Dog-friendly beaches in Norfolk
Written by Deborah Cleland-Harris
I love taking my Peg to the beach and she’s a big fan, too. She’s only 11-months old and the first time her paws touched the soft white sand prevalent all along the Norfolk coastline, her big brown eyes lit up. She started bouncing around the sand dunes and even dipped her paws in the shallow water. Her first experience of beach life was at Wells-Next-The-Sea, and this is one of my top-five places to visit. (Unless stated the beaches are dog friendly with no restrictions.)
Wells-Next-The-Sea; dog friendly to the west of the beach towards Holkham
This is probably one of the most popular dog-walking spots with a lovely, dense pine tree wood (part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve) overlooking this impressive expanse of desert-like beach.
Unless you want to walk the good mile from the harbour to this soft sandy shore, you’ll have to park near the woods and climb the wooden steps that lead across the dunes to the beach. This is a stunning area, and the sea seems to reach as far out as the horizon giving it an unparalleled glamour. There are some nice shallow areas of water if you fancy a paddle, and there’s a very dog-friendly beach café with a self-service dog wash if your little one gets mucky. You could, in theory, walk from here westwards to stunning Holkham Beach and the woods there.
I have to confess this characterful and quaint beach area (next to the more typical English seaside resort of Hunstanton) is one of our favourite spots. The car park is cheap and cheerful and provides easy access. Not only does Peg have a great time; it’s an opportunity to eat some lovely food at the dog-friendly beach café (near the sand dunes and RNLI Lifeboat Station).
On a hot, busy day, follow the sandy, narrow path to the beach then past the sand dunes, turn right and there’s plenty of room for you and your dog to play and relax. The further you walk, the more remote this spot feels. But turn left and you’ll discover the famous striped red and white cliff’s (formed during the Cretaceous period; 65-145million years ago), with the Old Hunstanton Lighthouse perched on top. The sea’s a pebble’s throw away and as the weather’s been so fantastic lately, we’ve been going in for regular dips with Peg, too, of course, which she just loves. And as it’s quite shallow it’s as warm as bath water.
Heacham North and South
About three miles from Old Hunstanton is Heacham. It’s another vast stretch of sand and depending on what time of day you go, you could find the sea is a long way out. The south side is backed by sand dunes, while the north is a bit more commercial with a plain promenade and steps leading down to the beach (handy for somewhere to sit).
On a recent visit, the tide was out, but we enjoyed the long walk to the sea (even though it was wet all the way); it was so calm and serene that it appeared more like a lake and you could see many small fish and crabs crawling on the bottom – when I say bottom, you have to walk quite a way out for the water to reach even your waist. It was quite messy getting there and back but luckily public taps are scattered around the area.
West Runton (walk to Cromer)
This is another great spot with a beach café perched on the cliff that leads down to a wide stretch of beach, and just opposite is the very pleasant car park where a lot of people seem to picnic. The beach café doesn’t have an extensive menu but is fine for sandwiches and Jersey ice cream – we treated ourselves to after a long stroll.
Dogs need to remain on the lead until you’re away from a small restricted area around the centre of beach. It doesn’t take long to find some idyllic spots with plenty of rock pools to explore (teaming with all sorts of creatures including Scorpion fish), which is particularly fun for children.
Fossils are embedded in the cliffs and rock pools here and this is the spot where the West Runton Elephant/Mammoth was discovered (which last roamed the North Norfolk coast 700,000 years ago). Fossil hunters still gather here and there are rumours about the potential for another big discovery, however, it is advised that they refrain from digging away at the eroding cliff. It was such a pleasant walk that we nearly made it all the way to Cromer pier in the distance.
(Cromer walk to) Mundesley; dog restrictions in the summer months the length of the promenade
You could walk from Cromer to Mundesley, with a cliff top section from Cromer to Overstrand when the tide is in (though there are other complications so please check). We had a little jaunt to the beach with the hood down in our new Beetle (thought we’d get in the hippy vibe with all this beach life). We turned up at Mundesley with high expectations, but because of unexpected fog, we only got a glimpse of the lovely long stretch of sand with barely a shingle in sight that we’d heard about.
Mundesley sits in the dip of a cliff and we followed a winding set of steps down the shore and considering there was a veritable conga of dog walkers, we took that as a good sign that our four-legged friends like it here. Or follow the coastal path south from the village, which will give you nice views across Mundesley.