Whether you’re looking to keep the kids entertained on a classic seaside holiday, take your four-legged friends for a walk along a dog-friendly beach or spend quality time together as a couple exploring a peaceful nature reserve, there are lots of reasons to visit the Norfolk coast.
You’ll find attractions and activities throughout many of the region’s seaside towns and villages, so to help you plan the perfect getaway to this wonderful part of the world, we have compiled ten of the best things to do during a short break or holiday to the Norfolk coast.
👉 #01 Enjoy a day at the beach
👉 #02 Have a dog-friendly day out
👉 #03 Have fun at a Norfolk pleasure beach
👉 #04 Visit a spectacular stately home
👉 #05 Spot wildlife at a Norfolk nature reserve
👉 #06 Walk along the Norfolk Coast Path
👉 #07 Sit down to a seaside show
👉 #08 Stroll around a Norfolk park or garden
👉 #09 Uncover Norfolk's history and heritage
👉 #10 Take to the water
#01 Enjoy a day at a Norfolk beach
The spectacular North Norfolk coastline is blessed with around 45 miles of glorious sandy beaches that are part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From golden stretches of sand where you can watch the sun go down to peaceful shingle shores, there are plenty of beautiful beaches to visit during your next Norfolk getaway. Here are just some of our favourites:
Part of a large coastal nature reserve that stretches from Holkham to Blakeney Point, the sandy beach at Wells-next-the-Sea is decorated by colourful stilted beach huts and is a largely unspoilt and tranquil place to spend the day. You can catch an old-fashioned train from the town to the beach and grab refreshments at the Wells-next-the-Sea Beach Cafe.
This popular seaside town comes with a wide sandy beach that’s perfect for building sandcastles on and a wonderful Victorian pier that you can walk out to sea on. Catch a cliff lift from the bustling town to the Blue Flag beach below and see if you can catch a famous Cromer crab from the pier.
Famous for its stripey red and white cliffs, Old Hunstanton is the quieter neighbour of the popular resort of Hunstanton. It’s part of the only stretch of Norfolk’s coastline to face west, making Old Hunstanton one of the sunniest beaches to visit and a perfect place to watch the sun go down, with fine sand that gently slopes towards the sea.
#02 Have a dog-friendly day out
Not only are dogs welcome on many of Norfolk’s best beaches, but there are lots of pubs, cafes and restaurants around the Norfolk coast that will happily welcome four-legged friends. Dogs can join you for a walk along Cromer Pier, come with you on a Bean’s Boat Trip to watch the seals at Blakeney Point, and can hop aboard a North Norfolk steam train that runs between the Georgian towns of Holt and Sheringham at the seaside.
Dog-friendly Norfolk beaches
Beaches where dogs can happily play on the sand all year round include Winterton-on-Sea, Thornham, Old Hunstanton, Heacham, Waxham, Snettisham, Clay, East Runton and Great Yarmouth South Beach.
Other beaches that allow dogs with some restrictions during peak season include Mundesley, Cromer, Hunstanton and Blakeney Point. Discover more dog-friendly beaches in Norfolk.
After taking a scenic journey to Sheringham on the dog-friendly North Norfolk Railway, four-legged friends can sniff out some adventures in the National Trust’s Sheringham Park, which has woodland trails and pretty parkland to explore.
Another four-legged favourite on the Norfolk Coast is the fragrant purple-hued fields of Norfolk Lavender at Heacham, a dog-friendly garden that’s a great day out for the whole family.
Dog-friendly Norfolk Coast pubs and cafes
Here are just some of the dog-friendly places along the Norfolk Coast where canine companions can join you for refreshments:
- The Orange Tree, Hunstanton - this award-winning restaurant has a special menu for dogs.
- The Mariner Inn, Old Hunstanton - characterful bar with terrace leading out to the beach.
- The Dun Cow, Salthouse - gorgeous dining pub with lots of local seafood on the menu.
- The Golden Fleece, Wells-next-the-Sea - traditional family-friendly pub that looks out over the quayside.
#03 Have fun at a Norfolk pleasure beach
You can enjoy all the fun of the fair on a family-friendly holiday to one of Norfolk’s traditional British seaside resorts, with amusement arcades and thrilling fairground rides available at Hunstanton, Cromer and Great Yarmouth.
The Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach dates back to 1909 and features a wooden roller coaster that was first built in 1932. The ride, which is known as The Scenic because of the view from the top, is the only wooden roller coaster of its kind in the UK and still features a brakeman who controls the speed of the train as it thunders down the track. Other rides and attractions at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach include a pirate ship, log flume and spooky haunted house.
Located close to the seafront in Cromer is Kiddieland Fun Park, which, as the name implies, is a perfect choice for little ones. The gentle rides here include a helter-skelter, carousel rides, teacups and a bouncy castle There’s also candy floss stalls and the fairground classic hook-a-duck for a fun-filled family-friendly day out.
There has been a fairground in Hunstanton since the 1880s, and the family-run Rainbow Park on the seafront continues this long history, with rides that range from thrilling to gentle, including a big wheel, dodgems, traditional horse carousel and a ghost train. It’s also well worth calling in at The Pier, an entertainment complex in Hunstanton that features a bowling arcade, penny push machines and state-of-the-art arcade games.
#04 Visit a spectacular stately home
With a history of rich local landowners, Norfolk is filled with grand stately homes and impressive halls, with many of the buildings open to the public. With several of these buildings located near the seaside, exploring a stately home is an inspiring thing to do during a visit to the Norfolk coast.
This Palladian-style country house dates back to the 18th century and is part of a sprawling 25,000-acre estate on the Norfolk coast. The magnificent mansion is one of the ten Treasure Houses of England, and highlights include The Marble Gallery, The Statue Room and the sumptuous Venetian Bedroom which is filled with richly woven tapestries. The gorgeous grounds of Holkham Hall include a walled garden, woodland play area and a beautifully peaceful boating lake.
This large National Trust site near Cromer comprises a handsome 17th-century house, formal gardens and a rolling landscaped park. The hall itself combines Jacobean architecture with opulent Georgian interiors, and the extensive estate features a series of waymarked woodland trails and a large lake to wander around. It’s worth exploring the walled garden during your visit to Felbrigg and walking through the fragrant herbaceous borders to reach a historic octagonal dovecot, home to a collection of doves and chickens.
The Elizabethan House Museum is another of Norfolk’s National Trust sites, featuring antique furniture and an extensive art collection in a historic property that’s part of the quayside in Great Yarmouth. Elizabethan House has strong connections to Oliver Cromwell, and it’s even rumoured that the death of Charles I was plotted in the property’s conspiracy room.
#05 Spot wildlife at a Norfolk nature reserve
Norfolk is home to no less than 32 different nature reserves, including a selection that is dotted around the peaceful sand dunes, mudflats and saltmarshes of the Norfolk coast. Holkham Hall, for example, is surrounded by pinewoods and grazing marsh, with extensive grounds that are home to around 1000 fallow deer. If you fancy spotting some marine life, the best place to go is Cromer where you can snorkel around the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds, thought to be the longest chalk reef in Europe. Other Norfolk nature reserves include:
Blakeney Point is a 4-mile long spit of shingle and sand that’s home to the largest colony of grey seals in England. You can take a scenic walk along the spit’s unique landscape, but the best way to see the seals up close is from the water, with regular boat trips available from Morston Quay.
Scolt Head Island
Located between Brancaster and Wells-next-the-Sea is the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve, which is owned by the National Trust and can only be accessed by foot twice a day when the tide allows. A seasonal ferry service is also available to whisk you to this offshore barrier island from nearby Burnham Overy Staithe, and the sand dunes and salt marshes here are a haven for an incredible variety of birdlife.
The shingle beach at Snettisham is surrounded by reedbeds, scrub and marshlands which are a haven for local wildlife, with nearby mudflats that are home to tens of thousands of wading birds each autumn. The birds gather at RSPB Snettisham to roost overnight, and as the tide comes in you can watch vast flocks of dunlin and oystercatchers take to the skies. Other bird species you can see here include shelducks, avocets and pink-footed geese.
#06 Take a cliff-top walk along the Norfolk Coast Path
The Norfolk Coast Path covers 84 miles from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea and features cliff-top views, sandy beaches, pine woodlands and wildlife-rich tidal marshes. There are lots of pretty villages and seaside towns to call at as you make your way through the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and during spring and autumn, you’ll also see lots of migrating birds during a scenic walk along the trail.
If you don’t fancy tackling the full 84 miles of the Norfolk Coast Path, here are some shorter parts of the route to try:
Weybourne to Sheringham
This 3-mile walk starts at the car park in Weybourne, a peaceful Norfolk fishing village with a shingle beach that’s surrounded by rolling woodland. It’s worth exploring the ruins of the 11th century Weybourne Priory before following the cliff-top path to Sheringham, a traditional seaside town where there’s lots to see and do, including climbing to the top of the tower in Sheringham Park for one of the finest views around.
It’s up to you whether you expand the walk to Cromer or catch the North Norfolk Railway back to the start at Weybourne.
Cart Gap to Sea Palling
This 5-mile circular walk takes in the sandy beach between Cart Gap and Sea Palling, then moves inland to follow arable fields and nature-rich scrubland on the return leg of the route. Cart Gap is one of the most tranquil beaches on the Norfolk Coast, and Sea Palling holds a Blue Flag award so is an ideal choice for sea swimming.
Horsey Gap to Winterton-on-Sea
The 3.5-mile walk to Winterton-on-Sea is one of the most popular sections of the Norfolk Coast Path as it features some of the finest cliff-top views along the route. Horsey Beach is a breeding colony for Norfolk’s famous grey seals, and the coastal path also passes through a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is a haven for dragonflies, natterjack toads and rare butterflies. It’s well worth taking a slight detour during your walk to call at Horsey Windpump, an iconic National Trust site that stands between the Norfolk Coast and the Broads National Park.
#07 Sit down to a seaside show
There are five seaside theatres on the Norfolk Coast, including two of the UK’s last remaining end-of-the-pier auditoriums at Cromer and Great Yarmouth as well as the Princess Theatre which is located on the seafront in Hunstanton. If you fancy a traditional seaside show, it’s worth trying to catch Hanton’s Punch and Judy Show, which performs at various locations around the Norfolk Coast. You can also watch some live music at Gorleston Bandstand on Sundays during the summer.
The Pavilion Theatre
Located at the end of the Victorian pleasure pier in Cromer, The Pavilion Theatre features a 500-seat auditorium which plays host to the only full-season end-of-the-pier show in the world. The cabaret show features dance performances, comedy and musical numbers that the whole family can enjoy together.
One of only two remaining purpose-built permanent circuses in the UK, the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth was built in 1903 and is still one of the seaside town's most popular attractions. Along with the clowns, ringmasters, and acrobatics that you would expect to see in the big top, the venue is also known for its spectacular water shows.
Sheringham Little Theatre
This small and intimate theatre in Sheringham offers a varied programme of live music, comedy shows, dramatic plays and seasonal pantomimes. Drop-in drama groups are available each Monday for kids to get involved, and mid-week music sessions are available to all.
#08 Stroll around a Norfolk park or garden
Along with cliff-top walks, sandy beaches and seaside funfairs, the Norfolk Coast is also home to a beautiful selection of parks and gardens. You can wander amongst the fragrant purple flowers at Norfolk Lavender, admire the vast collection of rhododendrons and azaleas at Sheringham Park or spend time in one of these gorgeous gardens:
East Runton Old Vicarage Gardens
These privately owned gardens lie just 1.5 miles from the sea and feature mixed hedgerows, beautiful topiary, colourful meadows and wildlife-rich ponds. East Runton Old Vicarage Gardens have been a labour of love for their owners over the last 15 years, and visitors can wander around a series of distinct sections which include Mediterranean, exotic and Dutch-inspired gardens.
Hunstanton Heritage Gardens
Running alongside the seafront promenade, the free-to-access Hunstanton Heritage Gardens cover around 7 acres in total, with a park that’s ideal for ball games, a crazy golf course, and a bandstand that hosts regular live music during the summer months. The gardens also feature formal Victorian flower beds, a children’s play area and original Victorian shelters where you can take a seat and enjoy the views out to sea.
The Waterways Great Yarmouth
Originally built during the 1920s, this 7-acre park close to Great Yarmouth’s golden mile is made up of The Venetian Waterways and Ornamental Gardens plus a beautiful boating lake. Follow a series of pathways and bridges around the serpentine canals before heading to the boating lake where you’ll find pedalos to hire. The park has lots of benches and ornamental features, so it's the perfect spot for a scenic summer picnic - especially as there are lots of ducks and herons to spot during your visit.
#09 Uncover Norfolk's history and heritage
There’s lots of history to uncover at the Norfolk Coast, with fascinating places to visit like the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum in Cromer which tells the stories of lifeboats and daring sea rescues, and the Hunstanton Heritage Centre where you can see exhibits from the town’s Victorian past.
Deep Coast Discovery Trail
The Deep Coast Discovery Trail runs for 36km from Weybourne to Cart Gap, with 11 information points along the way and a special trail app that will show you how the landscape would have looked hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Located in the pretty village of Caister-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth are the sprawling ruins of the 15th-century moated Caister Castle. The castle was one of the UK’s earliest brick buildings, and you can climb to the top of a beautifully preserved 90-foot tower for one of the finest views of the Norfolk Coast.
Telling the story of Sheringham over the last 200 years, this seafront museum contains everything from lifeboats and fishing vessels to a recreated Victorian cobbled street of shops. There are also lots of drawings, paintings and photographs of Sheringham and a 360-degree glass-panelled viewing platform where you can look out over the town.
#10 Take to the water
Whether you fancy trying out paddleboarding for the first time or are already experienced at riding the waves on a surfboard, there are plenty of places where you can indulge in some water sports along the Norfolk coastline. You’ll find equipment hire and tuition available in a range of Norfolk’s seaside towns - everything you need to take to the water in style.
Cromer and nearby Mundesley are both popular spots for surfing due to the amount of swell in the sea, and Glide Surf School provides lessons and surfboard hire in both locations. Other great Norfolk surfing spots include East Runton which is best for experienced surfers and Sea Palling which has beautiful Blue Flag quality water and is sheltered from northerly winds.
Stand-Up Paddleboarding, or SUP as it’s often referred to, is an easily accessible water sport that’s grown in popularity in recent years. The beaches around Hunstanton have vast expanses of flat water that make them ideal for paddleboarding, with equipment available to hire from Hunstanton Watersports. Another great option is a little further down the coast at Sheringham, where you can rent everything you need to head out to sea from the SUP Shack on the beach.
The bustling harbour at Well-next-the-Sea is the best place to go if you fancy taking a boat trip along the Norfolk Coast. You can hop aboard the Wells Ferry for a scenic hour-long tour of the harbour or try and catch your own supper on one of the many fishing trips that are available from this popular seaside town.
Plan your getaway to the Norfolk Coast
If you have been inspired to visit some of the beaches, nature reserves, fairgrounds and gardens of the Norfolk Coast, you’ll find a selection of holiday cottages in locations like Cromer, Hunstanton, Sheringham, Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea where you can rest your head after days of exploring.
From dog-friendly holiday homes for a family getaway to romantic boltholes by the beach, browse our full range of Norfolk Coast cottages and start planning your next UK getaway. For even more holiday inspiration, read our ultimate guide to the Norfolk coast.
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.