How to Spend a Short Break on the Norfolk Broads

Enjoy a short break on the Norfolk Broads and its rivers. Boat hire, pubs on the Broads and activities. Everything you need to know for a holiday on the Norfolk Broads. 

sailing holidays on Norfolk Broads
sail holiday with Olivers Sailing Holiday on their beautiful boat Dreamtime

The Norfolk Broads is geographically split, dissected neatly into the northern and southern river systems and the broads they link. Crossing by road is limited by the restricted number of river crossings, and by river or boat, getting between the extremes of the two river systems takes days. It’s not surprising then, that what on a map looks like a 20-minute journey, ends up as a day trip, whatever your mode of transport.

If you are not careful the Norfolk Broads are quite underwhelming by car. There is no easy alternative than actually getting on the water. There are only a very few places you can drive to and see the long vistas and the amazing wildlife which surrounds you the moment you get on a boat and slow down.

Everyone knows Wroxham

If you only want a little bit of river, a few ducks and swans to feed followed by a good choice of eateries and four hours in the Roy’s of Wroxham shopping, it’s the Norfolk Broads destination for you! Great free car parking, and it is possible to get a good walk on the north bank along the river towards Coltishall, which takes you beside the river moorings, usually with a good selection of boats to look over.

The beer garden behind the Kings Head pub also gives river views during the summer season and is dog friendly. On the other side of the river bridge, and still on the North bank is the Wroxham Hotel terrace restaurant; tasty food and still a favourite of ours, it has a dog-friendly terrace in summer and bar during winter.

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boat hire on the Norfolk Broads

Wroxham is also the main hub for day boat hire on this stretch of the River Bure. Small day boats and larger picnic boats are available to hire on either side of the main river bridge. You can hire for four hours up to a full day. If you are only planning a few hours, take a picnic, as it won’t give you long enough to reach any of the neighbouring villages, and mooring over lunchtimes can be stressful even in a small day boat on this busy stretch of the river.

Take the road to Horning and you will pass BeWILDerwood; great for kids of all ages with acres of zip wires, tree houses and massive slides. Entry charges apply and it’s probably a full day trip versus a pop in, so plan your visit.

Horning offers your next river Bure access; the main village is off the main road so follow the signs for the river. Horning has a very good deli with a cafe-restaurant and a couple of good pubs with moorings. It is also home to the Bure River Cottage Restaurant, specialising in fish and one of the best at it. It’s only open evenings and bookings are required.

Back on the main road and you will cross the River Ant at Ludham Bridge. There is a lay-by just before the bridge and a few shops on the far side, with extensive moorings on both sides of the river. Another opportunity to park up and walk along the riverbanks, south towards St Bennets Abbey or north towards Barton.

Martham Ferry boatyard
Martham Ferry boatyard

We must of course mention Potter Heigham

The home of Herbert Woods boatyard and boat hire, and also the home of Lathams, one of the best-loved budget stores for rainy day recreational shopping. There’s loads of free parking and footpaths along all riverbanks in either direction passing behind the cottages, which make for a fascinating walk. Visit Bridestones cafe great for a cooked breakfast, lunch or cake and coffee.

Pick up fish and chips shop over the bridge (it closes very early, even in summer) and you can then sit on the river bank and watch the boats trying to get under the ancient and very low Potter Heigham Bridge

picnic boat Norfolk Broads
Picnic boat from Martham Ferry

Hickling and Horsey are best for wildlife

Finally, we could not finish our tour of the Northern Broads without mentioning the lovely Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere owned by the National Trust and a haven for wildlife. You can even moor at Horsey Windpump and walk to the beach to see the seals.

To explore them hire a day or picnic boat from the lovely friendly Martham Ferrry Boatyard, to explore this end of the Northern Norfolk Broads, and you won’t be disappointed. They even have an electric day boat for hire so you can enjoy the Broads in peace and quiet.

Fancy learning to sail? They also offer short sailing breaks in their fabulous classic Norfolk Broads river cruisers on this quieter stretch of the Norfolk Broads, where you sleep on board and have a skipper during the day. Book through Olivers Sailing Holidays. 

sailing Norfolk Broads
Sailing Boat

Apologies for only covering the Northern Broads but we ran out of space. We will have to save Great Yarmouth and the southern broads for another day, as there is lots to discover there too!

Read our guide to the best pubs on the Norfolk Broads

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