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A Guide to Seaside Holidays in Norfolk 2021

Boats on estuary in Norfolk

There is nothing quite like a holiday in Norfolk on England’s east coast to revive the senses and feed the soul. Boasting huge expanses of picturesque countryside, winding rivers, protected nature reserves, lush forests, ancient heathland, and – our favourite bit – over 90 miles of unspoilt coastline, it is a real haven for all generations throughout the year.

Ideal for short breaks and drawn-out retreats, Norfolk’s sea view cottages were a sought-after prize in 2020. Offering ample to see and do on the coast, as well as the opportunity to journey inland, the county’s vibrant coastal towns, salt-weathered villages and countless beaches called to all those looking for rejuvenating escapes by glittering seas.

Norfolk is about bucket and spade and end-of-the-pier, candyfloss and fish and chips, but it’s also strolling with dogs on wide open, empty beaches, warming mugs of hot chocolate, candy-coloured beach huts and big bowls of mussels with frites in cosy gastropubs.

Visit Norfolk – local tourist board

Free from the stresses of foreign holidays, self-catering cottages in Norfolk are already set to sell-out again this year, with seaside properties being quickly snapped up by shrewd holidaymakers.

If you are ready to plan your seaside holiday in Norfolk, you will love the array of attractions, activities and events planned for the year ahead, Government Covid-19 guidelines permitting. From fossil hunting on beautiful beaches to unmissable festivals to world-class food and drink, here is the ultimate guide to seaside holidays in Norfolk 2021.

Must-Tries: Food and Drink

Located on the coast of East Anglia, Norfolk is well-known for its excellent food and drink. Naturally, no holiday would be complete without sampling some of its local delicacies, but where to start? Benefitting from a unique ecosystem created by cold-water currents flowing down from Norway, the coastal waters of Norfolk are rich in nutrients, allowing local fish and shellfish populations to thrive. This, of course, is great news for seafood-lovers! In summer, see what all the fuss is about by tucking into meaty crab dishes with salty samphire, and in winter, try a bowl of the local, blue-shelled mussels, swilled down with a glass of something crisp.

If you are into cooking, farm shops such as Walsingham Farm Shop in Little Walsingham and fishmongers like the Fish Shed in Brancaster are great for picking up quality produce to take home to your private self-catering cottage. For a little tipple, the beer in Norfolk is especially tasty too as it is made with some of the best malting barley in the UK, grown on the high, salt-sprayed fields of north Norfolk. For true holiday fodder, you also can’t beat a traditional fish and chips on the quay in Wells-next-the-Sea or some of the freshly made doughnuts sold on the seafront in Great Yarmouth.

Coastal Walks of Fame

Beach Huts at Holkham Beach in Norfolk

Norfolk’s wild beauty is no secret and the county’s landscapes have long been a source of inspiration for many. For walks of fame during your seaside holiday in 2021, follow in the footsteps of Shakespeare in Love’s Gwyneth Paltrow on Holkham beach, and James Bond: Die Another Day’s Pierce Brosnan at Burnham Deepdale.

Another day, if you walk along the cliffs at West Runton, you will find yourself retracing the same ground that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. A modern classic, the story was based on the local tale of Black Shuck – a ghostly (and hopefully mythic) black dog said to roam the coastline of East Anglia. Meanwhile, if you go to the enormous bay of Gorleston-on-Sea, you may recognise the beach from Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis’ Beatles-inspired film, Yesterday.

The Best Seaside Activities

What better way to enjoy your sea-view holiday in Norfolk in 2021 than with long hours on the beach? With something for all generations, you can switch off your mobile, close your laptop and embrace well-deserved hours of traditional seaside fun. If you can’t wait to bronze under golden sunshine and play in the sea, Sea Palling has a beautiful Blue Flag beach that is ideal for families. Award-winning, it has safe waters calmed by man-made coastal defence reefs and is popular for swimming, paddling and sunbathing. Another popular option is Winterton-on-Sea: arguably one of the county’s best beaches, it enjoys a huge sweep of cushiony sand and is home to a great beach café.

If you prefer a little more activity during your seaside breaks, you can get busy along the beach at West Runton looking for mammoth teeth. Yes, mammoth teeth. A sandy beach near Cromer, this is where the world’s largest mammoth skeleton was found in the 1990s. At Cromer itself, surf lessons are the order of the day while at Holme-next-the-Sea, you can see the original location of Seahenge, a prehistoric monument built in the early Bronze Age for mysterious rituals. For more adventures, hop on a boat from Morston Quay and take a trip to see the seals of Blakeney Point (the country’s largest seal colony), or enjoy a wild ride on the UK’s only remaining wooden rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth.

Cromer Pier in Norfolk

Where to Wildlife Watch

For nature fans, Norfolk is a veritable sanctuary with a large number of coastal nature reserves that can be explored throughout the year. Combining nature-watching with a breezy cruise, you can take a ferry to the offshore barrier island of Scolt Head Island from Burnham Overy Boathouse (which saves on the very muddy walk at low tide). A protected SSSI, the island’s sand dunes, salt marsh and intertidal sand and mud flats are important grounds for sandwich and little terns, common and Arctic terns and winter waders and wildfowl. For budding botanists, there are also lots of weird and wonderful plants adapted to the harsh environments of the island. Whilst on the ferry, keep on the lookout for seals, dolphins and seabirds too!

For more wildlife watching by the water in 2021, you can visit RSPB Titchwell Marsh in King’s Lynn, Holkham National Nature Reserve (England’s largest national nature reserve) near Blakeney, and NWT Cley Marshes in Cley next the Sea. For early risers, you can also visit RSPB Snettisham where daybreak is heralded with amazing aerial acrobatics from thousands of wading birds. Stealing the show between March and August are the avocets, while in the winter bar-tailed godwits take centre stage along with the occasional guest performance from gorgeous pink-footed geese. For a more hands-on experience, Coronavirus allowing, you may also be able to take part in the sunset swan feeding at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust Welney in winter, when thousands of whooper and Bewick’s swans arrive from Siberia.

For the Diary: Norfolk’s Festivals and Events 2021

Foodie Festivals

Get stuck in this year at the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival held in the Walled Garden of Holkham Hall. Planned for the summer of 2021, the ever-popular festival will feature local food and drink producers who pay homage to the county by growing, rearing, producing and supplying food in North Norfolk. For seafood fans, Cromer and Sheringham’s Crab and Lobster Festival is also a must-attend. Crowned by Condé Nast as one of the best food festivals in the UK, the 2021 event will hopefully run from 15th – 16th May, starting with a Grand Opening Variety Concert at the Pier Pavilion Theatre. Just some of the things to look forward to, the festival will include heritage demonstrations, a cookery theatre, and a ‘Scrumptious Seafood Trail’ incorporating more than 35 local eateries.

Music and Activity

Coincide your seaside holiday in Norfolk with the brilliant North Norfolk Music Festival, scheduled to take place between 11th and 21st August 2021. Hosting live music all over the north of the county, you can enjoy a variety of gigs performed by local and national artists. For colour and activity, the Carnival weeks in Cromer (14th – 20th Aug 2021), Sheringham (dates TBC) and Wells-next-the-Sea (30th July – 8th August) are much-anticipated events, while perhaps most colourful of all will be Hunstanton’s Kite Festival in August. Gorleston’s award-winning Clifftop Festival is also returning on 24th – 25th July 2021, ready to entertain with a funfair, live music and entertainment, sports and a grand firework finale on the Sunday evening at 10pm.

Events by the Sea

Kick start your year with a holiday in February for Sheringham’s Viking Festival, or wait until March for Screen next the Sea’s Film Festival Day in Wells-next-the-Sea. Between 24th – 31st July 2021, the North West Norfolk Sailing Association will hold its annual regatta: first started in 1949 in the post-war era, this is a well-known event in the sailing calendar and one that draws huge numbers of visitors and locals alike each year. Also in the summer, you can look forward to midweek fireworks at Great Yarmouth, while in October you can breathe in lungfuls of fresh air along the coast during Norfolk Walking & Cycling Festival.

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