North Norfolk Coastline
We all know only too well how easily we take for granted that which we find on our own doorstep. However, a trip to any of the North Norfolk Beaches swiftly reminds us how fortunate we are to live in an area of such breathtaking natural beauty.
The entire 43 miles of North Norfolk Coastline is blessed with a rich abundance of flora and fauna coupled with stunning scenery, three-quarters of which are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many of the beaches have a history of winning awards for their cleanliness and facilities.
Norfolk coastal towns have grown and developed over the centuries. Small, isolated fishing communities have become bustling seaside resorts. However, at the core of all these towns remains the charm and character of communities living and working on the shore – the crab and fishing boats still put out to sea and the lifeboats are still proudly manned. The coastal waters and nature reserves are carefully maintained to preserve the area’s reputation as an unspoilt retreat.
The following text is intended as a guide to some of the more popular coastal destinations but please remember that it is by no means an exhaustive list. Those with the time and presence of mind will find great reward in exploring some of the more “off the beaten track” areas.
Please click on an individual location to view more information or click expand all to view all the locations.
Holkham Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches on the North Norfolk Coast and indeed in the British Isles. It is the most extensive, diverse and dramatic nature reserve in Norfolk, with windswept sand dunes, a maze of creeks, shady pinewoods, green pastures and marshes.
Alf Alderson wrote in the Daily Telgraph, “A seemingly infinite stretch of golden sands running down to the blue-green waters of the North Sea, backed by huge horizons – you feel as if you could walk forever. The sensation of space is totally liberating“.
Holkham Bay Beach has been used as a setting for many major TV productions and most notably, in the film Shakespear in Love, actress Gwyneth Paltrow was filmed walking along the beach in the closing scenes. Holkham Beach was also the back-drop for the music video for the All Saints single, Pure Shores (soundtrack to the 2000 film, The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio).
Across the coast road is Holkham Hall, a Palladian style mansion and home of the Coke family. The hall is set in large parkland, full of nature trails and marked walks. The popular Victoria pub and tea room can be found on the main road, between the bay and the hall.
Brancaster Beach and Harbour
Brancaster Beach is controlled by The National Trust and is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty consisting of saltmarsh, intertidal mud and sandflats and miles of sandy beach stretching as far as the eye can see.
If you turn left once on the beach, a 10 minute walk brings you to an inlet where it is possible to watch seals basking on the mudflats or playing on the shallow waters of the creek. This part of the beach is also great for children to dangle bits of bacon into the water to catch crabs and at certain times of the year, the tidal run into/out of the inlet creates a good spot for bass fishing.
If you turn right once on the beach and walk away from where many people bunch, you will find yourself on swathes of deserted sand for your cricket or sandcastles. Further along towards the harbour inlet you will find large mussel beds at low tide; Brancaster mussels being a popular choice on many local menus.
The very tidal sea leaves lagoons where children can safely splash, and at low tide the ship wreck is visible with its barnacle covered bilges and superstructure used for wartime target practise. Be mindful that the tide turns quickly and loiterers can find themselves wading back through the inrushing sea.
Holme-next-the-Sea is a quiet favourite with visitors to the Norfolk coast. There’s a smooth, flat sandy beach, rolling sand dunes and a village pub. Nearby you’ll find a wildfowl reserve and a nudist beach: the place has something for everyone! Be wary of the Norfolk coastline though. There is much shifting sand and under the water the sea floor is constantly shifting.
If you want a much quieter day then pay for a daily membership to the Wildlife Reserve (drive down a narrow track just before the beach entrance) where you can access the beach much further down and it will be practically deserted.
The beach at Wells-next-the-sea is one of the hidden gems of the Norfolk coast. Driving along the road to the car park there are few clues of the beautiful views that lie beyond. From the car park, take one of the footpaths for about a mile over this tree-covered ridge to find one of the most secluded and self-contained beaches on the Norfolk coast.
The character of the beach is entirely dependent on the tide so its worthwhile checking the times. At low tide you can’t even see the sea just acres of golden sandy beach as the water retreats so far; at high tide it laps just a few yards from the line of the brightly painted beach huts that nestle under the trees.
Hunstanton has the unusual distinction of being an east coast resort that faces west and as a result the beaches get more than their fair share of sun with spectacular sunsets. There are two sides to Hunstanton, or Sunny Hunny as it’s affectionately known.
There is the elegant old Victorian town with its Esplanade Gardens and rather sedate air of days-gone-by, when people flocked to take the water ‘for medicinal purposes’. Then there is the lively, buzzing family resort, with donuts and candy floss, ice cream and donkey rides and a whole funfair of amusements to keep you entertained!
Hunstanton boasts famous stripy cliffs and a fabulous beach, which has a Good Beach Award for safety and cleanliness. You can walk from one resort to the other, so you can enjoy a morning of fun and activity at the crazy golf or Sea Life Sanctuary and then spend a lazy afternoon lying on the beach beneath the rambling sand dunes. If exhilarating outdoor sports are more your kind of thing, the sea provides a vast playground for sailing, jet skiing and windsurfing, with Hunstanton offering excellent wind conditions for this popular sport.
Sheringham was once a tiny fishing place known as Sheringham Hythe and most people lived further inland in the village of Upper Sheringham. In the 1880s the railway arrived, bringing people and money to the area. Crabs and lobsters are still brought ashore by a small number of commercial fishermen.
Sheringham has a stony beach but at low tide an expanse of sand and rock pools is revealed. The beach is managed by North Norfolk District Council and retained its prestigious Blue Flag for cleanliness and visitor facilities in 2005. The beach has toilets, beach huts and a public shower. There is easy access to cafés and amusement arcades.