The coastal landscape stretching right across the top of Norfolk, from west Norfolk to north Norfolk (covering around 43 miles), is a highly valuable asset to the county in terms of heritage and biodiversity.
The vast proportion of the west Norfolk coastline is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is mainly undeveloped coast and hinterland, and includes intertidal areas as well as many small towns and villages.
Stretching from the silt expanses of the Wash in the west through the coastal marshes, soft cliffs and hinterland of North Norfolk, to the dune system at Winterton in the east, the North Norfolk Coast is an area of remarkable beauty, diversity and scientific importance.
The north Norfolk Coast, as identified within the boundaries of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a long coastal strip from Old Hunstanton in the west to Bacton in the east, and includes the remote coastal marshes of the North Norfolk Heritage Coast from Old Hunstanton to Weybourne – a dynamic landscape of sand and mud flats, dunes, shingle, saltmarsh, reedbeds and grazing marsh which has a strong wilderness atmosphere, with its internationally important and renowned bird life. The north Norfolk coastline also includes important geological features including the soft, eroding cliffs of glacial sands and gravels east of Weybourne, and the rolling farmland, estates and woodland of the coastal hinterland, with important areas of heathland.
The region’s coastal towns have grown over the centuries from small, isolated fishing communities into bustling seaside resorts. But they have kept the character of communities working on the shore – the crab and fishing boats still putting out to sea, the lifeboats still proudly manned, and now the waters and nature reserves carefully maintained to preserve the area’s reputation as an unspoilt retreat.
There are a number of fine sandy beaches to visit in West Norfolk too. For traditional seaside atmosphere visit the most famous resort in west Norfolk, Hunstanton. Renowned for its unique multi-layered cliffs of red and white chalk and carrstone, magnificent sunsets, and fine sands, the resort is an ideal place for you and your family to stay whilst exploring further along the west Norfolk coast (though there are many villages along the shoreline that provide a range of high quality accommodation, shops, restaurants and other facilities).
From Hunstanton, you can set out along the beautiful Norfolk Coast Path to see the best of the Norfolk coast on foot.
The further around the coast you go, you will discover the quieter pleasures of Old Hunstanton, Brancaster, and Holkham beach with its natural dunes. From the Wash, around the long coast of Norfolk, the sea gradually retreats, giving rise to sandbanks, spits of land and silted harbours. Brancaster Staithe at low tide shows wide expanses of mud, which are important feeding areas for many birds (much of the landscape now being managed by the National Trust) and a history of shellfish farming. For Brancaster today, sailing, fishing, and trips to see the seals are common pastimes for boat owners and visitors to the coast. There are mooring opportunities for small leisure craft at points along the Wash to aid avid sailors in their exploration of the coast. See the Sail the Wash website for more details.