Wells-next-the-Sea is a lively heritage harbour town in North Norfolk’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Known simply as Wells, it is one of North Norfolk’s most popular seaside towns and makes a perfect base for a Norfolk holiday or day out.
Find out all the information you need to know before you visit Wells, including trip practicalities, things to do, travel tips and days out near Wells with my Wells-next-the-Sea travel guide.
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Where is Wells-next-the-Sea?
Wells is located on the East Fleet estuary, between the pine woods and dunes of Holkham and Wells beach, and the creeks and salt marshes of the East Fleet river, which let into the North Sea.
Wells lies 15 miles east of Hunstanton, 20 miles west of Cromer, and 10 miles north of the market town of Fakenham. The city of Norwich lies 32 miles to the southeast. Nearby villages include Blakeney, Burnham Market, Holkham and Walsingham.
If you’re visiting Wells next the Sea for a Norfolk holiday or short break, the months of July and August offer the highest temperatures, topping out at 22°C (72°F), with around sixteen 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!
Spring & Autumn
Outside of these months, all Norfolk coastal towns enjoy balmy weather in spring and autumn, although you should expect spring showers and autumn storms when winds will be high.
You’ll enjoy crisp bright days in winter, perfect for long walks, kite flying and photographing those big moody skies.
The wind on the Norfolk coast can be bitterly cold, and there are the usual dull and drizzly days to contend with. Snow is also a possibility, so pack layers to help you stay warm.
Average Weather in Wells
Wells-next-the-Sea has so much to offer families looking for a Norfolk holiday or day out. Kids big and small will love the beach for swimming and water sports, crabbing on the quay and the traditional sweet shop in town. Teens will want to check out the noisy arcades and popular skate park, and the freedom to explore safely.
Boat trips to see local seals, and harbour tours to admire the contemporary Lifeboat Horse sculpture and see the iconic granary building, from the water are popular, as is sitting on the harbour wall with your fish and chips, and just soaking up the happy holiday atmosphere.
For lovers of history and heritage, the region is blessed with stately homes, religious sites and ancient castles to explore. There are also some excellent museums in the local area where you can learn about the fascinating history of North Norfolk and its coastline.
Outdoors enthusiasts will fall in love with the huge skies and wide open spaces, the endless soft golden sands of Norfolk’s beaches, nature reserves and wildlife, including a huge variety of bird life and seals which can be seen along the coast, and sometimes on Wells beach itself.
If winding down and relaxing is more your thing, the beach at Wells, with its colourful, brightly painted beach huts, provides an opportunity to spend days lazing around, reading and chilling out. When the sun shines, the clear sea beckons for a paddle or gentle swim, to help you cool off.
Dog lovers will find plenty of dog-friendly accommodation and plenty of great spaces for four-legged friends to have fun, including much of Wells beach, which is huge at low tide.
Guides to Nearby Attractions
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.
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 Buttlands bus stop in the centre of town.
Wells Beach Car Park
The closest car park to the beach is the Wells Beach car park on Beach Road, which is open from 6am to 6pm. In the summer the car park can get full before noon, so there are now electric signs dotting the route to inform you if the car park is full or still has spaces.
On the opposite side of the road to the beach car park are public toilets with an outside shower and also the wonderful Wells Beach Café, where you can stop in for a coffee and cake, vegan sausage roll or delicious ice cream. They also have a large selection of dog-friendly treats, like puppachinos and their Bark Up Bar!
Wells Town Car Park
Wells Town car park on Freeman Street is open from 8am to 4pm. The postcode to enter into your sat nav is NR23 1BF. You can reach the beach from here by either walking the footpath which runs alongside Beach Road or by taking one of the vintage or modern electric beach buses, which have replaced the now closed Wells Harbour Railway.
Stearmans Yard Car Park
You can also park at Stearmans Yard car park, closer to the town centre and run by North Norfolk District Council. It has 160 spaces and is open from 6am to 8pm. 24-hour tickets can be purchased from any machine and are also transferable to any other NNDC car park.
If you want to stay longer, weekly tickets can be purchased at a discount from any of the pay and display machines. The postcode to put into your sat nav is NR23 1BA.
Wells’ name derives from the many spring wells rising through the chalk of the area. The town became Wells-next-the-Sea in the 14th century to distinguish it from other places of the same name.
Wells has been a sea and fishing port since before the 14th century. In 1337, it is recorded that Wells had thirteen fishing boats which brought first herring and then cod from Iceland between the 15th and 17th centuries. As time progressed, Wells shipped grain to London and subsequently to the miners of the northeast, in return for which the town was supplied with coal.
Wells was also a large manufacturer of malt, and in its 18th century heyday boasted up to twelve maltings which contributed a third of the exports of malt from the country to the Netherlands, more than any other East Anglian port save Great Yarmouth.
In 1845 the quay was substantially rebuilt and Improvement Commissioners were given the task of making the town ‘commodious and attractive’ to residents and visitors, who became the first tourists to Wells.
As a small port, Wells built ships until the late 19th century, but the coming of the railway in 1857 reduced the harbour trade. The commercial sea port was revived briefly after the Second World War for the import of fertilizer, animal feed and soya beans. In 1992, changes in government regulations and the increasing size of vessels made the sea port uneconomic and operations ceased.
The North Sea is now over a mile from the town; the main channel which once meandered through the marshes was confined by earthworks to the west in 1859 when Holkham Estate reclaimed some 800 hectares of saltmarsh north-west of Wells with the building of a mile-long bank along what is now known as the Beach Mile.
Tourism, which began on a small scale in the 19th century, has grown and the town has become one of the most popular seaside resorts on the north Norfolk coast – and deservedly so, we say!
Wells Top Ten
Attractions Near Wells
It’s easy to explore Norfolk by car, and you can enjoy the scenic route by staying off the major roads. If you travel to Wells by car, use one of the car parks above, or try and book accommodation with a car parking space included.
The North Norfolk coast has regular and reliable bus services. Between them, the Coastliner and Coasthopper buses connect nearly all the towns and villages in the area.
The Lynx Coastliner 36 bus service runs hourly, seven days a week. It travels between King’s Lynn, Hunstanton, Burnham Market, Wells-Next-The-Sea and Fakenham, with stops at all the smaller villages along the way.
The Coastliner and Coasthopper bus services connect at The Buttlands bus stop in Wells-next-the-Sea.
Sanders Coaches Coasthopper 1 bus service operates seven days a week and runs hourly from Mondays to Saturdays and almost hourly on Sundays and Public Holidays between Wells-Next-The-Sea and Cromer, and stops at Stiffkey, Morston, Blakeney, Cley, Salthouse, Weybourne, Sheringham, East Runton and West Runton.
The Norfolk coast has an abundance of pretty villages linked by a network of byways, bridleways and quiet country lanes, which are perfect for cycling. These lanes, bordered by fields of wheat, hedgerows and woodlands, see little traffic, which means you can explore the Norfolk coast at a leisurely and safe pace.
You don’t even need to bring your own bike, you can hire one from Wells Bike Hire. They have trail bikes, hybrid models, mountain bikes and electric bikes, perfect if you haven’t cycled for a while!
Check out the Norfolk Coast Cycleway which runs from King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth and follows more suitable roads than the busy A149 coast road. The cycleway follows the Hull to Harwich Sustrans National Cycle Network (NCN route 1) from Kings Lynn to Wighton (look out for Sustrans red 1 symbols).
At Wighton, the formerly named regional route 30 begins and follows quieter roads through to the traditional seaside town of Cromer. It then passes through the Quiet Lanes network before following the coast south to Great Yarmouth. There are regular route markers (blue 30 symbols) to follow throughout. You can buy a map here.
Or try the newly created Rebellion Way, a 232 circualar trail of Norfolk which passes through nearby Wells-next-the-Sea and is named after Norfolk’s turbulent past.
The map also includes ten Norfolk coast explorer routes, which branch off from the Norfolk Coast Cycleway, allowing you to explore small villages and places of interest along the coast, and the beautiful Quiet Lanes network of north-east Norfolk.
Hotels in Wells
Holiday Homes & B&Bs in Wells