Norfolk is a very special place. It is an important historical county as well as a wildlife haven and it is very easy to enjoy both. It’s known for its flat land and iconic ‘Big Sky’. Familiar pictures of windmills and marshland. You can easily lose track of time and feel as if you are in a different country all together! The best way to see Norfolk is slowly, so lets take you on a Norfolk road trip covering towns, beaches, marshes and much more!
Communities have existed in Norfolk since the last Ice Age. The Iceni tribe inhabited the region prior to the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD. After which the Romans built roads, forts, villas and towns.
With ports on the coast, Norfolk was a main trading location with North West Europe. Consequently it has seen many settlers from Romans to Vikings throughout history. It has been farmed extensively. Not just for its animals or woodland, but perhaps more famously, its Peat. It is the Peat farming that helped to create the Norfolk Broads as we know them today with their intricate network of rivers and waterways. 7 rivers and 63 broads are the result of the sea flooding the peat works in the 14th century.
Protected wildlife and AONB sites on the Norfolk road trip .
The Broads are home to a quarter of Britain’s rarest wildlife including the Teal, Wigeon, Reed and Sedge Warblers. The Marsh Harrier has made a comeback and Bittern numbers have also increased in recent years. It’s not just birds that are thriving here, the rare Norfolk Hawker dragonfly and the Fen Raft spider (which can grow to palm size!) are also amongst the protected species. The fens alone have more than 250 different plants. These include the nationally protected fen orchid and the rare crested buckler fern. Thankfully we didn’t see the Fen Raft Spider or this post would have been very short and consisted of hello Norfolk, goodbye Norfolk!
It’s not all marshland and windmills. There are plenty of attractions for families, great restaurants and beautiful towns and villages to explore too.
We are going to take you on a 120 mile Norfolk road trip that will show you the variety Norfolk has to offer!
Start here for your Norfolk road trip. On the northern coast of Norfolk you will find a charming city, 98 miles north of London. This is a great location to begin your adventure with it’s vibrant mix of history, shopping and entertainment. Although not on the coast itself, Kings Lynn was one if the counties most important ports in the 12th century. The great River Ouse feed the town with vessels for trade. It was as important to the UK in the 12th century as Liverpool’s docks were during the industrial revolution.
In present times, you can still see remnants of the old Kings Lynn with warehouses and cobbled streets. There are a whole host of attractions here from museums, churches and parks to visit. Or if that’s not your thing,’ sit by the harbour and relax after some retail therapy. It’s a great place to start your Norfolk road trip and maybe worth a day or two here alone.
Salthouse Via Hunstanton
Take the 45 miles route on the A149 coastal road to Salthouse. This road will take you on a stunning route past Castle Rising and the Royal Sandringham estate. There are plenty of places you could stop including the seaside town of Hunstanton. Hunstanton faces west across the wash and is one of the few places that the sun can be seen setting over the sea. The picturesque seaside town also houses the Sea Life Sanctuary and a ship wreck of the steam trawler Sheraton!
The villages of Cley and Salthouse are within walking distance of each other on the coast path. The Norfolk Coast Path is a long distance footpath in Norfolk, running 83 miles from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea. Opened in 1986 it covers the North Norfolk Coast AONB. There are so many ways to see the sights that is a Norfolk road trip isn’t your thing, you can always walk it with a backpack! We met a lovely lady on our walk who was doing just that and stopped to have lunch with us.
These small parish villages are located on the salt marshes where it is not uncommon to see Marsh Harriers and Lapwings.
Cley is stunning with an 18th century windmill, delicatessen, famous smoke house, craft gallery and tea shops. The Cley Marshes Visitor Centre is a great place to start. It will help you get to understand the area of outstanding natural beauty. There is an education centre featuring films about the birds and nature reserve. It teaches you about its unique structure. Not being too hot on my bird breeds I found that I came away with the ability to identify some of the rarer birds. Although there are plenty of ‘twitchers’ around it is also a place for artists, poets and photographers. The natural landscape is inspiring to see.
As far as shops go there are very few in Salthouse. Little village shops and local pubs will see you through but do be warned, if you visit the Salthouse church you will see the museum dedicated to the savage floods that have occurred here over the years and killed many local residents. There is parking right down by the sea defences and it doesn’t state that you cant overnight here. Do be warned that in bad weather these sea defences have been severely breached!
We read one story of a lady who was sat on her stairs watching as her house had flooded. She commented that she had seen the water rise so had lifted what she could up stairs and rolled up the carpets. She then watched in disbelief as a hoover floated past her that she hadn’t seen in years!
Next Stop – Cromer!
10 miles from Salthouse on the same coastal road will return you to civilisation! Possibly the 2nd most popular seaside destination in Norfolk after Great Yarmouth and famous for its local crab and Seals. This is certainly a must on your great Norfolk road trip.
This popular tourist destination has plenty to offer including a good selection of car parks and on road parking options. The walk to the beach, in some places, is a little steep. From one of the car parks it is down a cliff path but it isn’t too bad from the town itself. The beach is shingle and sand when the tide is out. It is a great destination for a day of lounging about near ice cream stalls and sea food vendors. We were lucky enough to see some buskers too adding to the atmosphere of the sea front.
With rock pools to satisfy the little ones, and surf schools for the slightly older and more adventurous, there was something for everyone to enjoy here. Now I’ve mentioned the seals and I know you are waiting eagerly for this section so here goes!
See the Seals
Blakeney point is a nature reserve. The National Trust have owned this land since 1912 and it has become home to both common and grey seals. There are over 2,700 pups born each year. This makes Blakeney Point the largest colony in England. Between June and August, Common seals have their young, while the Grey seals have their pups between November and January.
The best way to see them is via a boat trip from either Blakeney harbour or Morston quay. Usually lasting about an hour you’re taken to the natural habitat of the seals around the ‘Spit’. There are several boat operators that you can arrange trips with but we do advise to book in advance – especially in peak pup season!
There are also trips aboard amphibious boats from Hunstanton to the Wash. The Wash is an area of shallow tidal sandbanks, fed by four tributaries.
At Horsey, you will find a large colony of Seals. Please admire from a distance and keep dogs on leads. You may be lucky to also see seals in the water or basking on the beach at Wells Harbour, on the sandbanks at Holkham and at Sea Palling.
33 miles south of Cromer you will find a bustling town and seaside resort with a long promenade full of arcades, rides and attractions. It is more suited to young families with the pleasure beach and donkey rides. Teens and adults can take refuge from the weather in the abundance of arcades.
The Pleasure beach is free to enter and rides are paid for by tokens. You can enter or leave as you please. It can be quite expensive for rides, after a few, according to reviews.
The buildings along the front are very Victorian and some are now derelict which is a real shame. Some have been converted to Night clubs and adult entertainment lounges. You can have a bet on the racing – horse racing and greyhound tracks can be found here if you are into that type of thing. Sadly for us we felt Great Yarmouth was a little dated and much preferred Cromer. It was very difficult to park our large van in Great Yarmouth.
Back into the Wild!
After your trip to Great Yarmouth, head 20 miles in-land for some rest and recuperation in Wroxham and Hoveton. Knows as the ‘capital of the Norfolk Broads’ these 2 connecting villages situated on the river Bure provides tourists with the chance to see the broads by boat.
You can also experience a trip back in time with the villages largest department store chain- Roys! Mr Roy started his chain with a department store, a DIY shop, a toy store and supermarket.
You can park behind Roys department store for free for 4 hours but I have been told there are other free spots. There is a large car park by the marina but this can be pricey for all day parking!
Wroxham contains many visitor attractions including a riverside park, the Bure Valley steam railway and nearby Hoveton Hallgardens and Wroxham Barns craft centre. The village certainly is a busy spot in high season, but is open all year round and is well worth a visit at any time of the year.
Do make sure you take a boat trip on the broads! You can either opt for a guided trip on a passenger boat or hire a small boat and go on an adventure yourself! Just pop over to BroadsTours for more information and for an unforgettable experience on your Norfolk Road Trip. We took a trip along the river Bure on a guided tour and learnt all about the area including some special local boats and also the local wildlife. We didn’t see any otters on our trip but the guide said they are there and can sometimes be spotted so take your binoculars!
Final Destination – Norwich
It is just under 10 miles from the stunning village of Wroxham to the city of Norwich. It is worth trying to aim for a weekday for this trip as we encountered long queues.
This medieval city houses museums and historical buildings including 2 Cathedrals. Norwich Cathedral is a medieval Cathedral with its Romanesque design and ornate cloisters. Across the city lies the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, said to be one of the finest examples of great Victorian Gothic Revival Architecture in the UK. It is complete with beautiful stained glass windows and stonework.
There is so much to see and do here that I would really recommend either the guided tour or hop on sight seeing bus. Even just to familiarise yourself with the layout of the city. It would be a good idea to treat yourself to a few days here to really learn about the city and relax. There are plenty of places for retail therapy and good food! You can’t beat a bit of people watching whist enjoying a drink after a bit of shopping!
Norfolk is popular with camping enthusiasts so there is a great deal of choice in where you can pitch up. We tend to wild camp where we can but can recommend Reedham Ferry campsite where we stayed for a night. The campsite is right next to a ferry where you pay a small charge to cross. The site is very clean with lovely hot showers and plenty of space to work in. I found this a good spot to do some admin – accompanied of course by a nice glass of cider!
Other areas to investigate…
If you have time, check out Salhouse Broad. A lovely car park leads you to a woodland footpath before taking you to the broad. There is a little campsite where you can borrow a wheelbarrow to move your camping gear. A small marina with a beach awaits you and a woodland that was filled with Bluebells when we visited. She laid out a carpet of wonderful lilac and blue hues.
Bacton Wood is also a lovely spot
for a stop over. Nestled in woodland a sheltered car park leads to trails and footpaths where we spotted a muntjack deer, owls and over 30 species of trees. There are bird and bat boxes, open spaces and a tumbling woodland with mixed terain that can attract the bmx bikers but we didnt have any problems when we visited! its perfect for dog walks and nature spotting.
Thetford – Just about within the Norfolk border to Suffolk, this is where the Iceni tribe and Boudicca called called home. Now it is a market town with the remains of a castle on Castle Hill and close to Thetford Forest this location has many hidden treasures to still reveal to archaeologists.
It was in Bacton woods that we found our very first painted rock. Norfolk Rocks are a facebook group with lots of members. Many of whom take great pleasure in decorating rocks and hiding them in different locations all across the county. People find the, take a picture and then rehide them. The photos are uploaded onto the group so they can track how far they have travelled. It’s great for the kids but also fun for us! We hid ours around the Salhouse Broad – I wonder if it’s been found yet!!!
That concludes our Norfolk road trip and this is a nice route that can take you as long as you like to complete. We did this in around a week but could easily have spent longer investigating the villages and scenic spots.
If you have visited Norfolk and know of good places to go, drop the details in the comments box below! Don’t forget to subscribe for monthly emails about the behind the scenes information and share us on social media.
Check out our other posts here!