Guide to the best days out in Norfolk holiday cottages

Guide to the best days out in Norfolk

Elianne Reed 13 June 2019

There are so many things to see, places to go, and fun things to do in Norfolk. If you're an adult-only group there are loads of fantastic days out for adults in Norfolk to uncover, while families will appreciate all the free days out and exciting places that make for fun days out with kids. For lovers of the great outdoors, there is no other county quite like it. With a long coastline and the famous man-made phenomenon, the Norfolk Broads, the endless treetops of Thetford Forest, and miles and miles of long-distance trails like the Peddars Way and Marriott’s Way, Norfolk has plenty to offer the intrepid and the outgoing.

Traditional seaside resorts like Cromer and Great Yarmouth offer family-friendly appeal, and the days out at the county’s royal palace at Sandringham Estate and stately homes like Felbrigg House and Holkham Hall provide plenty of entertainment for all ages. Nature lovers are naturally drawn to Norfolk because it is home to some of England’s most interesting bird reserves such as Cley Marshes; expansive nature reserves at Holkham or Brancaster and England’s largest seal haul-outs.

Maritime enthusiasts can also take a visit to Brancaster Beach to see the onshore wreck of the SS Vina at very low-tide. The capital of Norfolk is also England’s second oldest city, Norwich. With its cathedral, museums, and nightlife, it’s a good centre for dining out, culture and entertainment too.

Trying to decide what to do on your travels to this region? With endless places to visit, fun tourist attractions and plenty of great points of interest to discover, it's tricky to narrow it down. We've gathered together some of the best things to do in Norfolk.

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The kids are alright 

girl riding pony in manege

Most of us remember our childhood holidays with fondness, and family visitor attractions play an important part in making new memories with your children. Norfolk has a good sample of interesting and fun places to visit: outdoor sports facilities, theme parks, and the simplicity of a fun-filled day at the beach.

If you and your kids love seeing animals and sea life up close, why not consider visiting the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth, Banham Zoo in Banham or the Sea Life Sanctuary in Hunstanton? There’s also the Woodland Park Equestrian Centre for horse lovers and Cley Marshes for ornithologists young and old. BeWILDerwood packs in the families to experience a magical day out in a theme park based on the children’s books. There are boat rides, an adventure playground with zip wires, and a sky maze and that’s just for starters.

Other big hits with children of all ages include the Pleasure Beach at Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton Promenade, Holkham Hall and Woodland Play Area, Thetford Forest, Pirates Island Adventure Golf, and High Altitude for indoor bounce and play! Kids love the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway too, which is the world’s smallest public railway. At a gauge of 10.25 inches, it’s one of a kind. Another railway, the North Norfolk Steam Railway, also known as the Poppy Line, will take you from Sheringham all the way to Holt. Take in incredible views, book in for one of their events or pick a date for dining onboard an archaic automotive.

A land of stately homes

Exterior view of the house on Sandringham Estate

The most prestigious of Norfolk’s country homes must be the royal manor house on the Sandringham Estate. First opened to the public by King Edward VII in 1908, all the main ground floor rooms used by them now welcome guests, so you can see the spectacular interior of the royal family's private country house. There’s an extraordinary collection of vehicles, ceramics and other artefacts from the estate’s royal history alongside shops and a tearoom to ensure guests have an enjoyable experience. Drop by the parish church for intricate paintings and sculptures and before you leave, dine on tasty sandwiches and cakes as an afternoon tea.

The Holkham Estate is a vast and sublime place to investigate. Often, you’ll find events and attractions on-site and there is endless stunning parkland to wander, home to a herd of free-roaming fallow deer. The hall itself is an elegant architectural delight, steeped in history and full of old artefacts and is a member of the esteemed Treasure Houses of England.

The nature reserve includes saltmarsh, dunes and a pine woodland. Guided walks talk place throughout the year, so guests can discover wildlife such as the migrant birds during winter and see the dance of the Ghost Swift Moth and blooming lavender fields during the summer. An unspoilt stretch of sandy beach makes a wonderful place for walking or picnicking. At low tide, a basin is revealed and fills to form a temporary lagoon.

Looking through an archway to a building at Felbrigg Hall

Gaze at the intricate architecture of the opulent country home of Felbrigg Hall and Gardens. See unusual and unique plants growing in the gardens and get hiking there are 250 acres of woods and parkland to meander through. A picture-perfect place to visit while on your holidays. With regular events throughout the year for adults and kids and a plethora of objects to find throughout the rooms documenting the manor’s history, it’s a delight to explore. This magnificent estate is less than 3 miles from Cromer Beach why not combine a trip to this coastal resort for an exciting couple of days by the sea?

Further inland you’ll find more stunning manors, country homes and estates to tour. Wander through Hindringham Hall and its traditional English garden, see the grandiose Houghton Hall and its unique exhibits, arrange to tour with the Lord and Lady of the manor at Mannington Hall or take in the impressive library and ancient mausoleum on the Blickling Estate.

Stay at a 5-star stately home: Wolterton Hall | Sleeps 24 + 1 dog (there are five further properties at Wolterton Hall that sleep fewer guests)

Dog’s own country

Dog  sat in a street holding its lead in its mouth

Norfolk is a great place for dog lovers to go on holiday. With vast open spaces to enjoy and few restrictions placed upon your four-legged friends, Norfolk makes for a superb choice and your pet will thank you. Bearing in mind the number of nature reserves, such as Holkham, Brancaster, Cley – and especially the seal colony at Blakeney Point on the northern coast – there are still sections where discretion is in order and pets must be kept on their leads. However, these points of interest do provide excellent free days out for kids. 

Some areas are so remote it can be just you, your partner and your dog in the wilds. With the openness of the land and frequent access to water, your dogs will enjoy a swim and a splash whether it's in the surf, the Fens or the Broads. Amongst the best walks and visitor attractions in the county to take your winsome hound along to are The Nar Valley, Boudicca Way, The Peddars Way, and sections of the Norfolk Coast Path. Sheringham Park and Holt Country Park welcome well-behaved dogs.

Two dogs sat on a bench with leaves falling all around them

Some of the stately homes have deer enclosures like Houghton Hall and Holkham Hall but are still great places for responsible dog owners and their pets. The most famous of them all, Sandringham, has a woodland to wander too.

If beaches are your thing, at the time of writing the following beaches don’t enforce restrictions on dog owners: Snettisham, Hunstanton & Old Hunstanton, Holme-next-the-Sea, Burnham Overy Staithe, Brancaster, Wells-next-the-Sea, and Holkham. Wells Beach is very popular as there is a woodland, swathes of sand, and a handy drinking water tap for very thirsty dogs and owners. Similarly, Brancaster has a long and wide beach which is great for animal lovers to cut loose and run and play with their pooches.

Explore Norfolk on foot 

Signpost for Norfolk Coast Path with beach and sea in background

If you despise hills, you’ll adore Norfolk because the whole of the East of England is characterised by its lack of elevations. The highest point in Norfolk is Beacon Hill, near West Runton, whose summit lies at a paltry 103 metres tall. This could be why the county is popular with nature lovers, walkers and cyclists. Discover excellent days out for adults, whether it's you and your partner walking the coast or a group of friends picnicking in the countryside. 

Try the Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way. Stretching 45 miles between Hopton-on-Sea and Hunstanton, walking the Norfolk Coast Path is fascinating. Taking in marshes, woodland, beaches and the county’s coastal resorts is a rewarding experience. At Holme-next-the-Sea the coastal path meets the Peddars Way: an ancient inland road which winds in a southerly direction down to Rushford, which is a few miles east of Thetford Forest. 

The forest is a great location for cyclists with its network of trails through the organised tangle of tall pine and conifer trees that make up England’s largest lowland forest. Pick up a map from the visitor centre at High Lodge (managed by the Forestry Commission). The forest is also home to a GoApe and adventure play area great fun for outgoing families with a love of outdoor play.

But this is not the only way to get to know Norfolk: there is an entire web of paths throughout this region, collectively known as the Norfolk Trail Network. Other walkways include the Marriott’s Way, Angles Way, Bacton Woods Trail, Blakeney Spit, Boudicca Way, Bure Valley Path, and the origins of the lengthy Ouse Valley Way. A special extra for your trip to this incredible region are the Heacham lavender fields. During the summer, the fields are in full bloom and you are welcome to take a tour of the spectacular landscape. Snap photos of incredible landscapes and breathe the calming scent of lavender.

Explore Norfolk on the water

A sailing boat on the Norfolk Broads

Take a day trip on a motor launch from Wroxham at the heart of the Norfolk Broads. You can hire all kinds of watercraft from a myriad of providers in and around the town. Many boat hire companies in Norfolk also provide maps and ideas for routes that can be covered easily in the time window you’ve paid for. The Broads consist of seven rivers and 63 broads which add up to 120 miles of navigable waterways to explore. Get a taste for cruising the waterways; it could be the start of a new and lasting hobby.

Find out even more about the Norfolk Broads in our Norfolk Broads guide and browse our cottages in the area.

Beside the seaside

norfolk coastline - view out over a blue sea

Of course, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to some incredible beaches and coastal resorts have grown up around them welcoming visitors on relaxing seaside holidays. One of the most popular for a day out in Norfolk is Great Yarmouth. The place for a truly great British holiday with coloured beach huts and local amusements, it’s a family-friendly option with endless sand for digging sandcastles, digging moats and flying kites. This glorious stretch of sand has two piers and a promenade to explore as well as shops and cafes scattered along the front. The town itself has fantastic attractions including the Sea Life Centre and Pleasure Beach theme park, and sits on the edge of the Broads, so hire a sailboat for a day and drift among the reeds, dining on the open water.

Or what about Cromer? Home of the delectable Cromer crab, known for its extra-flavoursome taste due to a life spent dining on the chalk reef that lines the coast. First on your list must be a dining experience and next should be a trip down Cromer’s famous pier to take in a show. It’s claimed to be the last end-of-pier show in the UK so don’t miss it. The sandy beach is great for playing a game of footie or paddling in the shallow waters. See animals at the zoo, snap a pic of Cromer church and head inland to magnificent Felbrigg Estate.

Looking out to sea at Hunstanton Beach as a couple is walking across the same

Endless golden sand stretches along the region of coast of Hunstanton and Heacham. Amusements, the Sea Life Centre and theatre can all be found on the front, while the excellent beaches are both great for exploring rock pools, splashing in the sea and running around on the sand. For a little more relaxation and a little less excitement, head down to the quieter Old Hunstanton Beach to see its famous colourful striped cliffs and wander the pretty Esplanade Gardens.

Two famous features adorn the coastal resort of Sheringham: the North Norfolk heritage steam railway runs through the town and Sheringham Park with magnificent coastal views sits above the beach. Priory Maze and Gardens, golf club, museum, skate park and tea rooms make Sheringham a gorgeous seaside town to investigate. Clamber over pebbles and onto the sand to enjoy this lovely stretch of beach. Amongst the boulders, you can find rockpools and there’s a cliff path to wander. A promenade sits behind with shops, cafes and a dog-friendly pub.

Colourful beach huts on the sand at Wells-next-the-Sea

Wells-next-the-Sea is situated about halfway between Hunstanton and Cromer. The harbour town, with Heritage Harbour status, is well established as a holiday destination. It offers nature walks out along the seawall to the pine-fringed Holkham Bay. You won’t find any chain stores in Wells-next-the-Sea; this is a haven for independence where local businesses thrive. For a picnic, head to the tree-lined park of The Buttlands where fine Georgian houses overlook the grounds and surrounding pubs and restaurants are on hand for you to try out.

We have plenty of cottages by the sea in Norfolk. Take a look at our collection and find the one that suits you.

A natural habitat

couple birdwatching

Norfolk has plenty of open space and the north coast itself is home to a large number of nature reserves and RSPB-managed bird spotting reserves. One of the most popular is Blakeney. This reserve is perhaps the best-known for its growing colony of seals that make Blakeney Point their home. During the winter months, seals come ashore to breed so you can take a boat with operators such as Bishop's Boats across the estuary to spot fluffy white seal pups amongst the sand dunes. The rest of the reserve is home to all manner of waterfowl and migratory birds and there’s a stunning coastal walk to trek from Blakeney town down to the Stiffkey Saltmarshes.

To the east of Blakeney, you’ll find the spectacular Cley Marshes: a haven for wild birds. It’s the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest reserve having been purchased in 1926 and is regulated to ensure it’s an optimum environment for its inhabitants. An 18th-century windmill towers over the village of Cley-next-the-Sea and by the village green is a magnificent church. Tea rooms and shops have popped up to satiate guests visiting the reserve so after exploring and bird spotting in the vast marshes, retire for a cream tea.

stiffkey norfolk

At the edge of The Wash, a magnificent bay, sits the stretch of sand of Holme Dunes. The beach here is important for migrating birds and is the area where Seahenge was discovered, a bronze age burial site only visible when the tides were out, which is now being preserved at the Lynn Museum.

Norfolk’s bird reserves and nature reserves are major visitor attractions. As the North Norfolk coast juts out into the North Sea it serves as a waypoint for many lesser spotted species of bird as they migrate south and return in the spring. Cley Marshes is one of the best RSPB reserves in the county with an excellent visitor centre and its own indoor viewing deck with binoculars in the café/shop. The Marshes themselves lead visitors through a maze of interconnecting paths and bird hides in which to watch the migratory and sedentary birds in peace and quiet. Cley Marshes is wholly in the Fens, which are pockets of land that have been reclaimed from the sea and are characterised by expanses of reed beds, salt flats, and winding waterways. 

seals at blakeney point

If you love a challenging walk, consider the 4-mile walk along Blakeney Point. Starting at Cley-next-the-Sea the shingle spit leads to England’s largest seal colony. There is a visitor centre at the end of the Point which is manned during the summer.  You can also reach the Point via tour boats that leave from Blakeney village. A rewarding nature walk of the best kind; you are in for an unforgettable experience. The westernmost end of the Point is sectioned off to protect the colony.

The breeding period runs between October until late January. Exercise caution and keep your distance from seals and their pups. Try to avoid taking a dog along because the 8-mile round trip will be tough on their paws, and dogs and seals definitely do not mix. On warm days, wear hats and take plenty of drinking water because there is no shade from the sun.

Exploring the capital

Norwich Yorkshire

There is so much to see and do in Norfolk’s capital, Norwich. Its history can be traced back over 1,000 years and in medieval time it was England’s second city.

Visitors that like places of historical interest will want to visit the Norwich 12 – a compilation of a dozen buildings of architectural importance. These include Norwich Cathedral, Norwich Castle and Tombland. The castle dates back to the Norman era and is worth your time if you like to visit ancient edifices. The cathedral has a beautiful cloister, said to be one of the finest in Europe.

Eat a picnic in The Secret Garden before taking a riverboat past Pulls Ferry and the Cow Tower. Norwich is full of great restaurants, nightspots and entertainment venues to explore and enjoy once night falls. The city is also great for shopping with independents and high street favourites all bidding for your attention.

Where to stay in Norfolk

We have a large collection of cottages across the county of Norfolk. Some are very close to the visitor attractions listed above, so if you’re holidaying with your partner, family or friends, we have a superb property for you.

From farmhouses on working farms to sea view apartments and suburban home-from-homes to provide the perfect backdrop, we guarantee you’ll have a memorable break in Norfolk. Explore our full collection of Norfolk holiday cottages to find your perfect place to stay.

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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