In the fall, just before the air turned sharp and cold, we piled into the car for a visit to Norfolk, England. Norfolk is a county with rolling hills and also long, wide stretches of coastline, and a couple of our English friends told us that it’s a culinary haven. Beaches, quaint countryside and delicious food just a short 2.5 hour drive from London? Um, yes, please. In fact, now that we’ve been, I’ve got five reasons why you need to visit Norfolk, England, too.
Reason #1: The country pub food
We pepper our English road trips with stops at one of the many Michelin guide recommended pubs that dot the English landscape. This time, we refreshed our spirits at The Gunton Arms, a traditional old pub situated on a 1,000 acre deer park. The pub sources its venison from the deer roaming the park and roasts it on an open fire pit right in the central dining room.
Aesthetically, everything from the salt-and-pepper stone facade of the pub to the creaky wooden tables and chairs screams traditional English countryside. From a culinary perspective, the food is a mix of tradition with sophisticated modern twists. The main courses tended on the heavier side, like a weighty venison stew with herbed dumplings and a cast iron skillet duck hash. The desserts, however, were revelatory. The menu changes seasonally, and if you’re there in the fall, don’t miss the buttermilk panna cotta with honeyed figs. It’s tart, sweet, creamy and sticky — all the things you want to savor while watching deer scamper around in the park outside.
Reason #2: There’s glamping!
For our weekend visit to Norfolk, the hubby and I decided that we’d glamping a whirl. We booked a luxury glamping pod through Wigwam Holidays, a company that franchises luxury glamping pods at locations all over the UK. We had friends traveling with us who’d actually stayed in glamping pods on other campsites, and they told us that sometimes the glamping pods can feel a little inauthentic. The pods could be situated in an empty field with no view or even right next to a busy road.
That’s not the case at Wigwam Holidays in Cromer. Not only do the luxury glamping pods have running water, heat and electricity, but they’re parked just inside a tall forest that feels just right — not too isolated, but wooded enough to feel like a real camping experience. At £85 per pod per night (each pod sleeps a family of four comfortably), it’s not the cheapest option for camping, but it is a bargain compared to some hotel options in the area.
We also discovered that Meimei enjoys filling buckets with rocks. Apparently this is something that our city livin’ kids don’t get enough of.
Reason #3: Miles and Miles of Beach
You might be able to find cute pubs and glamping pods in other parts of the UK, but you must visit Norfolk, England for its singular coastline. At low tide, the coastline stretches for literally hundreds of yards, which allows for a wide berth of wet sand for visitors to explore and take long, rambling walks on. In fact, it was so far out to the waterline from the boardwalk that I had to communicate with the other adults by phone.
The glamping site was only a ten-minute drive from the Cromer coastline, and public parking was ample (it may not be the case during the height of summer season, since we visited mid-fall). Convenient changing rooms were located right on the Cromer boardwalk, which let us suit up the kids in wetsuits to brave the brisk North Sea.
Reason #4: Seals!
For real: there are wild seals in Norfolk! Of the many coastal towns that dot the Norfolk coastline, Blakeney is the jumping off point for boat tours that take you to see seals in the wild. Beans Boats depart daily, sometimes multiple times, to get you up close and personal with the seals. Tickets are a reasonable £12 for adults, £6 for children. The boat guides are chatty and chock full of information about the seals and Norfolk in general. It can get cold on the water, so bundle up before going!
Reason #5: A Norfolk Way of Life
Something about being in sleepy coastal towns just melts away stress, doesn’t it? All weekend, we drove along winding coastal roads for breathtaking vistas, and I couldn’t stop staring. I was also driving, so let’s just say it wasn’t the easiest trip to be shrieking with delight at every turn. The locals were lovely, relaxed, and chatty with our kids, which made traveling for the weekend much easier and more pleasant all around.
Norfolk also felt a lot less traveled than some of the other places we’ve visited outside of London. The beaches were empty, the restaurants were busy but not crammed, and the roads weren’t stuffed with cars. Plus, by glamping, we were able to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. S’mores!
So … how about you? Will you visit Norfolk, England?
Norfolk Places and Things to Do:
Gunton Arms (restaurant and hotel rooms)
Beans Boats (seal watching)
Georgian Townhouse (pub and hotel rooms)
The Walpole Arms (pub)