PAGE UPDATED: 15.06.2022
With big skies and open beaches, small fishing villages where time stands still, and a spectacular eroding coast line that’s fast disappearing into the sea, a road trip along the North Norfolk Coast has it all.
On this page we share the best bits of what we’ve found along this stretch of coast during several trips over the last few years.
If you’re exploring this part of the UK coastline we recommend taking at least a week to get the most from all there is to see here.
Let’s hit the road and explore the Norfolk Coast…
Crossing the county line
Heading over the county border, from Suffolk into Norfolk, is something Hobo Trudi never takes lightly; being an avid Ipswich Town fan means that she is stepping into enemy territory!
But putting football allegiances aside, Norfolk is a delightful county. And as there are no hills to climb, we’re sure our old van would agree with us! (If you’ve got an older motorhome you’ll know what we mean!)
There are thousands of acres of open countryside and almost 90 miles of coastline stretching from the Wash in the west, all the way around to the popular tourist town of Gt. Yarmouth on the east coast.
From Suffolk we usually take a leisurely drive through Thetford Forest, heading along the A134 to King’s Lynn then further north in the direction of the RSPB nature reserve at Snettisham. If you’re lucky enough you may catch sight of the birds’ spectacular murmurations.
We had our binoculars and telescopic lens at the ready, hoping to see something like this…
Sandringham or Dersingham?
Unfortunately for us, and unlike in the video above, the birds didn’t seem to be in the mood for such extravagant displays. We waited until early evening hoping for something worth filming, but when it became obvious that our feathered friends were taking a day off, we decided we’d better find a campsite before dark…
Of course, we could have stayed within the grounds of the Royal Sandringham Estate but last time we looked it was £38 a night. A little expensive, we thought.
On a different occasion – where we’d stopped just for a cuppa at the visitor centre – we ended up getting lost during a long walk in the woods. Luckily, one of the estate’s employees kindly drove us back to our van just before dark. We tell ourselves that she was part of the Queen’s security team, making sure no hobos were in the vicinity overnight!
So, with Sandringham out of the question, we decided to head to Pinecones campsite instead, just up the road in the village of Dersingham. We arrived at dusk, noticing the site was clean and orderly, paying just £18 for the night – electric hook up included.
Although we had a pitch quite near to the busy A149 we slept well and come the morning, before any sign of life, we couldn’t resist taking a photo of this little Renault motorhome parked next to us…
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Around the North Norfolk Coast
From Dersingham we headed north, mostly following the A149 around the coast, save for a couple of minor diversions, one of which was the result of a ‘6 feet 6 inches’ narrow bridge.
It reminded us of a similar predicament we’d faced in Wales when Google Maps diverted us for miles and miles before suggesting we cross a tiny bridge over a river.
But it’s no good trying to squeeze a 7 1/2 foot wide motorhome along a 6 1/2 foot wide bridge!
Moral of the story? Keep your eyes peeled and don’t rely on Google for directions!
Luckily, on this road trip, Gav had spotted the ‘narrow bridge’ sign just in time.
2022 UPDATE: on our most recent trip curiosity got the better of us and we ignored the sign! However, all was okay; the sign should really read ‘9 foot 6’ as we comfortably drove across the ‘narrow’ bridge. Even the widest motorhome should be okay.
If you stay on the A149 you’ll reach the popular tourist town of Hunstanton, a place we vowed never to return…
Fake security guards in the car park!
Don’t get us wrong – Hunstanton is probably a lovely place and we’ve heard that the Jurassic cliffs make for a wonderful day’s fossil hunting. But for motorhomers, we found Hunstanton to be less inviting…
The main gripe is this…
Unless you can find a parking spot on the roadside, there is just one car park without a height barrier – and this closes at 6pm!
There we were, eating our fish and chips in the van when some bloke, all dressed up in his security uniform, stood taking pictures of our number plate.
Gav jumped out the hab door and the ‘security guard-cum-traffic warden’ said, “I’ve been waiting for you to leave; this car park closes at 6pm,” pointing to the smallest sign you’ll ever see right over the far side of the car park.
He looked like he meant business, so, without even time to finish our chips off we went and he closed and locked the big yellow gate behind us.
We half expected to get a parking fine through the post over the next few days but no such thing arrived, thank goodness. What we had instead, though, was a real sour taste in our mouths.
We’re not fans of tourist towns anyway but if you like that sort of thing Hunstanton is probably worth a visit. And yes, the beach is lovely.
Bird watchers’ paradise at Titchwell Marshes
A little further on and right at the north west tip of the county you’ll find another RSPB site at Titchwell Marshes. It’s just a fiver to get in (and free for RSPB members) and it’s a place where you can easily spend a whole day immersed in nature.
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There are many different walks you can choose (through wooded areas and reed beds) but the most popular seems to be the half mile path to the beach. Avid bird-watchers were lined up with their telescopic lenses hoping to catch a glimpse of the Bittern hunkered down in the reeds.
Further on, we were met by a near deserted stretch of beach, the tide having receded by a good 300 yards out to sea. Nothing but sand for what seemed like miles and miles and the odd half submerged WWII look-out station.
It really is the perfect spot if you want to get away from it all. We spent a whole afternoon lying back and listening to the wind rustling the grass on the dunes, accompanied by the distant sound of waves before the sky turned thundery blue as we made our way back to the visitors’ car park.
A trip back in time at Wells-next-the-Sea
Back on the main A149, we soon reached Wells-next-the-Sea. If you’ve got time to spare this is a place well worth exploring. It feels like you’re stepping back in time as you wander around the little fishing harbour.
There are quaint little tea shops, gift shops, the customary fish ‘n’ chip shop, and a great second hand bookshop we always pop into.
If you’re looking for places to stay there are a couple of campsites we know of in ‘Wells’. There’s a big ‘warden-security’ campsite called Pinewoods (if you like that sort of thing). Back in 2018 we drove in and the security men – yes, more than one – jumped out of their little office waving their arms about, before telling us the site was fully booked.
Maybe our old hobo van didn’t fit in with the new 100K motorhomes already pitched up?
Whatever, they recommended another site just up the road, an off-grid type place (no electric hook up) called Blue Skies. More basic, a lot quieter, and not a security guard in site, much more to our liking! And in the morning the owner came round handing out Easter Eggs to all the campers!
Twenty pounds saved in Blakeney!
Further along the coastal road we passed the villages of Stiffkey and then Blakeney. Here you can walk out to Blakeney Point or take a boat trip to see the seals basking on the sandspits.
As members of the National Trust we parked for free in the main car park at Blakeney harbour, otherwise it’s £20 for a day’s parking in a motorhome! Cars cost £6. After 4pm all parking is free.
We did the 3 mile walk beside the tidal river Glaven, carving its way through the salt marshes to the village of Cley (pronounced Cly). We enjoyed a drink in the George and Dragon pub then bought some produce in the village store. Not cheap, but top quality bread, cheese, crackers and some weird looking mushrooms came back with us to the van.
On the previous visit to this sleepy coastal village (back in 2020) we entered ‘the twilight zone’. And it had nothing to do with mushrooms…
Twenty pounds made in Cley!
In the main street in Cley, we were anxiously flagged down by a man who asked us if we could take him and his wife to Cromer hospital (some 20 miles away). Why would he flag down an old motorhome of all vehicles? Perhaps he thought we were an ambulance?
Now, we don’t normally take in hitchhikers but his explanation seemed plausible: their car had broken down and his wife had an appointment in about an hour. Gav hesitated but when the man waved a £20 note under our noses they were in the van and belted up like a shot (with their Covid masks on)!
Hobos are not going to turn down a bit of extra diesel money! Indeed, Hobo Trudi had pledged that if we made any money on this trip she would quit work. (Two months later she actually did)!
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For half an hour or so as we bounced along the coastal roads we were reminded of the scene in Dumb and Dumber when Harry and Lloyd picked up hitchhikers…
Motorhome ambulance…for an hour!
So we carried on, Gav seemingly determined to show his driving prowess along the wet, winding roads, making sure our backseat passengers-cum-patients were comfortable enough to enjoy the ride. After all, how often do you get the chance to travel in a vintage motorhome?!
We soon passed through Sheringham (another place well worth a visit if you have the time, what with its narrow-gauge railway) and before long pulled into Cromer hospital. Our hitchhikers, Penny and Paul, were very grateful and we said our goodbyes.
That’s one of the weird things about road trips – you’ll meet people and know that you’ll never see them again your whole life.
What is it that brings people together like this, no matter how briefly? What did this situation teach us all? Whatever, we were £20 richer and we’d done our good deed for the day.
The disappearing cliffs at Happisburgh
Onwards we went, but before we left Cromer Gav simply had to stop and get a picture of a ‘rat-style’ VW T4 parked at the roadside. Another one for the gallery!
Shortly afterwards, we drove off the main road, determined to see the cliff erosion at Happisburgh (pronounced ‘Haysborough’).
Getting there meant that we had to negotiate some rather narrow, potholed, single lane Norfolk byroads – not easy in a hulking great lump of metal – but it was well worth the risk.
We parked up in the Pay and Display car park then walked down onto the beach, marvelling at the cliffs that have been eroding here at an ever alarming rate for decades. Indeed, it’s said that at least one house falls into the sea every year!
We then followed a gap in the cliffs up to the top and walked back along the cliff path, though this is something you wouldn’t want to do in the dark! Some homeless guy was camping here, sheltered next to an old WWII pill box, but tomorrow he and his tent could well be down on the beach!
Back on home soil
From the coastal erosion at Happisburgh, we made our way back toward the main road in the direction of Gt. Yarmouth. Choosing not to enjoy the delights of the seaside town on this occasion, we pressed on and soon crossed the county line back into Suffolk.
As we headed south along the A12 we passed the roads leading to some of our favourite places: Covehithe, Southwold, Dunwich, and Orford Ness, all places we have written about on our Suffolk Coast page.
Though it surely won’t be long before we’re heading back once more to the desolate beaches of the North Norfolk Coast.
Check out our other road trip stories…
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our story of the North Norfolk Coast. We’re sure you’d love the area just as much as we do. If you’ve already been, we’d love to hear your story!
The BBC also have an interesting piece on the coastal erosion at Happisburgh.
Since our visit there have been complaints from the North Norfolk council that RVs are responsible for blocking public toilets by emptying their motorhome toilet cassettes into the system. We have a blog post discussing our opinion of whether a 17 litre cassette could block a sewer system, and calling for motorhome owners to consider the effects of their actions.
Head back to our other road trips in the UK, including some spectacular scenic routes in parts of England, Scotland and Wales.