Wells-next-the-Sea beach is a beautiful award-winning sweeping sandy beach famous for its many colourful beach huts, miles of soft golden blue-flag sands and dunes that are home to nesting shorebirds. If you’re lucky, you may see sunbathing seals at the water’s edge.
Wells beach has long been a favourite spot for my family, and we love taking the dogs for a walk through the shady Corsican pine woods and out onto the beach, where they can run to their heart’s content. When my kids were small, we would spend whole days messing about in the sand and water before heading to town for fish and chips!
My local’s guide to Wells-next-the-Sea beach has all the information you need to make the most of your trip and enjoy this unique place in Norfolk.
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Where is Wells next the Sea Beach?
The beach at Wells is nestled right next to Holkham beach on the north Norfolk coast, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Wells beach is only 8 miles from Blakeney and its National Nature Reserve, 24 miles west of Cromer and 36 miles northwest of Norwich, Norfolk’s capital.
The beach lies north of the pretty village of Wells-next-the-Sea, and the whole area, including the beach, nature reserve, and Pinewoods Holiday Park, belongs to the 25,000-acre Holkham Estate, also home to the 18th-century Palladian stately home of Holkham Hall.
Planning a visit to Wells-next-the-Sea? I share tips on getting there, where to stay, places to eat + things to do locally in my ultimate Wells-next-the-Sea visitor guide.
Getting to Wells next the Sea Beach
Driving to Wells next the Sea Norfolk
If you’re travelling from the north of the United Kingdom, pick up the A17 south at Newark-on-Trent and follow the route around the Wash to King’s Lynn. This road is mainly single carriageway, and slow-moving agricultural traffic and trucks can cause delays, so build this into your travel plans.
If you’re travelling from the Midlands, you’ll come into Norfolk via Peterborough and pick up the A47 north and east to King’s Lynn. From the south, the A10 brings you through Cambridge directly to King’s Lynn.
From King’s Lynn, which is well worth a stop on the way through, pick up the A148 road to Hillingdon, then at Fakenham turn left onto the B1105 for a pretty cross-country drive.
Once you arrive in Wells, you will see signs for the beach, the closest parking for which is at the end of Beach Road. It takes around an hour to drive from King’s Lynn to Wells next the Sea beach. If using sat nav the correct postcode for the parking lot is NR23 1DR.
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Getting to Wells by Public Transport
The county of Norfolk is within easy reach of the rest of the UK, with great transport links. You can get to the West Norfolk town of King’s Lynn by mainline train from London in less than two hours. Simply take the regular Greater Anglia service from London King’s Cross, which leaves every hour or so.
Alternatively, you can take a National Express bus service from Victoria Coach Station to King’s Lynn. This takes around 6.5 hours depending on the time of day, and you do need to change at Norwich, but it’s often much cheaper than the train, especially when booked in advance.
At King’s Lynn train station get the CoastLiner 36 bus from the Transport Interchange next door, the bus runs every hour seven days a week from 6am to 5pm. It takes just around two hours and you would get off at the Ark Royal bus stop, from there it is a 25 minute walk to the beach.
If you would prefer not to walk you can hop on one of two Wells beach buses – one is an electric bus and the other is an open-top vintage bus. In the summer the buses run from the top of Beach Road (close to Wells Town car park) between 10am and 6pm, every 20 minutes. There is a single fair, which can only be paid by card, and dogs are more than welcome on both buses.
If you’re planning a visit from elsewhere in Norfolk, the CoastHopper from Cromer and Sheringham connects with the CoastLiner bus at Wells next the Sea, and Sheringham is connected to Norwich via the Greater Anglia train service.
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Wells next the Sea Beach Car Parking
There are three main car parks in Wells, the closest to the beach is the Wells Beach car park on Beach Road. In the summer this car park can get full before noon, so there are now electric signs dotting the route to the car park to inform you if the car park is full or still has spaces. You can park here for a full day for £10, £3.50 for two hours or £6.50 for four hours, and it is open from 6am to 6pm.
On the opposite side of the road to the beach car park are some public toilets with a shower block and also the wonderful Wells Beach Cafe, where you can stop in for a coffee and cake, vegan sausage roll or delicious ice cream. They also have a wonderful selection of dog-friendly treats, like the Puppachinos and their Bark Up Bar!
If the beach car park is full you can try the new Wells Town car park on Freeman Street which is open from 8am to 4pm and costs £7 for the full day, or £3.50 for two hours or £5 for four hours. The postcode to enter into your sat nav is NR23 1BF. You can reach the beach from here either by walking the footpath which runs alongside Beach Road or by taking one of the beach buses.
You can also park at Stearmans Yard car park, run by North Norfolk District Council, it has 160 spaces and is open from 6am to 8pm. The cost is £1.50 per hour, however, 24hr tickets can be purchased from any machine for £7, and are also transferable to any other NNDC car park.
If you want to stay longer, weekly tickets can be purchased for £28 from any of the pay and display machines. The postcode to put into your sat nav is NR23 1BA.
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Wells Beach Weather
If you’re visiting Wells next the Sea for a holiday or short break, the months of July and August offer the highest temperatures, averaging between 20-26°C (68-79°F), with around nine hours of sunshine a day.
The chances are there will be a breeze on the beach, as is normal for North Norfolk, and you should be prepared for the odd shower or two. Although East Anglia is the driest part of the UK, it has been known to rain unexpectedly – this is England after all!
July and August are also the peak summer season in Wells beach because of the school holidays. Parking is often full by mid-morning, so arrive early, although you’re unlikely to see many people on the beach because it’s so large!
Outside of these months, you can enjoy balmy weather in spring and autumn, and crisp bright days in winter, perfect for long walks, kite flying and photographing those big moody skies.
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Is Wells Beach Dog Friendly?
Wells is a dog friendly beach and dogs are allowed on the sands all year round, however, there are some restrictions. There is a dog-free zone for the first 200 yards of the beach from the main entrance, this is clearly signposted.
There are no restrictions if entering the beach from the pine woods, but if you’re walking through the woods with your dog, they must be kept on a leash until reaching the beach.
At nesting times during the year, some areas of the beach will be cordoned off to protect the nesting birds and you will need to keep your dogs on a leash at these times.
As any dog owner is aware, you must clean up after your dog and use the dog waste bins provided.
Is Wells Beach Safe for Kids?
Wells beach itself is very safe. The beach is large and it’s easy for smaller children to get lost in the woods and dunes. Make sure that if your kids want to dig in the sand they do it on the beach and not in the dunes, which could be unstable.
If you want to swim in the sea, make sure to stay within the area marked by yellow buoys to avoid boat traffic. The beach is watched by lifeguards and Coastwatch volunteers from July to September from 10am to 6pm daily, and the lifeguards on duty can offer first aid if required.
Always read and abide by signage and notices regarding safety on the beach.
Tides at Wells Beach
Wells beach is vast, especially at low tide. The beach continues eastward from the main entrance, but be careful not to go too far as you can be cut off by the tide which comes in very quickly. Make sure to check the tide times before heading to the beach, and return to the beach side of the main channel when the siren sounds or about four hours prior to high tide.
As the tide goes out, you get to see and enjoy the sheer size of the beach, and there is so much space that even when the car parks are full the beach will not be busy. It’s a fantastic spot to play frisbee or beach cricket, fly a kite or have a family sand castle building competition.
There’s also an abundance of tidal pools to explore, and the water is crystal clear for swimming and paddling.
You can read about Wells beach tide times here.
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Arriving at Wells next the Sea Beach
There are steps over the dunes from the west end of the car park, and ramps over the dunes at the east end. There are more access points along the path, which runs alongside the beach through the woods, these also have steps that take you down to the beach.
There is no formal disabled access along the beach itself, however, a solid footway runs for about 50m west from the beach access point in front of the Coastwatch lookout
The beach itself is just under a mile long. If you want to explore behind the beach, head for the wonderfully fragrant and shady pinewoods, planted over 150 years ago, to find the grazing marshes and salt marshes of the Holkham National Nature Reserve.
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Wells Beach Huts
The peculiarly British beach hut tradition has roots in the Victorian era when holidaymakers would use what looked like little beach huts on wheels, called bathing machines, to protect their modesty when bathing.
Probably the most famous beach huts in Norfolk, the row of 200 or so brightly painted seaside beach huts on stilts are actually right on the award-winning beach at Wells.
Their location, with direct access to the sands and sea, makes them perfect for a family holiday and spending long lazy days messing about on the beach and in the sea.
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Visit the RNLI Wells Lifeboat Station
There has been a lifeboat stationed at Wells for over one hundred and fifty years. The first Wells RNLI lifeboat station was built in 1869, and the one you see below had become an iconic landmark along the Norfolk Coast Path but was sadly demolished in November 2022, to comply with planning permission and make way for a new all-weather station.
The new contemporary building, along with the new Shannon lifeboat, shop, visitor information centre and public viewing gallery is now open. From January 2023, volunteer guides will be providing tours of the lifeboat station, which you must book in advance here.
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Go Crabbing on Wells Quay
One of our favourite things to do as kids was to go crabbing (or gillying as it’s known locally) on Wells Quay, and it is still one of the favourite things for families to do in Wells today. An easy and inexpensive activity, it’s a great way to have fun as a family.
If you’re new to crabbing, it involves dropping a baited line into the water and waiting for the crab to take the bait, so you can pull him or her gently up. All you need are a line, bucket, and bait, which you can buy all over town, or hire reusable buckets and eco-friendly tackle at the Gilly Hut.
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Take a Wells Harbour Tour
With a busy harbour sheltered by salt marshes from the open sea, Wells was one of the great Tudor ports of East Anglia and home to many fishing boats.
Today, the harbour is used by sailing and crabbing boats and is watched over by a picturesque granary dating from 1904 and the Lifeboat Horse, which honours the life-saving horses that one pulled Wells’ lifeboat more than two miles from the quay to Holkham Gap whenever the lifeboat was launched.
You can see Wells from a different perspective with a boat tour of the harbour, beach and marshes. The skipper will provide commentary and share the history of Wells harbour in detail, whilst kids get the opportunity to hop off the boat onto the marshes.
Wells Harbour Boat Tours offer boat trips which take around an hour and depart regularly every day from the end of March to the end of October, weather permitting.
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Explore the Holkham National Nature Reserve
Holkham National Nature Reserve stretches from Burnham Norton to Morston and covers 4,000 hectares of exposed shores, creeks, miles of dunes and sandspits, shady pinewoods, green pastures and marshes. This mix of windswept habitats creates the perfect environment for a unique mix of wildlife and plants to flourish.
You can explore most of the area by following footpaths from Holkham and Wells beach car parks. The core section of the reserve stretches from Wells to Holkham Bay and is crisscrossed by paths allowing access to all the best wildlife habitats.
The reserve is home to an enormous amount of wildlife, which thrives in the diverse natural habitats of the reserve all year round. From April to August it is breeding season and to protect the nesting terns, oystercatchers and ringed plovers, areas will be cordoned off. Dogs must be kept on leads in these vulnerable areas between these months.
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Walk the Norfolk Coast Path
Wells lies directly on the Norfolk Coast Path, an 83-mile signposted trail which starts in Hunstanton and ends in Hopton-on-Sea and passes through the dramatic landscape of North Norfolk’s AONB.
You can walk along this national trail east or west from Wells, and catch the Coasthopper bus back from any of the villages along the route.
Alternatively, you could do the Holkham circular walk from Wells. It’s an easy walk, about seven miles long and mostly flat. You can stop at The Lookout at Holkham Gap or the Victoria Inn in Holkham village, for a break and something to eat. Get the map here.
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Discover Holkham Hall
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 a deer park. There’s even a woodland adventure play area to entertain the kids.
Built by the Coke family in 1764, Holkham Hall is today home to the Earl of Leicester and his family. The hall is a wonderful example of the architectural style of the day.
The statuary and art collection, fascinating restored Victorian kitchen and the immense entrance hall, with a deeply coved and coffered ceiling supported by towering columns and panelling of English alabaster, make Holkham Park one of the best stately homes in Norfolk, if not England. You can book tickets online here.
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Take a Ride on the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway
Hop on to the smallest public railway in the world! The Wells & Walsingham Light Railway steams between Wells-next-the-Sea and the historic Saxon village of Walsingham, home to the famous pilgrimage site of Our Lady of Walsingham.
You can start your 30 minute journey at either end of the line, or take a return trip. There is no need to book in advance as the railway operates on a first come first served basis – you may have to queue on busy days. If they are not too busy, dogs can enjoy the ride too.
Trains depart daily between April and October, leaving Wells regularly throughout the day. Choose an enclosed covered carriage, or an open carriage when the sun is shining.
You can buy snacks from the Signal Box Café, housed in an actual redundant signal box! They also have a play area to keep kids entertained whilst waiting for the train, and ample parking at the Wells station on Stiffkey Road.
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Food at Wells Beach
Right opposite the beach car park is the Wells Beach Café, a wonderful spot to relax with an ice cream on the terrace in the summer or a hot chocolate in front of the fire in the winter. They offer a great variety of snacks, hot and cold drinks, and even have a dog menu to keep your furry friends happy.
If you want something a bit more substantial head to Wells Quay for some traditional Norfolk fish and chips. French’s Fish & Chip shop has over a hundred years of history in Wells, and with its award-winning food and amazing view of the quay this a great place to grab a bite.
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Where to Stay at Wells Beach
The Globe Inn, a former Norfolk coach house, was renovated in 2018 and has become a lovely restaurant with nineteen rooms. Each of the rooms has been individually decorated, and they have a wonderfully funky vibe.
There are also family-sized self-catering apartments, hip loft suites and standard doubles rooms set around a courtyard, with classically styled rooms in the main building overlooking the Buttlands, a tree-lined green.
The Crown is a lovely hotel with 20 luxury en-suite bedrooms. Each room is uniquely and individually designed to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. A few rooms have splendid copper baths, some of them outside, so you can enjoy bathing in the open air!
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Wells Waterfront B&B has stunning views of the harbour & marshes – and the friendliest hospitality. Walk just five metres from the door to dip your toes in the water.
Near to Wells is Ambers Bell Tent Camping at Branthill Farm, a beautiful hideaway perfect for exploring Wells and the north Norfolk coast. Glamping works well for family and group travel, providing privacy and independence, in a place where lots of people can come together easily for meals and activities.
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Almost on the beach itself, Pinewoods offers a range of holiday accommodations from a fleet of static caravans, six state-of-the-art lodges, and 116 caravan or motorhome pitches. There are also beach huts available to hire to complete the holiday experience.
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Have you had a holiday or day out at Wells beach? Share your trip in the comments below!