Ultimate guide to the Norfolk Broads holiday cottages

Ultimate guide to the Norfolk Broads

Ed 16 August 2018

Prefer holidaying at a more measured pace? Leave the fast and furious hustle and bustle of daily life far behind with a trip to the Norfolk Broads. Hire a motor launch for the day, pack a picnic and take to its waterways.

Head to the Norfolk Broads National Park if you love nature and boating. Located in the northeastern area of East Anglia (which combines Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex), this network of waterways is the perfect place to hire a boat, spot birdlife and see nature up close. This is our summary for holidaying in the Norfolk Broads.

Ask most people and they probably hazard a guess that the Norfolk Broads are a natural creation. However, they are the result of an ambitious piece of engineering on a grand scale. The waterways of the Broads were originally peat workings, flooded long ago, and since the late 19th century they have been a holiday destination for boating enthusiasts.


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A broad knowledge

Considering that the excavation of peat was carried out without modern instruments like mechanical diggers and dumper trucks, the scale of the undertaking becomes increasingly impressive.

In the 12th century, when peat was used as fuel, 900 million cubic feet was excavated to keep in step with industry demands. In the 14th century, the sea began to breach the network of holes which filled to become the rivers and lakes we know today. They were used as a transport network for trade for a few centuries until the age of the car came about. The waterways have been popular with visitors and boating enthusiasts ever since holidaying was invented.


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The scale of the Broads will give you an insight into the sheer size of the task faced by the armies of manual labourers who created them. The waterways are lined with reeds so opportunities to see birdlife are frequent.

Look out for mallards, coots, moorhens, great crested grebes, greylag geese, and birds of prey like sparrowhawks, marsh harriers, and kestrels. Keen ornithologists come to the Broads for glimpses of the lesser spotted Cetti’s warbler breeds. Rare insects can be seen here as the Norfolk hawker (a dragonfly) and the old-world swallowtail butterfly thrive in their reed habitats.

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If you want to know more about the fascinating history of the Norfolk Broads be sure to visit the Museum of the Broads in Stalham.

In 2015, the Norfolk Broads gained National Park status, so nowadays the seven rivers and 63 broads are protected with the plan that they will be around for future generations to enjoy. The tidal network, which is close to the coast, consists of 120 miles of navigable waterways to explore.

Take a day trip on a motor launch from Wroxham, which can be found at the heart of the Norfolk Broads. You can hire all kinds of watercraft from a myriad of providers in and around the town and it’s a great place from which to start your journey. Many boat-hire companies provide maps and ideas for routes that can be covered easily in the time window you’ve paid for.


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A popular course for day trippers is from Wroxham from which you can reach much of the northern Broads with ease.

From Wroxham follow the waters up to Horsey, which is close to the North Sea and the beautiful sandy beaches at Sea Palling and Waxham. Stop off at Horsey to visit its National Trust-managed mill which doubles as a round-towered thatched church. You could also reach Barton Broad, a must for anglers, who can make the most of the restored fishing lake there. Some providers suggest routes for one hour, four hours and day-long hires so you are able to plan your day carefully.

Here are some of the places which offer boat hire in the Norfolk Broads:

Wroxham and Hoveton

Wroxham and Hoveton combine to form the unofficial capital of the Broads. Sat on the opposite banks of the River Bure, Wroxham and Hoveton are joint hubs of the boat hire trade. It is here that the majority of visitors come to rent out a launch for the day. The Broads Information Centre on Station Road is a good place to start when planning which boat providers are best and what day they operate on.

These two villages have almost merged into a single conurbation nowadays, but the area hasn’t lost any of its Norfolk charms. There is a handy shopping centre, home to Roy’s of Wroxham, that famously boasts to be, ‘the world’s largest village store,’ and several other amenities that include a post office. You can reach Wroxham by train as well as car and boat. The Bittern Line runs between Sheringham and Norwich, stopping at Hoveton and Wroxham.

Visitor attractions beyond the waters and reeds include Hoveton Hall and Gardens, and Wroxham Barns – an indoor play centre for young children.


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An attractive town on the River Waveney. It has a good range of local shops, and quality pubs and restaurants to try out. The Beccles Marsh Trail comes highly recommended if you wish to see the Broads from dry land. Beccles also has an outdoor public swimming pool and a skateboard park!


This quaint Norfolk Broads village is close to the River Bure with a few friendly pubs and tea rooms that entice you to stay for a while. Enjoy a lovely beer at The Ferry Inn, The New Inn, or The Swan. Children love the playground situated on the village green. Be sure to check out the nationally famous theme park called BeWilderwood, a massive hit with all those that head there.


Reedham is worth stopping by to see its striking 19th-century grade II listed windmill called Polkey’s Mill. It makes for a great photo opportunity! Reedham is also found on the long-distance trail, Wherryman’s Way, named after the pilots of the distinctive Norfolk Broads sailboat. Like other villages in the Broads, there’s a bunch of pubs to choose from but in Reedham we can also wholeheartedly recommend the chippy too.


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Mess about on the water in the Norfolk Broads; it’s a superb place to escape the hectic nature of day-to-day life. Enjoy the peace and quiet and get lost in the present aboard a hire boat for an afternoon!

For more, visit Coltishall, Ranworth, and Ludham to get the full authentic Norfolk Broads experience.

We have some lovely holiday cottages in the Norfolk Broads so whether you are planning a romantic escape or a family celebration, we have properties of all sizes to accommodate you. Start planning your dream holiday in the Broads and take a look at our collection.

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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