An insider

An insider's guide to Hunstanton

Julie Smith 22 January 2021

With a prime location on the North Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hunstanton is one of Norfolk’s leading resorts and a popular destination for a traditional British seaside holiday. Along with a dog-friendly sandy beach that’s backed by Hunstanton’s famously striped cliffs, you’ll find a collection of ice cream parlours, fish and chip shops and amusement arcades along the town’s sweeping promenade.

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

We have compiled some of our favourite reasons to visit Hunstanton on the Norfolk Coast and the best things to do when you get here.

πŸ‘‰ Hunstanton history

πŸ‘‰ Hunstanton beaches

πŸ‘‰ Things to do

πŸ‘‰ Pubs and cafes

πŸ‘‰ Shopping in Hunstanton

πŸ‘‰ Hunstanton walks

πŸ‘‰ Plan your Hunstanton getaway

A brief history of Hunstanton

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

Hunstanton’s distinctively red and white striped cliffs have been naturally formed over thousands of years from carrstone and chalk. They aren’t just pretty to look at; the cliffs are rich in natural ammonites and you can regularly find interesting fossils washed up on the beach.

The Hunstanton that we know and love today though, first started to take shape in the 1840s when a Victorian gentleman named Henry Styleman Le Strange made plans for the coastal resort. A statue of Henry stands on the green that he designed and the Heritage Gardens which date back to the Victorian era are still one of the major focal points of Hunstanton. 

You can learn more about the town’s history at the Hunstanton Heritage Centre, which features a series of fascinating exhibits in a wonderful old bank building. Other historical parts of the town worth seeking out include the remains of Hunstanton Chapel which dates back to 1272 and the Grade II-listed Town Hall from 1896.

Hunstanton beaches

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

The west facing location of Hunstanton means its wide beach is sheltered from the wind and gets lots of sunshine. The long stretch of sand means there is plenty of space to relax with family and friends, whether you plan on building some sandcastles or just relaxing in a deckchair. ‘Sunny Hunny’, as the resort is often nicknamed, is also a great place to watch the sun go down - its prime location on the Norfolk coast means it's one of the only places in the county where you can watch as the sun sets spectacularly over the sea.  

  • Hunstanton’s main resort beach is a popular spot during the summer months and there’s lots to keep children happy with rock shops, ice cream vans and amusement arcades. 
  • If you’re looking for a more peaceful stretch of sand, we recommend heading to Old Hunstanton where the sheltered beach, backed by sand dunes, has a much more laid back vibe.   
  • Kitesurfing is a popular activity at Old Hunstanton and there are several schools in the area providing equipment and tuition if you fancy giving it a go.
  • Both beaches are dog-friendly; there are some restrictions at the main beach during the summer months but Old Hunstanton is dog-friendly all year round.   
  • Hunstanton Watersports run a range of water sports courses, including paddleboarding and windsurfing, from the main resort promenade.
  • The beaches at Hunstanton are a great place to go rock pooling - kids will love seeing what creatures they can find lurking along the shoreline. 
  • If you fancy taking a boat trip from the beach, Searles Sea Tours are based on the Hunstanton Promenade and you can take a wonderful seal safari on one of their famous Wash Monster vessels. 

Things to do in Hunstanton

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

There’s more to Hunstanton than the sandy beach; here are some of the best things to do during your visit to this North Norfolk coastal town.

Hunstanton Heritage Gardens

The free-to-access Hunstanton Heritage Gardens cover an area of almost 7 acres between the town centre and the seafront promenade. Highlights of the gardens include a bandstand that hosts regular live music during the peak summer months, beautiful Victorian flower beds, a children’s play area and a crazy golf course.

SEA LIFE Hunstanton

A range of specially themed interactive zones at SEA LIFE Hunstanton allows visitors to get up close to a variety of different creatures and learn more about how they live. You can meet a colony of cute Humboldt penguins at the Penguin Beach enclosure, see a colourful assortment of fishes at Tropical Reef and watch a family of otters playing in their specially created running stream and diving pool. At the centre of SEA LIFE Hunstanton is a huge ocean tunnel filled with an assortment of sharks, rays and fishes and one of the highlights is the outdoor seal enclosure with an underwater viewing facility.

Rainbow Park

You can enjoy all the fun of the fair with a visit to the traditional Rainbow Park fairground, located close to the seafront. This Hunstanton institution has been around for more than 50 years and you’ll find everything from gentle carousels for little ones to more thrilling rides for older teenagers.

Norfolk Lavender

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

Just a couple of miles inland from Hunstanton is Norfolk Lavender where you’ll find around 100 acres of fragrant purple fields and a distillery and gift shop that are open to visitors all year round. This sweetest smelling of Norfolk attractions also includes the National Collection of lavenders with around 50 varieties on display, a network of walking paths around the main fields and a tearoom where you can enjoy a hot brew and some delicious homemade cake.

Hunstanton Pier

The original Hunstanton Pier, which dated back to 1870, was sadly destroyed by storms in 1978. An entertainment centre now stands on its site and this modern-day Hunstanton Pier features coin-operated rides for younger children, video games for teenagers and a bowling alley for the whole family to enjoy. 

Princess Theatre

Enjoy a range of live entertainment at the Hunstanton's Princess Theatre with shows ranging from traditional pantomime to comedy and musical performances. The sunset wine bar makes the most of the theatre’s prime location with an outdoor terrace where you can sit down to a pre-show drink with wonderful sea views.

Snettisham Park

Snettisham Park is just a short drive from Hunstanton and this family-friendly working farm has a range of animal experiences available, from bottle-feeding lambs to collecting eggs and riding ponies. The large farm is also home to a herd of red deer and one of the highlights of a visit is taking a 45-minute safari ride around the farm to get up close to these majestic creatures.  

Hunstanton pubs and cafes

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

There’s no shortage of places to stop for food and drink during your visit to Hunstanton. Here are just some of our favourite pubs and cafes to call in at: 

  • The Honeystone is a family-friendly pub with casual food options such as pizza and burgers plus both indoor and outdoor play areas.
  • The Mariner Inn has views out over the coast from its spot in Old Hunstanton and the characterful bar area comes with low beams, exposed brickwork and plenty of nooks and crannies where you can cuddle together on a romantic night out. 
  • The Lodge is a dog-friendly bar and restaurant in Old Hunstanton where you can enjoy local drinks, pub classics and daily afternoon teas in a relaxed and cosy setting. 
  • Located in a vintage building on the beachfront in Hunstanton, The Waterside Bar is an ideal spot to watch the sun go down. The dog-friendly pub also has live music each weekend and classic Norfolk fish and chips on the menu.
  • Fishers dates back to the 1950s and is the place to go in Hunstanton for traditional fish and chips. It’s up to you whether you take them away to eat from the paper or tuck into your tasty meal in their bright and spacious seafront restaurant.
  • Berni Beans on Hunstanton High Street is a vintage tea room that’s full of old-fashioned charm. Sit down to a classic afternoon tea with home-made cakes and scones served on authentic bone china crockery.

Hunstanton walks

Hunstanton WalksHunstanton promenade: Oscar Johns

From an easy-access promenade stroll to a wildlife walk amongst the Norfolk dunes, here are some of our favourite walks to try in and around Hunstanton.

Hunstanton to Holme Dunes

Take a scenic 2.6-mile walk along the Norfolk Coast Path from Hunstanton to the nearby town of Holme-next-the-Sea where you can explore the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Holme Dunes. This unique landscape of sand dunes, salt marshes and water meadows is a haven for wildlife and migrating seabirds so it’s worth spending some time here before making the return journey to Hunstanton. It’s up to you whether you head back along the coastal path or take a stroll along the sandy beach that connects Hunstanton to Holme-next-the-Sea.

Hunstanton town trail

You can combine a bracing walk with learning more about Hunstanton by tackling this almost 4-mile circular route around the town, created by the Norfolk Museum Service. The walk fittingly starts at the statue of Henry Le Strange and takes in St. Edmund’s Chapel, the Esplanade Gardens and Hunstanton Lighthouse with lots of places to stop for refreshments along the way. 

Snettisham Woodland Walk

Take a bus journey from Hunstanton to the start of this woodland walk in the village of Snettisham. You’ll need to get off the bus at the Snettisham Grapes stop and the 2.6-mile woodland walk starts and finishes at the nearby war memorial. Follow the peaceful woodland path through Snettisham’s Lodge Hill Plantation where you’ll pass by the remains of a medieval tower and can enjoy views out over the Wash.

Ringstead Circular

Around 3 miles inland from Hunstanton is the small village of Ringstead and you can take a scenic 7-mile circular walk from the pretty village green, taking in peaceful country lanes in this rural part of North Norfolk. Once you're back at Ringstead, you can call in for some well-earned refreshments at the Gin Trap Inn, a dog-friendly country pub that dates back to the 17th century.  

Hunstanton to Heacham

If you’re looking for a gentle easy access walk from Hunstanton, you can take a 2-mile stroll along the promenade to nearby Heacham. This is an access-for-all route with the pathway suitable for pushchairs and wheelchair users. The promenade has unrivalled views of the varied Norfolk coastline and there are several cafes that you can call at for refreshments during your walk.

Shopping in Hunstanton

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

Hunstanton has an assortment of shops to choose from with novelty gift shops dotted around the promenade and several good independent clothing stores along the town's high street:

  • Children and the young at heart will love browsing the assortment of tricks, funny items and fancy dress wigs at World of Fun, which is also known as Britain’s largest joke shop. The shelves are filled with an assortment of silly items, available at pocket-money-friendly prices. 
  • There are a range of gift shops in Hunstanton where you can pick up everything from souvenirs of your holiday to the Norfolk coast to high-end jewellery and home interiors. Some of our favourites to call in include Horizon, Unique Interiors and Hunstanton Gifts. 
  • It’s well worth calling in the wonderful Smugglers Cave during a visit to Hunstanton. This 17th-century fisherman’s cottage is a treasure trove of antiques and collectables, many of them imported directly from the Far East.
  • Heroes is a ladies boutique on Hunstanton High Street that sells quality brands such as Joules and Crew Clothing. Other independent shops in the town include Simply So Lovely which specialises in ethical baby and children’s clothing and Fashion Wheel where you can pick up great value wardrobe staples.
  • The Norfolk Deli is where you can stock up on fresh local produce during your getaway to Hunstanton. The delicatessen has won several Norfolk food and drink awards and you’ll find wine from East Anglian vineyards along with local artisan cheese and chutneys. Specially curated hampers are also available which contain an assortment of the best Norfolk produce.

Hunstanton sweets and ice cream parlours

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

What’s a visit to the seaside without a stick of rock and a cone of ice cream? Luckily, there are lots of options in Hunstanton for enjoying some deliciously sweet seaside treats. 

  • East Coast Gelato sells creamy homemade ice cream in a variety of different flavours from a trio of kiosks on the Hunstanton promenade. The main parlour comes with a glass-fronted balcony to make the most of the sea views when the sun shines in ‘Sunny Hunny’. 
  • The Hunstanton Ice Cream Parlour sells a range of indulgent sundaes and Belgian waffles alongside a range of classic flavours. All of their artisan ice creams are handmade on-site and use fresh locally sourced ingredients and can be taken away or enjoyed in their on-site cafe.
  • Candy ‘n’ Cream is the main sweet emporium in town and this pastel pink shop sells traditional pick ‘n’ mix alongside seaside rock and classic fudge. There are also a variety of kiosks along the main Hunstanton beach promenade selling candy floss, doughnuts, waffles and rock. 

Plan your getaway to Hunstanton

Hunstanton guide - Norfolk holidays

If you have been inspired to visit the Norfolk Coast for a short break or holiday, you’ll find a collection of charming cottages in and around Hunstanton. For even more holiday inspiration, read our guide to the best things to do in Norfolk


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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