Mess about on the water on the Norfolk Broads

Last updated: February 15, 2022

Crowd-free Britain: We spotlight a different area of the UK each time in this series. We’ll look at crowd-free attractions and those that cater for barrier-free travel, sustainability, well-being and families, so you can plan your trip

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The best way to experience the Norfolk Broads is via its network of rural wetlands that break up dramatic landscapes of open countryside and dense woodlands. Spend a weekend or more in and out of a motorboat and explore centuries-old ruins and miles of scenic walking routes, and drop anchor at the jetties of lively riverside pubs in charming villages that cling to the water's edge.

Covid-safer in the Norfolk Broads?

Visitors may be asked to wear a face mask when in public places including supermarkets, banks, and shops as well as when using public transport.

Like other local authorities, the Broads are now using the ‘What3Words’ app for emergency services, which can be life-saving when travelling within such isolated areas. Keep up to date with news for boaters at live board.

What to see in the Norfolk Broads

Exploring the Norfolk Broads by car would be missing the point of visiting as everything here is connected by a wild network of wetlands – approximately 150 miles worth of rivers and lakes – all explorable by boats, which are omnipresent and bookable for everything from an hour to a couple of weeks. Arguably, it’s best during an extended stay to opt for the best of both worlds with a hotel or holiday home clinging to one of the Broads’ river banks with easy access to the waterways and a comfortable bed each evening.

Wroxham is as good a base as any to hire a boat and a good option for families, as the BeWILDerwood outdoor adventure destination and the Barton House miniature railway are both close by. It also offers access to Wroxham Broad, which is a popular sailing spot, and from here boats can connect to the tranquil River Bure to explore Hoveton in the north or Salhouse Broad in the south, which is popular with nature lovers thanks to its abundance of wildlife.

There’s a pretty collection of windmills (drainage pumps for the marshes) to be seen on the Broads but our favourites are Thurne Mill, a 45-minute boat ride from Herbert Woods Marina, and the striking red brick Hardley Windmill in the countryside close to Hardley village. It’s possible to dock in the marina in Norwich and, while the town isn’t a highlight, the cathedral, with its 96-metre high spire is stunning, and a good diversion for an hour or two.

Walkers are surprisingly well catered for in the Broads too, with the Weavers’ Way carving a 61-mile stretch of view-laden walking trails through the countryside between Great Yarmouth and surprisingly lively Cromer.

Escape the crowds in the Norfolk Broads

The thousands of hectares of Broads and rivers are a perfect place to lose the crowds, where, if one dares take the waters less travelled, it’s always possible to find an empty Broad to have a waterside picnic or a wild swim. But landlubbers should stray towards Great Yarmouth and head out on the Angles Way walking trail to the ruined walls of the third-century fort at Burgh Castle – one of Britain’s best-preserved Roman monuments – with captivating vistas over the serene Breydon Water.

To see a different side of the Broads take a restorative stroll (or cycle) through the atmospheric Thetford Forest, or take a day to explore the parklands on the pretty Bickland Estate. Alternatively, if you’re craving a beach then head north from Great Yarmouth to the North Denes, where a cinematic landscape of undulating dunes and quiet beaches awaits, or pick Snettisham if you feel like a stroll – and walk the full length from Heacham to Hunstanton via the tidal mudflats.

Barrier-free Norfolk Broads

If you’re looking for less sand and more of Norfolk’s famous Broads, try the Barton Broad Boardwalk in Neatishead. It’s “a wheelchair accessible boardwalk over swampy marshes and through woods”, that has been described by one reviewer as “somewhere really off the beaten track that is accessible.” If you want to get out on the water, the good news was that several boating companies offer single-level boats that are ideal for anyone with more limited mobility.

Family-friendly Norfolk Broads

There’s plenty for children of all ages. Older children will love to get adventurous on the water with fishing, boating, canoeing, sailing and more. There are easy walking and cycling routes for all ages - and who could resist a trip to watch seals?

Checklist for your trip to the Norfolk Broads

  • Take litter with you when leaving
  • Only use barbecues in designated areas
  • Wear life jackets when on the water
  • Pre-book your accommodation and restaurant visits
  • Be prepared to change your destination if a particular beach or attraction is very full
  • Research toilet facilities in advance
  • Download the What3Words App

Useful links Find up-to-date guidance on travel, safety, Covid-19 research and more.

RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.

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