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Top 10 quirky things to do on the East of England coast

We all love to be beside the seaside, but if you’re looking for something a little out-of-the-ordinary when you go to the coast, here’s our top 10 quirky things to do…



This one’s purely for your Instagram account – a stunning photo of 200 multi-coloured, higgledy-piggledy wooden beach huts all strung out in a single line, set on pristine yellow sand and backed by marram-topped dunes and a picturesque pine forest. Your caption would be: ‘Wish you were here?’ and your friends seeing it wished they were!

Some of the beach huts can be rented by the day or for a week from nearby Pinewoods Holiday Park.

While you’re here take a dip in The Run, the long channel that winds through to characterful Wells-next-the-Sea harbour, (if the tide’s out) walk to the seashore which is about a mile away across a huge expanse of beach, and ride the tiny Wells Harbour Railway back to the town.

If you’re here in early summer you might see The Household Cavalry exercising their horses on the beach and going for a swim – this is where they take their summer holidays!

Orford Ness

Orford Ness

Operating as a top secret military site for more than 80 years, Orford Ness Nature Reserve was for a time the UK’s Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. The largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe, it is now a nature reserve, but nonetheless littered with debris and unusual buildings from the Cold War.

Now managed by the National Trust, you can visit by boat from Orford Quay across the river Alde. Tickets are limited and only sold on the day so arrive early.

Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth seafront

Great Yarmouth has been a popular seaside resort since Victorian times when the railways brought huge numbers of people from London and the Midlands to enjoy the sea air. And it’s just as popular today.

Take a ride on the wooden rollercoaster at the Pleasurebeach and you’ll be on the only remaining one of its kind in the UK (one of eight in the world) and only one of two remaining where a brakeman is required to ride with the train to control its speed – as there are NO BRAKES on the line.

Originally built for the Colonial Exhibition in Paris, the Scenic Railway (to give it its proper title) was purchased and rebuilt in Great Yarmouth by Herr Erich Heidrich, a famous German expert in this field. We’ll assume he had some help.

The ride is one mile long and has a maximum speed of 45mph.

For something more sedate, try the snails at Joyland.

Also on Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile is The Hippodrome Circus, Britain’s only surviving total circus building, built in 1903. A highlight of any show there is the amazing water spectacle. Not to be missed.

Southend Pier

Southend-on-Sea pier

Take a walk on Southend Pier, stretching 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary, and you’re on the world’s largest iron pleasure pier, and the second longest pleasure pier after Progreso, Yucatan in Mexico. A Grade II listed building, it was originally a wooden structure built in 1830.

Sir John Betjeman once said that ‘the Pier is Southend, Southend is the Pier’. That’s a lot of pier pressure.


Blakeney Greasy Pole competition

If you’re after a dirty weekend in the East of England, then the famous Greasy Pole competition at Blakeney Quay in August is for you. At low tide, competitors take a run-up and then attempt to slide along the eponymous pole to the end and then plop into the squelchy mud.

If that’s not your scene then come at any time of the year to take a boat trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point, the largest colony in the country. They’re SOOOO cute!


Cromer Pier at sunset

Enjoy a show at the Pavilion Theatre in Cromer and you’ll be in the last remaining end-of-pier theatre in the world.

Just offshore here is the world’s longest chalk reef, Britain’s own version of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s abundant sealife provides a great feeding opportunity for the eponymous Cromer crab – that’s why they’re the tastiest and meatiest you’ll ever find.

If you’re here on Boxing Day join in the hardy hundreds who take a swim in the (very cold) North Sea.

Southwold ferry

Walberswick Ferry

There may be a bridge over the River Blyth between Southwold and Walberswick but getting the rowing boat ferry across is much more fun!

A ferry has operated here since 1236 and it’s always been a rowing boat except between 1885 and 1940 when it was a chain ferry that could take cars, cattle and even elephants! Nowadays the cargo is more likely to be tourists, bicycles and dogs.


Happisburgh lighthouse

If you want to walk in the footsteps of possibly the first tourists ever to arrive in the UK then this is the place to go.

Scientists from the Natural History Museum found 850,000 year old human footprints from a time when this part of the coast was still linked to the Continent and the Thames used to flow through Norfolk.

Visit Norfolk has more on the Deep History Coast.


Cycling on Dunwich Heath

To get a real sense of the power of the North Sea, take a trip to Dunwich in Suffolk. Now a charming little village with a traditional pub, this was, in medieval times, one of the largest ports in the country, with a fishing fleet of over 70 vessels. Then the coastal erosion began…

Visit Dunwich Museum and you can see a diorama of how the town used to look.

Scolt Head Island

Scolt Head Island

There’s a seasonal ferry from Brancaster to this slither of land off the Norfolk coast, separated from the tidal salt marshes by Norton Creek – or you could wade across at low tide. A national nature reserve and managed by Natural England, Scolt Head is said to have one of the best beaches in Norfolk… if you’re brave enough to find out. Just look at the photograph above – it can get muddy!