North Norfolk is a favourite holiday destination for our family, it is home to some of the best beaches in the UK and never feels too crowded. Here are some of the best family-friendly beaches in Norfolk, geographically placed between and including Cromer and Brancaster.
Let’s begin our coastal journey at Cromer
Cromer beach is a lovely sandy and shingle beach, popular with families and ideal for swimming, surfing, kayaking/canoeing, sandcastle building and rock pooling. There are plenty of family friendly attractions next to the beach in Cromer and there are good facilities with toilets, shops and restaurants. Cromer is a traditional Victorian seaside town with a lovely pier, located within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. No1 at Cromer is one of the best fish and chip dinners we have ever tasted. At No1 upstairs, you can sit and dine with sea views, kids will be treated to theirs in a bucket and spade, while No1 downstairs, offers takeaway to enjoy on the beach.
Following the coast, the next beach is East Runton
East Runton is beautifully sandy when the tide is out, at full tide it is quite pebbly. It is home to the largest chalk reef in Europe and backed by sloping sandstone cliffs. You can see Cromer Pier in the distance, and it takes about 10 minutes to walk, do check tide times. Perfect for surfing, kite flying and sandcastle building when tide is not high. Also wonderful for rockpools and searching for fossils. During high season there are life-guards too.
Slightly further north is West Runton Beach
This is a little local favourite of ours, it’s only a 10 minute drive from where we stay, it’s perfect for a little visit and walk any time of year. Life guards are on the beach during high season, there is a small café, shop and toilets. This beach is easily accessible, as the car park is located right next door. It doesn’t get too busy as most visitors to the area head to Sheringham, Cromer or Holkham but it’s perfect for a young family with lots of stuff to carry. Check tide times, as sand is revealed when not high. Rockpools, swimming, sandcastle building. We like going to this beach with the family during winter and summer, it’s a handy beach to spend a couple of hours one, with the family.
As we move further north, along the coast we get to Sheringham. Again, check tide time if you want to build castles and swim, Sheringham beach is pebbly when the tide is in and then opens up to a wonderful sandy beach as it recedes. We really enjoy visiting Sheringham, the shops and restaurants are only 100 meters away and there are lifeguards on the beach during summer. There is a great body board shack for a little body board fun, the beach and town is lovely for a little family fun. If you’re lucky you will get to see seals frolicking in the distance. The beach is great for visiting any time of year. When the tide is in, it’s a great place to sit on the pebbles and see how far into the sea you can throw them.
Weybourne beach is a wild lovers paradise. This pebbly beach is not for the faint hearted, kids might not enjoy it if they are looking for sand and probably not ideal for toddlers, but I love it and it’s worth a stop, even for just a sit, for half an hour. The car park is right on the beach so you don’t have to walk too far. The waves on the pebbles make a beautiful sound. For adventurers there is a path that runs along the cliffs to Sheringham, when the tide is out it is also possible to walk between the two, it’s a bit of a trek though (allow a couple of hours), we have managed it, loved it, but do make sure if you have little ones, you’re happy to carry them or have a good off-roader buggy! There is a lovely little café in Weybourne and a great pub called the Ship Inn. Our favourite little local.
Heading away from Weybourne along the coast next stop are Salthouse, Blakeney and Cley. I have popped these all together because they all have one thing in common, they offer beautiful scenery with an array of wildlife and beautiful marshes. Not your usual sandcastle building beaches they are all worthy of a visit. The shingle beaches and beautiful walks around this area of outstanding Natural Beauty will give you a sense of tranquillity, watching the waves ebb and flow, your minds will wander in awe.
Blakeney Point is a four-mile shingle and dune beach backed by salt marshes and mudflats and is also home to England’s largest grey seal colony. Blakeney town is a great place to visit for a spot of lunch or ice cream and wander around the marshes, watch the brave slide down the mud slopes and maybe enjoy a little body boarding around the quiet waterways. Common seals and sandwich terns at Blakeney Point | © National Trust Images / Ian Ward
Cley beach is a shingle beach with a deep drop off. It’s great for fishing, the car park is right by the beach, so if you want to have a nose it’s pretty easy to do so for a short while.
Cley and Salthouse Beaches also have designated BBQ zones – ideal for a get together, but the beach maybe not quite so toddler friendly, there are no toilets or facilities here. Cley village has a handful of shops and restaurants, an 18th century Windmill and is about 1.8km from the beach itself.
Next family-friendly beach along the Norfolk coastline is Wells-Next-The-Sea. This stunning sandy beach is popular with families, it is home to a beautiful line of Instagram-able beach huts. Wells beach is located about an hour from Wells town. The walk is buggy friendly and offers lovely views. If you prefer to drive directly, there is a beach car park run by the Holkham Estate. During the summer this carpark can be full by lunch time however if you don’t mind a mile walk head back to the town, where you will find plenty of parking and a shuttle bus if you prefer not to walk. Next to the beach you will find the Beach café serving a variety of lunches, snacks and drinks, a dog water station a Joules shop, ice cream van, toilets and showers. Lifeguards are on duty here during July and September daily 10am – 6pm. Wonderful sandy beach in Norfolk for families, paddle in shallow waters, build sand-castles kick back and relax.
It’s neighbour Holkham Beach is breath-taking
Holkham Beach is a jewel in North Norfolk, it is a stunning sandy beach and at low tide stretches for miles. Popular for its nature reserve, sand dunes, pine forest, horse riding, kite flying and more, yet it never feels crowded. There is a café and toilets at the car park. Walking to the shoreline can take over 30 minutes. Parking is along Lady Anne’s Drive, this can get busy and can mean that you will have an extra walk, during summer months and peak times of the year there is an overflow carpark a little further away. As far as beautiful sandy beaches go, we think it’s worth the effort though, you won’t be disappointed, just make sure you take everything with you and settle down for a few hours, even the café can seem a trek.
Walk from Holkham Beach to Wells Beach
The walk between these two beautiful sandy beaches is magical, it’s about 3 miles each way. Our ideal is to park at Holkham and make the walk along the beach to Wells, where we grab a bite to eat and then follow the pine forest back where you have trees on one side and sea on the other, it is pretty magical. All terrain buggy and baby carriers needed with toddlers
Our journey finishes at Brancaster Beach.
Brancaster Beach never feels busy and It’s a photographer’s dream. There are toilets here and a car park but remember to take your own refreshments – there is a small kiosk that is not always open. Also be aware that the car park can be expensive. Walkers can park in the village to save on parking costs, there are some great places to eat, my husband likes muscles, and he says they were the best he ever tasted! This beach is worth a mention as it is beautiful and offers a quiet place to enjoy the sand sea and occasional group of seals playing in the water. The beach and sand dunes at Brancaster Estate | © National Trust Images/Justin Minns
We hope you liked our quick tour of the best beaches in North Norfolk – these can all be found between Cromer and Brancaster and as you can see, there really is a beach for every member of the family, including the dogs too. All of the beaches are dog friendly, some have geographical and/or date restrictions, do check before you go. For holiday cottages suitable for families in Norfolk check out Holiday Tots Family Holidays in Norfolk