions, Norfolk also has some of the most unusual holiday homes, including an award-winning windmill keeper’s cottage, a romantic shepherd’s hut in secluded woodland and a luxury lighthouse cottage by the sea. All this and the sunsets are nothing short of legendary.