26 Exciting Things To Do On the Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a unique network of navigable rivers and lakes which meet the Norfolk coast, to create a diverse landscape, perfect for an exciting outdoor holiday or trip.

There are lots of Norfolk Broads attractions to keep the whole family busy. Find adventure on the miles of tranquil waterways, enjoy games and sandcastle building on Norfolk’s stunning beaches, hike and cycle the local trails, explore the rich Broads history and visit local theme parks and farms. The Norfolk Broads really does have it all!

This round-up of all the must-do things in the Norfolk Broads and the surrounding area will help you plan your Norfolk Broads short break or holiday, so here are my Norfolk Broads highlights…

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things to do Norfolk Broads

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Norfolk Broads Visitor Centres

The Broads National Park has three visitor centres where knowledgeable staff can make sure you get the most out of your visit. Stopping by is always a good way to find out what’s going on in the local area and to get tips and ideas about things to do.

The centres are at Hoveton, Ranworth and Toad Hole Cottage at How Hill Nature Reserve. All the visitor centres run boat trips so you can explore the nearby waterways, as well as screening films about Broads wildlife. You can also buy short visit boat licenses as well as books, maps, postcards and gifts.

For tips and help on getting to the Broads, getting around, where to stay and where to eat, check out my locals guide to the Norfolk Broads, a great resource for any Broads visitor!

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things to do in Wroxham

Things To Do on the Water in the Norfolk Broads

Paddle the Norfolk Broads

The best way to admire and appreciate the Broads is from the water. Wroxham, the capital of the Broads, is a great place to start. Hire a canoe, kayak or paddle board and set off on a Swallows and Amazons style adventure, with a picnic and binoculars to spot the many different birds and animals you’ll encounter.

For the best opportunities to see kingfishers, bitterns and even the elusive otter, take a guided trail with the CanoeMan, local experts who will take you to backwaters where motorised boats can’t go, and share information about life on the Broads.

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Take a Norfolk Broads Boat Trip

If you prefer to travel in a motorised vessel, take to the helm and hire a day boat from Wroxham to independently explore the beauty of the Broads at your own pace. Electric boats, wheelchair friendly and pet friendly day boats are available, and many have catering facilities so you can make the most of your time on the water.

If you‘re not confident on the water or skippering your own boat, but still want to explore this gorgeous part of Norfolk, hop on a Broads boat tour from Wroxham Bridge. Many of these Norfolk Broads boat trips have live commentary, light refreshments and a licensed bar.

For something a little different, take a trip on the Southern Comfort, a Mississippi paddle boat that sails from Horning along the River Bure to Ranworth Broad. This luxury river cruiser was purpose built for the Broads and provides stunning views from its top deck, of traditional Broads cottages, windmills, and Norfolk reed beds as you sail by.

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Boats moored on a Norfolk Broads river with a windmill behind

Book a Broads Boating Holiday

Go one better than taking a boat trip and book your Norfolk Broads holiday on a boat. The beauty of boating holidays on the Broads is that you can explore the whole area and get a completely different perspective from the comfort of your holiday accommodation, the boat!

Norfolk Broads Direct is well known for boat hire on the Norfolk Broads, offering a modern fleet of high-quality cruisers for hire. The cruisers are all motorised, so you don’t need to know how to sail, dog friendly and have everything you need on board. If you really want to see the best of the Broads, boating is the way to go!

If you prefer to sail your way around the Broads, check out Olivers Sailing Holidays and Waterways Holidays who rent yachts and even offer learning to sail holidays.

Sail on a Norfolk Wherry

As you travel around the Broads, it’s a very surreal experience to see the sails of boats flapping in what looks like a field! If you’re lucky you may be looking at the sail of a Norfolk Wherry, a traditional Broads vessel (as well as a local amber ale from Woodforde’s Brewery!)

Wherry’s were originally cargo boats and pleasure craft which were used all over the Broads, before road transport became easy and cheap. Sadly, there are only eight wherries left sailing today from the original 300 or more – if you see one, you can check which one you spotted here. There are only two surviving trading wherries in existance, Albion and Maud, and both display the distinctive black sail. All other wherries have white sails.

You can charter most of the wherries still in use, and visit the 123 year old Albion, which belongs to the Norfolk Wherry Trust on one of their open events or day cruises.

Traditional Norfolk wherry with black sail on a river

Have a Family Adventure at Barton Broad

Off the beaten path Barton Broad is one of my favourites. Park in the car park in the nearby village of Neatishead before heading east along Irstead Road, for around fifteen minutes, to the start of the wheelchair and pushchair friendly boardwalk.

The trail leads you through swampy, wildlife filled woodland, with resting places and information boards where you can read about the wildlife, before emerging onto a large viewing platform. From here you can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view over Barton, second largest of the Broads.

If you’re looking for family adventure, hire a canoe at Wayford Bridge and paddle down the River Ant to Barton Broad, and moor at Neatishead staithe. From here you can walk the boardwalk and reward yourself with a drink at the nearby Whitehorse Inn, or bring a picnic and eat it on the pretty staithe.

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aerial shot of red canoe with a family paddling on a Norfolk river

Explore Nature in the Norfolk Broads

Overlooking Malthouse Broad, Ranworth is a charming Broads’ village. Take a walk along the boardwalk (or get a ferry from Ranworth staithe) which passes though reed bed habitats, to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust floating wildlife centre on Ranworth Broad.

With far reaching views across Ranworth Broad, widely considered the most beautiful Broad of them all, you can learn more about the unique wildlife of the Broads, and view many of the different birds that visit the area, at the wildlife centre.

In Ranworth village, climb the 89 uneven steps and two ladders to pass through the trap door to get to the top of St Helen’s Church, otherwise known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’. The views from the top are breathtaking – literally! After your climb and descent, reward yourself with a glass of something cold at the village pub, The Maltsters.

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Ranworth Norfolk one of the best places to visit Norfolk Broads

Spot Seals & Windpumps in Horsey

Horsey Windpump is an iconic Broads building with a fascinating past. Standing watch over the Horsey Mere, a climb to the top is rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and Broadland landscape.

Horsey Windpump is owned by the National Trust, who restored the building after the mill was struck by lightening in 1943 and abandoned for 75 years. Now complete with a winding cap and turning sails, this delightful Grade II* listed building is ridiculously photogenic.

Horsey, where the Broads meet the coast, is a remote and secluded location, perfect for walking and bird watching throughout the seasons. There is an easy 3 mile circular walk from the mill to Horsey Gap, where you can see the seal pups between late October through to February.

Most winters, over 2,000 seal pups are born, and it’s an incredible sight as you walk over the dunes to the viewing platform. Even if you’re visiting in summer, you’ll see seals bobbing along in the sea – popping up to have a nose when they know people are on the beach!

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Explore How Hill

The How Hill Estate is a study centre with a fine thatched Edwardian house set in acres of reed, marsh and woodland at the edge of the River Ant. The house is not open to the public, but the estate is, and it makes for a wonderful afternoon of enjoying the local flaura and fauna in this picturesque corner of the Broads.

Explore the secret gardens and formal gardens of the house (closed when groups are in residence, so best to check first). Find out how marshmen lived in the restored marshman’s cottage at Toad Hole Cottage Museum, and visit the three restored drainage mills before following the nature trail down to the banks of the River Ant.

You can also take a boat trip on the Broads Authority’s Electric Eel boat with an experienced guide who will show you How Hill’s wildlife, including gorgeously coloured dragonflies, marsh harriers, wildflowers and swallowtail butterflies.

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flowers and shrubs in front of thatched cottage

Relax at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden

Fairhaven is a fantastic Norfolk Broads day out. With over 130 organic acres of cultivated, wild and natural planting, and a four mile path snaking it’s way through the gardens, Fairhaven’s award-winning woodland water garden is a great place to explore, and you can even take a boat ride on their private broad!

There’s lots of year-round interest here with the UK’s finest collection of candelabra primulas blooming in spring, alongside bluebells, camellia’s and wood anemones. In autumn, expect to see flaming colours, migrant birds, fascinating fungi and toadstools. Winter walks are perfect for spotting elusive kingfishers, otters and deer.

Discover Hickling Broad Nature Reserve

The medieval bridge at touristy Potter Heigham is a gateway to the Upper Thurne, Horsey Mere and Hickling Broad, the largest of all the Broads. On the edge of Hickling Broad is the pretty village of Hickling Heath.

With a staithe, private moorings and even a small man-made beach at the head of the dyke, on the opposite side of the staithe to the Pleasure Boat Inn, this is the perfect place for an active day out. You can hire stand up paddle boards, canoes and kayaks from Norfolk Outdoor Adventures, just behind the pub.

The National Wildlife Trust Hickling Broad Nature Reserve is a year-round haven for wildlife. You’ll see common crane, barn owl, bittern and marsh harriers here, and maybe Chinese water deer and otters too, as well as the local specialities of the swallowtail butterfly and Norfolk hawker dragonfly.

It’s a joy to spend a summer’s day walking around Hickling’s trails or taking in the Broad’s secret spots on one of the watertrail boat tours.

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views across water and blue sky with reeds and trees

Visit Hoveton Hall Gardens

First planted in the early 19th century, Hoveton Hall Gardens are a delight throughout the seasons.

Enjoy a visit to the gardens in springtime when the grounds are carpeted with hundreds of different varieties of snowdrops and daffodils, some of which are very rare.

May and June see the spectacular colours of the azaleas and rhododendrons take centre stage, closely followed by the perfect manicured lawns and glory of the formal herbaceous borders, featuring over 600 plant varieties, in July and August.

The beautifully restored 19th century iron glasshouse is a must see for all visitors to the gardens, and in the wider parkland are woodland walks, the magnolia garden and a lake, lined with weeping willows.

Hiking & Cycling in Norfolk Broads

Hike the Wherryman’s Way

The Wherryman’s Way starts at the riverside in Norwich and meanders all the way along the attractive River Yare on the Norfolk Broads to the railway station in Great Yarmouth, and can be walked or cycled – but you’ll need a mountain bike as some of the the trail is uneven.

The route passes through many nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, a reflection of the rich wildlife diversity of the Yare Valley. Whether you are fortunate enough to see the rare and unusual, or experience the abundant and colourful, you will not be disappointed.

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Walk the Angles Way National Trail

Just inland from Great Yarmouth, you can ramble around the majestic third century Roman flint walls at Burgh Castle. On a clear day, you can see for miles with panoramic views across the River Yare and River Waveney to the marshes, and the distinctive Berney Arms windmill in the distance.

From the ruins, head to the river and join the Angles Way National Trail to Great Yarmouth. At the river, turn right and you’ll find the path that runs alongside the river, before arriving at Breydon Water where the sea meets the Broads. From here, the path takes you to the Breydon Bridge, where you can cross the river back into Great Yarmouth. This walk one way is four miles, which will take around an hour and a half at a relaxed pace.

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black and white windmill with pastures of cows and a river

Walk & Ride in the Bure Valley

Experience one of Norfolk’s best days out on the Bure Valley Railway, Norfolk’s longest narrow gauge railway, which runs between the historic market town of Aylsham and bustling village of Wroxham, through the heart of the Norfolk Broads.

The eighteen mile round trip by steam takes in the lush Bure Valley countryside following the meandering River Bure through meadowland and ancient pastures, dotted with sheep and cows. Along the line are wayside halts serving the picturesque Broadland villages of Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall.

Running alongside the entire length of the Bure Valley Railway and linking with the Marriott’s Way Heritage Trail at Aylsham, is the picturesque Bure Valley Path, a nine mile footpath and cycle path, run by the Broads Authority. It’s a great day out to pack a picnic, walk the trail and then hop on the train back again!

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small steam train surrounded by green trees and fields

Visit Remote Berney Arms

Berney Arms railway station is on the Greater Anglia Wherry Lines, serving the remote settlement of Berney Arms on the Halvergate Marshes in Norfolk. The station is several miles from the nearest road and is only accessible by train, on foot, or by boat from the River Yare.

Take the train from Great Yarmouth to Berney Arms – you’ll need to request the stop from the guard – and then explore the iconic Berney Arms Windmill before walking the five miles back to Yarmouth along the Weavers’ Way next to beautiful RSPB Breydon Water.

Things To Do with Kids in Norfolk Broads

Enjoy Family Fun at BeWILDerwood

Probably the number one family attraction in Norfolk, and definately one of the best things to do near Wroxham, BeWILDerwood is a magical woodland adventure park and the ideal place for kids (big and small!) to burn off some energy climbing the numerous treehouses, hurling down zip lines and slides, and crossing the many rope bridges strung between the trees.

The entire park is character themed from a series of children’s books, which forms the basis of story-telling and engaging craft sessions. There’s also a restaurant and shop. You probably need a full day here, especially in the school holidays when its usually heaving.

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man and child crossing rope bridge surrounded by trees and chinese lanterns

Fun, Shopping and Food at Wroxham Barns

There’s something for everyone at Wroxham Barns, kids included. This award winning destination is one of the best things to do in Wroxham, with craft studios where you can watch and meet local crafts people. Needless to say, all the crafts can be bought, from handmade fudge, bottle beers and local foodstuffs to stained glass, woodcraft, ceramics and jewellery.

The Junior Farm & Fun Park has a fun daily programme of activities for kids, with unlimited rides and a mini golf course (who doesn’t love a bit of crazy golf on holiday?), along with brilliant seasonal events like the annual Pumpkin Festival and Lambing Live.

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aerial view of Wroxham Barns Norfolk

Enjoy Pettitts Adventure Park

Over in Reedham is Pettitts Adventure Park, where domestic and exotic animals, kids rides, live entertainment and a cafe make for a great day out.

With rides for younger kids, animals from reptiles to marmosets and everything in between, mini diggers, crazy golf and loads of special events, this is a good place to visit for the kids to let off steam!

Take the Kids to Great Yarmouth

A lively seaside town, Great Yarmouth makes for an action-packed day out. With the famous Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, Sea Life, amusements, long sandy beaches and lots of other attractions, there’s plenty to keep visitors (especially kids!) busy.

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things to do in Great Yarmouth Norfolk

Marvel at Wroxham Miniature Worlds

Wroxham Miniature Worlds is the United Kingdom’s largest indoor model railway attraction. With thousands of model vehicles including trains, planes and cars, tens of thousands of trees and props, and over 5,000 model people, the kids will be entranced by all the different displays.

With treats like dolls world, slot car world and a whole city made from Lego bricks, this is a model enthusiasts paradise. Kids will love the vintage arcade machines, where Space Invaders and Pac Mac can be played. I feel my mis-spent youth coming back!

Explore Norfolk Broads’ Museums

Photograph Thurne Mill

In the heart of Broadland on the River Thurne, Thurne Windmill is one of the most iconic sights in the Broads. This distinctive all-white 200 year old working mill was built to pump and drain the marshes so the local farmers could make use of the surrounding land.

During the 1800’s over 240 mills were to be found all over the Broads, but today less than 75 still stand. A few mills, like Thurne Mill have been restored for the public to enjoy.

As well as being incredibly photogenic, Thurne Mill also runs the nearby Wind Energy Museum at Repps, a wind heritage site dedicated to preserving the heritage of wind power past, present and future.

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Thurne Mill at sunset

Visit the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum

Visit the historic RAF Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead, the country’s only original Cold War operation room.

This award winning museum is one of the Broads hidden gems, and you can learn about the fascinating history of Britain’s air defence from a real radar station with 23 exhibition rooms displaying over 10,000 items!

There are fascinating daily talks from the knowledgeable volunteers who run the museum, and lots of hands-on activities for kids, as well as cafe for that well earned cuppa at the end of your visit!

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Learn About Norfolk Broads History

The Museum of the Broads is the only waterside museum of Broadland life where you can learn about the boats of the Broads and see how people’s working lives shaped the local landscape and culture.

The museum covers all aspects of the Broads and has an extensive collection of boats, including the Victorian steam launch ‘Falcon’ built in 1894, models, marsh working tools, boat plans, social history items and memorabilia.

The museum also exhibits the findings and equipment of ecologist Joyce Lambert, who proved in the 1950’s that the lakes and landscape of the Broads were manmade shallow lakes formed in medieval times, when peat was dug out for use as fuel, leaving diggings which then flooded.

small red sailing vessell with chomney on a Norfolk Broad

Enjoy Norfolk Broads Food & Drink

Sample the Beer at Woodforde’s Brewery

On the edges of Salhouse Broad is Woodbastwick, home to Woodforde’s Brewery. Named after Parson Woodforde, a noted 18th century Norfolk clergyman whose diaries reveal he had a passion for good food and ale, which he often brewed himself, Woodforde’s Norfolk Ales produced the first commercial brew of Wherry Ale in 1981.

Visitors can see this and other famous beers, such as Nelson’s bitter and Bure Gold, being brewed in the visitors centre, where guided tours can be arranged. Adjacent to the brewery is The Fur & Feather Inn, where you can sample all the beers for yourself, enjoy a meal or treat yourself to their excellent Norfolk cream tea.

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Enjoy the Best Fish & Chips in the Broads!

Located by the village green in the charming Norfolk village of Ormesby Saint Margaret, Ormesby Traditional Fish and Chips serves fresh and locally sourced fish and chips, cooked in beef dripping. The Ormesby chippy is just a few miles inland from Great Yarmouth and close to beautiful Ormesby Broad.

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Things to Do Near the Norfolk Broads

Discover Historic Norwich

The only city in Norfolk, Norwich is the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom today. Home to cobbled streets, historic buildings, half-timbered houses, a thriving foodie scene and the pretty River Wensum that flows through the city centre, Norwich is a feast of history and architecture.

Add Norwich to your list of must-do places when you visit the Broads, and explore the growing gastro scene in the city, the famous market, a city-wide focus on culture, the arts and literature, and the flourishing mix of quirky independent boutiques and high street stalwarts.

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nedieval cobbled street with flint church tower in the background

Spend a Day at the Beach

For me, North Norfolk has some of the best beaches in the country, all just a stones throw from the Norfolk Broads. From Winterton-on-Sea to Holkham Hall and Holkham beach, and the Victorian seaside resort of Cromer with it’s magnificent pier, you’ll find huge sandy stretches, grassy dunes, traditional bucket and spade beaches and nature reserves along this windswept and unspoilt coast.

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long sandy beach with three people walking by the sea

Have you had a holiday or day out in the Norfolk Broads? Share your trip in the comments below!

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