The Norfolk Broads is the best system of waterways in the whole of the UK. It attracts people from all over the world, and I’ve been visiting these rivers for the last 20 years. Over the years, I’ve had almost all positive experiences hiring a boat but have also seen some disasters along the way. This Top 10 Norfolk Broads Things to Consider, will provide you with everything you need to know before planning your trip. We’ll also talk about things to do on the Norfolk Broads
When to Visit the Norfolk Broads
The first on the top 10 Norfolk broads things to consider is the most asked question. My answer always remains unchanged, it depends on what you’re looking for. Let me explain! My preference is to attend out of peak times, which I’ll avoid the times between the last 2 weeks of July until the end of the first week of September. My reason for that is that I prefer a less busy experience but still get nice weather. But, this is because I do a lot of fishing on the rivers and with less boat traffic, it makes it much easier for me.
What If I have children who want to visit the broads?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with attending during peak times. The atmosphere around the hubs of the broads like Wroxham, Potter Heigham or Horning is electric. Full of excitement and the joys of summer, are felt throughout the local villages and towns. It’s just a little busier with a lot more boat traffic to contend with, this isn’t anything to turn you away as I’ve been more times during peak times than not. The kids will love it.
Where to stay when visiting the broads?
My second thing on the top 10 things to consider is accommodation. You essentially have a few options.
You can stay riverside at one of the thousands of properties available to hire. The benefits of this are they’re beautiful to have the river as your back garden, and most of them have private mooring also. The downfall to this is they can be expensive and the cost of the boat unless one is provided. Better suited for larger parties I’d say
At a neighbouring town or village. A short drive away you’ll find Hemsby, Caister-On-Sea and Great Yarmouth. These are big tourist areas and have plenty of accommodation. Why not pitch up here and hire a boat for a few of the days?
AirBnB. I don’t need to explain what this is, but every year, more and more locals put their property on the platform. You get the comfort of a house with the convenience of being close to the broads
The Possibilities are endless and in all go down to your vision of your perfect Norfolk Broads adventure. There’s something for everybody.
How to get around the Norfolk Broads
The third top 10 Norfolk broads tips is how to get around the broads. The obvious and my preferred method is by boat. I’m an advocate for this and would recommend people try it at least once in their lives. But I understand people want another method of transport. You could consider a canoe or paddleboard? There are plenty of options around the board, and my preferred choice is Canoeman. The company is reliable and knowledgeable, and great if you’ve got young ones to consider.
I consider the broads not just the water but the surrounding woodlands. It’s a massive nature reserve and full of treks to explore, so bring a bike and find one of many free mooring sites scattered around the Norfolk broads. I’ll give you a few issues of different walks to consider around the broad. This is one of my favourite things to do on the Norfolk Broads.
How Hill to Ludham Bridge
How Hill is a perfect area to start your trek. There’s free boat mooring and a car park if you’d prefer to drive, making it an ideal point of reference behind your walk. After visiting the nature reserve at How Hill, Walkers should walk out to How Hill Staithe, and head south along the riverside path and down the riverbank. During your trek, you will pass Buttle Marsh, this is a pretty new reserve designed to attract and keep rare birds to the broads. It’s around two miles from this trek to Ludham Bridge. Once you get there, there’s a shop that sells refreshments.
Ludham Bridge to St Benet’s Abbey
This route takes you from Ludham Bridge to St Benet’s Abbey. It’s a beautiful walk and one I’ve done many times. The whole trip has immense 360 views of nothing by the countryside and historic sites. Once you continue on the footpath, you’ll see a large structure east of your location. This is the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey. This site was the only known site that was not officially closed down by King Henry VIII. Every time I visit this area in the evenings, I also see the barn owls flying over the ruins. The whole walk is around 1 mile long and has pretty even terrain
Irstead Staithe Circular
At around 3 miles, I’d say this is my favourite walk on the List. The walk takes you through a very scenic trail and links to the Barton Broads Board Walk. This is a known location for reed cutters, but is now officially protected for wildlife. The walk takes you through lush woodlands marvelling at the wildlife only to emerge at a clearing, looking out onto panoramic views of Barton Broad. After spending some time here, continue onward towards Neatishead before returning to Irstead.
Beccles Marsh Trail
This walk is around 4 miles long and has some historic information surrounding it. As Beccles has a thriving wool trade, Elizabeth I gifted the marshes to the people of the town although fast-forward to today, less wall is to been seen. Upon the walk, plenty of wildflowers and birds lined the marshes, with plenty of things to see along the way. The trek is pretty flat with no obstacles to fight with.
The Wherryman’s way
I wouldn’t walk this if you have any sense! This is 35 miles and has plenty of points to stop along the way. You’ll find audio points and information throughout the trek. It doesn’t feel too bad if you have a decent bike. The trek sits on the river Yare between Norwich and Great Yarmouth
The Weavers’ Way
This walk is a mental 61 miles and starts from the North Norfolk town of Cromer, and finishes off in the district of Great Yarmouth. The route meanders through the villages and notable nature spots like Blickling Estate and Felbrigg Hall (Both National Trust Locations). You’ll eventually find yourself at Breydon Water in Great Yarmouth, and that is basically a unique trek on its own. Continuing that will bring you to Burgh Castle, where they have some of the most impressive Roman forts in the country. I’ve only known a handful of people to walk this, the trick is to take a small backpack tent and pitch local sites along the way. It’s impossible to do this in one day. It’s worth visiting burgh castle anyway!
What else to see a do on the Norfolk Broads
The 4th top 10 Norfolk broads tips and If walking above isn’t your thing, give one of the other activities a go;
- Boat – It’s obvious boating is the main activity. If you’re just starting out, maybe hire one for an hour? If you like, then plan a bigger trip.
- Towns and Villages – There are hundreds of quaint little villages scattered around the broads. Some of the villages and towns go back hundreds of years
- Bird watching – Norfolk has some of the best bird watching in the country. It’s Recently home to European Bee eater and the only place I’ve seen a bittern is Ludham.
- Fishing – Fishing is incredible, there are so many locations. I’ve been fishing these waters most of my life and can recommend many locations
Combine your trip, I mix and match all of the above throughout the trip. If I was deciding on the trip, I’d fill my days with long walks and exploring and finish the day fishing in the evening. The fishing is incredible when the boat traffic has eased.
What to pack for the Norfolk Broads
5th on my list of top 10 Norfolk broads tips is everything essential you should be packing. If you’re anything like me, I need a list created before anything I ever do. I can’t remember the last time I went on a trip and didn’t forget something in some capacity. Screenshot this list as it’s everything you need that will fit inside a backpack.
This is undoubtedly the most important. When I was young I’d go out without and every single time I’d get burned. These days I’m far more cautious and there’s no real benefit of getting burned. It can get hot being out all day long. I recommend at least factor 50 and apply throughout the day, especially if you want to swim
I’d love to put a poll out to see how many people don’t bring this. Being next to the water and inside the woods makes you prime food for mosquitoes and other bugs. Believe me, you will be bitten to smitheries by these things. I find they’re worse in the evening, so apply them numerous times a day. Good time, make sure you apply it to your feet! Thank me later
Hat and Sunglasses
Nobody likes a really hot head, more so if you’re balding like myself. If you’re out on the water, there’s almost no way of getting away from the sun. I’ve seen sunstroke, heatstroke and hospital omissions over the years due to not respecting the sun. I always wear sunglasses, yes they look cool as a cucumber but the sun reflecting off the water can be blinding so more of a safety thing if you’re playing captain for the day
I have a dedicated shoe for hiking. I take them all over the world and never fail me. Furthermore, I opt for one with ankle protectors and stop it rolling if you’re clumsy like me. If it’s a one-off trip, a shoe with a good heel. Listen to my warning and do not bring flip-flops, you’ll thank me later. It can be a tricky terrain depending on the weather.
If you’re planning on swimming, then bring one. There are plenty of decent spots to fish, but I’d advise speaking to a company that holds events like the Waveney River Swim Event
Binoculars and Cameras
These things are easily forgettable, but every time I do, it’s my biggest regret. I’ve invested in a decent pair of binoculars in recent years and gained some good knowledge of local bird life and wildlife. I guarantee you, if you spend more than a day on the broads, you’ll see something you’ve never seen in your life. The rare UK bittern has been seen on the broads and different birds of prey. Please don’t forget either binoculars or a camera.
Be wary of the Norfolk Broads Wildlife
My 6th top 10 Norfolk Broads tip is the wildlife. The Norfolk Broads nature reserve is a mix between wetlands, marshland and woodland. Having a variety of terrain brings in different animals and all deserve your respect. The main animals you’ll likely come across through the days and evenings are Deer, Foxes, Badgers, otters, voles, butterflies, dragonflies and birds like owls and birds of prey. My advice, if you come across any of the following, is to keep your distance. It can be frightening if you’ve never encountered one before, but I’ve never heard of the above-attacking humans before. Just remember, we are in their home and should be respecting all animals.
Be aware of the tides
Tip number 7 on my top 10 Norfolk broads tips are the tides. A huge part of the broads is subject to tidal changes and can affect everything from the flow to the water level. It’s not advisable to swim in these conditions at all, and it would be dangerous even for strong swimmers. It can make boating on boats with no motor very challenging. I made this mistake a few times. I remember being swept downstream on a paddle boat a number of years ago and had to moor up to the side. Fishing can also change and that depends on the tide. There’s high tide and there are salt surges, and both shouldn’t be mistaken. The end of the broads is, ultimately, the sea
Check the weather
I probably should have put this higher up the list and one that is a must. My 8th top 10 Norfolk tips are the weather. I don’t mind a little drizzle when I’m trekking as there are a lot of trees and areas to take cover if needed. I’m aiming this at the people wishing to take a boat out on the broads. We all prefer a nice hot day which is safe if taking the right precautions but not a very nice experience in terrible conditions. I remember one year, we hired a boat and bases are idea on the conditions at 7am that morning. Bad idea! We were heading in to one of Martham Broad when a thunderstorm hit. It was absolutely terrifying, and the only time I’ve ever seen lightening hit something. If you head down to Martham ferry in and walk down the river until you get to the open water, you’ll see a tree on the nearside bank much higher than all the others. That tree was hit when we were about 30 m away. I also check the conditions these days
Follow the rules
We’re nearly there! The 9th in my top 10 Norfolk broads tips is to follow the rules. Whether you’re boating or exploring the nature reserve, there are some basic rules to follow, and I recommend familiarizing yourself with the broad authority and what they expect from people visiting. You will occasionally see the authorities cruising the waterways and have a presence. The obvious one is not drinking alcohol when driving a boat of any kind.
Finally, my final bit of advice is to just have fun. You’ll quickly find what suits you and what routes you’d prefer. No two days need to be the same on the Norfolk broads, and I highly recommend visiting a few times a build up some local knowledge of the area. Just remember to seek advice from the local companies as they’ve all been around decades and know the river system like the back of their hand
I’ve been all over the world, whether it’s hiking or on some version of a boat. I can say the Norfolk Broads is up there with some of the most beautiful and diverse I’ve been to. Likewise, I’m so lucky to have this on my doorstep and a platform to pass the information on to the next person. I’d love to hear about your trip below whether it’s fishing the bure, enjoying your luxury boat, or your canoe or just spending a day at a restaurant. Please comment and share your experience.