The best beaches in Norfolk holiday cottages

The best beaches in Norfolk

Kate A 21 May 2023

From the striped cliffs of Hunstanton, along the exotic shores of Holkham and onwards to the shingle spits of Cley, Norfolk's 93-mile coastline is long and full of contrasts. This beautiful part of East Anglia provides an idyllic setting for a seaside getaway, with endless swathes of sand for sunny summer picnics and romantic winter walks.

Norfolk beaches are world-renowned for their beauty and variety, and there is a stretch of coast to suit every type of holidaymaker. From popular family-friendly Blue Flag beaches to secret shorelines only the locals know about, we have chosen some of the best beaches in Norfolk where you can build sandcastles, swim in the sea, walk the dog and spot nature at its finest. 

Best for beach huts: Wells-next-the-Sea

Best for beach huts: Wells-next-the-Sea

One of the hidden gems of the Norfolk coast, the vast sandy beach at Wells-next-the-Sea is a photographer’s dream. Backed by aromatic pine woodlands, low sand dunes and pastel skies, it features a row of 200 candy-painted, stilted beach huts. The character of the beach is entirely dependent on the tide; at low tide acres of golden sand are revealed, and youngsters will love splashing around in the creek, while at high tide the water laps just a few yards from the beach huts.

Lifeguards are on patrol during peak months, but be aware that the tide comes in quickly, so if you hear the hooter, it's time to come back. If you're travelling to the beach by car, there is the main beach car park with an excellent cafe.

  • Lifeguard service: Seasonal
  • Facilities: Cafe
  • Dog friendly: Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round subject to certain restrictions
  • Parking: Pay and display car park

Best for beauty: Holkham

Best for beauty: Holkham

Not only is this one of the best beaches in Norfolk, but it’s also one of the most unspoilt and mesmerising stretches of sand in the country. Part of Holkham Nature Reserve, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you’d landed on tropical shores on Holkham Beach. Swathes of pristine white sands are backed by rolling dunes and pine forests, providing the setting for many notable films including the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love.

Stretching for 4 miles, this is the perfect beach for those seeking some solitude - even in the high season, it’s unlikely to be crowded. In the summer you’ll often see the Household Cavalry taking their steeds in the water, which is a captivating sight. And behind this idyllic shoreline lies a basin, which, at high tide, fills to form a spectacular shallow lagoon.

  • Lifeguard service: No
  • Facilities: Cafe
  • Dog friendly: Yes, without restriction
  • Parking: Opening times vary and there’s usually a charge

Best for kite surfing: Brancaster

Best for kite surfing: Brancaster

With mile upon mile of soft, golden sand and tidal salt marshes, Brancaster Beach is one of North Norfolk’s best beaches and is perfect for long dog walks, seeking out wildlife, and revelling in high-adrenaline sports. It’s particularly popular with kite surfers, and there are designated zones for launching/landing and kite buggies to ensure all visitors can enjoy the beach. As the tide recedes, shallow lagoons reveal starfish and tiny crabs, and offer fun spots for paddling. Plus, you can also see the 1940s barnacle-covered shipwreck of the SS Vina half submerged in the sand. Be mindful that the tide turns quickly here, so check the tide times before your visit.

This iconic stretch of coast is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is rich in wildlife with the opportunity to spot avocets, oystercatchers, terns and seals which often loll on the shore. When you fancy a bite to eat, don’t miss the eternally popular Crab Hut near the car park, which serves delicious, just-caught lobster and crab rolls. For those travelling with canines, Brancaster Beach is one of the best dog-friendly beaches in Norfolk.

  • Lifeguard service: No
  • Facilities: Cafe, shop, WC
  • Dog friendly: Small restriction in summer months
  • Parking: Pay and display car park

Best for families: Cromer

Best for families: Cromer

A traditional coastal town brimming with old-world charm and Victorian seaside nostalgia, Cromer has one of the best Norfolk beaches for families. The vast stretch of sandy shore is overlooked by colourful cliff gardens, there’s a Victorian pier with puppet shows in the Pavilion Theatre and a small funfair for the children.

Low tide leaves lots of rock pools to explore, or you can head to Cromer Pier with a bucket and crab line and see if you can catch the famous Cromer crabs. Internationally recognised as some of the tastiest crabs in the world, be sure to sample a tasty crab sandwich before you leave. Cromer Beach has all the ingredients for a great family day out in Norfolk.

  • Lifeguard service: Yes
  • Facilities: Cafe, shops, WC
  • Dog friendly: Some restrictions apply
  • Parking: There’s a variety of car parks in Cromer, most of which charge

Best for rock pooling: Hunstanton

Best for rock pooling: Hunstanton

With a myriad of rock pools lying beneath its famous red and white striped cliffs, Hunstanton (or ‘Sunny Hunny’ as its affectionately known), offers endless hours of exploring. You might even be lucky enough to find fossils among the rocks and shingle. There are two sides to Hunstanton in West Norfolk; the elegant and vibrant Victorian town with its Esplanade Gardens and family amusements, and Old Hunstanton which is considerably more secluded.

You can walk from one resort to the other, so you can enjoy a morning of donkey rides, funfairs, water sports and candy floss at the shingle Hunstanton Main Beach, before spending a tranquil afternoon sunbathing on the fine golden sand and rambling dunes of Old Hunstanton Beach. Hunstanton is the only resort town in East Anglia which faces west, making the beach relatively sheltered from sea breezes and is an excellent place to admire spectacular sunsets over The Wash.

  • Lifeguard service: At Hunstanton Main Beach only
  • Facilities: Cafe/restaurant, WC
  • Dog friendly: Restrictions during the holiday season
  • Parking: There’s a variety of car parks in Hunstanton, most of which charge

Best for seals: Horsey

Best for seals: Horsey

If seal spotting is high on your holiday agenda, then Horsey Gap near Waxham is one of the best beaches in North Norfolk where you can expect to see them sunbathing or popping their grey heads above the waves. Tucked down a little track, the peaceful and unspoilt Horsey Beach doesn’t have any facilities. With its wild and remote atmosphere, it’s ideal for those who prefer a leisurely stroll along the sand, away from traditional seaside attractions – hence why seals happily nest here in the winter period.

The seals at Horsey usually start to have their pups from November, lasting through to February. This is the perfect time to observe the mothers with their fluffy pups, whose curious nature and cuddly appearance make them bewitching to watch.

  • Lifeguard service: No
  • Facilities: No
  • Dog friendly: Whilst dogs are allowed, it’s best not to bring them on the beach during the winter as they will disturb the seals
  • Parking: Pay and display car parking available

Best for birds: Titchwell


One of the best North Norfolk beaches for birdwatching is Titchwell Beach, part of the Titchwell Marsh RSPB nature reserve. Thousands of migrating birds pass through Titchwell in spring and autumn, and many spend winter here, giving you an unrivalled opportunity to see many species of ducks, waders, seabirds and geese.

The pristine beach, which is backed by low sand dunes and peppered with seashells, is often overlooked by tourists so makes for a peaceful wander. At low tide, what is already a quiet spot can feel pretty much deserted as the sand extends endlessly in every direction. Lay out a picnic blanket, take a seat on one of the benches or admire the birdlife from within one of the spacious, wheelchair-accessible hides. You can also walk from here to nearby Holme Dunes Nature Reserve for more great birdwatching.

  • Lifeguard service: No
  • Facilities: Cafe and WC in the visitor centre
  • Dog friendly: Dogs allowed on leads, some restrictions may apply
  • Parking: RSPB car park with a charge for non members

Dog-friendly beaches in Norfolk

Dog-friendly beaches in Norfolk

Known as being one of the most dog-friendly locations in the UK, Norfolk’s vast, sandy beaches are a delight for happy hounds and their owners. There are beaches to suit all canines near our dog-friendly cottages in Norfolk – sandy, pebbly, marshy and even muddy! While some Norfolk beaches have restrictions, there are many stretches of sand which welcome dogs all year. 

Here are some of the best dog-friendly beaches in Norfolk, in addition to those mentioned above:

  • Cley-next-the-Sea - a shingle beach and popular starting point for a pet-friendly walk to Blakeney Point with incredible views. Check out our Cley-next-to-Sea cottages
  • Winterton-on-Sea - a cafe and miles of sand that's also popular with seals! Check out our Winterton-on-Sea cottages
  • East Runton - a sandy beach backed by sloping sandstone cliffs, great for fossil hunters and surfers.
  • Snettisham - mainly a shingle beach, bursting with wildlife and quieter than some of its neighbours. Check out our Snettisham cottages
  • Heacham - both North and South Heacham are shingly with sand exposed when the tide is out and incredible sunsets.
  • Holme-next-the-Sea - miles of sand with pebbly spots; walk west to Snettisham or follow the coast path east to Sea Palling.
  • Caister-on-Sea - a long stretch of sand, backed by sand dunes and sea defences. Check out our Caister-on-Sea cottages
  • Great Yarmouth - North and south beaches are dog-friendly all year, while central has restrictions from 1 May to 30 September. Check out our Great Yarmouth cottages

Holidays on the Norfolk coast

Holidays on the Norfolk Coast

Without a doubt, the best way to explore Norfolk’s breathtaking coastline is with the freedom that comes from a self-catering holiday on the coast. Many of our Norfolk coastal cottages can be found close to the water’s edge and are all within easy reach of some of the county’s best beaches. From the doorstep, you’ll soon find a quiet spot on golden sands to walk along or where you can just sit and unwind to the sounds of the tide.

Inspired to visit the Norfolk coast? Choose from our fantastic selection of coastal cottages in Norfolk.

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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