North Norfolk Coast – 14 Unmissable Highlights

One of the most stunning parts of the UK coast, the North Norfolk coastline is justifiably famous. With a million years of history – not to mention HUGE skies, fabulous beaches and a gentle nature – the North Norfolk coast is balm for the soul.

Writing this post has bought back a lot of happy childhood holiday memories. I grew up on the borders of Norfolk and spent lots of summers camping along the Norfolk coast and enjoying days out in many of these spots.

Those trips instilled a lot of random knowledge about birds, geology and how to play cricket, and a deep-rooted love of Norfolk. Hopefully, I can share a bit of that passion now by encouraging you to visit at least a few of these incredible North Norfolk coast highlights…

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Where is the North Norfolk Coast?

North Norfolk is an administrative district in Norfolk which stretches from somewhere between Winterton Beach and Horsey Gap, to the middle of Holkham Beach – yep, really clear cut!

But when I talk about the North Norfolk coast, I really mean a geographical area which stretches from Winterton-on-Sea all the way round to the Wash.

See the interactive map of all my North Norfolk coast highlights.

North Norfolk coast map

My interpretation of the North Norfolk coast stretches for over 70 miles from Winterton-on-Sea in the east to King’s Lynn which lies on The Wash, in the west.

The coastline, part of which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, consists of long and deep sandy beaches, traditional seaside towns, soft glacial cliffs, salt marshes, shingle ridges and sand dunes, which, in places, are all that separate the North Sea from the Norfolk Broads.

Along parts of the Norfolk coast, fossils have been found which date back over one million years, and in other places the flora and fauna is the most diverse of anywhere in England.

The drama here is understated, but I find this coast starkly beautiful and whenever I’m amongst the grasses of the dunes, walking along the vast beaches or exploring one of the pretty market towns, I am filled with a deep sense of wellbeing.

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Highlights of the North Norfolk Coast


Tidal creek with wooden boardwalk small boats backed by orange roofed cottages

Blakeney, within the Norfolk Coast AONB, is a charming coastal village with bags of history, its very own nature reserve and an otherworldly watery landscape. Along with Blakeney Point, the nature reserve is home to England’s largest colony of Atlantic Grey seals.

Blakeney can be busy in summer as it’s a perfect crabbing destination, and boat trips take visitors out to Blakeney Point on seal watching tours. For a quieter experience, walk the sea wall between Blakeney and Morston Quay and be blown away by sweeping views of muddy creeks, moored boats and a rich variety of seabirds.

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A row of colourful wooden beach huts facing a sandy beach with a town and church tower in the background

Who can resist Cromer? One of my favourite Norfolk seaside towns, Cromer is home to the much loved Victorian Cromer pier, the Cromer crab and a strong connection with the sea through the RNLI. Cromer is the quintessential Norfolk seaside town and makes a great base from which to explore the North Norfolk coast.

Although you won’t find amusements or fairground rides here, there is plenty to keep you busy in Cromer all year round. With a growing foodie scene, a one-of-a-kind end of pier theatre, fabulous blue flag beach, it’s own micro-brewery and gin distillery, and even a Banksy, Cromer is the place to visit on the Norfolk coast.

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Norfolk Coast Path

north Norfolk path sign on a sandy path with lifeboat sheds in the background

The stunning Norfolk Coast Path runs from Hunstanton in west Norfolk to Sea Palling on the north east Norfolk coast, with most of this hiking trail passing through the dramatic landscape of the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Connect with the diverse Norfolk countryside when you hike the coastal path, through sand dunes, around salt marshes, along golden beaches and over the odd cliff or two. Watch sea birds on the wing, seals bobbing in the North sea and and meet locals in pretty villages and seaside resorts along the way. There’s also a few good pubs on route if you’re planning a day’s hiking!

The route links to Pedder’s Way at Holme-next-the-Sea, a route through the diverse Brecks area of Norfolk, to Thetford.

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Holkham Hall & Beach

Sandy beach with small sand dunes and grasses, with green sea and cloudy blue sky in the background

A wonderful destination for a Norfolk day out, Holkham has it all. The small village boasts one of Norfolk’s best stately homes, Holkham Hall, a beach, properly known as Holkham Gap, and the Holkham National Nature Reserve. There’s a lot going on here!

One of the best stately homes in Norfolk, Holkham Hall is an 18th century Palladian masterpiece, surrounded by rolling parkland, home to a herd of Fallow dear.

Holkham Beach is simply vast and probably the best beach in North Norfolk – even in summer you can find a quiet spot here.

The windswept tidelines, miles of dunes and maze of creeks which make up Holkham’s nature reserve are ripe for exploring by intrepid adventurers – young and old alike!

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Funfair with bright lights at night

Sunny Hunny is a real mixed bag of traditional seaside town, great beach, fairground rides, crazy golf and amusements. I loved coming here as a teenager for the throb of the music as I conquered the world in my dodgem, the hot sugared doughnuts straight from the pan and the 2p slots I still love today!

There are other, quieter elements to Hunstanton like the west facing beach for the sunset, the unique red and white striped cliffs and Old Hunstanton with it’s traditional pubs and car-stone cottages. But for me, it’s all about the lively vibe of Hunston on a hot summers night!

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Winterton-on-Sea Beach

Great seals on a sandy beach with green plants and in the sea

There aren’t many places in the UK where you can see wild seals lounging on a beach, but we’re lucky enough to have such a place in Norfolk. Winterton Beach is at the further point south of North Norfolk and is a cracking three mile stretch of sandy beach, backed by The Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve and some of the finest sand dunes in Norfolk.

At the northern end of Winterton Beach is Horsey, home to an Atlantic Grey seal colony. You can see the seals swimming all along Winterton beach year round, as they pop up their heads to check out what’s happening on the beach.

In winter, around late November to early December, the female seals come onto the beach at Winterton to have their pups. You are asked not to walk on the beach from November to January to prevent the seals being disturbed, but you can see the seals and their pups from the dunes and roped off viewing areas. Dog walkers MUST keep their pets on a lead.

During the breeding season there are Volunteer Wardens from Friends of Horsey Seals helping to make sure the seals are allowed to give birth and mother in peace, and they are a great source of knowledge about the colony and seal behaviour.

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Deep History Coast

a beach with orange cliffs and a full rainbow above against a dark sky

The Deep History Coast is made up of 22 miles of coastline from Weybourne to Cart Gap along the clifftops of the North Norfolk coast. It is where million year old footprints, the earliest evidence of humans in Britain, have been found, alongside the UK’s biggest mammoth skeleton remains and a 500,000 year old flint hand axe.

Exploring the Deep History Coast is a fascinating and fun day out for families, with lots of activities to help you understand the millennia of history in the area. You can fossil hunt along the beautiful beaches between Weybourne and Cart Gap, and follow the Discovery Trail to read fact revealing info along the way.

Try rock-pooling and fossil hunting at West Runton beach, where the Steppe mammonth skeleton was found, or at Happisburgh beach, where the first footspes were discovered. It’s common to find fossils along these beaches, ranging from belemnites to hyaena coprolites (fossilised poo!). The best time to hunt is after a high tide or heavy rainfall.

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Royal Sandringham

Red brick Edwardian stately home facing colourful gardens and trees with blue sky
Andrew Bone from Weymouth, England, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sandringham, a 20,000 acre estate in the Norfolk Coast AONB, is where the Queen retreats for Christmas, and is reportedly her favourite home. Near by, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Wills and Kate, also have their home, Anmer Hall.

You can visit the house, gardens, parkland and St Mary Magdalene Church in a day, with many of the ground floor rooms of Sandringham House remaining as they were in Edwardian times. The gardens are beautiful and the parkland and woods which surround the house are a great spot for dog walking, family activities and picnics.

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The Burnhams

a small shop with blue awning and white 16 pane window, with a chalkboard advertising seafood for sale

The Burnham villages, including the popular Georgian Burnham Market, are situated around the River Burn on the North Norfolk Coast. The “seven Burnhams by the sea” are picture-perfect, unspoilt coastal villages with access to a stunning coastline made up of nature reserves, spectacular beaches and big skies.

Steeped in history connected to the sea and the legacy of Admiral Lord Nelson, there’s lots of interest in and around the Burnhams, with walks between the villages to take you to all the best historical spots.

If you prefer modern day life, then head for Burnham Market, where you’ll find quirky boutiques, antique shops, galleries, delicatessens and eateries around the village green, a favourite haunt of celebrities taking a short break in Norfolk.

The other Burnhams are less visited. From the tidal creeks at Burnham Overy Staithe to Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve to Burnham Deepdale, with its’ round tower church, campsite and market with pop up shops, there’s always something interesting going on.

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North Norfolk Railway

a steam train blowing steam between green vegetation, wheat fields and sea

The North Norfolk Railway has fought through closure, eviction and redevelopment to become a much loved and voluntarily run major attraction in Norfolk. Jump onto the Poppy Line for a steam-driven trip between Sheringham and the Georgian market town of Holt, and enjoy amazing views of the countryside as you go.

The railway offers a 10.5 mile round trip by steam train, with vintage diesel trains on some journeys, through the North Norfolk AONB. To the south are rolling woodlands and to the north, infinite sea. This is definitely a journey to remember!

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colourful wooden beach huts on stilts in from of pine trees

Between the fabulous Holkham beach and the bird sanctuary at Blakeney Point, lies the pretty harbour town of Wells-next-the-Sea.

With a harbour sheltered from the open sea by salt marshes, Wells was once one of the great Tudor ports of East Anglia. Now, the harbour is still used by sailing and crabbing boats and is watched over by a distinctive granary dating from 1904.

Set in north Norfolk’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wells town has a Georgian square and a good mix of traditional and contemporary shops. Wells is also famous for its colourful wooden beach huts, which you can find if you take a walk through the pinewoods to beautiful Wells beach.

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East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden

aerial view of large formal gardens and a arts and crafts house
John Fielding from Norwich, UK, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A wonderful surprise, the epic gardens at the Old Vicarage in East Ruston are, for me, the best gardens in Norfolk, if not the whole of East Anglia.

Started as a labour of love in 1973, on a completely blank canvas, the owners have created something really special, and still garden here today. With a mix of formal, cottage garden and exotic planting, all taking into account the mere 1.5 miles distance from the North Sea, the 32 acre plot is a lush haven that even non-gardeners will enjoy.

Make sure to take the walks which lead to cleverly cut holes in the shelter-belt hedge, which perfectly frame Happisburgh lighthouse and church.

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Happisburgh Lighthouse

red and white striped lighthouse with small white cottages in a field of wheat with a path through

Happisburgh (pronounced hayz•buh•ruh) Lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia. Saved as a working lighthouse by the local community in 1990, it is maintained and operated entirely by voluntary contributions and is the only independently run lighthouse in Great Britain

Built in 1790, originally one of a pair, the tower is 26m tall and the lantern is 41m above sea level. Today, the distinctive lighthouse is painted white with three red bands and is a photogenic landmark on the North Norfolk Coast.

The lighthouse has open days where you can climb the 112 steps to the light for fantastic coastal views, and find out more about how the light is operated.

Norfolk Lavender

Orange earth path running through lavender field in bloom, to a red brick house and small trees

A highlight on the western edge of the Norfolk coast near King’s Lynn, Norfolk Lavender has been a holiday-maker’s favourite since 1932. With over 100 acres of lavender and over 100 lavender varieties, wandering the fragrant fields is a real treat, especially when the plants are in bloom in summer.

With a tearooms where you can enjoy lavender infused goodies, animal gardens and a play park for kids, and tours of the lavender fields, this makes a great stop on any North Norfolk coastal holiday. You can also buy lavender plants and their own range of lavender products in the farm shop – time to stock up on all those delicious smellies!

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Map of North Norfolk Coast Highlights

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

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