Pocket guide to Norfolk

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

Vast skies, wide open spaces, windmill-framed waterways and ancient habitats combine in delicious harmony in Norfolk. Walkers, wildlife enthusiasts and bird lovers will all be happy here, wandering through nature reserves spotting migratory birds and basking seals, hiking the coastal path and twitching from accessible hides. On the coast and tucked inland are charming sleepy villages, buzzy towns hosting lively markets and endless good places to eat, from Michelin-star restaurants to award-winning fish and chips. With its fair share of beaches, many dog-friendly, and the tranquil Broads to explore, you’ll never run out of interesting things to see and do in Norfolk.

Featured in this article

Holkham, Ranworth, Cromer, Holt, Blakeney Point, South Walsham Broad

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Norfolk Coastal walks. Norfolk’s 84-mile coastal path runs from Hunstanton in west Norfolk all the way around to Hopton-on-Sea on the east Norfolk coast. Much of the trail is part of a dramatic National Landscape (previously known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and one of our favourites is the Morston to Wells-next-the-Sea section. Fairly straight and flat, and coming in at just under 7 miles, it takes in wild marshes (covered in seasonal sea lavender), birds, wildlife and breezy ocean views. Stop for an ice cream at Wells’ little harbour then jump onto the Coasthopper bus back to Morston. For more sea breeze stomps and charming places to stay, explore coastal walks and places to stay.


Consistently voted Britain’s most beautiful beach, Holkham is truly glorious. Come for a vast golden sweep of sand, undulating dunes and a bird- and wildlife-rich salt marsh, all framed by tall marching pinewoods. It’s easy to see why it often features as a film location. Part of the unspoilt 9,600-acre National Nature Reserve, conservation and sustainability are part of the lifeblood here with rare species and biodiverse habitats all carefully protected. Families, nature lovers and bird enthusiasts all love it here, and dogs are welcome year-round but must be kept on a lead to protect nesting birds between April and August. 

Discover big skies and sandy beaches by exploring five of the best in Norfolk >

Ranworth to South Walsham Broad 

This circular 3-mile trail starts in the pretty village of Ranworth, passes through the famous Broads and takes in fantastic views along the way. Set off from the village car park, head east through Malthouse Broad before dipping down to South Walsham Broad. You’ll eventually reach a boardwalk, where you should stop to visit the Wildlife Centre, looking out for great crested grebes, kingfishers, wigeons, cormorants and more nearby. End your trip at the picturesque pub near Malthouse Broad sitting on the little terrace overlooking the water. 

Explore five of the best walks in Norfolk >


The Gunton Arms

Enjoy pints of Wherry alongside gamekeepers and gentry; tuck into venison from the park, crab from Comer, or rib of beef cooked over the fire in the vaulted dining room. Stuart (ex-Mark Hix) champions locally sourced ingredients, so enjoy simple, gutsy ingredient-led cooking which prioritises local and seasonal food. Breakfast on Swafield cured bacon and Alby honey, Cley Smokehouse kippers, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. 

Explore our best pubs and restaurants for foodies in Norfolk >

The Dabbling Duck

When this quintessential English pub risked being taken over by developers, two local farmers stepped in to save it. Owners Mark and Sally manage the pub, showcasing the best local Norfolk produce, including fantastic game and seasonal vegetables, but it’s the wonders they work with fish that we love most about The Dabbling Duck. Join the locals in the bar for a real ale or their own brand ‘Mucky Duck’ gin, then take your seat for a gourmet pub supper, or munch on pizza from the wood-fired oven in the garden in summer. Stay the night in swish bedrooms. 

Browse our favourite fish restaurants in Norfolk >



Combining the charm of an ancient fishing town with the hustle and bustle of a modern seaside resort, Cromer’s streets are busy with independent shops and its magnificent pier gives the place a real bucket-and-spade feel. The epitome of coastal fashion back in its Victorian heyday, today you can soak up the wonderful sandy beach, arcades and entertainment on the pier, a sprinkling of fish and chip shops and blowy cliff top walks. Visit the quaint Cromer Museum, set in an old fisherman’s cottage, to see what life here was like in the 19th century, then check out the Banksy on the sea wall for a modern take on it. 


Historic Holt is as pretty as a picture, set around charming courtyards and winding alleys, and stuffed to the gills with treasure you’ll covet. Come to browse antique shops, independent emporia and galleries, and discover a unique find or two to take home. It’s also home to a superb bookshop, The Holt Bookshop. On its fringe you can stroll through Holt Country Park, a 100-acre woodland planted with mature oak, pine and silver birch trees. Wander the nature trails, stop for a picnic and let the kids run riot in the playground. And the ‘Poppy Line’ – an old steam railway – is just down the road.

Explore our favourite towns and villages in Norfolk >

Seal watching at Blakeney Point

Blakeney Point is home to England’s largest grey seal colony, with around 4,500 seal pups born annually between October and January.  Take an hour-long boat trip, departing from Morston Quay to watch basking seals and flocks of migrating birds. The more inquisitive seals may swim close to the boats. It is also possible to walk to the colony from Cley beach. It’s a 6-mile round trip and a protective cordon will limit how close you can get to the main seal colony. Remember to wear decent shoes, wrap up warm and bring a pair of binoculars. 

Explore our wildlife guide to Norfolk >


Holt Sunday Market

From April to December, on the first Sunday of each month, the quiet centre of Holt transforms into a buzzing and lively market. Conceived in 2020, this award winning, destination street market showcases over 50 of the best local, independent craftspeople, designers, makers, food producers and street food traders. From small creative pop ups to live music and communal dining experiences, this is a market that brings people together in a vibrant and friendly atmosphere. You’ll leave laden with ceramics, paintings, plants and more.

Back to the Garden 

Back to the Garden is a multi-award-winning farm shop stocked by the nearby Astley Estate. Specialising in organic meat, vegetables and fruit, and provisions, they also have a delicatessen, wine, beer and spirits department, and sell a selection of handmade homewares. Beef comes direct from the farm or a neighbouring farm. Fill up at the deli and groceries section on soup, sausage rolls and scotch eggs, homemade cakes and puds, and a huge selection of organic veg, or pitch up at the café for refreshments. 

Browse our must-visit farm shops and markets in Norfolk >


The Harper

Close to the expansive north Norfolk coast, this hotel pulls off a laid-back vibe – sit, eat, chill-out wherever you feel – with contemporary-smart interiors and excellent food. Unbend on fat leather sofas under a high vaulted ceiling in the lounge, hang out in ‘The Den’, a grown-up games room opening to a Mediterranean-style courtyard, a jolly spot to gather round the fire pit after supper. 32 bedrooms (big, bigger, biggest) come with dreamy four-posters and top-notch bathrooms. Get a home-cooked breakfast delivered to your room if you fancy a lazy start to the day. 

Browse our luxury places to stay in Norfolk >


This eco-build by the sea sits in an idyllic position just behind the sand dunes at Waxham beach, one of Norfolk’s loveliest. Play cricket in the garden to the soundtrack of singing birds and crashing waves; stargaze from the deck at night. Inside is super cosy and you get a multi-speaker Sonos system, hamper stuffed with treats and a kitchen that’s great for sociable chefs. Come in winter for empty beaches, young seals on the sands and spectacular formations of geese. Eat dinner at the nearby Ingham Swan.

Browse our favourite places to stay in Norfolk by the sea >

Congham Hall

This is a beautiful Georgian merchant’s house with an indoor pool and treatment rooms set in 30 acres of parkland. Inside, country house interiors have an elegant contemporary feel with an open fire in the sitting room. If you want to dine with your dog, eat in the Library or Bar where meals from the main dining room menu are served. The 11 Garden Rooms are all dog-friendly, big and airy, and open onto the kitchen garden. Strike out on country and beach walks (the north Norfolk coast is close), including places where your pooch can run off lead. 

Browse our dog-friendly places to stay in Norfolk >

Featured places to stay in Norfolk

The Harper

Langham, Norfolk

  • From £219 p/n
  • Hotel
  • 32 rooms for 2 - 8


Waxham, Norfolk

  • From £220 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 3 rooms for 6

Congham Hall

King's Lynn, Norfolk

  • From £165 p/n
  • Hotel
  • 31 rooms for 2

We hope our Pocket Guide has given you a flavour of charming Norfolk. If we’ve piqued your interest, take a look at our other special places to stay and start planning your trip.

Browse all our special places to stay in Norfolk >

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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