Norfolk life’s a beach this summer
Picture your perfect seaside beach? Chances are we're all imagining different things, but whatever your preference you'll find it on the Norfolk coast. SIMON PARKIN offers a guide to where to head this summer.
There's nothing like the going to the beach for the day, smelling that salty air and feeling the sand and sea between your toes. Yet everyone has their own idea of the perfect seaside beach.
If you've got children, seeing their delight at a traditional bucket-and-spade beach is wonderful. Others prefer to feel surrounded by the wilds of the wind and ocean on miles of empty sand.
For some a day at the seaside involves pursuing their interests, from adrenaline fuelled sports like surfing and jet-skiing to the more sedate activities like fossil hunting or birdwatching.
Luckily whatever your perfect beach you'll find it in Norfolk. We're blessed with some of the best and most di-verse stretches of coastline. See you down the beach…
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Stretches of fine sand from a series of shallow bays, create by man-made reefs just off the coast, providing safe swimming and kids paddling in Blue Flag quality waters on this hugely popular beach. There are some traditional seaside activities with a small amusement arcade and a number of beach cafes, but it's not over developed, and the beach itself is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Continental style sun loungers are available for hire and lifeguards patrol the shores daily throughout the summer holidays.
With long stretches of fine sand and Blue Flag quality water, Mundesley attracts lots of tourists in the summer season. For the best swimming spots, head past the promenade with its colourful huts to where at low tide there's a flat bed of sand with shallow sloping water perfect for paddling, plus tidal pools. The beach itself is reached by walkways which descend down from the cliffs whilst the beautiful cliff top gardens offer an alternative quiet area to sit and relax.
With a foreshore that's almost half a mile wide this is a beach on a vast elemental scale. On an overcast day it is so vast it's often difficult to distinguish between sand, sea and sky. Holkham could be the best beach for numerous things; walking, wildlife, sand dunes or even stripping off. But the sheer scale and wildness bring out the rugged romantic. Perhaps that's why filmmakers love it so much.
It's not just us that say Yarmouth's sand is the perfect sandcastle material, it's been scientifically proven. A 2004 study by beach boffins found the resort had the third best sandcastle consistency of sand and water. It's no surprise therefore that some of the world's best sand sculptors regularly travelled here for the Master of Sands festival.
With access to its own half-mile of sandy unspoilt beach Waxham Sands is an ideal spot for families want to camp close to the sea. The site is only separated from the beach by fantastic stretch of sand dunes which kids invariably love. It's also adjacent to a Nature Reserve and bird sanctuary. Seals have been known to visit the beach.
Cromer is the most popular with beginners, but this is easily the most popular break in East Anglia. The right conditions produce solid hollow waves, and when it's ideal it draws largely crowds of watchers. At others times it is suitable for beginners though the beach itself is shingle and flinty.
This beach's fossil reputation was sealed in 1990 when winter seas eroded the cliffs to reveal the pelvis of a pre-historic elephant, some 600,000 years after it died. Eventually almost the entire skeleton of the West Runton Elephant was recovered. Over the years remains of rhinos, deer and many other animals have also been collected. It is popular with local schools and an ideal for children who can collect fossils on the foreshore and fish some of the only rock pools on the Norfolk coast.
Cromer is synonymous with crabs and crabbing by dropping a line off the side of the pier is great fun, however the sheltered waters of Blakeney Quay are arguably even better as you're closer to the action. Use some old bacon, cut into bite-sized lardons, attached to a piece of string and watch them bite. The best time is on the incoming tide when the crabs feed naturally.
One of the RSPB's most visited reserves, Titchwell Marsh on the coast near Brancaster, encompasses reed beds and shallow lagoons, often so full of birds that you may not reach the beach for quite some time. In summer, marsh harriers float over the reeds, where bearded tits nest. On the lagoons are avocets, gulls and terns.
There's not much that says British seaside more than rows of gaily painted beach huts. Several resorts on our coast have good examples, most famously Southwold where they fetch upwards of �70,000. However, in Wells they're more down-to-earth, more secluded and just as pretty.
Not just a haven for crab-catching, Cromer is a hot-spot for fishing, popular with locals and visitors alike. Either from the pier or casting from the beach there are plentiful stocks of bass and, at certain times of the year, cod and mackerel. The east beach in Overstrand is also a good location for those fishing for dab, flounder and sole.
Situated on the top of chalk cliffs, the coastal paths from Overstrand to Cromer and on to Sheringham offer from of the few areas of genuinely hilly terrain in Norfolk. As well as offering some stunning sea views, the chance to spot wildlife and get the bracing sea air, you'll feel the benefit in those calves.
In 1998 an ancient circle of 55 oak stumps was revealed here by shifting sands. Though Sea Henge, as it became known, was controversially removed to, and now has a fitting exhibition at the Lynn Museum in King's Lynn, the beach site remains. The perfect place to ponder what our ancestors saw in it some 4,000 years ago.
A great place to take to the sea, Brancaster Staithe is home to a sailing school where beginners can start to learn the ropes while more experienced sailors can brush up on their skills. The sailing school also has dinghies, kayaks and canoes for hire. It's also excellent for windsurfing. Lessons are available for individuals, groups and families.
The only resort on our stretch of the East coast from where, through a geographical quirk, it's possible to watch the sun set in the west over the sea horizon. At the other end of the day, Lowestoft is, of course, famously the first place in the country to see the sun's rays every morning.