While Norfolk is not lacking in exceptional sights, including historic mansions filled with extraordinary treasures, ancient medieval churches and fascinating museums, its main charms are in the great outdoors. The area’s vast sandy beaches, tranquil nature preserves and the Broads National Park, with its secret backwaters, offer endless opportunities for relaxed picnicking. Seal-watching boat trips are a great way to get a new perspective on the coast and its wildlife and families on a budget are well catered for – reserve a spot on the pier for Norfolk’s favorite pastime of catching crabs, not just fun , but completely free .
For more inspiration, visit our Norfolk guide and discover the area’s best restaurants, pubs, hotels and beaches.
Fall in love with a chubby seal
Blakeney Point’s long spit is a bird sanctuary and home to common and gray seals, which sprawl lazily at the water’s edge. One-hour boat trips with Beans Boats depart from Morston Quay.
Inside tip: Common seals give birth between June and August, while gray seals give birth between November and January. Mothers nurse their young for about three weeks, so plan your trip for those months for a chance to see these fast-growing puppies.
Go on a real ghost hunt
Once owned by the Boleyn family, the Jacobean hall at Blickling Estate is haunted by Anne Boleyn, despite having been rebuilt in 1616, 80 years after her execution. Its long gallery and library are impressive, but the gardens and park are the big draw here – so it’s best to visit on a sunny day to appreciate the surroundings.
Inside tip: One of the best months to visit is April, when the woods on the property are covered in bluebells. A 6.5km multi-purpose trail spans the park’s highlights and is suitable for strollers, adapted wheelchairs and bicycles (available for rent).
Get closer to the great masters
An 18th-century Palladian mansion on a 3,000-acre estate and deer park, Holkham Hall highlights include the Statue Gallery, paintings by Rubens and van Dyck, and Marble Hall, with trompe l’oeil ceilings. Its state rooms are open for viewing and there is also an interactive “Holkham Stories Experience” that explains the estate’s construction, history and agriculture projects. Also a large walled garden, wooden play area and cafe.
Inside tip: It’s a huge property and there’s a lot to see, so allow at least half a day to visit. If your legs get tired, there is a buggy shuttle service to and from the walled garden, which runs regularly at the ticket office.
Catch a crab on the pier
Blakeney it is one of the prettiest coastal villages in Norfolk, with small stone huts in the alleys and a narrow, winding lane. Families flock to the pier swinging heavy lines in the water, as the harbor is a prime spot for crabbing (or “wonderful,” as it’s called locally), a fun, absorbing, and completely free Norfolk pastime, regardless of the state of the tide.
Inside tip: Bait your line with raw meat (bacon strips work well) as this is a crab favorite and pull them out carefully. Don’t leave the crabs in the bucket too long before throwing them back into the sea.
Walk around a manor house
Once the home of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister, Houghton Hall has sumptuous early 18th century interiors designed by William Kent. Other highlights include a superb five-acre walled garden and a collection of model soldiers. Don’t miss the attractive “Contemporary and Country” exhibition featuring works by artists from the East of England, located in the hall’s stables.
Inside tip: Children under 18 are admitted free and you do not have to pay full price if you only visit the garden and stables.
Contact: houghtonhall. with
Take a trip back in time
Book a tour of the Hanseatic city of King’s Lynn, which sits on the Great Ouse River and has a rich maritime history dating back to the 12th century. City guides will reveal the 17th century merchants’ houses and customs, the Church of Santa Margarida, the Capela de São Nicolau and the great Tuesday Market.
Inside tip: Don’t miss the Trues Yard Fisherfolk Museum, which showcases the arduous life of the local fishing community that lived in the city’s North End until the 1930s, and includes a visit to a small smokehouse discovered in 2009.
Steam across the field on the Poppy Line
Railway fans can board the old North Norfolk Railway rolling stock, which makes the eight-mile journey between the Georgian town of Holt and the seaside resort of Sheringham. The steam train is the most popular, but there are also old-fashioned diesel engines. There are many special events during the summer months, including fish and chips trains, teddy bear picnic days, and murder mystery tours.
Inside tip: Check the schedules online before you go. Departure times for diesel and steam engine tours vary. Special events require advance booking and may also affect schedules. Driver experience days and steam signaling are also available.
Be the king of the castle
Norwich Castle dates from the reign of William the Conqueror and is first mentioned in 1075. The galleries focus on Boudica and the Celts, Roman occupation and Norman conquest, Egyptian culture, natural history and fine arts . The keep with changing rooms, chapel and 12th-century stone carving, as well as the cafe and shop, are currently closed for a £13.5 million renovation project. The castle is offering lower entry prices while these areas are inaccessible.
Inside tip: The number of visitors is limited each day, so it is essential that you book online at least one day before your visit.
Explore the creeks and backwaters
Customized tours on a traditional wooden fishing boat can be booked through the Coastal Exploration Company. Operating between Wells-next-the-Sea and Cley, guests can help Captain Henry Chamberlain navigate little-known creeks, exploring parts of this coastline that are only accessible by water while observing wildlife and learning to forage for food.
Inside tip: Bring plenty of warm, waterproof clothing. Even on a hot day, the temperature can drop significantly once in the water. Henry can provide hot drinks and homemade cakes, or more substantial meals if needed.
Discover a priest’s hideout
Oxburgh Hall is a 15th-century red brick house built by the Bedingfeld family, who continue to live in private apartments here and surrounded by a wide moat. Currently, the upper floors of the salon and tea room are closed for maintenance and upkeep, but within the 70-acre property is a walled garden and French-inspired parterres, plus leafy woods.
Inside tip: Take the three-mile circular walk to Caldecote Farm from Oxburgh Hall via quiet streets, or a slightly longer three-and-a-half-mile route to Gooderstone through the Breckland countryside. Details of these tours are available in the lounge.
Identify a pink flamingo
There are more than 50 resident flamingos in the Wetland Discovery Area in Pensthorpe Nature Park, just outside Fakenham, a 700-acre area that spans the River Wensum and a diverse landscape of farmland, heathland and forests. Visiting birds include oystercatchers, avocets, kingfishers and marsh harriers. Interactive trails, pond diving, bird feeding and wildlife viewing provide plenty of fun for families with young children, and indoor and outdoor play areas, children’s events and a sculpture trail add to the fun.
Contact: pensthorpe. with
Warm up on the Broads
Created in 1989, Broads National Park is an area of 117 square miles east of the region, originally dug for turf in medieval times, creating a network of waterways and large broads, including Hickling, Barton and Oulton. Take a day trip on a river cruise or hire a boat, kayak or paddle board from Wroxham or Potter Heighham to explore the tranquil backwaters. The riverside paths are perfect for walking or cycling and nature lovers can find a huge variety of species including butterflies, herons, cranes and harriers.