If you’re thinking of taking a staycation in the UK this year then I highly recommend considering a visit to Norfolk. One of the very best thing about living in Norfolk is that you’re never more than half an hour away from a beautiful beach. And I believe (though I admit I’m biased) that Norfolk beaches are amongst the best beaches in the UK: clean, quiet, vast expanses of sand. Whilst the UK’s south coast beaches were deluged with visitors last summer, Norfolk’s beaches remained mostly quiet, and it really was the perfect place to spend the summer. We pretty much live on the beach during the summer, so it’s something we know a lot about! We pack buckets and spades, balls and body boards, and we don’t do anything else but laugh and play all day. (stopping for ice creams and gritty, sandy sandwiches!)
Here is my top five list of the best beaches in Norfolk, that we regularly visit as a family, and that I always recommend to family and friends:
A promenade lined with pretty beach huts and an abundance of rock pools is what most people think of when they think of Cromer. It is an idyllic place for a British seaside break: you will find delicious ice creams, the best fish and chip shop in Norfolk, and a beach that is a mixture of yellow sand and fascinating rocks here. Of course, you can’t think of Cromer without thinking of Cromer crab: the pier is the perfect place to drop your crab line, and if you won’t fancy trying it yourself it’s still worth a walk to see all the clear buckets full of crab lined up along the promenade. Cromer isn’t bold and brash, but it is naturally beautiful, with photo opportunities at every turn.
By far one of the most beautiful beaches in Norfolk, in my opinion, is Sea Palling. It’s also the best beach to visit if you’re travelling with kids who want to splash in the sea: the waters are calmed by man-made coastal defence reefs, meaning that it is shallow for longer and also a more gentle for kids to splash and swim. My boys love to take their body boards here!
The reason we don’t visit Sea Palling more often? It’s simple; I hate fighting for parking! Because it is such a popular beach, and the car park is relatively small, if you don’t arrive early in the day then you may find it tricky to get a parking space.
Caister-on-sea isn’t often a beach that appears on these ‘best beaches in Norfolk’ lists, but I’d like you to keep an open mind and hear me out! It’s true that Caister isn’t the prettiest beach but it has its charms; it is quiet, convenient, and offers all the facilities a young family could need without being too overwhelming. There are toilets and an ice cream van (in the summer months) but none of the fast-food outlets, fair rides or arcade machines that you’d find on a busier more tourist-focussed beach such as Great Yarmouth. The car park is right next to the beach, and the life boats launch from here, so as well as seeing the lifeboats occasionally launching you can also explore the free lifeboat museum. The beach is mostly set to sand, but there are some grassy dunes that the kids love exploring.
This is one of the best beaches in Norfolk for me because even on the hottest days of summer, it’s always quiet here: there’s always plenty of space for digging holes, building sandcastles, and splashing in the sea where you will regularly see seals enjoying the ride with you. Some of my happiest Norfolk beach memories have been made at Caister-on-sea.
For us, Horsey is a beach that comes alive during the winter months, when the native seals come to the shore to have their pups. You can walk all the way along the cliff tops here and see the seals (young and old) along the beach: at the peak of the season there are so many seals that you almost can’t see the sand! It is a ritual for us to visit here every year in the days after Christmas to see the seals, but it is also a beautiful beach in the summer months: at this time it’s likely that you’ll see a friendly seal or two bobbing in the sea, which adds to the excitement of the day. It’s also a beautiful beach in its own right, with a vast expanse of soft sand that is perfect for building sandcastles.
Finally, not everyone goes to the beach looking for soft sand, roaring waves, and peace and quiet. Some people want all the flashing fun and excitement that comes from slot machines, fairground rides and kiss me quick hats. Personally, I think these kinds of seaside resorts are a lot of fun, and they definitely have their place on lists like this, especially if you have small children. Phrases like sun, sea, sand and fish and chips were made for locations like Great Yarmouth!
Sadly, it is for all of these reasons that Great Yarmouth beach has a bad reputation, particularly amongst the local residents of Norfolk. But actually, Great Yarmouth is a seaside of two sides: whilst the beach closest to the Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach offers the hustle, bustle, and all the noise and excitement you would expect from this kind of seaside resort, further along the beach (just behind the boating lake) you will find an idyllic scene that looks just like this:
A traditional wooden boardwalk, pretty beach huts, and this is also where the local kite enthusiasts come to fly their kites. We regularly visit Great Yarmouth to walk around the Venetian Watergardens, explore the boating lake, and walk along this boardwalk to the sea. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds (pretty beaches and high octane fun) then actually Great Yarmouth comes highly recommended.
Do you have a favourite beach? Or a favourite Norfolk beach? I would love to hear all about it! (We’re always looking for recommendations!)
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