Hunstanton is a lively resort town in beautiful West Norfolk. Known locally as ‘sunny Hunny’, Hunstanton is one of Norfolk’s top seaside towns and makes a perfect base for a Norfolk holiday or day out.
There are lots of Hunstanton attractions to keep everyone busy. With two fantastic beaches, both offering a different experience, a traditional Victorian town centre, and lots of top Norfolk attractions in the surrounding area, Hunstanton will entertain the whole family.
This round-up of all the must-do things in Hunstanton and the surrounding area will help you plan your trip, so here are my top Hunstanton highlights…
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- The Best Things to Do In Hunstanton
- Things To Do Near Hunstanton
- Explore Old Hunstanton
- Hike the Norfolk Coast Path
- Discover Snettisham Park Farm
- Visit Norfolk Lavender
- Discover the Sandringham Estate
- Explore King’s Lynn
- Spend a Day on Holme-next-the-Sea Beach
- Take a Stroll at Courtyard Farm
- Explore Bircham Windmill
- Admire the View from Castle Rising
- Take a Day Trip to Holkham
The Best Things to Do In Hunstanton
Spend a Day at the Beach
Hunstanton is the only seaside town in Norfolk which faces west, even though it’s on the east coast! This means Hunstanton Beach is relatively sheltered from sea breezes and a great place to enjoy watching the setting sun over the Wash.
Hunstanton has two beaches. If you want a proper sandy stretch, head to Hunstanton South Beach. Closest to the resort of Hunstanton, the south beach is perfect for families looking for a great sand-castle building beach with lots of amusements, traditional beach activities and water sports.
The Victorian resort of Hunstanton was purpose-built in 1846 and, away from the amusement arcades, fairground rides and in your face noise and lights of the front, has an old-world charm. The promenade is home to lots of attractions, fairground rides and amusements, and a mini-train to take visitors along the seafront.
Hunstanton Beach to the north is known for its red chalk, white chalk and carrstone striped cliff face, is further away from the resort and is best for rock pooling, fossil hunting and dog walking, some of the best free things to do in Hunstanton.
Car parking is fairly easy for the south and north beach. There are plenty of pay and display car parks in Hunstanton where you don’t have to walk far to reach the sands.
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Get Your Thrills at Rainbow Park
I loved coming to the sea-front fairground at Hunstanton as a kid, and then 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 fairground rides for every age group, and two amusement arcades where you can find all the traditional games like penny falls, fruit machines and grabbing cranes, alongside the the most up to date interactive arcade games.
There’s plenty of parking in the nearby Seagate Car Park, lots of places to eat including seaside favourites like fish and chips, doughnuts, candyfloss and ice creams, and public toilets opposite the fairground.
Discover SEA LIFE Hunstanton
Next to the fairground on the South Promenade is the SEA LIFE sanctuary and aquarium. A really popular family attraction, this SEA LIFE centre is a bit different as it’s also home to Norfolk’s Seal Rescue Centre and Hospital.
Based in Hunstanton because of the large population of Common Seals and Grey Seals along the nearby North Norfolk coast, the seal hospital cares for injured and vulnerable seals and seal pups until they can be released back into the wild.
There is also the brilliant penguin beach, a chance to get up close to insects and creepy crawlies (not for me!) at Rainforest Ranger basecamp, walk the amazing ocean tunnel and make friends with a wide range of sea creatures.
Take a Seal Safari
If you loved SEA LIFE, then a seal safari bout tour from Hunstanton will take you to see the seals in the wild! Jump aboard the famous Wash Monster, an amphibious vessel which departs from Hunstanton’s Central Promenade.
These boat trips provide a truly fascinating and fun way of discovering the local seal population and coastal areas with panoramic views. You’ll also learn about local history and fascinating legends from around the Wash.
Find out about Norfolk’s smuggling history, the geological wonder of Hunstanton’s red and white striped cliffs, and the bronze age Seahenge found at nearby Holme beach.
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Take in a Show at the Princess Theatre
One of the best things to do in Hunstanton in the rain, the Princess Theatre provides a wide variety of entertainment from panto, live shows and films, including family friendly Easter, summer and Christmas shows. Check out what’s on here.
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Explore Hunstanton Heritage Gardens
The colourful Hunstanton Heritage Gardens are an open space located over the only stretch of the eastern coast that faces west, and enjoy spectacular sunset views across the Wash.
Covering around 6.8 hectares, the gardens are made up of a number of different areas and are the only significant open space within the town of Hunstanton. The Green is at the heart of the resort and gardens and naturally inclines towards the promenade. It looks over the Wash and the site of the former pier that was destroyed in 1978 in heavy storms.
The upper section houses the Town Sign and the Grade II listed Town Cross. It is thought the cross was relocated to its current position from Old Hunstanton, when the resort was founded by Henry L’Estrange. The lower section contains the ‘Butterfly Shelters’ that were installed during the 1960’s and the Bandstand that is still regularly used over the summer months.
The Esplanade Gardens are a highlight! A traditional Victorian Promenade Garden consisting of formally laid out annual beds, which has remained remarkably unchanged since its origination.
Finally, Cliff Parade stretches from the Esplanade Gardens to the north. It consists of a wide expanse of amenity grass, interspersed with three Victorian shelters that date back to 1898.
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Play Crazy Golf
OK, I have a confession to make. Along with 2p slots and sugared doughnuts, I LOVE crazy golf. It may be naff and laughed at by every other country in the world, but there’s nothing like a game for a bit of family bonding!
The best place for a game of mini golf is Blackbeards Adventure Golf, on the South Prom. Home to an 18 hole course which only gets harder as you go along, this is great fun with a family group. The decor is befitting for the theme, but it’s more about the competition than anything else! Celebrate the winner with an ice-cream from next-door Coast Gelato!
Learn at Hunstanton Heritage Centre
Another great option for a rainy day, Hunstanton Heritage Centre is home to the history and formation of Hunstanton. Displays show everything from the geology of Hunstanton and its multi coloured striped cliffs, to the creation of the town, railway and pier, and the events that have shaped the town and its heritage.
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Go Sea Kayaking
See Hunstanton from an alternative perspective and take to the water in an open sea kayak. Beginners can take lessons, you can hire a kayak, or take a kayak tour around the sandbanks of the Wash – you might even meet a seal as they pop up to check you out!
Hunstanton Kayaks on North Promenade provide all the equipment you need, as well as lessons and guided tours.
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Get Active at Alive Oasis
The Alive Oasis Leisure Centre in Hunstanton has lots on offer throughout the year. Adults can take fitness classes, play squash, table-tennis and bowls, and use the well-equipped gyms. For kids, there’s roller-skating, an indoor soft play area, and indoor pool and slide.
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Things To Do Near Hunstanton
Explore Old Hunstanton
Just along the coast from lively Hunstanton is the smaller and more peaceful village of Old Hunstanton, which has its own quiet expanse of fine, golden sand. Considered the best kitesurfing beach in the UK, there is also a collection of wonderful beach huts nested in the dunes.
It’s also an awesome body boarding beach – I can still feel the rash from my ten year old’s polystyrene board! Do check the tides here though, visitors can be caught out.
There’s lots of history to uncover in Old Hunstanton, including an old lighthouse that sits atop the red and white striped cliffs, the 1272 ruins of St Edmund’s Chapel and Le Strange Old Barns, an antiques and craft centre based in the village.
Old Hunstanton is also home to a few great places to eat including fine dining at the The Neptune, The Old Boathouse and Chives Brasserie.
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Hike the Norfolk Coast Path
Hunstanton is the starting point of the Norfolk Coast path, which runs for 84 miles east to Hopton-on-Sea and passes through the dramatic landscape of North Norfolk’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Walk the route to the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham for lunch and then catch the Coasthopper bus back to Hunstanton. This walk is 5.5 miles and will take around two hours, or more if you want to stop to take photos and explore!
The Norfolk Coast Path begins by the bowling green in Hunstanton. Pick up and follow the black and white National Trail acorns from here. Walk past the Lighthouse at Old Hunstanton and look out for the ruins of St Edmund’s Chapel dating back to 1272, close by.
At the RNLI lifeboat station the new route goes straight ahead, initially following behind the dunes and alongside Hunstanton golf course. Just before the final beach hut, waymark signs will direct you to go up onto the dunes from where there are fantastic views of the expanse of Holme beach and Hunstanton cliffs.
At Holme Beach you meet the end of the Peddars Way. As you follow the boardwalk through the Holme Dunes reserve the beach to your left is where the 4000 year old timber circle, known as Seahenge, was discovered.
Please follow the waymarking carefully to avoid nesting birds in the dunes on this National Nature Reserve managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
At Old Thornham Harbour continue along Staithe Lane until your reach the pub, for a well deserved cold drink! From here it’s a 30 minute walk to the excellent RSPB Titchwell Marsh, or walk the five minutes to where Church Street meets the A149, where you’ll find The Orange Tree bus stop.
The CoastLiner 36 bus stops here on route to King’s Lynn via Hunstanton, at 13 minutes past every hour between 9am and 7pm.
Discover Snettisham Park Farm
Snettisham Park Farm is a working Norfolk farm growing wheat for animal feed, malting barley, sugar beet and grass. The farm is grazed by a flock of 400 sheep, a herd of red deer, and horses and ponies from the stables.
This 329 acre working farm makes for a great day out. With lots of interactive activities for the whole family, this is also a great opportunity to learn about farming in Norfolk. You can watch lambs being born, take a deer safari, collect freshly laid eggs, bottle feed lambs and piglets, ride ponies and enjoy a walk along one of three fantastic trails.
Visit Norfolk Lavender
One of the most famous places to visit near Hunstanton, 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 a Norfolk afternoon tea with lavender infused goodies, a farm shop full of Norfolk produce, animal gardens and a play park for kids, and tours of the lavender fields, this makes a great stop on any Norfolk holiday.
You can also buy lavender plants and their own range of lavender products in the gift shop – time to stock up on all those delicious smellies!
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Discover the Sandringham Estate
Sandringham, a 20,000 acre estate in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is where Queen Elizabeth II 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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Explore King’s Lynn
Nestled in the western corner of Norfolk is the historic port and market town of King’s Lynn. With a rich Hanseatic past, streets and squares lined with period architecture and bustling market places and quays, King’s Lynn is a Norfolk town well worth visiting.
A walking tour of the town is one of the best free things to do in Kings Lynn. Pick up self-guided trail leaflets from the Tourist Information Centre in the Town Hall, or download here. Choose from the maritime trail, Hanseatic trail, Pilgrimage trail and King’s Lynn town guides, or do them all!
Highlights to look out for are the 17th century elegant Custom House, which overlooks the harbour and historic waterfront, King’s Lynn Minster and Pilot Street, where you can see rare examples of 15th century timber framed parallel hall houses. A wander down Pilot Street through Tuesday Market Place to the Custom House gives you a feel for how this town looked in years gone by.
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Spend a Day on Holme-next-the-Sea Beach
Holme Beach is the beach of my childhood. I love the huge expanse of sand, the dunes perfect for playing hide and seek, or flying a kite, and the happy family memories it holds for me.
Many prefer the more lively Hunstanton Beach, but for me the far reaching views and the soft sand make this one of Norfolk’s best beaches. It’s a bit of a hidden gem too, not many people head for Holme Beach – or not enough to make it feel crowded anyway!
Holme Beach had its fifteen minutes of fame in 1998, when an Early Bronze Age timber circle was discovered on the sands. An extraordinary find, the arrangement of 55 timber posts surrounding a huge stump that had been buried with its roots upwards, was called Seahenge, as it resembled the famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
When Seahenge was created around 2050BCE, the area around Holme was a salt marsh. Over thousands of years, the marshes were covered in peat beds as the sea encroached, and the peat preserved the timbers, keeping them whole.
The timbers were carefully removed from the sea, cleaned, and vacuum freeze-dried to protect them. The original upturned tree stump and many of the upright timber posts are now on display in a special exhibit in the Lynn Museum in nearby King’s Lynn.
Take a Stroll at Courtyard Farm
Courtyard Farm is a thriving organic farm near Ringstead, producing arable crops to the highest organic standards. Set in beautiful unspoilt countryside, Courtyard Farm provides a haven for wildlife and wild flowers and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the coast.
There are two way-marked two mile circular walks and one six mile walk around the farm, on public footpaths, as well as several miles of permissive paths. The walks are varied and have lovely views of the farm and surrounding countryside, all in an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
You will see two permanent pieces of land art, made by East Anglian artists, on the North Wood circular walk, and at most times of the year there are pigs and cattle roaming. Dogs are welcomed on a lead.
Explore Bircham Windmill
Standing in the heart of Norfolk’s rolling fields, Bircham Windmill has been restored and now looks as it did over 100 years ago. At that time, Norfolk was home to over 300 mills which ground corn for bread making and animal feed.
Today, very few are left, and Bircham Mill is considered one of the best still remaining. You can climb the five floors up to the fan stage and, on windy days, you can see the sails and the milling machinery turning.
Bircham Mill still make their own bread in the bakery adjoining the mill, which has its original, coal-fired oven. You can also try your hand at bread baking, a great activity for families with older children.
Admire the View from Castle Rising
Castle Rising Castle is one of the most famous 12th century castles in England. The imposing stone keep was built in 1140CE and is amongst the finest surviving examples of its kind in Great Britain. The massive surrounding earthworks, not only ensure that Rising is a castle of national importance, but give lots of opportunity for kids to run off steam and play at sword fighting!
I love to visit Castle Rising, especially with children. It’s one of the few castles where you can get up close to the atmospheric and unspoilt interiors, full of hidden corners, steps worn smooth over centuries, and arrow slits with incredible views.
Take a Day Trip to Holkham
A bit further afield than other attractions near Hunstanton, Holkham is absolutely worth the 30 minute drive and one of the best days out near Hunstanton. Not only will you see gorgeous scenery along the way, especially if you take the country lanes via Ringstead, there’s loads to explore when you get there!
The small village boasts one of Norfolk’s top 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, with a fantastic walled garden, surrounded by rolling parkland and home to a herd of Fallow dear.
Holkham Beach is simply vast and probably the best beach in 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!
Parking for Holkham Beach is along either side of Lady Anne’s Drive in Holkham village, just off the A149, opposite The Victoria Inn. Sitting at the top of Lady Anne’s Drive, The Lookout is a stunning modern building which blends into the landscape, where you can get drinks, snacks and food. Dogs under control or on a lead are welcomed on the beach.
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Have you had a holiday or day out in Hunstanton? Share your trip in the comments below!