Now that we are back on our own small (but perfectly formed) island, having overdosed on mountains these past few years (never a bad thing!), we are currently enjoying making up for lost time when it comes to beaches, and being so very close to the sea… So, when Parkdean Resorts got in touch to ask whether I would like to help them with their Coastal Adventures Campaign to highlight and celebrate just how beautiful and unique the British Coastline can be. I couldn’t really say no now could I?
We have tried to explore as much of this part of the country as possible during our time here, and thanks to the fact that East Anglia has some 500 miles of coastline (Parkdean Resorts actually have ten of their resorts there!) you don’t actually have to go too far before you stumble across a beach or two…
Unsurprisingly, we haven’t quite managed to visit all the places in those 500 miles, but I think the following is a good round-up of where we have managed to explore so far, and should hopefully give you an idea of what East Anglian coastline looks like for those of you wanting to have your own Coastal Adventures in these parts…
Taking up a hefty chunk of the top half of the East Anglian Map is Norfolk, world-famous nowadays for its beautiful beaches and wide expanses of sky… It’s also got a reputation for really good food. Our first visit here was to Sheringham, where we introduced our (then very un English) children to many traditional English Seaside delights including Penny Falls, Mushy Peas with their fish and chips (instead of sauerkraut with their Bratwurst), and evenings spent listening to the seagulls squawking to each other whilst we watched some spectacular springtime seaside sunsets from the beach.
Our Norfolk wanderings also included Blakeney, famous for the huge Stiffkey Salt Marsh Nature Reserves owned by the National Trust. This important bird conservation area is a photographer’s dream thanks to a combination of the birds and the colourful boats perched high and dry upon the mud flats (a few a bit more complete than others!)! Blakeney is also brilliant for crabbing. What better way to spend an afternoon than by first popping to nearby Blakeney Deli to stock up on freshly made sausage rolls and hot tea, and then sit back and relax whilst the children are quietly entertained concentrating on that all important gentle tug on the crab line, and the close inspection of greedy crustaceans thereafter (always returned to their silty homes afterwards of course!)…
Holme Next the Sea
Whilst trying to find Wells Next the Sea, we stumbled across Holme Next the Sea, which is as equally pretty as its more famous neighbour, just without the iconic beach huts. To find the beach here, you must walk through the golf course (you are allowed to, don’t worry!), and up and out through the dunes until you get to a stretch of sand that goes on for miles and is littered with shells…
It’s most famous for its bird observatory status like many others on this stretch of coastline, and for me, it’s the closest I have come to the beaches we enjoyed during our life in Scandinavia thanks to its silver light, and enormous skies…
Holme Beach was also the site of SeaHenge, a 4000 year old Bronze age timber circle that slowly revealed itself to the world having been buried beneath the sand for thousands of years. English Heritage thought it best to remove and preserve the circle, but you can visit some of it today at the Lynn Museum in Kings Lynn…
Not far from Holme Next the Sea (and visited by us slightly later in the year) lies (both Old and New) Hunstanton. Known affectionately as Sunny Hunny by the locals, it’s everything that pops in to your head and more when you imagine a typical English Seaside resort… New Hunstanton is the busier of the two with a modern pier and a lengthy promenade filled with arcades, fairground rides, crazy golf and all kinds of culinary seaside delights. It’s almost a little gaudy in parts, but in the best possible way.
Between Old and New, lie the famous striped cliffs, and the beach here is home to a shipwreck of an old trawler that you can spot when the tide’s out.
Beyond that Old Hunstanton sits serenely, away from the lights, noise and crowds with a wide and pretty sandy beach dotted with mostly pastel beach huts. Once the toddler had eaten an impressive amount of sand, and we had finished with our kite flying attempts, we bade the beach here farewell and walked along part of the Clifftop Parade, past the old Victorian Seaside dwellings, and said a quick hello to the now retired light house before ending up at the Ancient Mariner Inn for lunch…
Our most recent Coastal Adventure were to SouthWold, somewhere that had been on our list for quite some time (the closest Parkdean Resort to this is Kessingland Beach!). We started our visit to the traditional pier, home to the completely nontraditional Water Clock that’s designed to make us think about water recycling. It celebrates the arrival of each new hour with two little figurines having a lengthy pee. Child heaven!! Also by the same creators here is the Under the Pier Show, full of less traditional arcade games such as test your zimmer frame abilities, and a machine that makes you practice your pirate skills, as described here by my good friend Trish!
Afterwards, we headed past the rows of beach huts and in to town in search of lunch.
I think Southwold must win some kind of award for classiest seaside resort, it’s all just so pretty (and given the fact that we timed our visit just before the current heat wave began, it was lovely and quiet too!). Even the Little Fish and Chip Shop we found went above and beyond in how inviting it all was as well as serving up some pretty tasty fresh seaside food. Another big plus is that this place also sells dinky bottles of prosecco if you want to try to look classy whilst eating out of paper sat on a bench!
We did exactly that outside the ornate Sailor’s Reading Room, looking out beyond the wild flowers of the cliff top and out to sea. Southwold is also home to Adnams Brewery if you need an excuse to pack any husbands off so you can enjoy a few more hours of peace and sea air… It also has a working light house that you can tour (if you are above 1.1 metres tall!)…
We finished our day here happy and full and enjoying an empty beach with the pier to the left of us and a row of brilliant beach huts behind us (you can rent them you know if you plan on spending a whole day here!)… The Toddler even found a star fish. You can’t get more typical day at an English beach than that…
Further down the coast, Aldeburgh is another British Beauty with famous reed beds surrounding it, an iconic scallop shell sculpture as a tribute to one of its most famous local residents Benjamin Britten, and a stunning 16th century Tudor hall as local museum (and council meeting room!).
Tiny wooden huts line the roadside selling the fresh catch of the day and there’s a lovely community feel to the place. Look out for the Old Customs House on the high street with its amazing doorway, and the tiny dog sculpture near the boating lake dedicated the lifelong friend of a local doctor (he was bedecked in a hat and scarf when we visited!). Aldeburgh is also a brilliant place for a first Mr Whippy!!
Much further down the map you can find Mersea Island, cut off from the mainland during Spring tides when the causeway floods.
This historic island (quite the Oyster eating destination in Roman times!) is eight miles square and split into two main areas – East and West.
On this visit we explored West Mersea, the Island’s capital (and busier of the two spots), where we spent the day inspecting nature on the pebbly beaches, walking through salt marsh reed beds, and admiring the colourful fish boats, before joining in with that Roman tradition of some delicious native seafood sampling, fresh from the nets of the many fishing communities that have been here for generations if not centuries. We really loved The Company Shed (take your own wine, bread and butter and they do everything else!) and the Oysters at the West Mersea Oyster Bar were excellent too. And the King of Belgium also thinks so!
Look out for the oyster shells you can spot everywhere here, from the baskets of discarded shells on the beach walls, to those inset into fence posts and the like. I am sure the Oyster is the unofficial emblem to these parts.
And that’s as far as we got with our Coastal Adventures… What about you? Are you thinking of having a Coastal Adventure of your own? Or if you are an East Anglian Native, which parts of coastline should I put on my list when we are next in these parts?
*This is a collaborative post