The best outdoor activities in Norfolk holiday cottages

The best outdoor activities in Norfolk

Clare 27 April 2023

With a wide variety of landscapes to explore including rural farmland, pinewood forests, protected wetland and beautiful beaches, there’s lots to do in the great outdoors on a visit to Norfolk.

Vast, open skies, the long and picturesque North Norfolk coastline, peaceful Broads National Park and nature in abundance, the opportunities for adventures are unparalleled. So whether you prefer walking, cycling or taking to the water, here are some of the best outdoor activities to try in Norfolk. For even more inspiration read our guide to the best things to do in Norfolk.

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Walking in Norfolk

Norfolk coast path

The county’s incredible landscape invites visitors to explore on foot, strolling along leafy lanes, ambling alongside open marshland, skipping barefoot along deserted beaches or seeking shade beneath aromatic pines. There is also an abundance of pathways, cycleways and bridleways to ramble, hike or stroll along, making walking in Norfolk an easy outdoor activity to try.

Norfolk Coast Path

The clearly sign-posted Norfolk Coast Path is one of the most popular routes, taking in 47 miles of glorious seaside scenery from Hunstanton to Sea Palling. Don’t worry about retracing your steps, the Coasthopper bus provides a convenient service and there are plenty of pubs en-route where you can recharge your batteries.

Peddars Way

Peddars Way

Merging into the Norfolk Coast Path at Hunstanton is Peddars Way. Following the path of an old Roman road, it is an inland trail which wends its way through 46 miles of countryside from Knettishall to Holme-Next-The-Sea. Derived from the Latin ‘pedester’ which means ‘on foot’, nowadays much of the route can be enjoyed by cyclists and horse riders too. Choose a starting point and take in scenery which blends seamlessly from remote heathland into dappled woodland, past castle ruins and wildlife-rich countryside.

Kett’s Country long-distance trail

Wymondham Abbey

This 18-mile walking route is Norfolk’s newest long-distance trail, having launched in March 2022. The scenic walk starts in historic Wymondham, the scene of Kett’s Rebellion in 1549, before weaving its way through rural South Norfolk countryside to the village of Cringleford on the banks of the River Yare. There’s lots to see along the way and five shorter walks or ‘mini adventures’ that are perfect for tackling with little ones.     

For even more treks and trails across Norfolk, take a look at our top walks in Norfolk:

Cycling in Norfolk

A family cycling through a forest

If you fancy getting on your bike and exploring Norfolk on two wheels, you’ll find quiet lanes, gentle hills and traffic-free cycle routes running through rural countryside and along the coast. 

Bring your bike or hire a cycle

Many Norfolk holiday cottages come with lockable sheds to keep your cycles safe and if you don’t fancy bringing your own bikes with you, hire is available from lots of places including Broadland Cycle Hire, Wells Bike Hire and Sea Palling Cycle Hire.

Norfolk cycle routes

Popular Norfolk cycle routes include the Norfolk Coast Cycleway which stretches for 92 miles from King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth, and the 26-mile Marriott's Way which follows the path of a couple of disused railway lines, starting near the National Trust’s Blickling Estate. Thetford Forest is also a great choice for Norfolk cycling with family-friendly options and trickier mountain bike trails.    

For more information read our guide to cycling in Norfolk:

Fishing in Norfolk

Two fishing rods in a lake

If you’re looking for a gentle and relaxing outdoor activity, fishing is a tranquil option to try. With a large patchwork of rivers and freshwater lakes that make up the Broads National Park and a long North Sea coastline, there are few better destinations for a fishing holiday than Norfolk. 

Sea fishing in Norfolk

Cromer Pier on the Norfolk coast is a popular fishing spot with cod, whiting and flatfish available. The beaches at Hunstanton and Snettisham are both great choices for beginners to try their luck and if you’re looking for a bigger catch of the day you can hop aboard a fishing boat at many of Norfolk’s seaside towns. From Brancaster Staithe, you can take to the sea with Norfolk Fishing Trips & Charter and BJR Marine Fishing Trips leaves from Wells-next-the-Sea.     

River fishing in Norfolk

Hickling Broad

Keen anglers have more than 120 miles of waterways to choose from in the Norfolk Broads, making this part of Norfolk the largest area of free fishing in the UK. Potter Heigham is one of the most popular fishing spots in the Norfolk Broads with a bridge to cast your rod from and lots of bream and roach to catch. Salhouse Broad on the River Bure is a good option for beginners with a wide variety of smaller fish available and you can use a boat to access around 400 acres of fishing waters at Hickling Broad.

Private Norfolk fishing lakes

As well as the free fishing waterways of the Norfolk Broads, there are also a number of private fishing lakes available. Airfield Lakes in the Waveney Valley is stocked with carp; Billington Lakes features nine different lakes and a mile-long stretch of the River Wensum which is stocked with roach, perch, pike and bream. Other options include Felthorpe Lakes and Taswood Lakes.  

For more information read our guide to fishing in Norfolk:

Birdwatching and nature reserves

A bird at RSPB Titchwell Marsh

Norfolk is home to lots of peaceful nature reserves with sand dunes, grazing marsh, reedbeds and shallow lakes where you can enjoy wildlife walks and see a variety of birds, butterflies and mammals such as red deer and grey seals. 

Bird watching in Norfolk

Bird spotting is a popular past time in Norfolk, not least because it lies on one of the most important bird migration paths in the world. The best place in Norfolk to witness waders and wildfowl in their natural habitat is within the salt marshes at RSPB Snettisham. The reedbeds, salt marsh and freshwater lagoons of RSPB Titchwell Marsh are home to yet more intriguing species including avocets, bearded tits and marsh harriers.

Other notable locations for budding birdwatchers or seasoned twitchers are NWT Cley Marshes on the north coast, NWT Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve to the east and inland nature reserves such as Sculthorpe Moor and Pensthorpe Wildlife and Gardens

Norfolk's grey seals

Seals at Blakeney Point

If observing animals of the land and air isn’t of interest, perhaps seal watching is more to your taste. Common and grey seals bask in the sunshine at Hunstanton during the summer months, lounge around all year at Blakeney Point, accompanied by their pups in the winter, and can also be spotted at Horsey from November to the end of January. Boat trips can be arranged to watch them from the sea at Blakeney Point, where you also see oyster catchers and other sea birds - Beans Boat Trips offer daily boat trips where you have the chance to see this amazing wildlife up close.

Other nature to spot in Norfolk

A Chinese water deer

Look out for rare Chinese water deer that can be seen grazing in the early morning at Martham Broad and Marshes at the side of the River Thurne.

You can see Norfolk’s native swallowtail butterfly at nature reserves including Heigham Holmes and Hickling Broad. You can even take a scenic boat ride around the broad to see a variety of nature up close.

Holkham Hall is home to a large nature reserve with a variety of landscapes and habitats such as pinewoods, sand dunes and saltmarsh. Wildlife to look out for includes natterjack toads and shelducks. There’s also a sweeping deer park here where you can see herds of fallow deer roaming free.  

Water sports in Norfolk

Three boats on the Norfolk Broads

With so many wonderful stretches of water to choose from, there are lots of opportunities to try out some water sports in Norfolk. Whether you prefer sailing, surfing or kayaking we’ve got you covered: 

Sailing in Norfolk

For more exhilarating sea-based adventures, sailing is Norfolk’s next trump card. Sailing clubs and schools pepper the coast at Morston, Blakeney, Brancaster Staithe, Snettisham and Hunstanton, offering sailing experiences for beginners to accomplished seafarers. RYA courses are available to teach the essentials of the sport and local yacht clubs are welcoming and accommodating to visitors looking to hire a boat or launch their own craft.

Surfing in Norfolk

Rather be in the water than on it? While Norfolk isn’t your typical surfing destination, it does have a modest surf scene which centres on Cromer, with other options being East Runton, Gorleston, Sea Palling and Mundesley. Even if you’ve never tried it before, it’s fun to splash about in the waves under the instruction of a knowledgeable expert from one of the surf schools.

Kayaking in Norfolk

A boat pulling two kayaks

Trade the surfboard for a kayak and the North Sea for the Norfolk Broads and you’ll have the perfect recipe for yet another Norfolk adventure. The sleepy backwaters of the Broads National Park offer a network of scenic channels where you can glide along in a canoe or kayak, spotting kingfishers, bitterns and maybe even otters. Private boat hire is widely available on the Broads, or guided tours can enrich your experience with wildlife tips and trips to secret spots.

A round of golf

A man playing golf

Back on dry land again, golf is another activity with which you can centre your holiday in this beautiful corner of East Anglia. The courses at Brancaster and Hunstanton are over 100 years old and the latter is rated as one of Britain and Ireland’s top 100 courses. Taking a swing as the sun sinks down over The Wash, it’s not hard to see how this links course has earned its place on the list.

West Runton and Sheringham also boast spectacular sea views, while inland courses such as Thetford and Barnham Broom treat players to scenic countryside vistas.

Norfolk outdoor adventure companies

A boy on a high ropes course in a forest

If you’re looking for an organised outdoor adventure in Norfolk, there are a number of companies who can provide equipment hire and experienced instructors.

  • Norfolk Outdoor Adventures is based in Hickling and specialises in stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with sessions available for kids and beginners along with sunset paddle adventures and nature trails through the Broads National Park.
  • Hilltop Outdoor Centre is based in 26 acres of Sheringham woodland. It’s a great choice to head to with little ones as they run family adventure days during school holidays with climbing walls, high rope courses, zip wires and archery.
  • Whitlingham Adventure offers a range of activities for children aged 8-16 years old with courses in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing.
  • ExTREEme Outdoor Adventure is based in Weasenham Woods in North Norfolk, which is the UK’s oldest continuous cover forest. The setting is perfect for the range of activities you can try here which includes quad trekking and army-style assault courses.     

Explore Norfolk's great outdoors

When the sun sets on your outdoor fun, there’s only one thing for it: relaxing in the comfort of one of our welcoming holiday cottages in Norfolk, planning the next day's outing! If you fancy exploring Norfolk's glorious coast, countryside and Broads National Park, you'll find lots of Norfolk holiday homes in places like Cromer, Holt and Wroxham. Browse our full collection to find your perfect base.

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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