When it comes to staycation escapes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere in the UK with better beaches than Norfolk. Nelson’s county is home to 90 miles of stunning coastline and with it comes some of the most beautiful seaside towns and villages that England has to offer. As a Norfolk girl myself and keen hiker, I know all of the best spots to escape for a few days. If you’re considering a staycation in the future, read on for my list of the most beautiful Norfolk seaside towns and villages.
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Beautiful Norfolk Seaside Towns & Villages
Arguably one of the most famous seaside towns in Norfolk is Cromer. For hundreds of years, visitors have flocked to the town to escape the city and enjoy the beautiful beach. Most known for its famous crabs, the town is a great place to sample delicious seafood.
If comfort food is more your bag, don’t miss out on a trip to No 1 Fish Restaurant on the seafront. As well as doing a whole range of upmarket seafood dishes, the fish and chips which are cooked in beef dripping are hard to beat!
Whilst this town has been modernised to an extent, it retains its original charm and it is easy to see why it was one of the UK’s most popular coastal hotspots of the early twentieth century.
There are plenty of things to do in Cromer including a visit to the award-winning Cromer Pier. If you’re in the area for longer, check out some of Norfolk’s best walks in and around the area, including the epic 61 mile Weavers’ Way hike to Great Yarmouth. (And if you’re a bit twitchy around livestock, be sure to check out this article about hiking near cows – you’ll find a lot of them on this trail!)
Suggested place to stay: The Red Lion Hotel
Wildlife lovers must not miss a trip to Horsey Beach to see the grey seal colony. The Horsey seals are local celebrities and every year, thousands of visitors flock to the coast to see them.
November to the end of January is the best time of year to visit. Sightings are virtually guaranteed as it is birthing season, which means that you’ll have a very good chance of seeing young fluffy white pups too!
During this time, the beach is closed to limit human disturbance to the seals. However, there is a designated walking trail and viewing areas along the dunes. If you’re keen to take photos, bring a camera with a decent zoom and always remember that these are wild animals. They have a nasty bite which you don’t want to be on the receiving end of!
Suggested place to stay: Horsey Holiday House (Sea Haven)
Located in between Sheringham and Cromer, West Runton is great for those looking for a quieter beach staycation. The area is great for day hikes and you can even journey up Beeston Bump, situated around a half hour from West Runton. The high point of Beeston Bump is located at 207 feet (63m) and offers stunning views over the coastline!
West Runton’s claim to fame is the many fossils which have been found there. The most notable of these is the West Runton Mammoth which was discovered in 1990. It is the most complete mammoth skeleton ever found in the UK.
During the summer months, head to Rocky Bottoms on the clifftop for a delicious lobster lunch. There is a sit-in restaurant and also a large outside area where you can eat. The deckchairs and far-reaching views make this a beautiful spot on a sunny day. Just don’t forget your suncream!
Suggested place to stay: Corner House Bed & Breakfast
Most famous for its Instagram famous lighthouse, Happisburgh (pronounced Haze-bruh) is a pictureperfect example of Norfolk’s finest scenery. Whilst the village itself is quite sedate compared to the bustle of Cromer or Sheringham, this is a great place to escape the city.
The white and red stripy lighthouse is the only independently operated one in the country and is also home to the oldest working light in Norfolk! It is open to visitors on selected Sundays and Bank Holidays throughout the summer. For a small fee, you can climb to the top of the stairs for some amazing views.
The local council are currently working hard to preserve as much of Happisburgh’s coastline as possible and has already spent thousands on sea defences. Whilst coastal erosion is a sad reality for many seaside towns, the constantly evolving coastline has unearthed an important historical discovery.
Flint tools and early fossilised human footprints were found in the area. Historians suspect that these date back around 850,000 years! This is the oldest evidence of humans in Northern Europe and also the oldest human footprints found outside of Africa. Combined with the discovery of the mammoth skeleton at West Runton, this cements the Norfolk coast as a hugely important archaeological area and has earned it the title of the ‘Deep History Coast’.
Suggested place to stay: Lanterns Shepherds Huts & Glamping
The picturesque village of Mundesley offers a beautiful coastal escape. It is one of Norfolk’s six Blue Flag Beaches which is an accolade awarded to beaches of outstanding cleanliness, management, quality of water, facilities and safety.
It is the colourful beach huts which characterise the coastline, although the turquoise sea is impressive in its own right. It is possible to buy fresh seafood from the Lobster Pot van which operates out of the council-owned car park opposite the main slope.
If sitting in the sun all day isn’t quite your thing, there is also great crazy golf along the main strip which is great fun for children and adults alike! Pop into the cafe next door when you’re done for a delicious ice cream to top it off!
Suggested place to stay: The Durdans
A hugely underrated village in Norfolk and one of my favourites is Overstrand, located between Cromer and Mundesley. It is easily reachable by public transport from the major towns in the area and there is a big car park along the cliff for day visitors.
It is from this car park where the local’s favourite food van operates. The Bucket List specialises in crispy chips with some truly decadent toppings! You can check the out menu online in advance of your visit. After all, did you even go to the seaside if you didn’t have a few chippies?!
Some great coastal walks begin in this area including the Overstrand circular path. You will see that the trail is well signed throughout. The Norfolk Coast Path and the Deep History Coast Discovery Trail also head through Overstrand.
Suggested place to stay: Sea Marge Hotel
Located just up the beach from Horsey, Winterton is another place where it is possible to spot the grey seals. It is ideally located with an unspoilt stretch of coast on one side and the famous Norfolk Broads on the other.
Although much quieter than some of Norfolk’s other seaside towns, Winterton is as close to a hidden gem as you can get around these parts. Previously a fishing village, this area is now home to a fascinating nature reserve, sandy beach and cute village.
If you are looking for a traditional family beach escape, Winterton is a good choice, although Cromer offers more in terms of amenities. For couples looking to get out in nature and enjoy the tranquility of the county, Winterton-On-Sea is the perfect destination.
Suggested place to stay: Lazy Days Cottage
Located in West Norfolk, Hunstanton is what you think of when you picture the thriving seaside towns of the 50s. Succeeding where many other seaside towns have failed, Hunstanton manages to keep its old-timey charm without feeling like it’s been left in the last century.
The streets are lined with everything which makes for a good beach escape, including traditional sweet stores where you can pick up a stick of rock, pubs and of course, fish and chip shops. The main green is a beautiful area to kick back and relax and live music is regularly performed.
The bowling green in Hunstanton also marks the beginning of the Norfolk Coast Path. Look out for wide-eyed hikers with chunky backpacks about to take on this epic 83-mile journey along the coast.
Suggested place to stay: Sunset Inn
Head to one of Norfolk’s loveliest towns Wells-Next-The-Sea for a truly unforgettable experience. The quay is the main hub of the town and often the busiest area. Whilst this could sound off-putting, the buzz of the quay makes it a great place to people watch!
Whilst you’re in Wells, be sure to try your hand at crabbing. Rather than buying a single-use plastic kit that will eventually end up in the ocean, hire a bucket and tackle from Gilly Hut. This is significantly cheaper than buying your own crabbing set and far better for the environment.
Wells-Next-The-Sea is also home to one of Norfolk’s more unique attractions too… alpaca walking! For a day you won’t forget in a hurry, book an experience with local company Alpaca Trekking and you can walk your new furry friends around Wells whilst you see the sights. The day will end with a feeding session back at the stables, a great way to round off any trip to Norfolk!
Suggested place to stay: Bang in Wells
Blakeney and Cley-Next-The-Sea
Although Blakeney and Cley are neighbouring villages, they sit so close together that they can easily be combined into one trip to the coast. Located in a stunning area of outstanding natural beauty and linked by the Norfolk Coastal Path, hopping between the two is a piece of cake.
Blakeney is arguably the more famous spot of the two, partly because of its boat trips out to the largest grey seal colony in England. You can also grab an amazing ice-cream from across the street, just look out for the long queue in summer!
Cley is much quieter than Blakeney but in my opinion, equally as beautiful. It is home to a vast marsh which is a great place for nature lovers. In this area, it is possible to see many different kinds of birds including spoonbills, bitterns and pintails. There is also a beautiful 18th-century windmill located which has been covered into a guesthouse. How about that for an impressive accommodation option!
Suggested place to stay: Bramble Lodge
Another hugely popular seaside town in North Norfolk is Sheringham. It is also part of the Deep History Coast and boasts its own Blue Flag Beach. Just like Cromer, it has plenty of amenities and attractions which makes visiting with kids a doddle.
One of the most exciting things about Sheringham is the Heritage Steam Railway, which is a real novelty, regardless of whether or not you’re a trainspotter! The Poppy Line goes from Sheringham to the picturesque Georgian town of Holt and trains operate daily from April to October.
Sheringham plays host to many notable events in Norfolk, including the Sheringham Carnival which takes place at the start of August and the Crab and Lobster Festival. If you can time your visit to coincide with either of these events, it is well worth doing so!
Suggested place to stay: Ashbourne House
Considering that Holkham is such a tiny part of Norfolk, it has garnered plenty of attention from those visiting the area! Comprising a small village, nature reserve, beautiful beach, stately home and estate, Holkham is a fantastic place to visit on a UK staycation.
Arguably one of the prettiest villages in Norfolk, Holkham is best known for its award-winning beach and its big-screen appearances. The village and estate have been featured in several notable films including Shakespeare in Love and The Duchess.
An adult ticket to Holkham Hall costs £17 (at the time of writing – Sep 2020) and covers your entrance to the Hall, the Holkham Stories Experience and the Walled Garden. When you visit, make sure you look out for deer as there are a few herds in the area.
Suggested place to stay: No 52 ‘Sea Holly’ Holkham
Norfolk Seaside Towns: Honourable mention
You can’t talk about Norfolk seaside towns without mentioning Great Yarmouth. Whilst this is a destination that crops up on these kinds of lists all the time, in my opinion, it is nowhere near as nice as the other places mentioned.
If you’re looking for a bit of cheap, no-frills fun for the family, then Yarmouth is a good choice. However, us Norfolk folk don’t drop the Great for no reason. Compared to the other seaside towns on this list, Yarmouth is gimmicky, old fashioned and in need of a major facelift. On the plus side though, they make the best hot sugared doughnuts that I’ve found anywhere on my travels!
Suggested place to stay: Hotel Ocean
Have you visited any of these Norfolk seaside towns? Tell me about your visit in the comments!