Why North Norfolk may be the best staycation destination with children - my top 5 days out
If you’ve been following my Instagram account you may have seen we spent an idyllic week in North Norfolk last month for our staycation this year. We were due to fly to France but had the opportunity to delay until Summer 2021 which seemed the best decision for us all-round. Not wanting to be packed into theme parks or heading to crowded beaches North Norfolk seemed like a good option. (Just don't tell everybody!)
We’ve explored parts of East England before, and we love the coastal towns and beaches around Aldeburgh and Southwold, but North Norfolk was new to us. It turned out to be one of the best holidays we’ve ever enjoyed as a family.
Here are my top 5 activities and days out with young children in the area:
- Beaches – West Runton, Brancaster, Wells-next-the-Sea, Cromer, Hunstanton (you are spoiled for choice!)
The beaches in this part of the world are absolutely stunning, and generally quiet. Which was obviously ideal as we were wanting to avoid crowds. Golden sands stretch for miles – backed by pine forest and dunes. It really is picture perfect. The sea was pretty chilly but not as cold as you may think. All the locals, adults and children, seemed to have wetsuits, which in hindsight would have been a good purchase. Our favourite beach was West Runton where we spent hours around the rock pools (spotting crabs and sea anemones), playing games and having picnics (the ice-cream from the beach shop was pretty spectacular too!). Hunstanton is also vast and stunning, especially if you’re up for staying out late to catch the sunset over the sea. We found the beaches at Wells-next-the-Sea and Cromer to be busier but still very pretty (and I love all the pastel coloured beach huts). There is generally good parking at most beaches (£4 for a day seemed to be the going rate and you could mostly pay with contactless card).
- Seal Trip from Morston Quay
This was a holiday highlight and well worth booking in advance. The hour-long trip takes you out at high-tide from Morston Quay to Blakeney Point where you’ll see lots of lovely seals either basking in the sunshine or swimming up to your boat. Seals are naturally inquisitive animals (and very cute!) and it’s really special to see them in their natural habitat. Due to Covid-19 restrictions adults were asked to wear a mask at all times on the boat and they were taking fewer passengers, so family groups could be seated 2 metres apart. The boat was also fully sanitised in-between trips. We had to call a few companies before we could find availability. The companies who run the trips include: Temples (01263 740 791), Bean’s Boats (01263 740 505) or Bishop’s Boats (01263 740 753). The trips cost around £13 p/p.
- Wiverton Hall fruit picking and farm shop
After the seal trip at Morston we popped into Wiverton Hall Farm and stayed all afternoon! It has a super laid-back vibe where you can pick seasonal fruit and enjoy lunch in the outside café (including delicious salads all made from farm-grown produce.) There was a wooden fort where children can play, although just running around the fields and enjoying the open space was enough entertainment on a sunny day.
- Holkham Estate
We spent an entire day at Holkham Estate enjoying the woodland play area, a picnic in the beautiful grounds and a 2-hour cycle ride. You can hire bikes, with seats or trailers for little ones if needed, and explore lots of waymarked routes around the park, walled gardens, the lake, or even out to the beach at Holkham Bay. Unfortunately, the boats to hire on the lake are out of action this year – but I’m sure we’ll be back in the future to try them out. There is also a High Ropes course if you’re feeling very adventurous! Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July and August there is a mini food festival in the grounds with an array of tasty creations from local street food stalls www.holkham.co.uk/stay-eat/feast-in-the-park. Delicious! Access to the grounds and play areas is free (parking is £4 a day.)
- Ride a real steam train
If you fancy stepping back in time, the hour-long round-trip train between Sheringham and Holt is a real treat! Due to Covid-19 restrictions you are only able book an entire carriage (£35 up to 6 passengers) which makes it a little pricey but even more special. The children loved watching the drivers add coal to the engine and the scenery was stunning as you chugged along the cost.
Homeward bound – Framlingham Castle and Aldeburgh
The drive back home to North London from North Norfolk is around 3 hours so we decided to split the journey and enjoy a visit to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, which is managed by English Heritage. You need to book tickets in advance at the moment but it’s free if you are members. It’s a proper Norman castle with motte and bailey (perfect for playing knights!). We then took a detour to Aldeburgh for some famous fish and chips on the beach before heading home.
In my opinion these are the highlights for children but there is also plenty of general mooching, high quality eateries and beautiful independent shops and galleries to be found in Holt, Burnham Market, Blakeney and Wells in particular. And a trip to Stiffkey Stores (@stifkeystores) is a must. Swoon.