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Canoe, Kayak and Paddleboard – Norfolk Broads

by Liam
Enjoy a peaceful day on the water. A person paddles a canoe surrounded by nature and scenic views.


Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding on The Norfolk Broads, or the Broads for short, is a network of over 200 kilometres of navigable waterways in eastern England.

The beauty of its scenery with rolling hillsides and massive open plane fields makes it popular among boating enthusiasts from all around, not just the locals, but countrywide. The Norfolk Broads has attracted more visitors from abroad year upon year

The distinctive perspective offered by canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding makes it possible for visitors to get up close to the Broads’ wildlife including rare types of birds and reptiles

In this guide, we will explore the equipment and skills necessary for canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding on the Broads, including tips for safety along with advice about where to go when you want to take in nature.

This guide will also explain what to expect during your time on the water, whether you’re a seasoned paddler or have never been in a boat before.


Canoeing is a popular water sport that involves paddling a canoe, which is a narrow and lightweight boat designed for exploring the narrow waterways of places of the broads


Unlike canoeing, kayaking involves paddling a narrow and sleek boat that is typically enclosed on top leaving only a small cockpit for the paddler. Kayaks can be used by one or two people and are ideal for exploring waterways such as those in The Broads that are too wide or deep to explore via canoe.


Paddleboarding is a sport in which one stands on a large board and propels oneself through the water with a paddle. Paddling offers an excellent opportunity for exploring the calm waterways of The Broads while getting an invigorating workout at the same time!


Before embarking on a canoeing, kayaking, or paddleboarding adventure on the Broads, it’s important to ensure that you have the necessary equipment. Here is a list of essential gear for each sport:


  • Canoe
  • Paddle
  • Personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Whistle
  • Bail bucket or bilge pump
  • Dry bag for personal belongings
  • Map and compass


  • Kayak
  • Paddle
  • Personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Whistle
  • Bilge pump
  • Spray skirt (for enclosed kayaks)
  • Dry bag for personal belongings
  • Map and compass


  • Paddleboard
  • Paddle
  • Personal flotation device (PFD)
  • Whistle
  • Leash (to prevent board from floating away)
  • Dry bag for personal belongings
  • Map and compass

It’s important to note that wearing a PFD is not only necessary for safety reasons but is also a legal requirement when paddling on the Broads.

Safety Measures

Paddling on the Broads can be a safe and enjoyable experience if you follow some basic safety measures. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always wear a PFD and make sure it fits properly.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather conditions and wear layers that can be easily removed or added.
  • Check the weather forecast and water conditions before setting out.
  • Avoid paddling alone, especially if you are a beginner.
  • Familiarize yourself with the local regulations and rules of the Broads Authority.
  • Bring a map and compass and know how to use them.
  • Carry a whistle to signal for help

Best Spots to Explore

The Broads offer many exciting waterways to explore. No two trips are ever the same because of changing weather conditions, wildlife sightings and traffic on the water here’s a list of some top spots:

  • Barton Broad: This is the second-largest broad in the Broads, providing otters and kingfishers with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife such as marsh harriers.
  • Hickling Broad: This is the largest and possibly most famous of all the Broads, offering a variety of habitats including reed beds, marshes, and woodland. Birdwatching here can be excellent, with species like the rare bitterns & marsh harriers are fairly common.
  • Ranworth Broad: This is a smaller and quieter version of the Norfolk broads, but it offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
  • Wroxham Broad: Boaters flock to it, but canoeing and kayaking are also popular on this scenic waterway.
  • Thurne Dyke: The narrow channel offers a serene paddling experience, with lots chances to spot kingfishers and dragonflies.

Tips for a Great Experience

To get the most out of your time on the Broads, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Before you set out for a trip, plan your route and familiarize yourself with the area.
  • Slow down and enjoy the scenery, wildlife, and peacefulness of the waterways.
  • To capture the beauty of the Norfolk Broads, bring a camera or binoculars.
  • Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen to avoid dehydration and sunburn.
  • Respect the animals and other boaters you may see on your trip.
  • Always follow the local regulations and rules of the Broads Authority.


Which is better to try, between kayak and canoe?

Due to their streamlined design and shallower form, kayaks are generally faster than canoes. Easier to paddle: Sitting lower in the water with a sleeker design, kayaks are easier to paddle than canoes—although it should be noted that both forms of vessels require practice in order for you to master them

Do I need a license?

All canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (including inflatables) used in the Broads navigation area or adjacent waters must have either an annual toll or a short visit one.

The Authority charges annual tolls for all vessels that are used for more than 28 days in the fiscal year and requires them to display registration marks. Boats used for less than 28 days must obtain a short-stay toll, which can be issued in either 7 or 14-day lengths.

You now must pay an annual toll of £37.78 to use a canoe, kayak or paddleboard and short-term charges are also in place: 7 days is £8.50 and 14 days is £17.00.

Do I need insurance to kayak in UK?

There’s no legal obligation to have insurance but recommend you should get insurance for all your valuable property


Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding offer a unique way to explore the beauty of the Broads. With proper equipment and safety precautions in place (along with a little planning), paddling on these waters can be an enjoyable experience for people young or old, novice or pro!

By following the tips and suggestions in this guide, you can make the most of your adventure and create unforgettable memories of this stunning waterway network.

If you’re after a few days on the broads, check out our Norfolk Broads Luxury Boat Hire

I’d also recommend familiarizing yourself with the Broads Authority.

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