Best things to do in the Norfolk Broads holiday cottages

Best things to do in the Norfolk Broads

Julie Smith 13 May 2023

Not only is the Norfolk Broads one of the UK’s 15 national parks but this special landscape is filled with wonderful things to do for people of all ages and four-legged friends.

Whether you're planning a big family holiday visiting theme parks and riding steam trains, or a holiday with friends exploring nature reserves and setting out on boat trips, you'll be spoilt for a wonderful choice of activities during your holiday in Norfolk. 

So, whether you fancy visiting an iconic National Trust windmill, having a fun day out with the kids at a theme park or travelling along the River Bure by boat, here are ten of the best things to do in the Norfolk Broads. For even more great ideas, check out our guide on things to do across Norfolk, or get inspired by our collection of Norfolk Broads cottages. 

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Have fun at a theme park

Credit: Facebook @bewilderwoodnorfolk

A day at a theme park is bound to keep the kids entertained and there are some great ones to visit in the Norfolk Broads.

Bewilderwood Norfolk

Bewilderwood Norfolk is a woodland adventure park located on the edge of the Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve near Hoveton. Kids can climb up treehouses, solve tricky mazes, build dens and meet a range of whimsical characters from the stories of Tom Blofeld. 

Pettitts Animal Adventure Farm

There are rollercoaster rides, play areas and lots of animals to meet at Pettitts Animal Adventure Farm in Reedham. It’s a great family day out and children can have lots of fun riding on a crazy caterpillar and bouncing kangaroo before taking a Jeep safari around the park and getting up close to meerkats, lemurs and wallabies. 

Wroxham Barns

Wroxham Barns is a popular Norfolk Broads attraction that features a range of shops and places to eat for the grown-ups along with a junior farm and fun park to keep little ones entertained. Along with a pirate ship, train and truck rides, there are also jumping pillows, go-karts, sand pits and water play. Animals at this Wroxham attraction include alpacas, ponies and a whole village of guinea pigs.   

Explore a Norfolk nature reserve

Explore a Norfolk nature reserve

Norfolk is filled with peaceful nature reserves where you can spend time relaxing with a loved one and see some of East Anglia’s local wildlife and natural landscapes.

Hickling Broad

Hickling Broad is a 600-hectare nature reserve that’s located on the River Thurne and managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. It’s a good place to spot cranes as the broad is a significant breeding ground for this tall wading bird and other birds to look out for include bitterns, merlins and hen harriers. 

Boat tours can be taken around Hickling Broad and there are also a number of walking trails to follow where you can come across otters, red deer and the swallowtail butterfly which can only be found in Norfolk.

Martham Broad

Martham Broad is another Norfolk Wildlife Trust site where you can spot breeding birds including cranes, bearded tits and bitterns along with owls and the swallowtail butterfly. The nature reserve comprises two broads which are separated by the River Thurne with footpaths to follow on either side of the water. Martham Broad is one of the best places to spot Chinese water deer which can often be seen grazing in the fields during early mornings or late evenings.  

Visit a Norfolk Broads windmill

Visit a Norfolk Broads windmill

Norfolk is famous for its many windmills and there are lots dotted around the Broads. They were originally built to drain water from the marshlands here so that farmers could work the land. Many of these windmills can now only be viewed from the outside but some have been fully restored and are working once more.

Horsey Windpump

You can climb 61 steps to the top of Horsey Windpump to look out over the magical landscape where the Norfolk Broads meet the coastline. The windmill has been fully restored and is managed by the National Trust with the famous sails turning once more. Scenic walking trails around the windpump take in marshes, sand dunes and waterside paths.

Hardley Windmill

Hardley Windmill is the most active windmill still in operation on the Norfolk Broads, pumping water from its location near the River Yare. Moorings are available to reach Hardley Windmill by boat or it can be accessed by walking along the Wherryman’s Way. There’s an on-site visitor’s centre with different exhibitions. 

Explore a gorgeous garden

Explore a gorgeous garden

There is a selection of woodland and wildlife gardens that make the most of the natural landscape of the Norfolk Broads.

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden

There are around 4 miles of pathways to help you explore the wildlife-rich Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden. The 130 acres at Fairhaven are located on a private broad at South Walsham and include ancient woodland and cultivated plantings which are a haven for local wildlife. Paddleboarding and guided canoe trips are also available on the private waterway here on various dates throughout the year.  

Gooderstone Water Gardens

You can follow a nature trail around Gooderstone Water Gardens or simply find a bench and relax in the peaceful surroundings. There are 13 numbered bridges that cross streams, waterways and natural ponds and a wildlife hide where you can look out for birds including kingfishers. 

Ride a period steam train

Ride a period steam trainCredit: Facebook @burevalleyrailway

A ride on a steam train is one of the most relaxing ways to spend quality time together, whether it’s with family, friends or your other half. Norfolk is home to a number of heritage railway lines including The Poppy Line and the Mid-Norfolk Railway; these are the steam trains you can ride in the Norfolk Broads:  

Bure Valley Railway

The Bure Valley Railway follows the pretty path of the River Bure with 9 miles of narrow-gauge tracks that run between Aylsham and Wroxham. Steam trains pass through the picturesque villages of Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall and you can look out over waterways and rolling meadows as you relax in the wonderful period carriages. 

Dogs are welcome to join you on the Bure Valley Railway and there are special family-friendly trains with different activities for Easter and Christmas. 

Bressingham Steam Museum & Gardens

Located on the edge of the River Waveney near Diss, Bressingham Steam Museum & Gardens features 4 miles of narrow-gauge railway tracks with a quartet of steam train journeys to whisk you around acres of gorgeous gardens.  

Unlimited train rides are included within your entrance ticket to Bressingham and travelling on these handsome locomotives is a great way to see the woodland and vibrant borders that make up this gorgeous garden. There’s also a traditional carousel at the centre of this Norfolk Broads attraction and the Foggy Bottom pond garden which features around 500 varieties of conifers. 

Take to a Norfolk Broads waterway

Take to a Norfolk Broads waterway

It seems wrong to visit the Norfolk Broads without taking to the water and luckily there are lots of ways to do this. 

Boat tours

You can travel in style on the double-decker Southern Comfort paddle boat which departs from the village of Horning for regular cruises along the River Bure. Expert commentary will let you know all about the Norfolk Broads as you make your way past windmills, thatched cottages and reed beds filled with seabirds.

Boat tours are available from the staithe at Horsey Windpump where you’ll be rowed along the water on a traditional wooden pleasure boat with a local guide to help you spot some of the flowers, plants and wildlife of the Norfolk Broads.   

Picnic boats

Picnic boats are available to hire from Herbert Woods at Potter Heigham which seat up to nine people and two dogs. You can leisurely explore the winding waterways of the Norfolk Broads with either full or half-day rental, and afternoon tea hampers can be added to your booking.   

Canoeing at the Norfolk Broads

Exploring the Norfolk Broads by canoe is the best way to seek out some of the area’s hidden nooks and crannies and the calm waters here are perfect for paddling. Canoe hire is available at various places across the Norfolk Broads including Wroxham, Salhouse, Martham and Hickling.  

Amble along a Norfolk Broads walking route

Amble along a Norfolk Broads walking route

Norfolk is a county that’s blessed with an array of scenic walking routes and there are several that cross through the Broads National Park to help you explore the area.

The Weaver’s Way

This long-distance footpath runs for a total of 61 miles between Cromer and Great Yarmouth covering coast, countryside, river valleys and grazing marshes. 

The Weaver’s Way is a great way to see the varied landscapes of East Anglia and you can follow the meandering pathways through the Norfolk Broads passing Heigham Bridge, Hickling Broad and Honing before reaching the point where the rivers meet the sea at the North Norfolk town of Great Yarmouth.  

The Wherryman’s Way

The Wherryman’s Way is a 35-mile walking route that connects Norwich with Great Yarmouth by following the path of the River Yare through the Broads National Park and past the villages of Reedham, Berney and Loddon. 

There are plenty of waterside pubs that you can call in at for refreshments including The Reedham Ferry Inn and the Coldham Hall Tavern. Look out for interesting waymarkers along the way including information panels and steel replicas of ferry sails.

Admire a grand Norfolk estate

Admire a grand Norfolk estate

Norfolk is filled with wonderful stately homes with gorgeous grounds and pretty gardens to explore. These are some stately homes to visit for a day out at the Norfolk Broads:  

Hoveton Hall Estate

Originally built in 1809, Hoveton Hall is a Norfolk stately home with 620 acres of grounds that encompass parkland, formal gardens, farmland and woods. Tours of the hall are only available on certain dates of the year but visitors to the estate can admire the grand Regency exterior while taking a tranquil stroll around the lake.       

The grounds and gardens at Hoveton Hall are open between April and September and highlights include the walled Spider Garden, an original glasshouse and a beautiful Victorian Kitchen Garden. You can also take a wonderful walk through rhododendrons and azaleas in Ashmanhaugh Wood which is home to around 100 species of birds, and seek out an 18th-century ice well that is hidden amongst the trees.

Blickling Hall 

Blickling Hall is a Norfolk National Trust site near Aylsham with grand Jacobean rooms to explore and secret tunnels to seek out amongst the estate’s gorgeous gardens. The large dog-friendly grounds also include rolling parkland, woodland walks and a multi-use trail that’s accessible to all. You can travel along the Bure Valley Railway by steam train to reach Blickling Hall in style from either Wroxham or Aylsham.

Plan your getaway to the Norfolk Broads

Plan your getaway to the Norfolk Broads

Hopefully you have been inspired to visit the Broads National Park to do some of these things for yourself. You’ll find lots of lovely holiday cottages where you can rest your head after days of exploring.

Browse our range of family-friendly, romantic and dog-friendly cottages to find the perfect Norfolk Broads holiday home for your next getaway. 

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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