Not just famous for the bucolic Broads and beaches, Norfolk has another, less-explored side filled with history and mystery in equal measure.
From subterranean adventures to the county’s ‘Everest’, we’ve rounded up 21 unusual things to do in Norfolk that will take you off the beaten track.
And if you’re looking for a Norfolk cottage by the coast, in the country or close to the city where you can base yourself for your East Anglian adventure, just click the button below to browse our collection.
Norwich’s hidden street tour
Credit: Daniel Tink
It’s been said that Norwich was once bigger under the ground than above it, such is the scale of the network of hidden city crypts. Concealed underground, these crypts reveal secrets and stories from the city’s medieval history.
You can discover them for yourself by taking a tour under one of Norwich's medieval streets and back through time to learn the myths and legends of the people who once called this fine city home.
The Devil’s Punchbowl, Thetford
Credit: Kim Fyson
Found just outside Thetford Forest, this spooky site is one of the most unusual places to visit in Norfolk. You’ll have to visit for yourself to decide which is more unnerving: the pool’s almost exactly circular shape or the fact that it seems to fill and empty at random, regardless of the weather.
This unexplained ebbing and flowing was once attributed to the devil, hence the site’s name; whether it’s the work of Satan himself or the geology of Breckland’s chalk sinkholes that’s to blame is for you to deduce.
Yarmouth Waterways Duck Race
Credit: Great Yarmouth Borough Council
What’s more unusual than the sight of 2,500 yellow plastic ducks bobbing along the water? On one day in September, plastic ducks are raced down the historic Yarmouth Waterways with the aim of raising money for local charities.
If you’re visiting Norfolk outside of September, the Venetian-style waterways are still a wonderfully unusual place to visit; created to solve the problem of unemployment after the First World War, the waterways were hand dug and have been a tourist attraction ever since, with a recent revamp allowing them to be enjoyed by another generation.
Dating back to 2049BC, Seahenge is a Bronze Age circle made up of 55 timber posts encircling an upturned tree root. This prehistoric wonder lay hidden by the North Sea until it was revealed by the tide on Holme Beach (above) in 1998.
If you want to see this marvel for yourself, the tree stump and some of the original timbers are now on display at Lynn Museum in King’s Lynn, alongside a life-size replica of the circle itself. And while no traces remain of Seahenge at Holme Beach, it’s still a lovely place for a seaside walk.
Norfolk is known for being pretty flat, but if you’ve got a head for heights then visit the Mount Everest of Norfolk, Beacon Hill. Standing at 105 metres above sea level – less than a tenth of the height of Ben Nevis – a mountain climb this is not. But you can still enjoy beautiful views towards the North Norfolk coast from the top, before strolling through heaths and woodland, spotting flora and fauna as you go.
Beacon Hill is also known as Roman Camp, due to a small enclosure of earthworks near the top. However, it was never occupied by the Romans!
Credit: English Heritage
What is it about Thetford Forest? Not only is it home to the Devil’s Punchbowl but also Grime’s Graves, a series of 400 flint mines dating back more than 5,000 years. Now owned by English Heritage, the Neolithic pits are open to visitors brave enough to descend the 9 metres to see them.
On a visit, you can also learn about the history of this unusual site, as well as spot native plants in this Site of Special Scientific Interest in beautiful Breckland.
Nelson’s Monument, Yarmouth
Many famous people have ties to Norfolk, including Stephen Fry, Delia Smith and Ed Balls. But Norfolk’s most famous son is, arguably, Horatio Nelson, who was born in Burnham Thorpe in the 18th century. Nelson’s Monument, or the Britannia Monument, was erected in the early 19th century as a memorial to Nelson who had died around 10 years previous.
While the edifice is not quite as tall as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, it’s no less impressive. Nelson’s Monument stands proud on Yarmouth seafront, with Britannia atop a column inscribed with the motto from Nelson’s coat of arms. It’s said that Britannia is looking towards Nelson’s birthplace, some 50 miles inland.
One of the most unusual things to do in Norwich, Plantation Garden is a 3-acre, Grade II-listed garden tucked away behind the city’s imposing Roman Catholic cathedral. Built over 100 years ago from a former chalk quarry, the garden is now a peaceful haven just 500 metres from the thriving city centre, bursting with a huge variety of flora and fauna, and boosting the city’s biodiversity.
Visit on Sundays and enjoy tea and cake on the lawn, before exploring the Medieval walls, gothic fountain and Victorian-style greenhouse – a tour of Norwich through the ages, but in garden form!
No stay in Norfolk is complete without a visit to the Norfolk Broads, and Reedham is right in the centre of this captivating national park. Straddling the River Yare, the Broads can be tricky to get around if you’re in a car, which is where the Reedham Ferry comes in.
There has been a river crossing at Reedham since the 17th century, but this chain ferry has been in operation since 1984 and is now the only working chain ferry in East Anglia. Three cars at a time can drive onto the ferry which is then pulled across the Yare by a motor-powered chain. Grab a pint (if you’re not the designated driver) at the Reedham Ferry Inn to soak up the Broads views and watch the ferry in action, before taking a trip yourself.
Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
Credit: Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
From boats to trains, another unique way of getting around Norfolk while soaking up the stunning sights is on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway – the world’s smallest public railway. This tiny train chugs its way along the North Norfolk coast between Wells-next-the-Sea and Walsingham, a journey of around half an hour.
As you travel, you can soak up the scenery, enjoy the slower pace of life and get a feel for what locomotive travel was like in days gone by. There’s plenty to do at both Wells and Walsingham, so you can enjoy a fun day out before the return journey.
Wroxham Miniature Worlds
Credit: Instagram @henryadventure
While we’re on the subject of small things, Norfolk is also home to some miniature scenes which combine to form the UK’s largest indoor modelling attraction. Wroxham Miniature Worlds fills the 10,000 square foot site with model railways with themed settings including countries, toys and cartoons. Also contained within the miniature worlds are 10,000 trees, 5,000 model people and 70 scale miles of railway.
Whether you’re a child or just young at heart, it’s a delightful way to indulge in some nostalgia, and a fantastic rainy-day activity too as the entire site is undercover.
Hethel Old Thorn, Wymondham
Credit: Richard Osbourne
Not content with having the world’s smallest public railway, Norfolk is also home to Britain’s smallest nature reserve. Found near Wymondham, Hethel Old Thorn is managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which tends to the 0.062-acre reserve.
Contained within the reserve is a single tree, which is thought to date back to the 13th century, making it one of the oldest hawthorns in the country. If you fancy a visit, the nature reserve is found down a small track from the picturesque All Saints Church, Hethel.
The West Runton Mammoth
Credit: Instagram @andyyourglivch
From very small to very big – another unusual thing to do in Norfolk is to come face to face with the famous West Runton Mammoth. The oldest of its kind in the UK, this almost complete mammoth skeleton was discovered by local residents in 1990 when they saw a giant bone sticking out of the cliffs at West Runton.
The bone was excavated over a period of months and was revealed to belong to a steppe mammoth that roamed Norfolk up to 866,000 years ago. When it was alive, the mammoth would have been 4 metres high and 10 tonnes in weight. Due to the size of the skeleton, the bones are divided between three Norfolk museums: Norwich Castle Museum, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, and Cromer Museum, so no matter where you’re staying in Norfolk, you can see this incredible discovery for yourself.
Hethel Old Thorn isn’t the only famous tree in Norfolk; also enjoying arboreal acclaim is Kett’s Oak, an oak tree in Hethersett which is linked to the famous Kett’s Rebellion in 1549. It’s said that the tree is where Robert Kett – the namesake of Kett Country Cottages – gathered troops to protest land enclosures, before setting up camp at Mousehold Heath in Norwich and subsequently storming the city.
While the rebels, which then numbered 16,000, were successful in taking Norwich, they were eventually defeated and Kett was captured. He was then hanged from Norwich Castle walls, while nine of the rebels were hanged at Kett’s Oak. The tree was named in the top 50 Great British Trees in honour of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and can be seen today at the side of the road between Wymondham and Hethersett, 8 miles south-west of Norwich.
Burgh St Peter Church
Credit: Instagram @carynl1
Whether you think it looks like a wedding cake, a beehive or a stack of building blocks, you can’t deny that the church of St Mary the Virgin at Burgh St Peter looks a little out of the ordinary. The five-tier, ziggurat-style tower was built in the 18th century, onto the 16th-century tower of the 12th-century church, so there’s certainly nowhere else like it in Norfolk.
But while the church tower is quite striking in its style, it’s not the only example of ziggurat-style architecture in Norfolk. Fans of the design can head to the University of East Anglia campus in Norfolk to see the famous, Grade II-listed halls of residence constructed in exactly the same style!
Docwras Rock Factory, Yarmouth
Have you ever wondered how they get the tiny letters inside the stick of rock? Now’s your chance to find out! Docwra’s Rock Factory and Shop has been a Great Yarmouth institution for over a century and sells all the sweet treats you would expect on your bucket and spade holiday.
Not only this, but they still make the rock themselves on-site; you can see it created in front of your very eyes before taking a stick home to try for yourself.
Heacham village sign
This may seem like a strange day out to recommend, but the Heacham village sign tells the story of one of Norfolk’s most famous residents: Pocahontas. The Powhatan princess was brought back to Norfolk by her husband, the tobacco planter John Rolfe, after their marriage.
Rolfe was born in Heacham and the couple, along with their infant son, spent two years at Heacham Hall. Pocahontas was said to have planted a mulberry tree at the country house, which can still be seen today. Heacham’s village sign immortalises this famous historical figure, depicting her likeness alongside other seaside images in reference to the village’s coastal location.
Norfolk Tulips, King’s Lynn
Time your visit to Norfolk for April and you can enjoy the sight of thousands of brightly coloured blooms bursting below the giant East Anglian sky. Norfolk Tulips, run by Belmont Nurseries, grows 37 varieties of the flower and is the largest grower of outdoor tulips in the UK.
Every year, in April, they open the gates to paying members of the public in order to raise funds for a local charity, Norfolk Hospice – in 2021, the amount totalled £21,500. Be quick though, as tickets are limited and often sell out quickly!
Hippodrome Circus, Yarmouth
Credit: The Hippodrome Circus
As well as the Waterways, Nelson’s Monument and Docwra’s Rock Factory, Yarmouth is also home to another one of Norfolk’s most unusual days out: the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome. It was built in 1903 during the heyday of the circus and has entertained families for generations.
But, the circus is now famous for being one of only two purpose-built circuses still in operation in England, as well as being one of just three circuses in the whole world that has a circus ring that floods to become a swimming pool. Visit for the summer spectacular to see the floor sink away and fill with water before your eyes – there’s nowhere else like it in Norfolk.
Norwich pub tour
It was once said that Norwich had a church for every week of the year and a pub for every day. While those figures might not be true now, there is still a huge variety of watering holes for you to visit in your Norfolk holiday, from the city’s oldest pub, the Adam and Eve (pictured above, left), to the one with arguably the best name – the Ribs of Beef.
There are plenty of guided pub tours you can go on around the city, but our favourite takes in six historic pubs in one of the oldest parts of Norwich. It’s a great way to learn about Norwich’s fascinating history as well as sampling some delicious local ale along the way.
Holy Trinity Church, Bungay
Credit: Instagram @simonofnorwich
If you’re looking for unusual days out in south-east Norfolk, we’d suggest hopping over the border into Suffolk where you’ll discover a tale that will send shivers down your spine. Just 1 mile from the border with Norfolk, Bungay was made famous by the legend of the Black Shuck, a huge, malevolent black dog that roamed Norfolk and Suffolk.
It was in Bungay where the most famous tale of the Black Shuck is set. It’s said that in 1577, a clap of thunder was heard before the creature burst through the doors of the Holy Trinity Church, killed two people and made the steeple collapse. As he left, he burnt the church door – and the marks he left can still be seen to this day. Visit the church to see them for yourself then step into a local pub for some well-deserved fortification with a pint of Black Shuck stout produced by nearby Wagtail Brewery.
Enjoy a fun-filled break in Norfolk
You could easily spend a week ticking these unusual sites off your Norfolk bucket list, so why not make a holiday of it? We’ve got a wide range of Norfolk cottages to suit every party; simply click the button below to find your perfect base.
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