For lovers of the great outdoors, there is no other county quite like Norfolk in the East of England. With a long coastline and the famous man-made phenomenon, the Norfolk Broads, the endless treetops of Thetford Forest, and miles and miles of long-distance trails like the Peddars Way and Marriott’s Way, Norfolk has plenty to offer the intrepid and the outgoing.
By contrast, those of you looking for a holiday with a more measured pace, there are also some fantastic beaches. Traditional seaside resorts like Cromer and Great Yarmouth offer family-friendly appeal, and the days out at the county’s royal palace at Sandringham Estate and stately homes like Felbrigg House and Holkham Hall provide plenty of entertainments for all ages.
Nature lovers are naturally drawn to Norfolk because it is home to some of England’s most interesting bird reserves such as Cley Marshes; expansive nature reserves at Holkham or Brancaster and England’s largest seal haul-outs.
Maritime enthusiasts can also take a visit to Brancaster Beach to see the onshore wreck of the SS Vina at very low-tide. The capital of Norfolk is also England’s second oldest city, Norwich. With its cathedral, museums, and nightlife, it’s a good centre for dining out, culture and entertainment too.
The kids are alright – days out with the kids in Norfolk
Most of us remember our childhood holidays with a fondness, and family visitor attractions play an important part in making new memories with your children. Norfolk has a good sample of interesting and fun places to visit: outdoor sports facilities, theme parks, and the simplicity of a bonkers day at the beach.
If you and your kids love seeing animals and sea life up close, why not consider visiting the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth, or the Sea Life Sanctuary in Hunstanton? There’s also the Woodland Park Equestrian Centre for horse lovers and Cley Marshes for ornithologists young and old.
BeWILDerwood packs in the families to experience a magical day out in a theme park based on the children’s books. There are boat rides, an adventure playground with zip wires, and a sky maze - and that’s just for starters.
Other big hits with children of all ages include the Pleasure Beach at Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton Promenade, Holkham Hall and Woodland Play Area, Thetford Forest, Pirates Island Adventure Golf, and High Altitude for indoor bounce and play! Kids love the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway too, which is the world’s smallest public railway. At a gauge of 10.25 inches, it’s one of a kind.
Part of the fun is improvisation, there are so many pretty places to discover in the county. Make your own adventures on your next family holiday to Norfolk - take a look at our family-friendly cottages to get started.
Dog’s own country – Norfolk places your dog will love
Norfolk is a great place for dog lovers to go on holiday. With vast open spaces to enjoy and few restrictions placed upon your four-legged friends, Norfolk makes for a superb choice and your pet will thank you.
Bearing in mind the number of nature reserves, such as Holkham, Brancaster, Cley – and especially the seal colony at Blakeney Point on the northern coast - there are still sections where discretion is in order and pets must be kept on their leads.
Some areas are so remote it can be just you, your partner and your dog in the wilds. With the openness of the land and frequent access to water, your dogs will enjoy a swim and a splash whether it's in the surf, the Fens or the Broads.
Amongst the best walks and visitor attractions in the county to take your winsome hound along to are The Nar Valley, Boudicca Way, The Peddars Way, and sections of the Norfolk Coast Path. Sheringham Park and Holt Country Park welcome well-behaved dogs.
Some of the stately homes have deer enclosures like Houghton Hall and Holkham Hall but are still great places for responsible dog owners and their pets. The most famous of them all, Sandringham House, has a woodland to wander too.
If beaches are your thing, at the time of writing the following beaches don’t enforce restrictions on dog owners: Snettisham, Hunstanton & Old Hunstanton, Holme-next-the-Sea, Burnham Overy Staithe, Brancaster, Wells-next-the-Sea, and Holkham.
Wells Beach is very popular as there is a woodland, swathes of sand, and a handy drinking water tap for very thirsty dogs and owners. Similarly, Brancaster has a long and wide beach which is great for animal lovers to cut loose and run and play with their pooches.
If you're planning on bringing your pet, we have some lovely dog-friendly cottages in Norfolk for you to consider booking on your next holiday.
Explore Norfolk on foot or on the water
If you despise hills, you’ll adore Norfolk because the whole of the East of England is characterised by its lack of elevations. The highest point in Norfolk is Beacon Hill, near West Runton whose summit lies at a paltry 103 metres tall. This could be why the county is popular with nature lovers, walkers and cyclists.
Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way
Stretching 45 miles between Hopton-on-Sea and Hunstanton, walking the Norfolk Coast Path is fascinating. Taking in marshes, woodland, beaches and the county’s coastal resorts is a rewarding experience.
At Holme-next-the-Sea the coastal path meets the Peddars Way: an ancient inland road which winds in a southerly direction down to Rushford, which is a few miles east of Thetford Forest.
This is a great location for cyclists with its network of trails through the organised tangle of tall pine and conifer trees that make up England’s largest lowland forest. Pick up a map from the visitor centre at High Lodge (managed by the Forestry Commission). The forest is also home to a GoApe and adventure play area - great fun for outgoing families with a love of outdoor play.
But this is not the only way to get to know Norfolk: there is an entire web of paths throughout this region, collectively known as the Norfolk Trail Network. Other walkways include the Marriott’s Way, Angles Way, Bacton Woods Trail, Blakeney Spit, Boudicca Way, Bure Valley Path, and the origins of the lengthy Ouse Valley Way.
You'll find our favourite walks in the area in our guide to walking in Norfolk.
Take a day trip on a motor launch from Wroxham at the heart of the Norfolk Broads. You can hire all kinds of watercraft from a myriad of providers in and around the town. Many boat-hire companies also provide maps and ideas for routes that can be covered easily in the time window you’ve paid for. The Broads consist of seven rivers, 63 broads which add up to 120 miles of navigable waterways to explore. Get a taste for cruising the waterways; it could be the start of a new and lasting hobby.
Find out even more about the Norfolk Broads and what to see and do there in our Norfolk Broads guide.
Norfolk’s bird reserves and nature reserves are major visitor attractions. As the North Norfolk Coast juts out into the North Sea it serves as a waypoint for many lesser spotted species of bird as they migrate south and return in the spring.
Cley Marshes is one of the best RSPB reserves in the county with an excellent visitor centre and its own indoor viewing deck with binoculars in the café/shop. The Marshes themselves lead visitors through a maze of interconnecting paths and bird hides in which to watch the migratory and sedentary birds in peace and quiet. Cley Marshes is wholly in the Fens, which are pockets of land that have been reclaimed from the sea and is characterised by expanses of reed beds, salt flats, and winding waterways.
If you love a challenging walk, consider the four-mile walk along Blakeney Point. Starting at Cley-next-the-Sea the shingle spit leads to England’s largest seal colony. There is a visitor centre at the end of the Point which is manned during the summer. You can also reach the Point via tour boats that leave from Blakeney village. A rewarding nature walk of the best kind; you are in for an unforgettable experience. The westernmost section of the Point is section off to protect the colony.
The breeding period runs between October until late January. Exercise caution and keep your distance from seals and their pups. Try to avoid taking a dog along because the eight-mile round trip will be tough on their paws, and dogs and seals definitely do not mix. On warm days, wear hats and take plenty of drinking water because there is no shade from the sun.
Where to stay in Norfolk
We have a large collection of cottages across the county of Norfolk. Some are very close to the visitor attractions listed above, so if you’re holidaying with your partner, family or friends, we have a superb property for you.
From farmhouses on working farms to sea view apartments and suburban home-from-homes to provide the perfect backdrop, we guarantee you’ll have a memorable break in Norfolk. Explore our full collection of Norfolk holiday cottages to find your perfect place to stay.