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.
Wildlife in the Norfolk Broads
The waterways are lined with reeds so opportunities to see birdlife are frequent.
Look out for swans, 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.
Norfolk Broads towns and villages
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.
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.
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.
Boating in the Norfolk Broads
If you fancy exploring the waterways of the Norfolk broads by boat, there are a variety of options available to you. You can take a relaxing jaunt along the river on a Broad Tours day boat or hire your own vessel to set sail on the water.
Picnic boats are available from a number of providers including Herbert Woods and Martham Ferry and include open air seating areas along with fridges and hobs for storing and preparing your food and drink. Furry friends are welcome to join you aboard these dog-friendly boats and tutorials and safety briefings are given.
If you prefer to let someone else drive as you soak in the stunning Norfolk Broads scenery, a trip on a passenger boat makes for the perfect relaxing day out. Covered saloons and outdoor seating areas are available on the Belle of the Broads and Queen of the Broads day boats and full commentary is provided as you journey across the Norfolk Broads from the pretty village of Wroxham. Wheelchair access is available on both boats and well-behaved dogs are welcome to hop aboard and join you on the tranquil river cruise.
Norfolk Broads fishing
With a whopping 200 metres of waterways, the Norfolk Broads is the UK’s largest area of free fishing with perch, pike and bream amongst the wide variety of fish that can be caught in its network of rivers and lakes.
Popular spots for fishing include the special platforms at Rollesby Bridge, Filby Broads, the River Thurne and Potter Heigham which are all also wheelchair accessible. It’s also possible to hire a boat for fishing to access spots that can’t be reached from dry land.
Open fishing season on the Norfolk Broads typically runs from mid-June to mid-March and you must have a valid rod licence. There are a number of fishing tackle shops throughout the Norfolk Broads where you can hire your equipment and guided fishing trips are available from The Canoe Man in Wroxham for beginners.
Norfolk Broads walks
If you don’t fancy taking to the water there are a number of charming walking routes so that you can explore the Norfolk Broads on foot:
- The 61-mile Weaver’s Way is one of Norfolk’s long distance walking trails connecting Cromer to Great Yarmouth and passing through the northern section of the Norfolk Broads from Hickling to Acle.
- The Wherryman’s Way is a 36-mile riverside path that goes through the Norfolk Broads from Norwich to Great Yarmouth with a series of short circular walks to try along the way. Circular Wherryman’s Way routes include a 2-mile Bramerton riverside walk and a 4-mile walk around Reedham Quay.
- There are a number of different walking trails that explore the grazing marshes and lake outside the village of Beccles. The Beccles Marsh Trails range in length from a mile to 5 miles and are a great way to see the wildlife and wildflowers of this area.
- Another wonderful wildlife walk to try is around the elevated Barton Broads woodland which had wonderful views over the river from a raised viewing platform where you can spot ducks, otters and other waterside creatures.
Cycling in the Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads is also a perfect landscape to explore by bicycle with peaceful country lanes and gently rolling countryside. The Broads by Bike network is a collection of sixteen circular cycle rides that covers the whole of the Norfolk Broads taking in many of the area's pretty villages and reaching out to the coast at Horsey where you can visit the National Trust’s Horsey Windpump.
Some of the Norfolk Broads cycling routes worth trying include:
- A gentle 8-mile ride along quiet country lanes from Stokesby to Runham at Matlby where you can enjoy pretty village green and views across the Havergate Marshes.
- A 5-mile family-friendly route that visits the Hickling Broads nature reserve and Sutton Mill which is Britain’s tallest windmill.
- The three river loop which is a 20-mile cycle ride which will take you along the Waveney, Yare and Chet with attractions along the way to call in that include Raveningham Hall and the Reedham Ferry.
Bike hire is available from a number of providers in the Norfolk Broads including:
- Broadland Cycle Hire
- Sea Palling Cycle Hire
- Clippesby Cycle Hire
Things to do in the Norfolk Broads
Image credit: Martin Charles Hatch
Here are just some of our favourite things to do during a visit to the Norfolk Broads:
Bure Valley Railway
Bure Valley Railway runs a mixture of classic steam and diesel locomotives along 9 miles of restored heritage tracks between Wroxham and Aylsham. The journey will take you through some wonderful Norfolk Broads countryside as you travel on period carriages with the authentic whistle sounds and uniforms of the past. Dogs are welcome to join you on board and special services include annual Festive Express trains.
This Jacobean mansion was famously the birthplace of Anne Boleyn and has a beautiful setting in Norfolk’s Bure meadows. Visitors to this Norfolk National Trust site can take a walk around the 4,600 acres of gorgeous grounds, stroll around a formal Parterre garden and explore grand rooms that are filled with original furniture and artwork.
Fairhaven woodland and water garden
The 130 acres of ancient woodland at Fairhaven include a fishpond that was mentioned in the Domesday book and an oak tree that’s believed to be 950-years-old. You’ll find swathes of wildflowers alongside cultivated organic plants, 4 miles of pathways to explore and an array of butterflies and birds to spot during your visit. Flowers at Fairhaven include bluebells, azaleas and rhododendrons and boat trips are available on the site’s private broad.
Whitlingham Country Park
Located on the edge of Whitlingham Great Broad close to the pretty village of Trowse is a large country park with scenic walking trails, picnic areas and a visitor centre with cafe. You can see wildlife including ducks and swans as you walk around the water.
Regular organised swims are available at Whitlingham Country Park with boat hire and watersports lessons also available from the family-friendly activity centre that’s located by the lake.
Little ones will love visiting the family-friendly Wroxham Barns during a short break or holiday to the Norfolk Broads. They can meet a range of animals including alpacas, goats and guinea pigs at the site’s junior farm and play on giant jumping pillows, a pirate ship and ride-on tractors. Other popular activities at Wroxham Barns include train rides, mini golf and a giant inflatable water balloon area.
Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park
Another great Norfolk Broads attraction to visit with kids is Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park, a prehistoric park located near the village of Lenwade. With splash zones, dinosaur trails, an indoor adventure play area and high ropes there is plenty to keep children entertained as this brilliant adventure park.
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.