Exploring/Eating along the coast

The famous North Norfolk coast, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is within easy reach of Mundesley.  Here are the stunning beaches of Wells-next-the-Sea, Brancaster and Holkham, close to Holkham Hall.  Recommended gastro pubs include The White HorseThe Ship Hotel and The Jolly Sailor, all in Brancaster; it is at Holkham you will find The Victoria.

Holkham Beach is listed in the Guardian’s “Top 10 category: beaches that make Britain look like the Caribbean (with added chill factor)”.  Matthew McCracken, writes “With a foreshore that’s at least half a mile wide, this [Holkham] is a beach on an awesome, elemental scale. It plays havoc with your senses: on an overcast day it’s hard to distinguish between sand, sea and sky. Brooding, windswept and other-worldly, it’s the sort of place where you could shoot a Joy Division album cover. The beach is part of Holkham national nature reserve – a diverse landscape of dunes, marshes and pine woods. Definately worth a visit.”

The villages and towns you pass through, for example Holt, Cley-next-the-Sea, Blakeney, Stiffkey and the Burnhams offer beautiful scenery, lovely harbours and excellent eating opportunities.  You’ll find pubs, restaurants and countless foodie-heaven delicatessens.  For a treat, try Morston Hall, near Holt (Michelin Star); or somewhere I’ve been, the up-market and fun cafe/deli in Holt called Byfords.

My in-laws swear by The Seamarge in Overstrand; but my personal favourite is Cookies Crab Shop in Salthouse – a must for sea-food loving eaters who don’t mind a bit of eccentricity.  Don’t forget to take your wine.

Other foodie havens include The Gunton Arms, in Thorpe Market; and The Walpole Arms at Itteringham.  We also love the Ingham Swan = they do a fantastically good value fixed menu.  Book ahead!

There are also the lively seaside towns of Sheringham and Cromer with shops, pubs and restaurants, amusements, watersports, sea-trips and live end of pier entertainment. I’ve heard great reviews of No1Cromer restaurant and fish and chip takeaway, owned by Galton Blackiston who owns Morston Hall (the Michelin starred restaurant near Holt).

South, you will find Happisburgh (famous for the dramatic coastal erosion that is taking place there) where there is a nice pub (Hill House), a church and a perfectly formed red and white striped lighthouse.

I awoke to blue skies and headed north, following the B1159 – Norfolk’s version of the Pacific Coast Highway – to Cromer. The golden sands run unbroken behind a wall of dunes, a slice of the Skeleton Coast transplanted to the North Sea and studded with old-fashioned family favourites including Sea Palling – thanks to reader Alice Weatherly for the tip-off – with its Caribbean ambience, Happisburgh (say “Hazeborough” to fit in with the locals), Bacton and lovely Mundesley, where it’s hard to believe that 16 trainloads of the bucket-and-spade brigade would arrive daily in its Edwardian heyday.  The railway has long gone but the gentle charm remains, and the crab sandwiches from the lobster shack in the car park are reason enough to visit.   Chris Haslam, Camper Van Man, Times On Line (July 08)

From Happisburgh, you go onto Sea Palling.  Here you can hire jet skis and other noisy beach toys.  Just a little bit further is Waxham, with its beautifully restored barn.  Waxham beach is beautiful, backed by sand dunes, which are great fun to explore.  Still further south you get to Horsey (with its famous Windpump and amazing seal colony, found on the beach near Horsey Gap), Winterton and finally Great Yarmouth.  The latter is a very commercial seaside town with a fun fair, amusement arcades, fast food shops and lots of things to do.

You don’t need a car to explore the coast – click here for more information about the Coasthopper bus service that can take you to some spectacular places.