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A sunset shot of Old Hunstanton Beach

The Wash

The Wash, an outstanding shallow bay that brims west Norfolk and opens into the North Sea, is about 20kms wide and 30kms long, making it the largest estuary system in the United Kingdom.

People have lived by The Wash for centuries, drawn here by fertile arable land, the bountiful seashore and fisheries. Land and sea continue to provide livelihoods for communities today.

From muddy tidal creeks to rolling sand dunes, and from farms to ports – there is such great diversity here. There are lots of types of habitats for wild plants and animals: saltmarshes, saline lagoons, shingle banks, sand dunes, and mudflats (the second largest area of intertidal mudflats in Britain), to name a few.

It is teeming with wildlife, with much to see whatever the season. It’s a winter feeding ground for over 300,000 visiting water birds (waders and wildfowl) – more than any other place in the UK – and the Wash is home to more common seals than anywhere else in the UK (baby seals are born on the sandbanks during the summer).

Common Seals looking at the camera at The Wash, West Norfolk.
A man windsurfing in the Wash at Hunstanton

A haven for birdwatchers, the estuary is a vital rest and refuelling point for birds flying to and from the Arctic, Siberia, Africa and other places during spring and autumn.

Beneath the surface, the waters of The Wash are teeming with life – including coral forming worms, starfish, crabs, and cockles. It is also an important nursery area for many fish including cod, skate and bass.

With such a rich area for wildlife, the Wash Estuary Project partnership was formed for the protection and sustainable development of the Wash and the livelihoods that depend on the bay – ensuring that visitors and the local community alike can continue to enjoy this special area of the British Isles, and all it has to offer.

A wide-open coastal space, a stunningly varied landscape, and an internationally important haven for wildlife make repeat visits to the Wash Estuary and the west Norfolk coastline essential.

If you wish to explore our superb coastal area and tranquil riverways as a leisure sailing enthusiast, please visit the dedicated Sail the Wash website for further details and booking information.

The Where to Stay in West Norfolk publication for 2022.

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The Where to Stay in West Norfolk publication for 2022.

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Discover more about Landscapes

The Where to Stay in West Norfolk publication for 2022.


From the inland marshes of the Fens to the plantations of the Brecks, from wooded slopes within estate land to farmland with woodland and wetlands, the landscape of inland west Norfolk has so much variety…

The Where to Stay in West Norfolk publication for 2022.

Norfolk Coast

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 Where to Stay in West Norfolk publication for 2022.

The Fens

The Fens, also known as the Fenlands, are a naturally marshy region lying primarily around the coast of the Wash, stretches across several counties and covers around 1 million acres.
The Where to Stay in West Norfolk publication for 2022.

The Brecks

The Brecks, one of the great natural areas of Great Britain, spans 370 square miles across Norfolk and Suffolk, and is one of the driest parts of Britain…