A guide to Norfolk’s nature reserves
Norfolk is full of natural wonders, from the famous red cliffs and pristine beaches of the coast to the waterways and wetlands of the countryside, not to mention the wildlife. Many of these areas are protected in order to preserve the natural beauty, so these nature reserves, parks and gardens make for excellent days out.
With a breath of fresh always on hand by the sea, it’s a good idea to look at options for outdoor activities when planning for your holidays. The good thing is Norfolk has an abundance of nature reserves which can be easily visited from Haven holiday parks. We’ve listed our top five Norfolk nature reserves below to help you find the best beauty spots in this underrated county. Make sure you check online before you make your trip as information does change and not all nature reserves are always open to the public.
The Norfolk Broads
Stretching more than 300km across both Norfolk and Suffolk and over 125 waterways, Broads National Park is perhaps the best-known Norfolk nature reserve and is a great place for exploration. As the UK's largest area of nationally protected wetland and an important area for wildlife, the Broads are a peaceful place to really get away from it all and back in touch with nature, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t also plenty of entertainment to be had.
Visitors can try fishing, sailing, boating canoeing and seal watching at the Broads. If renting a boat seems like too much effort, then there are plenty of options to cruise the waterways as well as the Bure Valley Railway as a means of getting around. There are also two fantastic theme parks found within the vast National Park – the enchanting BeWILDerland and the ever-popular Pettitts Animal Adventure Park, meaning that the Broads is also a great place to take the kids.
Dersingham Bog and the Sandringham Estate
The idea of visiting a bog on your holiday might not immediately appeal – but trust us, this is no ordinary bog. Across the road from the rigid, orderly beauty of Sandringham Estate, Dersingham Bog is quite the contrast with its wild, untamed mire, heath and woodland stretching over 150 hectares. There is a peaceful circular walk that is usually free of people and for wheelchair users, there is an easy access path which leads from the Wolverton car park to a stunning viewpoint.
Don’t get bogged down exploring Dersingham alone, for there is also the 600-acre Royal Park of Sandringham Estate to visit while you’re there. There are two waymarked trails running through woodlands which you are free to explore. The house itself, museum, St Mary Magdalene Church, and pristine gardens are also well worth a visit, being open to the public from March to October each year.
Pensthorpe Natural Park
Located in the heart of the Wensum Valley, Pensthorpe Natural Park is a goldmine for anyone who is looking for a Norfolk nature reserve to take the whole family. This 700-acre woodland area has many activities for the kids including interactive trails and eco-play areas and friendly little ducks to feed!
There are lots of fun trails to explore and for over 30 years Pensthorpe Natural Park has held lots of events such as talks and a bird and wildlife fair to help inspire the next generation of conservationists and wildlife lovers. Pensthorpe Natural Park makes for a brilliant day out and is enjoyable no matter the weather - there are plenty of places to seek shelter and benches for rests amongst the beautiful gardens, sculpture trail, courtyard cafe and shop.
Blakeney Nature Reserve
This is a National Trust favourite on the coast near Morston and easily makes our list of the best Norfolk nature reserves to visit this summer. Home to England’s largest grey seal colony, Blakeney is perhaps best known for its wildlife spotting boat trips, but it also offers stunning coastal walks aplenty.
Head to Morston Quay for the seal trips but make sure to reserve online at least a day in advance as they are popular. The trips are good value for a family and depart in a three-hour window before high tide as the estuary becomes mudflats at low tide. The quay is also the location of the car park, from which you can enjoy glorious views across the estuary and of the old lifeboat house on the spit as you walk along the coast path looking for birdlife as you go.
RSPB Snettisham Nature Reserve
RSPB Snettisham provides one of the best forms of all-year round entertainment that the natural world can offer - bird watching. Made up of a vast expanse of saltmarsh, tidal mudflats, saline lagoons and shingle beach, this nature reserve has a total of three wildlife observation hides including two that are suited to all weather and are wheelchair accessible. These hides give panoramic views across the marsh, lagoons and mudflats that make up The Wash. Walking, cycling and jogging enthusiasts will appreciate the three popular trails that run through the reserve and boating activities are also available on the water.
RSPB Snettisham Nature Reserve is perhaps best known for the Snettisham Spectacular. This phenomenon in which tens of thousands of wading birds are thrown into the air from the mudflats by the rapidly incoming tide is quite the treat for birdwatching enthusiasts. Also called the 'whirling wader spectacle', the best swarms are seen from late summer onwards and are a sight, and a sound, that you’re unlikely to forget. Please check the RSPB website for a guide to the dates and times you can see the spectacle for yourself.
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