With its long coastline, an abundance of rivers and world-famous Norfolk Broads, there are plenty of opportunities to take to the water and enjoy scenic boat trips in Norfolk. Take a wildlife boat tour and watch seals basking on the sand spits of Blakeney Point, hire a charter boat and go fishing along the Norfolk coast or indulge in a relaxing cruise down the Broads and soak up the big skies, stunning sunsets and views of windmills, church towers and reed beds brimming with rare wildlife.
Hiring a boat in Norfolk is very easy to do, it’s great fun and many companies allow you to bring your four-legged friends along too. It offers a special chance to visit nature reserves that are only accessible by boat and admire stunning scenery that you can only see from the unique perspective of being afloat on the water.
For those choosing not to launch their own boat or hire a self-drive cruiser, there is a wide variety of organised sight-seeing boat trips that you can enjoy, and we have chosen some of our favourites for you to try on your next holiday in Norfolk.
The Wash Monster at Hunstanton
One of the most exciting and unusual coastal cruises in Norfolk, Hunstanton Searles Sea Tours welcome passengers aboard one of their two famous amphibious vessels, The Wash Monsters. Departing from the central promenade in Hunstanton, these incredible machines offer a one-of-a-kind way to be transported right from the sandy beach and straight into the sea. Originally manufactured in 1967, these ex-military vehicles were once used as landing craft by American forces in Vietnam. Today, up to 60 passengers can enjoy any one of five thrilling coastal tours, discovering the local seal population and hearing the mysterious tales of myths and legends that surround The Wash.
The Ra at Whitlingham
Britain’s first solar-powered passenger boat, the Ra allows up to 12 lucky guests to experience one of the most unique wildlife watching cruises on the Norfolk Broads. Operated by the Broads Authority, this silver catamaran-style vessel quietly glides along the Great Broad at Whitlingham Country Park on the edge of Norwich, powered by one enormous solar panel on its roof. Because the boat is virtually silent, it means passengers will be treated to some of the more elusive Broads' wildlife that wouldn’t normally be seen by noisier boats so close to the city. In season, look out for colourful dragonflies, butterflies and otters which call the flourishing green banks and surrounding woodlands their home.
Southern Comfort at Horning
Boat trips in Norfolk don’t come much more memorable than this! Hop aboard a double-deck Mississippi-style paddle cruiser and join the crew of the Southern Comfort for a luxurious river cruise along the Norfolk Broads. As you set sail from the pretty village of Horning, treat yourself to a glass of fizz from the well-stocked bar and watch the beautiful countryside glide by, sailing along the River Bure to Ranworth Broad and back. Charming thatched cottages, old windmills and beautiful untamed wetlands of reed beds and marshes teeming with wildlife will come into view as you soak up the sunshine on the upper deck or relax with a slice of cake in the plush lounge on the lower deck. An expert commentary guides you to the sights, and some cruises are even accompanied by a jazz band on board!
Blakeney Point Seal Trips
Blakeney Point is a premier location for seal watching on the North Norfolk Coast, with a vast colony of around 500 grey and common seals. The best way to get up close and personal to these inquisitive creatures without causing a disturbance is by boarding a seal boat trip from either Morston or Blakeney Quay. There are several operators who offer this rare experience between early spring and late autumn, including Blakeney Point Seal Trips, Beans Boats, Temples Seal Trips and Bishops Boats. If you time your visit just right, you might even be lucky enough to see fluffy new-born seal pups basking in the sunshine! One of the most popular wildlife boat tours in Norfolk, it is a must for the avid birdwatcher as this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is also a haven for resident and migrating birds.
Broads Tours from Wroxham
From evening music cruises to children’s educational cruises and even Santa cruises at Christmas, Broads Tours offer a fine selection of boat trips to explore the Norfolk Broads from the water. This award-winning visitor attraction in Wroxham provides a fleet of cruisers, all skippered and crewed by experts in their field, who will take care of you on board and provide an entertaining live commentary as you drift along Norfolk’s magical waterland. Light refreshments and even licensed bars are available, so you can sit back and enjoy the sights in style. Plus, dogs are welcome too!
Electric Eel at How Hill
Discover a unique wildlife water trail along the hidden dykes of the How Hill National Nature Reserve, aboard a silent electric boat, the Electric Eel. As you gently head upstream on this 50-minute Norfolk boat ride, you are likely to see countless species of wildlife close-up, from dragonflies and damselflies to marsh harriers and the very rare swallowtail butterfly that only lives in the Broads. These reed-fringed dykes are not normally open to the public, so this is a very special experience, and your knowledgeable guide will also take you on a short walk to a bird hide on your enchanting journey.
Ross' Wildlife Boat Trips at Horsey Windpump
Take an inspiring guided tour of one of the lesser-known Norfolk Broads, Horsey Mere, aboard a traditional wooden Broads boat. Leaving from the Staithe by Horsey Windpump, this one-hour trip on the open-sided MV Lady Ann will reveal a host of wildlife secrets, along with the unique flora and fauna which have made this part of Norfolk so famous, as well as opportunities to spot rare marsh harriers, swallowtail butterflies, bitterns and kingfishers. Plus, Horsey is one of the best places to see cranes, so be sure to have your camera at the ready!
Self-drive day boats on the Norfolk Broads
Independent explorers who fancy being their own captain for the day might prefer to hire a self-drive day cruiser and navigate the Broads at their own pace. There are countless Norfolk Broads boat hire companies who offer fleets of day boats, ranging from simple fishing craft to larger picnic boats and even luxury yachts. Imagine spending a sunny summer’s day with your favourite people at the helm of your own vessel, winding your way along the calm waters and stopping off for lunch at a riverside pub, before sailing into the sunset. Skippering your own boat is a fabulous way to get afloat and one of the best ways to appreciate the ever-changing scenery and wildlife of the Broads. Free mooring is available throughout the Broads at Broads Authority 24-hour mooring sites.
After sampling the fresh air, fun and freedom of cruising along the Norfolk waterways, you’ll be needing somewhere equally as relaxing to spend your evening. Our selection of cottages in Norfolk has everything from toasty wood burners to bubbling hot tubs and cosy, sink-into beds. Whether you’re travelling as a couple, a family, or bringing the dog along, there’s a perfect place for you in our collection.