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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > United Kingdom > England > Holkham Bay beaches, Norfolk

About Holkham Bay beaches, Norfolk

The 69km (43 mile) stretch of North Norfolk coast is a mix of sublime sandy beaches, velvet-green pine forests, flourishing saltmarshes, weird mudflats, windmills and pretty villages. Much is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and there are some lovely walking trails. It’s a wonderful area for birdwatching and wildlife, as well as watersports, and is as dramatically beautiful in the wilds of winter as it is basking in the summer sun.

Beach:

Holkham Bay is the finest beach on the North Norfolk coast, and a contender for one of the best in Britain. Around 5km (3 miles) of shimmering white-gold sand stretch as far as the eye can see, hidden away behind a pine forest. It’s a marvellous surprise following the short walk from the nearby car park.

Besides pines, the beach is backed by sea lavender and golden dunes, and a row of shabby-chic, brightly painted beach huts. Look out for dark green fritillary butterflies and peregrine falcons. But take care swimming – only swim where it is marked safe by red and yellow flags as there are strong tidal currents.

Beyond the beach:

From the nearby village of Blakeney, several companies offer boat trips to see the seal colony on Blakeney Point. Around 500 common and grey seals live there, and the best time to see them is between June and August when there will be lots of furry, white pups, or in September when you might get to see their mating dance. Trips take around one hour and run every day from April to October.

Family fun:

Holkham Bay is ideal for building sandcastles, flying kites, splashing around, picnics and running about. You might even spot the Queen, who has been known to walk her corgis here – her country retreat is only a few miles away at Sandringham. Pools of water often form on the beach, creating safe paddling pools where children can play.

A few miles from Holkham, Wells-Next-the-Sea is a charming little Georgian town that rewards a curious wander and attracts hoards of ice cream-toting tourists in summer. On the outskirts of town is the Narrow Gauge Steam Train (www.wellswalsinghamrailway.co.uk), which puffs the 6.5km (4 miles) to Little Walsingham with its ruined abbey, or else take the toytown-like Wells Harbour Railway to the beach.

If stately homes are your bag, you’re in for a treat: the Palladian mansion of Holkham Hall (www.holkham.co.uk) is 3km (2 miles) away, set in a vast and verdant deer park close to the beach. Holkham is also on the Peddar Way or Norfolk Coastal Path, and you can walk a glorious section to the picturesque windmill at Burnham (and then take the bus back).

Exploring further:

Head down the coast to Brancaster Staithe and take a boat trip to catch a sight of the seals and birds at Blakeney Point with Beans Boat Trips (www.beansboattrips.co.uk). From April to October visitors can head out with the knowledgeable crew to sea the cute creatures basking pn the sandbanks and swimming inquisitively around the boat – perfect for photo opportunities.

Splashing out:

Have a look at the Big Sky Gallery (www.bigbluesky.uk.com) on the way out of town, which sells ‘beautiful things’ created in Norfolk. Many of the sculptures and furniture are made from reclaimed materials found along the coast.