Though I moved away to London for many years my heart always brought me home for frequent visits to Norfolk before I eventually sold up in the capital and moved back to the homestead. I was nervous about returning to an old life in the country after many years away and I wondered if it would be enough for us after the pace of our capital City life but, despite the many quirks to Norfolk, I couldn’t be happier to be home.
I feel so lucky to have beautiful rolling countryside (which, despite popular belief, isn’t flat), fantastic beaches and a fine city (it even says so on the welcome signs) in Norwich on my doorstep with clean air to breathe in every day. I also feel chuffed to be sharing this wonderful life with my children; I see now that London life wasn’t good enough for them, it just wasn’t. I grew up in Norfolk and as a child I couldn’t imagine a better place to play. I now watch my own children’s faces enjoying all that I did at their age and it’s a wonderful feeling.
Norfolk is an absolute wonder and it’s no wonder then that so many people want to visit for their holidays. But what should they do when they’re here to get the most from their stay? Talking about staying, where should they book? Only a local yokel like me would know the true hot spots so here I share with you now my highlights for a weekend stay or holiday in Norfolk!
First up, where to stay? From camping to the high class I have a top 5!
Where to stay in Norfolk!
- Deer’s Galde is a 5 star camping site in North Norfolk with a difference. Here you can do everything from pitching your own tent or choosing a luxurious glamping pod, bell tent or hut right the way through to staying in one of their cottages on the edge of the park. They have farm animals, clean, excellent amenities for showering and are a small drive from many gorgeous beaches like Cromer. We took Florence here for her first ever camping experience when she was around 18 months old and had a wonderful stay in a glamping pod. This summer we’re going back to try out the bell tents with a large group of friends visiting from London on my recommendation.
- The Pigs in Edgefield is a 17th century pub close to the historic market town of Holt. I’ve not stayed in one of their luxury spa rooms yet but I have many friends who have and the reports are all wonderful. They have family sized accommodation and private saunas in the rooms with outdoor baths and fire pits for toasting marshmallows. We have eaten here and the food is fantastic so I intend to book one of their meal and stay packages very soon. It’s worth noting that discounts are on offer for both dining and staying over-night when you apply for a FREE passport to Norfolk which also offers savings in other places! One of the best features of this place is the amazing play areas both inside and outside for the children with the outdoor adventure play area having been designed by another of my favourite places in Norfolk, BeWILDERwood which I recommend below in ‘Things to do’!
- Haven Holiday Parks in Norfolk are something I always recommend without reservation. We have stayed at the park in Caister many times and for us it’s the perfect get away with the kids. Miles and miles of unspoiled sandy beach on the doorstep and an indoor swimming pool with a massive area for tiny tots, a fun bumpy slide and lots of pool activities which the children adore! F learned to swim in this pool because it’s the perfect size and depth and the FREE activities in the pool are just as much fun as the ones you pay a little extra for. On top of this there are lots more dry land activities such as archery, bike hire and bungee bouncing with a small fee or FREE sports classes, indoor soft play and play-ground equipment. When you go to a Haven park you can take as much or as little of the entertainment as you like and we always enjoy the evening mini disco before retiring to comfortable, clean caravans which are a home away from home to watch TV and play cards. The fish and chip shop at Haven Caister is absolutely AMAZING and we always have it at least once or twice a stay levelling it out with healthy salads made from inexpensive produce from the Lidl just down the road. There’s lots to do on this park come rain or shine and although we’ve never had a sunshiny stay we’ve loved every second and the weather has never even been a factor!
- Dunston Hall gives a bit of 4 star luxury in the countryside but is just a short drive into Norwich city centre. This is the place Norfolk girls dream of getting married and the place to be for any big celebratory meal. I’ve never stayed at the hotel but I’ve eaten in both the a la carte and carvery restaurants and danced at glamourous wedding parties here many times and would always delight in a visit. They have a spa, gym and pool and it would be the ideal luxury get away!
- Norfolk Broads Boating is something we’re famous for in our county and although I’ve never stayed on a boat I’ve always wanted to! It looks like SO much fun and everyone here always raves about it. The broads are beautiful with many things to see and places to stop. Day boating is also fun and this is something everyone, including me, in Norfolk has done at least once! It really would be a holiday with a difference and with lots of companies offering different packages it’s one to shop around for. A couple to look at are Herbert Woods and ABC Boat Hire.
Our last trip to Haven Caister was nearly a year ago – we MUST make another trip soon!
And once you’re actually IN Norfolk, what you should be doing? There are SO, SO, SO many places to see and attractions that my list would literally go on and on and on so I’m going to have to be very selective in my top 5. Please do message me if you would like me to offer up more choices but for now, these are my best of the best!
- BeWILDerwood is a place I mentioned earlier because they designed the play-ground at The Pigs in Edgefield but for a play-gound to top all play-grounds you HAVE to visit them properly. Tree top walk ways, zip wires for all ages (even babies) and a touch of boggle and elf magic everywhere you look. This is not just my favourite attraction in Norfolk, it’s my favourite in the whole of the UK; we love it and are just about to buy annual passes. I don’t know ANYONE who has visited and come away unhappy. From the boat trip to the story telling right through to the den building and toddlewood hill this is the pace to be with kids!
- Cromer Beach is my go to place when the sun comes out but we also visit in the cold months of the winter for fun days digging in the sand, walking on the pier and enjoying the old fashioned slot machines in the arcade. It’s getting quite gentrified in Cromer I’ve noticed and is not just a gorgeous place to be with interesting buildings and museums but it’s also rather fashionable. I recommend the life boat museum on the pier, the pie and mash shop and buying a crab (of course) from J. Lee Fisherman. Climb to the top of the church tower, catch a crab in the rock pools and make sure you buy fish and chips from Mary Jane’s! Can’t beat Cromer all year round but the fireworks of New Year’s Day and the summer carnival are high lights of the year!
- Pensthorpe Nature Reserve is something everyone will enjoy from the very tiny to the very grand of age! walking around the reserve is tranquil and aesthetically stunning and then they offer delicious food, a super interesting shop and to top it off, the most wonderful outdoor and indoor play zones where much money has been invested over recent years. Take wellies and paddle suits because the stream in the playground is an utter highlight!
- The Poppy Line at Sheringham is the ultimate opportunity to experience a ride on an old-fashioned steam train while seeing the gems of the North Norfolk coast line. There are lots of themed events throughout the year such as the Thomas weekend on the first May Bank Holiday which just so happens to be the weekend of J’s 4th birthday. We think it’d be rude not to so we’re going to book our places soon as apparently they get very full very quickly!
- Norwich Castle Museum is the place we all got dragged around on every school trip growing up. Back then it was a little dull and had nothing much to do but I’m pleased to note after a recent visit with my two that it’s caught on and now has lots on offer. The dungeons with the gory stories of execution and a mummified Egyptian and her cat are things to look out for when visiting. It’s very inexpensive and absolutely worth a trip even if just to marvel at the stunning castle from the outside!
And after all that excitement you’re going to want to know where to eat and Norfolk has many, many options! Traditionally famed for having 365 pubs in Norwich (one for each day of the year) pub dining is popular but we also have some pretty fantastic restaurants too. We obviously have all the chains like GBK, Giraffe, Wagammama and Pizza Express (our personal fave and the one on St Benedicts is the best) but we are also lucky enough to have some fab independent restaurants. I’ve created a little list of places below that I can hand on heart send anyone to and guarantee a thumbs up!
Burgers and Steaks:
Zaks would be my top choice and there are four to choose from dotted about Norfolk but we’d say the Mousehold diner just outside Norwich City centre is the best ambience.
Captain America’s on Exchange Street in Norwich City centre is a place I worked for many years as a teen and in my early twenties and with an American car crashing through one of the walls it’s fun as well as delicious.
The Dray Yard Smokehouse is a place in Norwich that we haven’t visited yet but it comes on fab recommendation from our friends!
Something a little bit special:
We’d say Morston Hall run by Galton Blackiston who appeared on the first Great British Menu is our top choice. Set in beautiful surroundings near Blakeney on the coast and you couldn’t get a better vista to look out on as you dine. The food is pricey but oh so wonderful and you can also stay the night here too!
There’s a little place on Timber Hill in Norwich City centre called Donelli’s Pizzeria where we had a gorgeous meal not so long ago. Mid-range prices but totally delicious and their half and half options are great!
There’s a Gluten Free Cafe also on Timber Hill in Norwich which everyone is talking about but you need to get there early as it closes at 5pm.
The Assembly House is a place to take afternoon tea and you can use the passport to Norfolk to get discounts too!
Jarrolds is an independent department store in Norwich and their coffee shop serves the most delicious scones. A top tip is that they sell big bags of the left over scones at the end of the day for pennies!
Something a little bit different:
Just Lobsters recently re-opened after many years in a new location on the edge of Norwich City centre at Tombland. It used to be in the heart of the city when I was a teenager and I worked as a waitress here back then. I’ve not been to the new location but the pictures look just as it used to be when you would choose a lobster, have a plastic bib draped around you and given a set of lobster crackers to tuck in to the garlic buttery shell fish! Yum!
I could run on and on about places to dine in Norwich and Norfolk but I will steal myself before this post becomes a thesis and say once more, if you want any more info on Norfolk, places to stay, go or dine then do give me a shout!And if I haven’t given you enough food for thought on Norfolk, I have to just say one last thing about Great Yarmouth! It can be kiss me quick and the pleasure beach provides lots of all singing and all dancing fun but the beach here is stunning! I love to take the kidos for a run come rain or shine and this was them just the other day! We’re so lucky to live in Norfolk!