sandcastle at old hunstanton beach

Best Beaches in Norfolk England

Norfolk has some of the best beaches in the country. It’s one of the main reasons visitors come to the area and with 90 miles of coastline, there are plenty of options.

How do you decide which Norfolk beach to visit? It depends on your preferences. This guide to the best beaches in Norfolk will help you choose the right one.

More photos coming soon.

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Important Things to Know Before Visiting the Beaches in Norfolk

Check the tide times: Many beaches in Norfolk are very different depending on the time of day that you visit. Some beaches disappear or are very rocky at high tide. During low tide, you will find some of the largest sandy beaches anywhere. Check the tide times before you visit and aim to go to the beach at low tide if possible.

Be careful near cliffs: The Norfolk Coast is eroding at a frightening pace. When you visit, you are likely to see signs warning you to stay away from areas at risk. Please heed these signs, you don’t want to have an accident.

There may be restrictions on dogs: Not all Norfolk beaches allow dogs and many Norfolk beaches have dog restrictions during the summer months. Be sure to check before you bring your dog.

Don’t forget the sun cream: These beaches have little shade unless you have a beach hut or bring your own. The skies can change quickly, so even if you think it will be a cloudy Norfolk beach day, it’s best to be prepared. (Check out some reef safe options here.)

The Best Norfolk Beaches

I don’t think I have met a beach in Norfolk that I didn’t like, so it was not easy to narrow the list down. I tried to include a selection of different types of beaches. Some are more remote while others have more facilities. There is a beach for everyone on this list.

While you may have to pay for parking, none of the beaches in Norfolk charge an admission fee. Going to the beach is definitely one of the best free things to do in Norfolk.

Holkham

holkham beach in norfolk england
There is plenty of room for everyone at Holkham Beach (when the tide is out).

If you’ve ever seen the film ‘Shakespeare In Love’ you might remember the scene near the end that takes place on a vast deserted beach. This was filmed at Holkham. At low tide, the sand seems to go on forever and there is plenty of space for everyone.

It’s the perfect beach for building sandcastles. There is plenty of room to spread out, have a picnic, play beach games, or search for shells. You can also wade in the shallow water but keep in mind there are no lifeguards and the tide does come in quickly.

Given the size of Holkham Beach, it is also popular with people riding horses. The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment uses this beach during its rural regimental training camp for a few days each summer.

The beach has some large sand dunes which formed on old shingle ridges. They can change quickly especially after storms. Depending on the timing of your visit, you might see some dune flowers or even wildlife.

It’s actually a popular beach for wildlife as you might see seals, lizards, birds, butterflies, and crabs. You could even do a safari on foot trekking days on select dates (get more details here).

Holkham Beach is dog-friendly, although from 1st April to 31st of August dogs must be kept on leads in a large area of the beach. Additionally, at times, some areas of beach and dunes may be cordoned off. This is in place to protect nesting birds.

In 2018, they opened a Visitor’s Centre, called the Lookout. It has a striking design that seems to fit perfectly with the natural landscape. Inside it has a café with seating, toilets, baby changing facilities, and informational boards. There are a few tables outside too.

It has pay and display parking along Lady Anne’s Drive. From there, it’s a little bit of a walk through the woods on a wooden boardwalk to the sand.

If you have time after visiting Holkham Beach, it’s definitely worthwhile to explore nearby Holkham Park. You can see Holkham Hall, the walled garden, an obelisk, an ice house, a lake, an icehouse, a temple, and more. There is also a play area that kids will enjoy.

*Want to stay near Holkham Beach? Check out the Victoria Inn – see prices and availability here.

Wells-Next-the-Sea

Wells Beach is part of the Holkham Nature Reserve. It may be best known for its beach huts because it has more than any other spot on the North Norfolk coast. They make for a pretty picture.

During low tide, the sandy beach is vast. There is plenty of space to build sandcastles, fly a kite, picnic, relax, or walk along the beach. The calm shallow water is perfect for swimming, although swimmers must stay within the area marked by the red and yellow flags. That section is monitored by Lifeguards from July through September from 10:00 to 18:00.

The tide here can be extremely dangerous. You do not want to be caught on the far side of the channel when the tide comes in. There is a siren that sounds when the tide begins to flow. Don’t risk it, cross to the other side immediately.

Wells-Next-The-Sea beach is about 1.5 miles away from town. There are café and bathroom facilities (toilets and showers) by the beach, and a well-stocked shop at the Pinewoods Holiday Park nearby. If you need to go to the town it’s about a 30 minute walk, a few minutes drive, or during the summer, there is the Wells Harbour Railway. Kids will love riding the miniature train.

While dogs are allowed on the Wells beach all year round, there are a few restrictions to keep in mind. Dogs should be kept on leads until they get on to the beach. The first 200 yards of beach from the main entrance is a dog-free zone so you will need to use the west entrance over the dunes. This area is signposted. During nesting times, additional areas may be roped off to protect the birds. Always keep your dog under close supervision and clean up after it.

There is a large pay and display car park (use postcode NR23 1DR for sat nav directions) by the café. Still, on peak summer days, it could be full if you arrive late. In that case, you can park in the town and either walk or take the Wells Harbour Railway to the beach.

Cromer

cromer beach with the pier in the distance
Cromer beach has the iconic pier and plenty of facilities.

Cromer beach is another blue flag winner. It’s a huge sand and shingle beach that’s popular with families because it offers a range of activities. While you still need to exercise caution in the water, the RNLI lifeguards watch over the beach during the summer months.

You can build sandcastles, go swimming, enjoy watersports, try rock pooling at low tide, go fishing/crabbing, and even attempt to surf. There are shops offering surf lessons if you want to learn.

The iconic pier offers excellent facilities and is the best spot to try crabbing. It has toilets, food and drinks options, a gift shop, the Pavilion Theatre (home to the Cromer Pier Show), and an offshore lifeboat. You can purchase everything you need to catch one of the famous Cromer crabs at the gift shop.

To the west of the pier along the beach, there are some amusements for the kids and the popular No 1 Cromer Fish & Chips shop. At the east end of the beach, you can find a mural by Banksy. It was done in August 2021 as part of his Great British Spraycation.

You can also find colourful Beach huts available to rent on either end of the beach, but you will need to book in advance. They can be rented for the week through the North Norfolk District council here. If you want one for the day, you can find that option here. Note that overnight stays are not allowed.

From May to September, dogs are not allowed on Cromer beach and they must be on a lead on the seaside promenade. During the offseason, Cromer is more dog-friendly.

There are several parking lots for the beach along the top of the cliff just west of the town. This is also one of the easiest Norfolk beaches to reach on public transportation. From Norwich, you can take the train or bus to get to Cromer and then the beach is within walking distance. Check the train schedule here and get information for the bus here.

Cromer has a lot more to offer visitors than just the beach. Before you go, check out our recommendations for more things to do in Cromer.

Sheringham

Sheringham beach is made up of sand, shingle, and cobbles which can look quite different depending on tides and currents. When the tide is in the beach is a bit rocky, with lots of pebbles, but when the tide is out, there is plenty of sand to build sand castles. You can also do rock pooling by the boulders.

Behind the blue flag beach on the promenade you can’t miss the row of colourful beach huts. They can be rented for the week from mid-April to mid-October through the North Norfolk District Council here. Please note that you can not stay overnight in the beach huts.

During high season, from May to September, there are two teams of RNLI Lifeguards that watch over the beach from 10:00 – 18:00 daily on the East and West promenade. There is also a designated dog free zone area that is clearly marked on the map on the Beach Information Board at the entrance to the beach. If you want to walk dogs on the promenade you will need to keep them on a lead.

The beach has public toilets and showers. Also, along the promenade you can also find a few cafes and even some street art. Since the beach is close to the town, you can easily walk to more restaurants and pubs.

Sheringham beach can be reached by car or public transportation. There are several car parks in the town. The largest one is by the North Norfolk Railway Station (use NR26 8RG for the sat nav). While you can pay for parking using a debit card, the minimum charge is £3.00. If you plan on staying for an hour or less, bring some cash (£1.50).

If you don’t want to drive, you can take the train or bus from Norwich. Check the train schedule here and get information for the bus here. There is a ramp to access the beach at the end of Beach Road.

If you want to arrive at Sheringham by rather more unusual means there is a steam train (North Norfolk Railway) that runs from nearby Holt to Sheringham. The Holt station is about a mile north of the town and there is a bus from the town centre to the train.

While you are in Sheringham, you will want to check out some of the other attractions too. Check out our suggestions for things to do in Sheringham.

Sea Palling

sea palling beach in Norfolk
Sea Palling is one of the best beaches for swimming and has pretty nice sand too.

Sea Palling is a popular beach especially for families as the water is mostly calm and the sand is perfect for sandcastles. While there are no colourful beach huts, this blue flag beach has excellent facilities including a toilet, pub (the Reef’s Bar), cafes, amusements, a fresh fish stall, and a fish & chips shop accessible from the beach..

It’s a good beach for swimming and watersports like kayaking and standup paddleboards as the nine artificial offshore reefs created as part of a flood prevention scheme protect it from the rough seas. Also, if you are lucky, sometimes there are seals in the water around Sea Palling. While there are lifeguards on duty in the peak summer season and an Inshore Lifeboat right on the beach, keep in mind they only monitor the area between the flags.

While there is an overflow car park, not too far away, you will want to get to the beach early when it is likely to be packed. Phone signals in the area are dreadful (depending on your network), so download the “parking operations app” by Mi Permit before you arrive. The line to use the machine to pay for parking can be long and slow.

There is a paved ramp (a bit steep) that takes you over the sand dunes that back the beach. (In some spots there are stairs too). Along the dunes, at the back end of the beach, there are steps that can be used as walkways or seats. We had fish & chips, sat on the steps, and enjoyed watching the people at the beach. Just be careful signs warn you to keep off the rocks between the steps and the sandy beach as they can be slippery.

Walkers can enjoy a six-mile circular walk which also takes you to the site of the medieval village of Eccles-Juxta-Mare which was lost to coastal erosion in the late 16th-century. Get the map here.

Dogs are banned on a good portion (look for the sign by the ramp) of Sea Palling beach from May 1 to September 30, and they must be on a lead if they are walked in the area during this time of year.

Horsey

Horsey beach feels like a more wild and remote beach as there are no facilities. It’s an unspoilt sandy beach with some of the largest sand dunes in East Anglia. These dunes are home to countless types of wildlife throughout the year.

The main reason people come to Horsey is to see the seals. While you might see seals all year, your chances are best from November to January when the grey seals take to the beach to give birth. You might have to walk a bit, but it’s not unusual to see hundreds of these cute animals. Just remember to keep your distance (at least 10 metres) as they are wild. Seals are protective of their pups and will bite if approached.

Officially, dogs are allowed at Horsey Beach, but it is best not to bring them (especially during the winter) as they will disturb the seals. If you do bring your dog, make sure to keep it on a close lead.

If you plan on staying at Horsey Beach for a while, you will want to bring your own picnic. Alternatively, there is the Poppylands Tea Room and Restaurant not too far away on the main road.

The road leading to the pay and display car park is a bit rough. The machine does take credit cards. Keep in mind the parking gates lock at 20:00.

*Read about more places to see seals in Norfolk.

Hunstanton or Old Hunstanton

colourful cliffs along Old Hunstanton beach
The colours on the cliffs at Old Hunstanton beach are quite dramatic.

While there is evidence that there have been settlements in the area dating back to the late-Neolithic or early Bronze Age, Hunstanton, or Sunny Hunny as some like to call it, started to take shape as a Victorian resort back in the mid 19th-century. It was divided into the villages of Old Hunstanton and New Hunstanton.

Unlike the other Norfolk beaches on this list, Hunstanton is on a stretch of coast that faces west, making it the best area to watch a sunset. It’s also an ideal place to learn kitesurfing and windsurfing because of the wide open beaches with shallow water and cross onshore winds.

Both Old Hunstanton and New Hunstanton (sometimes just referred to as Hunstanton) have huge sandy beaches when the tide is out. The two villages may be right next to each other, but they have quite different atmospheres.

Families may prefer Hunstanton with its Promenade and kid-friendly attractions like the amusements, boat tours in the amphibious Wash Monsters, Sea Life Centre, and more. It’s one of the best places to take kids in Norfolk and can get crowded.

Those looking for something a bit quieter should head to Old Hunstanton where the unique striped cliffs add to the natural beauty of this beach. These cliffs were formed thousands of years ago and are rich in natural ammonites, so keep your eyes open for fossils that may get washed up on the beach.

During low tide, you can even see a shipwreck (S T Sheraton) below the lighthouse. Old Hunstanton Lighthouse, built in 1840 on the site where lighthouses have been since the 17th century, is now a holiday home. You can also see the ruins of St Edmund’s Chapel nearby. Old Hunstanton also has beach huts.

It’s easy to visit both, since they are only about a mile apart. You can walk or take the train (high-season only) that runs from the Searles Leisure Resort in Hunstanton to the Lighthouse in Old Hunstanton.

You don’t need to worry about bringing food along when you go to Hunstanton. There are plenty of stands along the Promenade to grab a bite. In Old Hunstanton, there is the Beach Café.

Keep in mind Old Hunstanton allows dogs all year, but there are some restrictions at the main beach during the summer months. Dogs are not permitted from the power boat ramp (near Searles) to the northern end of the Promenade from 10th April until 31st October. You need to keep dogs on a lead on the Promenade, the Green, and the Esplanade Gardens.

There are several different pay and display car parks in the Hunstanton area. For New Hunstanton, there are several along the Promenade including the Southend Car Park and the North Promenade Car Park. For Old Hunstanton, there is the Clifftop Car Park (close to the lighthouse) and Sea Lane Car Park (close to the Beach Café).

Mundesley

colourful beach huts by Mundesley Beach in Norfolk.
Mundesley is another blue-flag beach in Norfolk

Mundesley is another picture-perfect Norfolk beach with a Promenade and colourful beach huts. While this blue flag winning beach is fairly narrow, especially when the tide is in, it has soft sand and water that is ideal for swimming. It’s a lovely place for the whole family.

RNLI Lifeguards are on the beach from May to September from 10:00 – 18:00 daily so go for a dip, and enjoy the surroundings. It’s also a nice area for coastal walks.

The beach is accessed using a steep paved path to the elevated Promenade and then some steps down to the sand. Like many other areas along the Norfolk coast, erosion is a problem, so there are groynes to help reduce the natural drift of sand. You need to be careful by the cliff edges.

Behind the Promenade, you will find a cliff top garden area. It has a small hut that is home to the smallest maritime museum in the world! There is also a clifftop memorial for the Bomb Disposal teams that cleared the Norfolk coast of landmines after the Second World War.

From May to September, dogs are limited to a dog-friendly zone and they must be on a lead if they are walked on the Promenade at this time of year.

Mundesley is not quite as commercialised as some of the bigger towns, like Cromer or Sheringham, but it still has all the amenities you could want. Across the street from the gardens and Promenade, there is a pay and display car park. There is a fish and chips shop and a few other food options a short walk away.

Gorleston-on-Sea

gorleston beach in norfolk
Gorleston has some of the nicest sand in Norfolk and lots of amenities.

Just a few miles south of Great Yarmouth, you will find a quieter and less crowded alternative, Gorleston Beach. The sand and water at Gorleston may even be a bit nicer, plus a concert scene from the movie Yesterday was filmed here.

In Gorleston-on Sea, you will find a 2 mile stretch of clean, golden sand which curves around the bay.  There is plenty of sand to make sandcastles, fly a kite, or have a picnic when the tide is out. Deckchairs and wind breakers are also available to hire.

The area is popular for fishing, sailing, swimming, bodyboarding, and surfing. It’s a RNLI lifeguarded beach, they patrol daily from 1st May to 12th September from 10:00 to 18:00.

Alongside the beach, there is a promenade that’s almost a mile long. There are a number of benches along the way where you can take a break and enjoy the view.  Kids will enjoy the wet play area called the Splashpad and there is also a charming pond for sailing model boats, built in 1927.

Halfway along the promenade, there is a café, and at the town end there are cafes, bars, and a gift shop. During the summer, the bandstand plays host to a wide range of musical groups on Sunday afternoons. The beach also has public and disabled toilets.

Dogs are not allowed on the main section of the beach between May 1 and 30 September. During this time, dogs can still go on the beach south of the tennis courts. During the rest of the year, the beach has no restrictions for dogs, just be sure to clean up after them.

Another nice feature of Gorleston is that there is free parking! You can park in the car park by the Gorleston Pavilion Theatre or the one halfway along the beach.  There is also some roadside parking available.

What is the Best Beach in Norfolk?

With all the lovely beaches in the county, this is quite a difficult question. It depends on the type of beach that you like. Personally, my favourite beach in Norfolk is Holkham (at low tide), but you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches on this list. Spending time at the beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Norfolk.

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