Who has heard of Norfolk? If you’re not from the UK and aren’t hot on our geography here – like US states (but much, much, much smaller) we have English counties. Norfolk is one of those counties, sitting on the east coast of England. It’s known for a number of things including its man made ‘broads’ (a National Park with over 125 miles of navigable waterways), delicious crab, and lots of beautiful beaches. Its main city is Norwich, and combining a visit to the city with a beach weekend is a great idea for a long weekend in the UK.
Wells-next-the-sea is one of those beautiful beach areas, and given how amazing the weather has been in England recently, we decided if we can’t get to the Caribbean, we’ll settle for Norfolk. Unsurprisingly the weather was typically English (and not at all Caribbean) – switching between fog, rain, sunshine and wind. Honestly I’m just grateful it didn’t snow.
English weather aside, full disclosure this wasn’t the best day trip we’ve ever done. We decided to walk between everything we had planned to do – which meant over 20 miles of walking so by the end of the day we were exhausted. Wells itself (not the beaches) was also heaving with people, most without face masks on, and at times it just didn’t feel safe. I therefore don’t recommend visiting in peak season (August) until we have seen the back of COVID. I decided to wear my mask at all times to try and protect myself but at times felt uncomfortable with the amount of people around me.
However, the area is still beautiful and definitely worth visiting…just don’t pick a summer weekend while COVID is raging like we did. If you do visit, here is what you can do in a day.
1. Visit Holkham Hall
We started the day off at Holkham Hall. I recommend parking on site (we didn’t do this and walked from another car park which was cheaper and honestly….not worth it given the amount of additional walking you will have to do!)
Holkham Hall is an English country house (mansion), built in the 1700s. The house remains largely unchanged since then and is a great example of the Palladian architecture of the time. The Hall is surrounded by lots of park area, including hundreds of deer and a beautiful 6 acre walled garden.
The Hall has remained in the same family since it was built, and is also open to the public on certain days, despite The Earl of Leicester and his family still living there. There are also some delicious food options available (the duck wrap from The Duck Truck was yum), and in total we spent about 2.5 hours on the site.
2. Stroll down to Holkham bay and beach
From Holkham Hall you can drive in about 5 minutes to Holkham Beach car park on Lady Anne Drive. Between Holkham Hall and the sea is a nature reserve and a beach – interestingly both are man made and the sea used to come up to the Holkham estate!
Holkham beach is one of the most picturesque beaches in England, especially on the east coast and is perfect for a nice stroll amongst the sandy dunes.
3. Visit Wells beach and the famous beach huts
Here you have 2 options – you could walk along Holkham beach until you reach Wells beach, which takes about 1-1.5hrs (and remember you have to walk back as well), or you could head back to your car and drive for 5 minutes and park at Wells beach. I wish we’d chosen the second option as that walk back was not fun.
However you choose to get to Wells beach, the sand really is beautiful and the beach huts make for stunning photos. I particularly loved the little lilac one.
4. Ride the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway
If you have children with you (or if you don’t in my case), the little light railway which runs between Wells and Walsingham is so much fun. It’s a miniature railway with a steam train which runs 30 minutes to Walsingham and 30 minutes back through the English countryside.
Again, the walk is a bit of a long one – about 40 minutes from Wells beach – or you could choose to drive. Here I do actually recommend walking if you have driven everywhere else – a 40 minute stroll along the beach, promenade and up through the town isn’t too bad. Plus you get to sit on a train for an hour at the end of it!
If railways aren’t your thing, you could instead choose to go Alpaca trekking which is another activity offered within Wells.
5. Finish your day off with Fish & Chips by the harbour
It wouldn’t be an English beach day if you didn’t end it with fish and chips. We walked back down to Wells harbour from the railway and had fish and chips from French’s which really was delicious. We only had the 1/2 portion each and it was more than enough so if you don’t want to eat your weight in fish – I recommend taking that option.
We then had another 1 hour+ walk back to the car, but if you’ve been sensible and parked at Wells beach it will be about 20 minutes back at the end of the day.
Thank you for reading! Did you know there were beaches like this in England? Have you ever visited the Norfolk coast? Let me know what you think in the comments below and for now stay safe and happy travelling!
And if you’re looking for England travel inspiration, check out my other England guides here: