One of the most famous lock-free waterways is on our doorstep and it’s time we make the most of it…
With over 125 miles of navigable waterways intertwining through picturesque country landscapes and quaint villages, the thought makes me feel almost selfish that I take for granted this beautiful area that I only pay a visit to once in a blue moon.
For me the Broads conjures up images of a time gone by. Peaceful weekends drifting down vast stretches of river aboard a chartered boat, mooring for a riverside picnic with cheese sandwiches and counting the different species of birds bobbing on the water. Weekends on the Broads didn’t involve much else as a child, however times have changed and the Broads is now a gateway to fun, discovery and a whole lot more.
From where to start your journey and boat hire to wildlife spotting and great places to eat and drink, read our lowdown to exploring The Broads…
Where to start your journey
Wroxham is a popular starting point on the North of the Broads. Here’ll you find plenty of boat hire, riverside restaurants and B&Bs. Combined with the River Bure and Salhouse Broad, its considered to be one of the prettiest stretches of river in the area. Starting from the quaint village of Coltishall, it flows on through the hustle and bustle of Wroxham, before meandering onto the picturesque village of Horning, with its riverside pubs and continuing onto the river mouth and the energetic town of Great Yarmouth.
The River Yare and Breydon Water located in the south of the Broads flows from Norwich and is the biggest of the Broads rivers. Its journey is through beautiful scenery taking in the villages of Brundall and Reedham before opening out into the vast but shallow expanse of Breydon Water near Great Yarmouth.
You can also cross the Norfolk/Suffolk border by the River Waveney. From Breydon Water it heads to St Olaves and Somerleyton, onto Oulton Broad near Lowestoft then to the attractive market town of Beccles.
Best Places for Boat Hire
The family-run Martham Boats is a one-stop shop for all exploring by water. It offers a wide range of traditional timber boats and yachts as well as the opportunity for canoe hire and learning how to paddleboard.
Cess Road, Martham, Great Yarmouth, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR29 4RG. Tel: 01493 740249
The family-owned boatyard offers range of well-equipped cruisers for both day and short break hire with two to eight berths available.
Pits Lane, Chedgrave, Loddon, Norfolk NR14 6NQ. Tel: 01508 520321
With over 300 boats available for hire, Richardson’s Leisure is the largest operator on the Broads. It has marinas in Stalham and Acle.
Richardson’s Marina, The Staithe, Stalham, Norwich, NR12 9BX. Tel: 01692 668 981
If sailing is more your style, head to Hunters Yard where you’ll find cabin yachts and half deckers available to hire. They also offer sailing courses for first-timers.
Horsefen Road, Ludham, Norfolk NR29 5QG. Tel: 01692 678263
Things to do
Explore Salhouse Broad
Salhouse Broad is a tranquil spot situated on the River Bure. It holds a mosaic of valuable Broadland habitats, including mature dry and wet carr woodland, fen and open water which forms the home for an abundance of specialist wildlife including reed warbler, swallowtail butterfly, Norfolk hawker, kingfisher, marsh harrier and many others.
Spend the afternoon wandering around the ancient woodland, enjoy a picnic and let the children run wild in the rustic play area. There’s great walks for your pet pooch too. If feeling a little more active, hire out one of the kayaks or Canadian canoes or take the ferry to Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail, which is only accessible by boat. You can also stay for the night, in our back to basics camping corner or moor up at the water’s edge.
Tel: 01603722775. www.salhousebroad.org.uk
Broads Tours in Wroxham, the village considered to be the capital of the Broads, operates a daily schedule of river trips on board a fleet of double decker passenger boats. All trips have great commentaries; the skipper will tell you all you need to know about the area’s history, the wildlife and more, he will even throw in the odd funny tale! It is also great fun to actually hire a boat and take to the helm yourself. You can opt for just one hour, or pack a picnic and take off for the whole day. Don’t imagine that you need any previous experience either. The boats are very safe and easy to operate after being shown the ropes by a member of Broads Tours staff. Spring is a particularly wonderful time to explore the intricate maze of rivers, tributaries and smooth reed-fringed waters and to get up close to nature.
The Bridge, Wroxham, Norwich, NR12 8RX. Tel:01603 782207
The town of Potter Heigham is favourite with visitors and is an excellent place for boat hire if you feel like a challenge. This is renowned for being the most difficult waters to navigate in the area. Just remember to duck as you travel under the tiny medieval bridge.
Wroxham Barns has something for the whole family to enjoy. From the junior farm where you can feed the rabbits and groom the ponies and putting fun with mini-golf to shopping local crafts and produce and dining at the restaurant, its easy to spend a whole day here.
Great places to eat and drink
Fur and Feather Inn
Nestled in Woodbastwich village, the pub can be reached by walking from the moorings at Salhouse Broad. Its home to a great selection of Woodfordes Ales and is renowned for its good pub grub.
Woodbastwick, Norwich, NR13 6HQ. Tel: 01603 720003
The pub comes highly recommended is a firm favourite for visitors to the Broads. The menu varies daily at this gastro pub, and is made up largely of local produce such as fresh fish from Lowestoft and meat from nearby Swannington Farm.
Norwich Road, Horstead, NR12 7EE. Tel: 01603 737077
The Rising Sun
The homely and traditional pub overlooks the beautiful River Bure at Coltishall. A popular choice for both locals and holidaymakers, the al fresco riverside dining area is a fabulous spot to enjoy lunch on a warm sunny day.
28 Wroxham Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR12 7EA. Tel: 01603 737440
Places to stay
Waveney River Centre
This place is perfect if you prefer to stay on dry land for the night but still want to experience the very best of the broads. The park is on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with the Broads and a nature reserve on its doorstep. There’s a choice of accommodation available including pods, lodges and a boutique hotel. It also has a rather nice riverside restaurant.
Staithe Road, Burgh St Peter, Norfolk NR34 0BT. Tel: 01502 677343
The Wroxham Hotel
During the summer this place is generally heaving so if you’re thinking about staying make sure you book in advance. Set on the rivers edge the hotel is at the heart of the boating action. It’s restaurant and bar is a popular choice for watching the boats and swans drift by in the summer months.
The Bridge, Wroxham, Norwich, NR12 8AJ. Tel:01603 782061
The Norfolk Mead Hotel
With a choice of luxurious rooms the hotel is great for those looking for an indulgent weekend on the Broads. The expansive lawn and hotel gardens extend right to the banks of the River Bure.
Church Loke, Norwich, Norfolk NR12 7DN. Tel: 01603 737531