Welcome to Norfolk holiday cottages

Welcome to Norfolk

Ed Roberts 14 April 2023

We love Norfolk and have compiled a compendium of ideas for days out and places of interest to visit. No matter how big or small your budget may be, Norfolk offers a variety of fun days out for all the family. Whether you’re on holiday with your kids or friends, or looking for a romantic break, this guide will inspire you with places to visit in Norfolk.

Vast skies hang over a remarkable county, where idyllic countryside blends into nature-rich wetlands before melding into a multifarious coast. Seaside towns are perfect spots for family getaways, pretty villages are just waiting to be explored, and there are an array of Norfolk walking routes that wind their way through this scenic county. 

Holidays in Norfolk are enriching and inspiring, and we defy you not to be captivated by its unique charms. Discover the best things to do in Norfolk with our complete guide.

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Discover the Norfolk countryside

Montage of the Norfolk countryside

Nowhere else can you enjoy the amazing sky views and horizons found in the East of England. Famous for the flatness of its land, Norfolk is predominantly reclaimed land from the sea. The fortified sea defences are a common sight and an important preservation measure that ensures Norfolk gets to stay safe and beautiful for residents and visitors.

Norfolk is a county that covers a northern swathe of land across the region known as East Anglia. To its south are the counties of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex, all with their own appealing aspects. Arguably, Norfolk is the best destination for those that like unspoilt countryside and a feeling that they have left the cities and large towns far behind.

Swallowtail butterfly in Norfolk

You are never far away from a waterway because canals, rivers and courses have been engineered throughout the landscape to prevent the whole region from flooding. The Norfolk Broads are popular with those that like boating at a measured pace; sightings of narrow boats and small craft are frequent along its maze of waterways, which are lined by impressive white-sailed windmills.

Norfolk is a superb choice for those who love the great outdoors. Even the royal family have chosen Norfolk as the location for one of their official residences – Sandringham is even partially open to visitors.

Explore the Norfolk coast

Lighthouse and beach in Norfolk

Over 80 miles of seafront stretches from The Wash in the west of the county to Hopton-on-Sea on the Suffolk border. Much of Norfolk's coastline can be walked via an official trail: The Norfolk Coast Path. This path runs into the ancient course, Peddars Way (that runs from Holme-next-the-Sea to Knettishall Heath – 46 miles) and Marriott’s Way (Aylsham to Norwich – 26 miles).

The alluring lights and cha-ching of amusement arcades and promenades that characterise many of Norfolk’s traditional seaside towns stand in stark contrast to the chattering of seabirds in its unspoilt coastal nature reserves. On any given day, you could find yourself crabbing off Cromer Pier in the morning and watching seals off Blakeney Point by the afternoon. 

Great Yarmouth, with its legendary Golden Mile, larger-than-life family shows, and quintessential bucket-and-spade beaches is the rambunctious cousin of Hunstanton and Cromer, where colourful beach huts, independent shops and scenic strolls set the scene for a more sedate seaside experience.

Seal on a beach in Norfolk

Besides some of the best beaches in the UK, Norfolk’s north coast is blessed with a landscape of saline lagoons, salt marshes, mudflats, reedbeds and freshwater pools; making it a haven for birds and wildlife, both local and migrant species. At RSPB Snettisham and RSPB Titchwell Marsh, you’re likely to sight avocets, bitterns, marsh harriers and more against the natural backdrop of The Wash, while Blakeney National Nature Reserve is home to colonies of breeding terns and seals.

And the coast isn’t just a haven for wildlife, it’s also a magnet for lovers of the great outdoors, offering no end of adventures in the form of sailing, surfing, cycling and golf - check out our guide to things to do on the Norfolk coast to find out more.

Hunstanton and Old Hunstanton

Hunstanton Beach

Elegant Hunstanton showcases yet another side to the Norfolk coast. Exuding Victorian charm, its red and white striped cliffs, immaculately landscaped gardens, Sea Life Sanctuary and amusements make ‘Sunny Hunny’ appeal to families and couples alike.

Hunstanton and Old Hunstanton are located on the west coast of Norfolk facing out into The Wash. With its long promenade, distinctive stripy cliffs, olde-worlde pubs and live entertainment venue, Hunstanton is a sleepy seaside resort purpose-built to take advantage of the Victorian-era fascination with sea bathing.

A Heritage Centre has sprung up here, as well as Boston Square Sensory Garden and an entertainment centre, Live Oasis. During the summertime, look out for the colourful Tractor Train that carries visitors the length of the seafront, a favourite with young and old alike. Take a trip with Searle’s Sea Tours to see the seals on the unique Wash Monster, a World War II amphibian craft, leaving from the South Promenade.

Old Hunstanton is home to a 19th-century lighthouse as well as several pubs and restaurants, and is a pleasant coastal walk from Hunstanton. Further afield are the lavender farms and the royal palace at Sandringham Estate.


Wells-next-the-Sea Beach

Wells-next-the-Sea is situated about halfway between Hunstanton and Cromer. A former harbour, the town established itself as a holiday destination after local industry moved on and the harbour silted up.

Discover nature walks out along the sea wall to the pine-fringed Holkham Bay and the 10.25” small-gauge railway, Wells Harbour Railway. It’s the best way to reach the beach – children love it! You can also enjoy views over the harbour waterways and salt marshes. At low tide, the sea disappears over the horizon but be aware that it comes in at a rapid speed.

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.

The Quay is a social hub where families watch the fishing fleet come and go, test their skills at crabbing, and taste cockles, shellfish or a traditional bag of fish and chips. There is an amusement arcade, ice cream parlour and even more opportunities to try local food and drink.


Cromer Pier

Cromer is home to a fantastic seaside pier, which claims to host the UK’s last ‘end of the pier’ show. Live music, cabaret and comedy are the most popular. This is the largest town on the north coast and it has the best range of handy shops. It also has a superb zoo, the Amazona, which is a big hit with children. For evening entertainment, Cromer has a small multiplex cinema, showing the latest in Hollywood and British films. Cromer itself played a major role as the backdrop for the 2013 film, Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa.

Geologists love Cromer for being the gateway to the British ‘Great Barrier Reef’, known as the 20-mile-long sub-aqua Cromer Shoals Chalk Bed, and created in the Mesozoic Era when dinosaurs roamed. It is close to the shoreline and can be seen if you care to snorkel or swim.

Head to one of the pubs, cafes or restaurants to experience the famous Cromer crab. In the summer, Cromer celebrates its maritime heritage with the Cromer Carnival and Crab & Lobster Festival. So gastronomes plan ahead to get the best out of Norfolk grub!

Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth Beach

This seaside resort has been a British holiday staple for decades. Perhaps one of the most easterly towns in the UK, this is the land of the pleasure beach, crazy golf, kiss-me-quick hats, fish and chips, and candy floss.

There’s something good to be said about the endurance of nostalgic holiday towns like Great Yarmouth where there’s so much family entertainment you’ll need more than one week to make your way around it all. Fun options include The Golden Mile, Great Yarmouth’s Model Village, Time & Tide Museum, and at least three live entertainment venues.

You can also watch stock car racing at Great Yarmouth Stadium. Night entertainment extends to cinemas, pubs, clubs and casinos. Nothing beats the beach though; its wide stretch of golden sand is a big draw for visitors, young and old. Coincide a visit with the annual soul weekender at nearby Caister-on-Sea which hosts some of the biggest names in music.

Visit the city of Norwich

Montage of images of Norwich

Plan a day out to Norfolk’s capital, Norwich. Its history can be traced back over 1,000 years and it’s known as England’s second city.

Visitors who like places of historic interest will want to visit the Norwich Twelve – 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 one of the country’s top ten shopping destinations with at least two malls and a glut of streets with independents and high street favourites all bidding for your attention.

Norfolk nature reserves

Norfolk has plenty of open space and the north coast is home to many nature reserves and RSPB-managed bird spotting reserves. Here are some of the best:


Seal at Blakeney Point

One of the very best places to visit in the county if you love a walk and wild animals is Blakeney Point (accessed from Cley-next-the-Sea) to see the large seal colony. Each winter, thousands of seals haul themselves out of the ocean to take shelter and give birth. During the summer, you can take a boat tour from Blakeney when there are fewer seals.

If you walk along the spit, it’s around 3 miles to the head so take provisions and keep your dog on the lead as there are lots of defenceless seal pups in the dunes and along the shore.


Marshes at Cley-next-the-Sea

For the best in birdwatching, head to Cley-next-the-Sea’s Cley Marshes Visitor Centre managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust, which even has its own café and viewing deck. You can walk around the extensive reserve to watch both migratory and sedentary birds that make this part of the North Norfolk coast their home. Cley is also distinctive for its eye-catching windmill and a very nice delicatessen, Picnic Fayre.

The Holkham National Nature Reserve

Dunes at Holkham National Nature Reserve

The Holkham National Nature Reserve extends over 4,000 hectares and includes land owned and managed by Holkham and the Crown Estate. Huge areas of land were reclaimed from salt marsh between the 17th and 19th centuries. Sand dunes were planted with pines so that the land could be used for agriculture.

Today, the dunes are a haven for wildlife and ground-nesting and over-wintering wildfowl and waders. There is a large network of paths and bird-watching facilities for visitors. Make a visit to the nearby Holkham Hall & Estate for more culture.

Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest is the largest lowland forest in the UK at 47,000 acres. Drawing in visitors from all over with its outdoor sporting facilities, trails and pathways, Thetford is a must for your itinerary.

Historians will love Grimes Graves, a Neolithic flint mining complex within forest limits. Family facilities include mountain biking trails, cycling paths, walking routes, Go Ape, a visitor centre and a café at High Lodge, which is also used for popular music events.

The Norfolk Broads

Windmill along the Norfolk Broads

A peaceful man-made network of waterways meandering through verdant countryside, the Broads National Park encompasses pretty villages, wildlife-filled marshland and dappled woodland.

The Broads were formed after people dug for peat in medieval times and the area was later flooded. With more waterways than Venice and Amsterdam, the Broads is made up of 125 miles of lock-free channels that have become a major visitor attraction.

It is possible to hire motor cruisers for a day out because much of the Broads are inaccessible unless you are aboard a watercraft. It’s a great place to go angling or nature spotting – the habitat includes many peaceful spots to hide away. Now the largest protected area of wetlands in the UK, it is home to many rare species of birds, insects and butterflies.

The best places to eat in Norfolk

Restaurant in Norfolk

Norfolk has a long farming heritage. This combined with the abundance of local seafood and freshwater fish stocks has provided Norfolk with some very impressive places to eat and drink should you wish to take a night off from dining in your self-catering accommodation.

From seafood restaurants and fine dining establishments to takeaway hatches, here is a handful of Norfolk’s hot spots to get a good feed that caters for any budget.

So where are the best places to eat Cromer crab, Stiffkey cockles, Brancaster mussels, samphire, or Binham blue? Well, you can pick some of these up at your local deli or check out the menu options below.

  • Deepdale Café at Dalegate Market, Burnham Deepdale: on the North Norfolk coast, this Norfolk cafe is a local favourite and the staff promise to make your visit memorable through breakfasts, lunches, teas, coffees and cakes. 
  • The Hole in One at The Links, Cromer: based on the grounds of The Links Country Park near Cromer, this eatery offers a varied selection of fare and is a great place to watch sporting events on TV. 
  • The Lifeboat Inn, Thornham: 500 years old, this inn is perfect for those seeking a hearty pub meal, whether sat in the oak-beamed bar, comfortable lounge with a vast open fire, or the glass-roofed conservatory where a 200-year-old vine still bears fruit and flowers.
  • The Ship Inn, Mundesley: if you are looking for something a cut above the average, The Ship Inn is a good daytime family choice, with lovely sea views across the English Channel.

And where is the best place to eat Cromer crab?

Dressed Cromer crab

The Jetty Café in the heart of Cromer is the place to try out the famous Norfolk delicacy, Cromer crab. Whether you're after a crab salad or a simple sandwich, this establishment is the place to beat.

Although you can find many places selling it in and around the town, no other places to eat have received the accolade of appearing in a worldwide food-eating bucket list compiled by the food critic Giles Coren and chef Simon Rimmer.

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of the spice market in Marrakesh’s Djemma el Fnaa or New York’s Carnegie Deli, the Jetty Café’s Cromer crab dishes have been mentioned in Countryfile and the Independent. Tempted?

Interesting Norfolk facts

Landscape image of Norfolk

When you go on your holiday to Norfolk, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to share some interesting facts and quirky stories about the county to impress or surprise your family and friends? We thought so.

Here are some facts, figures and unusual things we think you should know about Norfolk.

  • Norfolk is England’s 5th largest county
  • Norfolk is home to the largest colony of seals in England
  • There are 120 churches with cylindrical towers in the county
  • You can visit a pyramid on the Blickling Estate - it’s a mausoleum
  • Admiral Horatio Nelson and Anne Boleyn were born in Norfolk
  • It is possible to see the Northern Lights at Kelling Heath
  • The Norfolk Broads are home to 25% of the UK’s rarest wildlife
  • In Happisburgh, a 550,000-year-old flint axe and the footprints of the first people ever to come to Britain across the land bridge from Europe were the earliest evidence of man found outside the Great Rift Valley in Africa
  • The largest and most complete mammoth skeleton was found at West Runton
  • With 659 churches, Norfolk has the highest concentration of religious centres on the planet
  • The peak of Norwich Cathedral’s spire stands 351 feet tall
  • Norfolk was a filming destination for Shakespeare in Love, Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa, 45 Years, Witchfinder General, Never Let Me Go, The Go-Between, Drowning by Numbers, and The Goob
  • Famous people from Norfolk include Nelson, Anne Boleyn, Bernard Matthews, Rupert Everett, King George VI, Ed Balls MP, John Hurt, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Cathy Dennis, and Prince John (son of George V and Queen Mary)

Where to stay in Norfolk

Windmill in Norfolk

We have some fantastic holiday accommodation across the county, from converted farm buildings to sea-view apartments, smart suburban home-from-homes to large country houses for extended groups, and secluded cottages for two. Find your perfect place to stay among our collection of Norfolk cottages.

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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