Within easy reach of London, the Midlands and East Anglia, the North Norfolk coast is the go-to place for anyone who fancies a bit of seaside action. From paddling in the sea at Hunstanton to eating crabs in Cromer, it has it all.
Aside from Scotland, the county has some of the most wild and expansive beaches in the UK, ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Naturists are also well catered for with some huge dunes at Holkham perfect for, er, undressing in.
The best sandy spots include Holme, Wells-next-the-Sea, Sheringham and Holkham. This is also a twitchers’ paradise (so bear that in mind when planning a weekend in the altogether!). But without further ado, here’s OAG’s perfect weekender
WHAT TO DO
Norfolk is a haven for cyclists. The national cycle route runs along the coast, passing Wells, Holkham and Sandringham Estate before entering King’s Lynn. For a bit of off-road fun, try the Peddars Way, a former Roman road from Knettishall in Suffolk right to the North Norfolk coast at Ringstead (46 miles).
Be warned if you’ve never cycled through Norfolk before though – it’s not as flat as it’s rumoured to be – think low and undulating rather than flat as a pancake.
Every year people of all ages get together to bike beween the round-towered churches. It’s a fine opportunity for people to spend the day exploring the many fine ecclesiastical buildings spread across Norfolk that are not always open. This year sponsorship can be raised using JustGiving, and the next event is on Saturday 8 September 2012.
Linking with the Peddars Way is the North Norfolk Coastal Path, stretching 45 miles from Hunstanton to Sheringham.
Walking the path gives you plenty of time to take in the expansive beaches, as well as explore the many salt marshes and sand dunes that distinguish this part of the UK.
If 45 miles sounds a bit much for one weekend, you can use the Coasthopper service (see panel on the previous page) to take in the highlights.
PLACES TO GO:
This 18th century hall is set in extensive gardens complete with its own lake, walled gardens and park. And if that isn’t enough, you can hire bikes, go sailing or paddling and explore the beach-side nature reserve. The beach itself is second to none.
A lovely seaside village with some quaint independent shops and pubs, including ‘Made in Cley,’ a pottery run by four craftsmen from Britain, Germany and the USA.
Inspired by British studio pottery and sculpture, their aim is to contribute to that tradition and take it further. The gallery and shop is open all year round, seven days a week.
Further south is the Norfolk Broads, a network of inland lakes and rivers. You can
hire motorboats, dinghies and rowing boats at Wroxham but our favourite way of getting round is by canoe. Canoeman hires out canoes and kayaks, as well as running guided courses, overnight camps and bushcraft trips.
and Scolt Head to shinglestretches near Cley and Blakeney, one of our favourites
From the endless sand of Holkhamand Scolt Head to shinglestretches near Cley and Blakeney, one of our favourites is the beach at Holme nature reserve. After driving down about a mile of gravely tracks you reach the beach, hidden behind sand dunes and pine forests. The sea comes right up to the dunes in high tide, so it’s best to set up camp behind one of the sea defences unless you’re after an impromptu dip.
in Burnham Market is anideal stop after a day on the beach, with good local real ales.
near Blakeney,close to the unspoilt salt marshes, is an award-winning pub.
just a few minutes’ walk from Holkham beach, offers classy fare.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re looking for a hostel dorm, a stay in a yurt or just a good old-fashioned pitch for your tent, this is the place to come. Set right by the sea, it’s also a great base for exploring the North Norfolk coast.
HOW MUCH: From £5pp for a pitch, £40 for
a tipi (sleeps 2), £10.50pp for a dorm or £60 for a family room (sleeps 6)
Comfort in the wilderness: canvas lodges complete
with beds, bathrooms and woodburning stoves. The Thornham site is minutes
from Peddars Way and the beach.
WHERE: Sedgeford, Hunstanton,
HOW MUCH: From £269 for a two-night weekend, £279 for three nights, £239 for a mid-week stay (4 nights) or £399 for a week
The Red Lion in Stiffkey is a traditional Norfolk inn with an eco twist. It offers views over the Stiffkey valley,
10 minutes away from the sandy beaches of Holkham.
HOW MUCH: From £90 for a double, or £110 including dinner, or £100 for a family room (£120 with dinner)
In the heart of Old Hunstanton village are Sea-Glimpse and Sandy-Nook, two stylish and spacious ground floor self-catering holiday apartments. Both sleep 4 and welcome one dog. Within two-minutes’ walk of the beautiful, safe, sandy beach. Sea-Glimpse has the advantage of coming with a beach hut by the sea.
WHERE: Old Hunstanton
HOW MUCH: From £350 per week
Words: Mary Creighton
Photos: Visit Britain