The Greatest Things to Do in Norfolk
Visiting the east of England? From a brewery trip to Britain's largest seal colony, here's what to do in Norfolk
Steve Coogan’s fictional Radio Norwich dee-jay Alan Partridge helped to put Norfolk on the map, but there’s a lot more to this East Anglian county than awkward japes and traffic planning. Norfolk’s pristine countryside and unspoilt beaches have provided film locations for many a movie – from Danny Boyle’s Beatles-inspired Yesterday to Shakespeare in Love (makes sense, since the north coastline is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, after all). But despite getting the silver-screen treatment, Norfolk is fairly laidback, really – and its nature trails and beauty spots are perfect for getting lost in.
Handily, here at Plum Guide, we’re experts on rooting out the very best of a destination – we’re just picky like that. So read on for a definitive list of things to do in Norfolk that would make dear Alan say “Aha!” From primped-and-pruned gardens and stately homes to charming seaside towns and a colony of doe-eyed seals, this good-looking corner of the country is truly special.
There are few things more adorable than a seal pup – and at the Blakeney Point seal colony you might find 2,500 of them, making this the largest colony of seals in England. They’ll be found basking on the beach or frolicking in the waters at Blakeney Point. November to January and June to August are the best times for pups, and they’re best viewed by boat.
Holkham National Nature Reserve
Take a walk around this salt marsh reserve for wetlands, dunes and long stretches of golden sand. This beauty spot appeared in Shakespeare in Love and shows off some of Norfolk’s best natural assets. As pit stops go, The Victoria Inn should sate appetites worked up during the walk, with its very upscale English pub fare. Then make your way through well-ordered parkland to the 18th-century Holkham Hall.
One of the more opulent things to do in Norfolk, Sandringham Estate is the Queen’s country bolthole (and if Norfolk is good enough for Liz, it's good enough for us). Spend an afternoon exploring this royal residency for its 24 acres of gardens (we defy you to find even one leaf out of place) and the Windsor family portraits. Fancy getting the royal treatment during your stay in the region? Book yourself into one of Plum's stately homes, such as the sweeping Georgian estate or the Regency-furnished Horatio's Return.
If anything symbolizes Elgood's unique coalition between brewery and gardens, it’s the precision-trimmed maze shaped like a yard of ale. Find your way out and explore the rockery, water features and 200-year-old trees, followed by a live tutorial on traditional real ale brewing techniques with original copper vessels (and if that sounds too dry, just focus on the fact that soon you’ll be sinking a pint or five).
If you’re more interested in grapes than hops, Flint Vineyard has you covered. Since opening in 2016, Flint has been tipped as one of England’s most exciting new winemakers, with its wines earning several accolades including East Anglia Wine of the Year and The Independent’s ‘best buy’ English still wine. The charming vineyard is open to visitors, and don't be surprised if you order more than you bargained for – its picturesque setting, overlooking the Waveney Valley, might keep you there longer than planned.
As things to do in Norfolk go, Wells-next-the-Sea is a classic and certainly one of the best places to visit it Norfolk. The historic harbour town was one of the great ports of the east of England back in Tudor times. There are still plenty of sailboats to gaze out at, but these days, it’s more about the fish and chips and the vibrantly painted, so-photogenic-it’s-obscene stilted beach huts lined up on the golden sandy beach.
The Duck Inn
To sample the best of the local catch, opt for high-end grub pub The Duck Inn. Said catches are likely to include Norfolk jewels, such as mussels and Brancaster crab, while for committed carnivores in need of a Sunday roast there's the locally reared Holkham Hall beef. We won’t go on about the awards this place has won (there are too many to list) but booking a table here is a very clever idea indeed.
The Devil’s Punchbowl
The intriguingly named Devil’s Punchbowl isn't some hellish cocktail creation from the local barkeep. It is, in fact, a mysterious natural pond that fills up and drains seemingly at will and completely out of sync with rainfall. There is a proper (fairly dull) scientific explanation for this phenomenon we now call a "fluctuating mere”, but the original explanation of spooky supernatural forces being responsible for the pond is much more fun.
Have we tickled your fancy for a visit to this East Anglian county? Book the perfect weekend away with a stay at one of Plum Guide's tried-and-tested homes in Norfolk.
While Plum Guide has always focused on big global cities, international jetsetting seems a little way off for now. So our fastidious homes critics have been busy hunting for the perfect country boltholes and properties in laidback little towns that are perfectly placed for outdoorsy staycations. Visit our property pages to book into one of our expertly vetted Plum Guide homes. Or if you want to keep reading, take a look at our guide to things to do in Norwich next.