My boyfriend lives in Norwich and we have slowly been exploring different bits of the county together. This list is a collection of some of my favourite things we’ve done, but it’s by no means extensive – there’s still a helluva lot on our ‘To Explore’ list!
The Norfolk Broads
If you visit Norfolk and have decent weather, I highly recommend taking a boat out on the Broads. The sleepy waterways are a great way to get some fresh air and restore tranquility. We used a company called Ferry Marina for a boat that fits 10 people to celebrate a friend’s birthday. This was great fun and we were left to our own devices on the water, (if you do this, I recommend at least one of your party being experienced with captaining a boat!).
We’ve also used a company that provided us with an experienced captain, which was also great fun as we got a personal tour guide (who had so many stories we could have listened to him all day), and we got to have a go at steering safe in the knowledge there was someone around if you went completely wrong and panic set in.
The city of Norwich has a lot to offer, so make sure to leave a good amount of time to explore. It’s a fairly small cathedral city which means you can take in the tourist attractions with time to spare to explore smaller, lesser known sights (there are some great cavern bars!).
If history is your thing, within the city centre you can visit Norwich cathedral and castle. There are normally different exhibitions on at the latter, check out what’s on during your visit on their website. If you’re more into retail therapy then there are several independent shops to buy quirky gifts and clothes, as well as a warren of vintage stalls at St Gregory’s Antique and Collectables which is housed within the walls of a 14th century medieval church!
It’s a bustling city and there is always something going on. Recently we went for a walk around the city and found that Norwich and the surrounding areas are currently covered in hares!
The GoGo Hare sculpture trail runs until the 8th September 2018 and includes 50 intricately decorated hares to find around Norwich, 18 more are dotted around the county too if you’re up for a drive. We managed to find 29 on our walk around the city and then another extremely shiny one by the beach later that day, aptly named Chrome-hare!
If you’re after a bit of peace and quiet, the Plantation Garden is a perfect place to head, especially on a sunny day (and at £2 entry per person it won’t break the bank either). The Grade II registered site is a small but peaceful gem located in the centre of the city (so well hidden in fact we didn’t know it existed until very recently!) with swathes of bright green grass and hidden paths. We visited on one of the hottest days of the year and the dappled shade and spray from the fountain were very much welcomed!
Hailing from the Midlands originally, I never really got to see the sea growing up. Even now as an adult with the ability to drive I still rarely go, which for someone who loves the sea and everything that comes with it is quite sad! So I always answer the question of ‘what do you want to do this weekend?’ with something involving the coast.
Being on the east coast, Norfolk is full of seaside towns that come with their own little quirks and I’ve loved each one we’ve visited for different reasons. Cromer is the place we have visited the most, because it’s close but also because the beach is really lovely (and it has arcades, I’ve won more on 2p machines in the last 18 months than I’ve ever done in my life!). They also have the tastiest fish and chips from No. 1 Cromer. Every time we’ve walked past the queue has been out the door, but it’s well worth the wait.
If you fancy a good old UK beach day out, Hunstanton has the quintessentially British ‘kiss me quick’ vibe. With fairground and donkey rides everywhere you turn, this beach does get very full when the sun is out. When we visited it was extremely warm and extremely busy so to get out of the heat (and the way) we darted into the Hunstanton Sea Life Centre. With exhibits like huge pools full of pacu, a seal rescue centre and hospital, and the new state of the art penguin enclosure we weren’t disappointed!
Southwold is about an hour’s drive from Norwich and has a great beach and a pier like no other. Amid the normal shops, arcades and restaurants lies an eccentric array of games and challenges ready to test the luck of anyone willing to give the weirdly wonderful inventions a go. I mean, where else in the world can you try out hilarious games like ‘Whack-a-Banker’ and experience life as a fly in VR?
Southwold is also home to the famous Adnams brewery where visitors can take a tour around their modern facility including their distillery as well as look round their impressive gift shop and take a break in the cafe.
A short drive south of the town will bring you to seafood restaurant Solebay Fish Company and if you are a fish lover, you must visit! A tiny, unassuming wooden hut from the outside, once you step through the doors you’re met by a huge fish tank before the friendly staff seat you in the wonderfully decorated dining area. After seeing heaving platters of seafood go past, we opted for one including prawns, mussels, cockles and langoustines – it was divine but we couldn’t finish it!
Wells-Next-The-Sea is definitely on my top beach list. It’s clean and the sand is beautifully golden, but also the beach huts are adorable! You are also really close to country house Holkham Hall and estate and seafront wildlife preservation area, Holkham Nature Reserve here.
Hands down my favourite beach so far has been Horsey (not just for the adorable name). In a very un-beach like way, we went in winter and had to wrap up in coats and hats, but it was well worth it because between November and February, Horsey Gap becomes home to hundreds of seal pups. You can’t get anywhere close to the seals in pupping season for their safety, but you still get a great view of them as you walk along the dunes behind the barriers. I was so surprised at how many there were – we could see little blobs sunning themselves on the beach for miles and miles!
Flora and fauna
I love plants and flowers and will annoy my family and friends by taking photos of them at every opportunity. Norfolk offers not only a vast amount of countryside walks, but also a great deal of different places to satisfy any plant lovers dreams.
Norfolk Lavender is a growing attraction in north Norfolk consisting of rows upon rows of over 100 different variations of lavender. The smell is divine. Consisting of nearly 100 acres of gardens, the oil distillery, shop and cafe, it’s a lovely place to meet for a coffee and a mooch, or even a tour of the site from a knowledgeable staff member.
Between February and March every year a spectacular blanket of white coats the forest floors of Walsingham Abbey. Their snowdrop walk is a great way to see the bright white flowers at their best as well as finding adventure in every nook and cranny along the way (top tip: keep an eye out for gnomes!). I wrote about our trip to Walsingham on the blog last year, check it out for more hints and tips.
For less traditional plants, look no further than Urban Jungle – an exciting plant nursery housing exotic and unusual plants suitable for every space. We visited the nursery in Costessey which has a maze of irrigation tunnels and avenues of trees with the lush green going as far as the eye can see.
Visitors can also hide away in an explore the beautiful cafe decorated with hundreds of plants and serving a selection of sweet and savoury delights. Complete with bridges over a Koi pond at the Costessey site and the Edible Jungle at Beccles (which serves brunch, lunch, dinner and cocktails!), I would be very happy going back here time and again!
Tips and tricks for making the most of a trip to Norfolk
- If you take a boat out on the Broads, make sure you listen to the instructions given by the boat company – if you bash your boat you are paying for it! This website offers a good boating for beginners guide, but if you remember nothing else – make sure to drive on the right!
- I would advise booking a table at the Solebay Fish Company, the restaurant is open between 12-15:00 seven days a week, but the dining area is fairly tight.
- If you fancy a tour of the Adnams brewery, all the information can be found on their website, including prices and making your own gin.
- Pupping season at Horsey Gap is between November and February, we went at the beginning of February and there were hundreds!
- If you drive to Horsey Gap, remember to take some change for the car park!
- Norfolk Lavender is open most of the year but if you’re looking for beautiful purple blooms, go in the summer months. July and August are best.
- You can request a tour of Norfolk Lavender by calling in advance, the list of those on offer can be found here.
- Next door to the gardens is the Norfolk Lavender Animal Gardens and a play area for children. Prices and opening times can be found on their website.