Take 10 beaches…
Despite the deluge of rain that has kindly soaked Norfolk this week, the weekend weather is set to hot up (honest, governor). If you’re thinking of hitting what Norfolk does best – the beach – on Saturday or Sunday make sure you choose wisely (with over 30 beaches in North and East Norfolk alone, it’s a harder decision than you might think).
Here’s our round up of the best beaches to head to, whether you’ve got toddlers, kids, dogs or an affliction to sand in your sandwiches.
Best for an old fashioned pier – Cromer:
What Cromer lacks in pristine sand, it makes up for in pier, with its 500-seater Pavilion Theatre scheduling year-round performances in theatre, dance and music that attract visitors from far and wide. The annual Summer Show is a particular highlight – a marvellous medley of music, song, dance, comedy and, of course, glitzy outfits. Cromer Crab is probably the most famous export from this East Norfolk seaside resort, with crab sandwiches sold all over – if you stay long enough, you’ll be able to see crab boats being dragged up The Gangway.
Best for teenagers – Great Yarmouth:
If you have older children, beautiful scenery alone isn’t going to cut it, and while Great Yarmouth isn’t for everybody, what it offers in spades is activities. From crazy golf and trampolining to boat trips and donkey rides, your children certainly won’t complain about being bored (and there’s a lot to be said for that). When the energy starts to flag – or the weather turns – there are enough amusement arcades to shake a pretty penny at, while ice creams, fish and chips and milkshakes are on tap wherever you decide to lay out your picnic blanket.
Best for watersports – Hunstanton:
If you’ve ever fancied a go at kitesurfing, Hunstanton’s shallow open waters provide the perfect spot. Younger children can have a go with the help of tutors, while salty, shallow rock pools are perfect for crabbing with toddlers. Boat lovers can hop on The Wash Monster, a growling vessel with teeth that takes 100-odd passengers onto the water (you can’t make this stuff up!). Known (rather sickeningly) as Sunny Hunny, Hunstanton’s west-facing position provides beautiful sunsets, while the town itself has great delis and independent shops as well as more convenient high street stores.
Best for toddlers – Wells-next-the-Sea:
Ah Wells – what’s not to love? Stripy beach huts, miles and miles (and miles) of pristine sand and extremely shallow water at low tide (if the tide is high, there are plenty of rock pools for your little ones to play in while remaining safe). Walk the length of the line of beach huts and you’ll find plenty of sand dunes to roll down or sit atop and bask in the scenery. While the town itself is a bit of a schlep from the beach, there is a little train running between the two in the summer, while the car park has a wonderful beach café selling ice-cream, cakes, coffee and buckets and spades.
Best for dogs – Brancaster:
During the height of summer – when the beaches throng with holidaymakers – the first thing that will get banished from the sand is your dog. But not in Brancaster where your pooch is allowed to run into the sea even in August. With its caramel sand and gentle waters, there’s miles of space to scamp around, while fewer tourists are a welcome advantage. The multi-award-winning Ship at Brancaster offers luxury accommodation, fine dining and roasts to write home about.
Best for non-sandy beaches – Cley-next-the-Sea:
It’s not the biggest of beaches but it’s quiet, pebbly and great for bird spotting. Cley itself is as pretty as a picture with its windmill (which you can stay in), smokehouse, deli (Picnic Fayre), pub and modern art gallery. Head along the coastal road towards Salthouse and stop for lunch at the well-revered Dun Cow, famous for its surf and turf – the meat and fish all sourced locally.
Best for rustic charm – Holkham:
Holkham regularly gets crowned Best UK Beach and rightly so. With its large car park, charming walk down to the sand through pine woods and excellent country pub, The Victoria, Holkham is an enormous, unspoilt stretch of sand that is four times as big at low tide as it is at high. Combine a morning at the beach with an afternoon of culture at Holkham Hall – part of the Holkham Estate, this beautiful Georgian manor is steeped in history – or hit Holkham Village with its handful of quaint shops including an Adnams bottle shop.
Best for sand dunes – Winterton-on-Sea
There are a lot of sand dunes in Norfolk but Winterton-on-Sea probably offers the biggest and craggiest, with tufts of grass that rustle in the wind and plenty of space to find a spot to sit and relax (and no amusement park in sight). There’s an excellent Dunes Café selling hot drinks and ice creams, while the nearby Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve is home to the rare Natterjack Toad which breeds in the shallow pools behind the main dune ridge.
Best for spotting seals – Horsey
Don’t expect a café, a place to buy an emergency bucket and spade or even a place to wee in Horsey, just lots and lots of sea, beach, grass and peace and quiet. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot seals swimming in the water or basking in the sun right on the beach in front of you. Horsey Windpump, The National Trust site with its bobbing boats and white windmill, is nearby.
Best for Birdwatching – Titchwell:
The reedbeds and shallow lagoons between the visitor centre down and the beach make Titchwell a bird spotter’s paradise. The centre’s shop sells telescopes and binoculars, together with a range of RSPB-related gifts, while the café – with its hot drinks and homemade cakes – offers respite for bird spotters out in the inclement weather. The nearby Titchwell Manor pub offers award-winning food alongside a range of local ales.