No visit to North Norfolk would be complete without going to the seaside, whatever time of year you choose to stay.
Starting from the west, Hunstanton is pretty much unique in being a west-facing east-coast resort,and as such can provide the most sheltered spot if the wind is coming from the east. It is a typical seaside town complete with candy floss, ice cream, amusement arcades, and bucket & spade shops. Blue-flag awarded in 2010.
Further east, Holkham (used in the closing scenes of Shakespeare in Love, and winner of the ‘Best British Beach’ award for 2009 and 2010) and Wells-next-the-sea (shown in the title sequences of Kingdom) both have extensive sandy beaches backed by sand dunes. Wells also has a miniature steam railway connecting the town with the beach, as well as a sizeable boating lake. Check out the fresh seafood (cockles, whelks, and fish) while you’re there.
Between Wells and Cley are the creeks and salt-marshes that make up Blakeney and Morston harbours, now used pretty much exclusively for leisure craft. The spit of Blakeney point is the home to colonies of both Grey and Common seals – see the General Information page for details of seal-sighting boat trips.
In the 14th to 17th centuries, the ports and harbours along this stretch of coast were important trading posts, with Blakeney being in the top 10 most important ports in Britain. Trade with the continent accounts in part for the many Dutch gables on the buildings. By the 17th century the river Glaven was silting badly, and when Sir Henry Calthorpe put a dam across the river in 1637 to drain salt marshes for grazing, the fate of the ports was sealed. If you walk along the harbour fronts at Wells, Cley, or Blakeney today, you will struggle to glimpse the open sea.
From Cley to Sheringham, the beaches are sandy at low tide, and stony at high water, backed by high stony/shingle banks that protect the salt marshes from flooding during winter storms. Access is via beach roads in the villages to car parks behind the sea defences. From Weybourne eastwards to Sheringham, the salt marshes give way to low sandy cliffs which can provide a degree of shelter on windy days.
These beaches are generally more peaceful than those at the larger towns, and if you want your own space to spread out, then a short walk from the car park at any of the beaches should provide just that. These are also popular beaches for sea-fishing as the beach drops away rapidly to moderately deep water not far from the shore.
Sheringham and Cromer are both attractive seaside towns with plenty of interesting shops (including some great fish shops) and attractions. The beaches in both towns are popular on sunny summer days, and again are at their best at low tide.
So, don’t forget to pack your bucket and spade…