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River Thurne, Norfolk Broads
River Thurne, Norfolk Broads

Things To Do In The Norfolk Broads

"So many yachts about the quays, So many sails amongst the trees; So many people everywhere, So much holiday in the air!"

Saturday At Wroxam - A poem by Alan Hunter

Set Sail on the Norfolk Broads

You would be forgiven for thinking the Norfolk Broads are a natural wonder as you sail on 125 miles of navigable waterways, or walk along more than 190 miles of footpaths. The plethora of birds and wildlife is fantastic, and with one of the driest climates in the UK you are more than likely to enjoy blue skies. The sense of calm and serenity is palpable, yet this landscape was formed as a byproduct of medieval peat mining rather than any geological miracle.

Despite their popularity as a holiday destination, it never feels crowded on the Broads. An absence of motorways in Norfolk means you have to slow your pace, and you can spend many happy hours gliding gently along rivers and broads, or pootling around country lanes discovering beautiful market towns and villages.

The weather's great, the scenery is stunning, and the food is out of this world. The Norfolk Broads appeal is timelessly wholesome. Isn't it time you came for a visit?


Discovery Days

Ducks Crossing
Discover the Norfolk Broads

The region may be small, but the Norfolk Broads are endlessly fascinating with pleasant surprises around every bend.

Wroxham & Hoveton

Wroxham and Hoveton are twin villages on each side of the River Bure. Both are very popular, and you will not struggle to find things to do whatever time of year you are there. You can hire a boat, bike or canoe, marvel at Wroxham Miniature Worlds, shop at the famous Roys department store, stroll along the river, fish or enjoy a leisurely lunch in one of the riverside pubs if you need to refuel.

Head to Wroxham Barns where you can browse the crafts, enjoy a cream tea in the café and let the little ones pet the animals. BeWILDerwood is also a short drive from Wroxham and an enormous playground which appeals to kids of all ages, but especially those under the age of 10. Entry can seem expensive, but there is nothing extra to spend once you are inside unless you choose to eat at the cafe. Swings, tree houses, slides and zip wires cater for adults as well as children, so there's no need to feel left out of the fun!

Hickling Broad

Hickling Broad is ideal for visitors who enjoy the sense of solitude and privacy. As the largest expanse of water in the area, there is ample room to find space for yourself. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust expertly manages the site and makes sure it is enjoyable for people of all ages with a Habitat Trail, Minibeast Hunt and Dyke Dipping just a few of the activities that appeal to younger visitors.

Hickling Broad
Thatched Boat House, Hickling Broad

Butterflies flutter above the wildflowers while dragonflies skim the water, looking for their dinner. There are several hides for bird spotting but if you don't know your swift from your swan, then book a guided boat trip via the visitor centre (which has a great cafe) and let an expert talk you through the many different species of birds, insects and wildlife you will see.

Oulton Broad

Another fantastic choice for an exciting day of discovery is Oulton Broad. The town is near Lowestoft across the border in Suffolk and bills itself as the southern gateway to the National Park. There are a wealth of opportunities for sailing, rowing and canoeing so you can explore the waterways at your chosen speed. Local angler Lee Pullen has a popular fishing tackle shop where you can get bait and tackle and that all-important local knowledge about where the fish are most likely to be biting.

If the weather is poor or you want to keep your feet on dry land, you will find lots to amuse you in this lovely town. The Lowestoft Museum is in Broad House and is open every afternoon between April and October. It is inside Nicholas Everitt Park and a favourite idea for a family day out is to spend the morning boating on the water and picnicking in the park before seeing the well-curated museum exhibits. Nicholas Everitt Park also hosts an Artists Boulevard open air exhibition every Sunday afternoon from April to October (weather permitting).

Horsey Windpump

Seals at Horsey
Grey Seals, Horsey

The Horsey Windpump is one of the few remaining windmills on the Norfolk Broads. It is actually a drainage pump, designed to pump water out of the dykes and carry it 23 miles to the sea at Great Yarmouth. The windpump is impressive and so is the land in which it sits, all of which is managed by the National Trust. There is a three-mile return walk from the windpump to the beach where you may be fortunate enough to spot grey seals, and a circular walk that takes you around Horsey Estate. If you don't feel like packing a picnic, there is a cafe serving locally made cakes.

Rainy Days

Windpump on the Norfolk Broads
Windpump on the Norfolk Broads

Although the region enjoys more than its fair share of fine weather, it is in England, so you know it is wise to expect the odd day of rain. There's no reason to despair because these locations offer great wet weather activities in the Norfolk Broads.

Great Yarmouth

The seaside resort of Great Yarmouth has been attracting pleasure seekers since the mid-1700s, and while it is undeniably a fantastic sunny day spot, it is almost as much fun when it rains. Head indoors and relive your youth at RetroSkate, say "hi" to the sharks at the Sea Life Centre, and go ten-pin bowling at Wellington Pier. Sneak some education in with the fun at the Time and Tide Museum and the Nelson Museum, or just blow the contents of your piggy bank in one of the many amusement arcades. If the rain eases then grab some fish and chips and enjoy the beach without the hoards of summer visitors.

Brundall to Oulton Broad

The train journey from Brundall to Oulton Broad is a great, non-touristy way to see a significant chunk of the Broads with minimal effort. The journey takes around 30 minutes with Great Anglia Rail. Both Brundall and Oulton Broad are lovely towns with a good choice of places to eat and things to see and do, so drive to whichever station is closest to you and see where the day takes you.


Shopping in Norwich
Go shopping in Norwich

You can't visit the Broads National Park without spending a day in Norwich. It has an astounding number medieval streets and buildings, with a magnificent cathedral at its heart. As well as a good variety of high street shops and independent boutiques, Norwich boasts the largest undercover market in Europe, so the shopaholic in you will be in heaven. Norwich isn't all shopping. It has a rich cultural history and is a UNESCO City of Literature. Its age gives Norwich a sense of solidness and permanence, while its university population keep it feeling fresh and relevant in a modern world.


Beccles is on the River Waveney on the southern border of the Broads National Park (technically sitting in the county of Suffolk). It has good links to London, Norwich, Cambridge and Ipswich and so is popular with families and commuters, while its good looks, a variety of independent businesses and friendly vibe make it a draw for visitors as well. Fishing on the river can be better in the rain, as long as it is not too heavy, but the museum, shops (including some lovely antique shops), cafes, pubs and Friday market will while away a drizzly day if you want to stay dry.

Cheer up a rainy day with a local pint

Woodforde's Brewery have been brewing since 1981 and their award winning beers are the perfect complement to a Norfolk holiday. Sitting in the picturesque village of Woodbastwick, evening (and weekend) Brewery tours are available and the brewery has its own village pub (The Fur and Feather) offering a wholesome menu showcasing local ingredients and their very own 'home brew'.

Or a long lazy lunch

Use a rainy day to sample some of Norfolk's finest produce. Whether you head to the coast or stay beside the river, there are plenty of great pubs and restaurants in the Norfolk Broads.

Our first recommendation is the Recruiting Sergeant on the Norwich Road in Horstead (NR12 7EE). A much loved watering hole with locals, the Recruiting Sergeant offers a warm Norfolk welcome to all (including your four legged friends) with a good choice of local beers, a chalk-board with tempting cocktails and an adventurous menu with something to tantalise all from venison wellington, to Malaysian style chicken thigh with tempura lobster laska. If you visit during the daytime, make sure you visit Farm to Fork & Fish across the road with an excellent butchers selling locally reared meat, a superb fish bar and deli for stocking up your supplies back at the cottage.

The Swan Inn in Horning (NR12 8AA) sits on the River Bure and serves delicious food in a country riverside setting (with a splash of rustic chic). This dog-friendly pub has a good choice of dishes for children, lots of choice on the vegan menu and a really comforting and interesting main menu whether your pleasure is slow cooked belly of pork topped with a blackberry and elderflower jus, or you just fancy fish and chips. A perfect place to spend a few hours eating, chatting and watching the antics on the water from the terrace.

Bure River Cottage Restaurant is another tempting choice in Horning (NR12 8AA – pre-booking recommended as this small restaurant only has 40 covers). Purely specialising in seafood, this lovely little restaurant has a daily-changing menu (everything is made on-site including the bread!) and is the perfect place to sample the finest of seafood from Norfolk and Suffolk.

The Ship Pub and Restaurant in South Walsham (NR13 6DQ) is owned by the same group that own the Recruiting Sergeant so unsurprisingly, the menu offers both imaginative and hearty dishes, that can be washed down with a good pint of local ale or fine wine. This is one of those pubs that serves a healthy portion (without compromising on quality) so our advice is to take your walking boots (and binoculars as there is lots of wildlife to spot) and combine lunch with the six mile circular loop from South Walsham Broad, alongside the Bure and Thurne rivers. Dogs are made most welcome in the bar.

The Fritton Arms and the Dukes Head on the Somerleyton Estate are two more favourites – see Lazy days.

Adventure Days

Kayaking, Norfolk Broads
Go Kayaking on the Norfolk Broads

There is lots of opportunity for adventure in the Norfolk Broads whether you do it on the land or water, or in the sky. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Flying and Sky Diving

In addition to being good for rainy days in the Norfolk Broads, Beccles is an excellent destination for an adventure. You can learn to fly a plane or helicopter or get a different view of the landscape as you approach it by parachute! All activities operate from Beccles Airfield on Brock Road.

Learn the ropes

A holiday is the perfect time to learn a new activity and sailing is an exhillerating way of exploring the Broads. Experience the thrill of the forces and be at one with nature, safe in the hands of a qualified skipper to show you the ropes. Reasonably priced, Hunter's Yard offers skippered sails from a taster two hour experience to a full day afloat (children and well behaved dogs welcome!)

Sailing Norfolk Broads
Spend the day sailing on the Norfolk Broads

Whitlingham Country Park

Another place for watersports as well as walking and cycling is Whitlingham Country Park. You can try kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, sailing and archery. There is a wheelchair accessible path that runs for two miles around the Great Broad, with two all-terrain wheelchairs available to book through the visitor centre.

Barton Turf Adventure

There is fun to be had for the whole family at Barton Turf Adventure. Based on Barton Broad, it is primarily a sailing and watersports activity centre, with sailing, canoeing and powerboat handling courses for all ages and abilities. They have a calendar of classes and events, so contact them to find out more.

Go Wild with Tigers and Sharks

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens has an exotic bunch of residents. See several species of leopard, as well as meerkats, otters, gibbons, reptiles and birds. The Tiger Treetop Walk gives you a bird's eye view of the magnificent Sumatran tigers, and you can watch the crocodiles and alligators being fed on certain days during the summer. There is a cafe (open April to September), large play area, picnic tables and gift shop, so it is a fun filled day out with lots to see. An alternative animal adventure can be had at Sea Life in Great Yarmouth where it is possible to book a VIP experience where you can feed the sharks or turtles.

Lazy Days

West Somerton
Riverbank in West Somerton

Let your cares slip away during your holiday on the Norfolk Broads. These lazy days out provide the perfect antidote to a busy life.

Somerleyton Hall

You will lose all sense of time as you wander through Somerleyton Hall's house and gardens. The magnificent stately home is part of a 5,000-acre estate and opens between April and September. The Tudor mansion is wonderfully preserved, and you can see the layers of history left behind by the families who have lived there over the last few centuries. The 4th Baron Somerleyton now owns it. Somerleyton is not open every day, so check the website or phone before you set out.

Somerleyton Estate also includes two fantastic pubs. The Fritton Arms bar and restaurant is beside Fritton Lake and has a great menu made from locally sourced ingredients and an spacious beer garden. The Duke's Head also serves fresh local food but has more of a relaxed, gastropub style menu than the Fritton Arms.

Set Your Own Pace

Boats on the river Thurne, Norfolk Broads
Riverside walk along the river Thurne

There are lots of companies providing boat trips around the Norfolk Broads but for a truly relaxing day, hire a boat and go at your own pace. Richardson's and Broads Tours, both in Wroxham, are popular places for boat hire, but there are a wealth of businesses around the area so you can find one close to where you are staying. Spend all day cruising at a leisurely four miles an hour, or find a peaceful spot to moor and soak up the beauty and peace of the Broads.

St Olave's Priory

English Heritage manages the ruins of St Olave's Priory. Entry is free and, while it is not a full day out, a picnic here is a highlight of a walk which can also incorporate the ruins of Burgh Castle and the Berney Arms Windmill. As a bonus, all three sites have free entry.

St Olave's Priory was founded in 1216 and was in use as a religious building until 1537. It was adapted into a private house in 1825 but last inhabited in 1902. The vaulted brick under croft is one of the earliest of its kind and, given the building's history, impressively almost intact.

Strumpshaw Fen RSPB

As one of the top places in the country for bird watching, a trip to Norfolk would not be complete without visiting at least one of the many nature reserves. Strumpshaw Fen RSPB Reserve is a good choice with meadows full of orchids in the warmer months, woodland walks and reedbeds attracting an abundance of wildlife. It's a fantastic place for all ages, with lots to see and plenty to keep kids amused without a screen in sight! It is possible to Rent-a-Warden to learn more about the variety of birds and habitats you will see, or turn your lazy day into an activity day and book a guided cycle ride to cover more ground.

Swans atFairhaven
See the wildlife at Fairhaven

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden

There are 130 acres to explore at your leisure at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, including four miles of footpaths designed to show the landscape off to perfection. Take a stroll through the gardens and woodland before enjoying a wedge of homemade cake and a restorative cup of tea at the Kingfisher Tea Room. There are gift and plant shops and, between April and October, you can take a boat trip on Fairhaven's private broad.

Weekenders' Guide

Essential Guide to the Norfolk Broads
A whirlwind tour!

Every great destination has experiences that make a holiday there extra special. If you are only in the Broads for a short visit, ticking a few of these off your bucket list will make sure you don't miss out.

Make friends with an otter

Birds are abundant in the Norfolk Broads but the resident otter population is harder to spot. One of the best ways to see them in the wild is by canoe, and The Canoe Man runs regular tours.

Visit the capital of the Broads

Whilst it can get busy, Wroxham offers a true Broadland experience. Hire a boat, have lunch in a riverside pub, walk alongside the river and visit Roys in Hoverton – 'The Worlds Largest Village Store'.

Sit alongside the River Bure

Horning is one of the prettiest villages in the Norfolk Broads and a boating haven. Makes sure you pay it a visit and if you have little ones to amuse, combine it with a visit to nearby BeWILDerwood.

Vist a floating wildlife centre

Ranworth Broad has a floating wildlife centre that adds another dimension to a day on the Broads. It is a great place to spot a variety of birds, including kingfishers and osprey, and you may also be fortunate to see some otters as well.

Walk up the tower at St Helen's Church in Ranworth

You will need to scale 89 steps up two ladders and go through a trap door to get to the top, but once there you will be able to see the River Bure and five Broads. The church also has a magnificent medieval illuminated service book and a painted medieval screen.

Re-live the golden age of travel

Sit back and soak up the scenery on a nostalgic train trip with the Bure Valley Steam Railway. It's an effortless way to see eighteen miles of beautiful Norfolk scenery.

Last Minute Offers in The Norfolk Broads

Thinking of a break in The Norfolk Broads? Let us tempt you with a selection of our best last minute offers. Remember, we don't charge a booking fee, so the price you see is the price you pay.

Did you know?

...the reeds that grow naturally in the Norfolk Broads are regarded as the best in the UK for thatching houses. The harvest takes place in winter and during early spring, and the cutting process makes the reed stronger the following season.

...while the Broads attract around eight million people every year, the permanent population is only 6,300, which is less than one percent of visitors.

... the landscape here is unique. A quarter of Britain's rarest species of plants and animals are found in the Norfolk Broads. Not only does the area have national park status but there are 28 Special Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well. It is the only place in the UK you can find the Swallowtail Butterfly.

... Admiral Lord Nelson, the naval legend and hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, is believed to have learned to sail on Barton Broad when he was at Paston School between 1768-71.

...not only have the Norfolk Broads inspired writers and painters, but they have also inspired inventors as well. Sir Christopher Cockerell invented the hovercraft in the early 1950s when he was living at Oulton Broad.

...Norwich is the only city in the UK to be within a National Park. In the 11th Century, it was the largest city in the UK outside of London, and until the Industrial Revolution, it was the most densely populated county in England.