The Broads National Park straddles Norfolk and Suffolk and offers more miles of waterways than Amsterdam or Venice. What’s more, this unique combination of rivers and lakes are actually man-made – yes, really!
With stunning countryside and year-round wildlife, the Broads can be enjoyed by foot or cycle or using a car to visit the picturesque villages and attractions like BeWILDerwood. But the best way to experience this setting is on the water itself – you can hire a picnic day boat or canoe or a longer-term cruiser.
Here are some of the places to start your adventure…
A lovely riverside village on the River Yare between Great Yarmouth and Norwich. Imagine this: in Roman times, before the draining of the land here, Reedham was actually a coastal village! Fragments of a Roman brick and stone lighthouse have been found.
Take a look at the characterful swing bridge used for rail connections to Lowestoft and you must cross the river on the chain ferry, the only road crossing point on the Yare between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
On the riverside road are a number of good pubs.
Burgh St Peter
Set in beautiful rolling countryside in the Waveney Valley, this is the place to get away from it all and relax. Traveling through winding sunken lanes you’ll think you’re in the south of France. This is a great place for cycling, walking and birdwatching. Hire a canoe at Waveney River Centre, take a ferry over the river to Carlton Marshes reserve and don’t miss the church of St Peter with its unique Georgian Gothick brick tower.
Beccles is a vibrant and charming market town, on the banks of the River Waveney full of independent shops and great eateries where you can try local food, We recommend Graze and the award-winning Oak Fired Pizza.
You can stay in a quirky houseboat at Hippersons boatyard where you can also hire a boat to explore the southern reaches of the Broads National Park.
Enjoy English pub food at the Adnams pub The Wherry or a craft ale pint and lunch at the Geldeston Locks, one of the quirkiest pubs you will ever find. Might be an idea to canoe there!
Beccles Lido must have the most picturesque view of any lido in the country, it’s right next to the River Waveney. Make sure to book in advance.
The Broads is the only English National Park with a city in it – Norwich, home of fabulous independent shopping in The Lanes, Europe’s largest permanent covered market, and two magnificent Norman buildings, the 900-year-old cathedral and imposing Castle Museum and Art Gallery, affectionately known as ‘The box on the hill’.
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden
A secret hideaway in the heart of Broadland, Fairhaven has lovely woodland walks, gardens rich in wildlife and its own private Broad. Look out for the 950-year-old oak… and maybe even an otter!
Waveney River Centre, Southern Broads
A ‘holiday park’ that’s actually on the Broads! This multi-award winning destination is set in beautiful countryside in the Waveney Valley, with views across to Carlton Marshes, and has a range of on-park activities including heated swimming pool, boat hire and its own pub.
Also on the Southern Broads is the lovely market town of Beccles, and the Roman fort of Burgh Castle which has lovely views over Breydon Water.
Whitlingham Country Park
Situated on the outskirts of Norwich, the Country Park has a Broad at its very centre – perfect for a circular walk. There’s camping, countryside rambles and also lots of family activity at Whitlingham Adventure.
This charming village on the River Thurne is at the eastern fringes of the Broads, but is another centre for boat hire. Its medieval bridge, believed to date from the 14th century, is the most difficult to navigate on the Broads, but beyond it are the lovely settings of Hickling Broad, Heigham Sounds and Horsey Mere.
One of the region’s best-known landmarks, you’ll think they’re windmills, but these towering features with sails are actually windpumps, traditionally used to operate drainage pumps.
The brick tower mills with movable, boat-like wooden caps and four wooden sails are unique to Norfolk. If you want to get up close and personal, the National Trust’s Horsey Windpump is the place for you.
If you’re in the area you may want to see the seal colony at Horsey Beach, but please don’t take dogs! Why not stop for refreshments at the old-fashioned Nelson Head pub.
A highlight of boating on the southern Broads is to see a sunset behind Breydon Water and Halvergate Marshes from the Roman Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth. And while you’re marvelling at that, just imagine that when the fort was built, in front of you would have been a mile-wide estuary that Roman galleons could sail up to their town Venta Icenorum, near modern-day Norwich. Longshore drift eventually created a sand spit across the estuary mouth which became… Great Yarmouth!
Wroxham and Hoveton
The capital of the Broads, Wroxham and Hoveton are linked by a tiny and very picturesque arched bridge. It’s also home to Roy’s, the world’s largest village store, where you can stock up on local produce before heading out on the water.
If you don’t fancy skippering your own boat, there are also trips on the Belle of the Broads.
The village is also the start – or is it the end? – of the Bure Valley Railway to Aylsham, where you’ll find the National Trust’s Blickling Hall, childhood home to Anne Boleyn.
Please, before you travel to the East of England, Know Before You Go – ensure places you want to visit are open, see if you have to pre-book. We’ve supplied click-throughs to attractions for you to check.