It seems 2021 will be the year of staycations and so I thought it was about time I shared our wonderful trip to Norfolk last summer for those wondering where to go this year. North Norfolk is home to miles of beautiful sandy beaches, some surrounded by woodland and sand dunes, some easily the most stunning beaches I have seen in the UK. I found everywhere to be so family friendly – and also doggy friendly too if you have a pet you like to take along on trips! There is so much to do with kids with lots of natural outdoor places to explore and miles of untouched sandy beaches that we could have easily spent longer than a week here. Cornwall always seems to be the most popular place to go for a UK summer staycation but Norfolk is much less crowded and seems to be a little peaceful corner of the UK that no one yet knows about. I am even considering going back again this summer myself!
So here are all the best things to do in Norfolk with kids (there are many) along with the best places to stay in Norfolk.
Best places to visit in Norfolk with kids
Let your wild child loose here for the best day of adventures! Run through the trees, brave the wobbly broken bridge, swing through the air on zip wires and take a boat ride across the Scary Lake in search of the tiny creatures that live in the forest and the elusive Crocklebog (a very friendly vegetarian crocodile named Mildred). We listened to stories of the forest before Evie made a hat in the craft den and claimed herself the Queen on the woodland faeries. This place is just as magic as it sounds and the most brilliantly immersive outdoor adventure park for families. An absolute must visit when in Norfolk!
Take a boat trip out to sea with Beans Boats to get up close to the wildlife – England’s largest seal colony as well as thousands of noisy migratory birds. The boat ride was fun by itself, splashing over the waves with our hair blowing in the wind making Evie giggle hysterically. We spotted the seals lolling lazily on the shore as well as diving through the water alongside our boat.
The boats depart from Morston Quay which also has a lovely walking path past the harbour and along the river, across little bridges, through purple heather during the summer or big splashy puddles in autumn.
After the seal trip we headed into nearby Holt where we stopped at this cute little pottery cafe where Evie picked out a piece of pottery (a unicorn of course), chose her colours and got to work painting her beautiful rainbow unicorn. The staff were so friendly and sweet with Evie and, as we weren’t staying in the area for long, they posted the finished creation to us once it had gone in the kiln. We received it when we were home a few days later which created even more joy!
Close to the Norfolk Broads, this is a fun few hours out with kids where you’ll find lots of farm animals to meet and feed plus a treasure hunt around the farm was on when we visited, where you win a little prize at the end. There are also some funfair rides suitable for younger kids that Evie loved so of course we ended up spending most of the day here.
This is quite a magnificent place to spend the day and, even though we didn’t go inside the mansion, there is plenty enough outside to keep visitors entertained. There’s a huge woodland playground, a high rope course and zip wires, wild deer roaming around the huge park and, during our visit over summer, pop up food and drink stalls filled the grounds. We grabbed our picnic (fish and chips, hand crafted coffee and babyccinos, ice cream and Eton Mess for dessert – and possibly a cheeky Pimms for mama) which we enjoyed overlooking the lake while dancing along to the live music.
We could have easily spent the entire day here but Holkham Beach and nature reserve, just a few minutes away, was calling. Which leads us onto…
Best beaches in Norfolk
One of my favourite beach in the UK, Holkham is as unspoilt as they come, with miles of pure golden sand reaching as far as the eye can see. When the tide is out it’s at least a 45 minute walk down to the sea which I thought would be hell with a 3 year old but was actually so much fun. We walked through the shade of the pinewoods, past marsh and heathland blooming with purple flowers, splashed in the lagoons and followed the trickling stream all the way down the long stretch of sand until we finally reached the ocean. The entire beach and nature reserve is so huge that it felt as if we had the whole beach to ourselves to jump over the sand and run into the waves.
The long walk back wasn’t quite as fun as she fell asleep on my shoulder as I carried her! But I didn’t even care because this place is just stunning – photos don’t do it justice!
One of the main and best beaches in North Norfolk, I am hugely disappointed that we didn’t actually end up having time to visit here as we had had such a long day already at nearby Holkham that by the time we left it was getting late and Evie was knackered. But I’ve still included it in my guide because you really shouldn’t go to Norfolk without visiting Wells – what a bad traveller I am! It just gives us an excuse to go back!
The sea is too rough for swimming here but Sheringham is the still cutest little English seaside town with vintage ice cream parlours, cosy tea rooms, fun amusement arcades and a row of colourful beach huts along the promenade that Evie loved dancing her way past.
West Runton Beach
A wonderful family friendly beach that is lesser known than the bigger neighbouring beaches but still has lots to offer. When the tide is out there are rock pools for the little ones to play in, finding shells and spotting crabs. It’s also a great beach for water sports.
A bigger and busier town with the traditional pier full of amusement arcades, an ice cream shop on every corner and excellent fish and chips. We didn’t stay here for long as we preferred the quieter beaches above but I’m told it’s a great place to watch the sunset.
Where to stay in Norfolk with kids
Amber’s Bell Tents
A funky bell tent with the most adorable interior not far from the North Norfolk coast. We roasted marshmallows, went to sleep under the twinkling stars and woke up to the sound of wildlife. Evie would throw a ball around the field with the other kids on the campsite or read some books while I got the fire going for our morning tea, before a day of exploring.
The Bookery Nook
I always like to stay somewhere different and unique and this Airbnb is certainly that. Owned by the loveliest couple who also run a circus and offer circus skills or Tai Chi lessons, it’s the quirkiest and cosiest little retreat in the Norfolk Broads not far from Norwich. A cosy corner inside full of books and games to play plus fluffy chickens, friendly pussy cats and a resident hedgehog running around the garden right outside. Evie felt like she was in Snow White’s cottage!
What to eat in Norfolk
Due to travelling alone with a 3 year old plus covid restrictions, it was a little harder than usual to find good places to eat on this trip. But as we were either glamping or had our own kitchen it was easy enough. We did, of course, stop at some of the best spots for take aways.
You can’t go to the seaside in England and not have fish and chips . We found the best at Eric’s in Holt and No. 1 Cromer in Cromer. If you’re camping or glamping, roasting marshmallows or s’mores over the fire is a must. A delicious ice cream flavour from one of the vintage ice cream parlours in Sheringham. And the food festival at Holkham Hall if you’re there over the weekend during the summer.