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Norfolk Broads things to do

Swallowtail butterfly

The Broads encompasses over a hundred square miles of Norfolk and Suffolk, with an amazing complex of rivers, large lakes, dykes and meres, each with their own unique character. The whole area is a haven for wildlife and home to some of Britain's rarest species; including 66 unique to this area — look out especially for the Swallowtail, Britain's largest butterfly.

If you're lucky you may hear the distinctive boom of one of Britain's rarest native birds, the bittern, hiding statue-still amongst the reeds, or spot a magnificent marsh harrier seeking out its prey. There are excellent visitor centres if you want to learn more about these and other wildlife treasures of the area. Every visitor has their own particular favourite haunt in this very special area and many return year after year to discover fresh delights.

With a great range of quality cottages to choose from, isn't it time you planned your visit to ‘Britain's Magical Waterland’? Set between Norwich and the seemingly endless beaches of the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline, the Broads has much to offer for all ages and interests. Walking, cycling, bird-watching, fishing, or just enjoying lazy days pottering on the water, you'll be spoilt for choice. During summer, the 125 miles of open waterways, uninterrupted by locks, are a magnet for thousands of boating enthusiasts.

You can hire a motor launch from one of the many centres, take an organised tour with commentary, or even enjoy a trip on an old paddle steamer. Out of season the water weaves a different kind of magic: wrap up warm and take a boat upriver on a crisp autumn or winter's day and you can soon find yourself alone with nature.

For those on foot, the Broads offer great variety, from easy-access board walks alongside water, such as the one at Cockshoot Broad reserve, with a bird hide at the end, to longer and more challenging waymarked walks such as the Weavers Way, Wherrymans Way and Anglers Way.

With such an abundance of nature reserves, your senses will be stirred wherever you go. The famous wide skies give way to spectacular sunsets with silhouetted windmills and the sound of birdsong is everywhere. Active familes can try out a huge range of activities. Why not have a sailing or canoe lesson at Whitlingham Outdoor Education Centre just outside Norwich? There's also an artificial ski slope nearby.

Whitlingham Park itself has two Broads, with lovely walks along well-maintained paths, woods to explore, an old lime kiln and a new adventure playground — perfect for a picnic. Or you can stop for lunch or refreshments at the lovely cafe within the converted barn visitor centre.

A visit to Bewilderwood is sure to be a hit with younger children. This huge, award-winning adventure park set in magical woodland has tree-houses, zip wires, storytelling, fantastical creatures and much more to enjoy.

Wroxham Barns is another place that's well worth a visit. Here you can see contemporary and traditional crafts being made and buy stylish gifts for the home and garden; then enjoy a meal or refreshments in the award-winning restaurant. For children, there's a junior farm and a funfair. On the theme of animals, Pettits Animal Adventure is another great success with children of all ages, with rides, entertainment, exotic and domestic animals and birds as well as animals to feed and pet. There are wonderful woodland walks and dykes at Fairhaven Water Gardens, where you'll find an eclectic mix of plants with year-round interest, plus a private broad with boat trips.

And for something completely different, you can explore some fascinating aspects of our recent military history at the RAF Defence Museum at Neatishead. Here you'll discover the part radar played in the Battle of Britain and learn about night fighter operations, the history of radar and space defence, and then see the once secret Cold War Operations. Friendly and knowledgeable volunteer guides tell the story and add a personal touch to the experience.