After what feels like 37475 days of January, the nights are starting to draw out (barely perceptible, but it’s true) and we are finally moving (albeit slowly) towards something the resembles Spring. Here are 3 great, purse-friendly Norfolk days out that include a walk, history and culture:

1. A Walk in Gorleston

Enjoy stretching sea views and a sandy stroll, with historical seafront buildings and an official Banksy.

A recent Sunday morning trip to Gorleston-on-Sea on the East Norfolk Coast, just along from Great Yarmouth, was just what the doctor ordered.

We parked on Lower Esplanade, which was free, and then walked out along the beach and back along the long promenade. After walking, we enjoyed chips, bacon butties and a cheeky out-of-season ice cream from the Marina Bay Cafe and Dimascio’s Ice Cream, both on Lower Esplanade.

As well as ice creams and chips, noteworthy points of interest that you can enjoy at Gorleston include:

  • The Pier Hotel (as featured in Danny Boyle’s fab 2019 film ‘Yesterday’);
  • A bona fide Banksy (sprayed beneath a bus shelter during his ‘Great British Spraycation’ last year);
  • The stunning Pavillion Theatre, which is housed in an amazing Edwardian building that dates back to 1901. This stunning red building was constructed in the ‘Belgian Gothic’ style by J. W. Cockrill.  It is an important example of the early use of modern terracotta and glazed tiles. It has copper domes on the four corner towers, among other interesting and beautiful architectural features. The uniqueness of this venue extends to the inside too, where seating is at tables and chairs, ‘cabaret’ style, rather than the more common tiered theatre seating.
  • A glorious sandy beach for sea-air strolls and dog walks (not permitted May – September);
  • A long, flat promenade suitable for wheelchairs and buggies;
  • Gorleston (Range Rear) Lighthouse, built in 1878.
  • Gorleston South Pier Lighthouse, found with the Coastwatch station at the end of the south pier.

Notes about this walk:

Time & Distance

This is an easy stroll of 1-2 miles and maybe takes an hour to an hour and a half, depending on your speed.

Accessibility

This is a very accessible walk if you stick to the promenade. Gorleston Beach is also very flat (but sandy, obviously).

Dogs

Dogs are permitted on the beach outside high season (May – September).

Other

There are some public toilets opposite the Pier Hotel (behind the Ocean Rooms). They are accessible and we have always found them to be open and clean.

2. Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park

Fabulous art and architecture in a lovely natural parkland.

If you are looking for a great day out in Norfolk, may we recommend the Sainsbury Centre, found just south of Norwich city centre on the UEA campus.

This iconic Norfolk building was designed by Norman Foster and opened in 1978. It has it all – free to view permanent collections, ticketed special exhibitions, cafes, a shop and a 350-acre outdoor Sculpture Park. It also doubled as the Avengers base in several Marvel films.

We visited at the weekend to see the newest additions to the Sculpture Park – Usagi Kannon, a striking bronze sculpture (and a personal favourite of mine) by Japanese-Swiss artist Leiko Ikemura, and Goodwood Steps by Anthony Caro, a monumental sculpture spanning over 33m in length and over 3m in height.

The Sculpture Park includes other important works by notable artists such as Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Lynn Chadwick, Liliane Lijn and Antony Gormley.

As well as formal sculpture gardens, the Park offers the tranquillity of the Broad and Yare River Valley and striking views of the UEA’s urban modernist architecture, designed by leading architects such as Norman Foster, Denys Lasdun and Rick Mather.

We parked in the car park at Earlham Park (free on the day we visited as the ticketing machine was off/broken – in the past I remember paying about £2 to park) and walked across, and had a lovely stroll around the Sculpture Park.

A free activity, suitable for all ages, it’s the ideal way to get a walk in nature, some fresh air and an array of inspiring art and culture in one outing in Norfolk. Marvellous. Download/view/print the Sculpture Park Map (as of February 2022). The Sainsbury Centre website also features free resources which can be downloaded and used when visiting the Sculpture Park.

Notes about this walk:

Time & Distance

You can choose to spend as long or as little time as you like walking around the Sculpture Park. Most recently, we visited and saw a handful or the sculptures on display, but of course you could choose to see them all. It’s fairly easy, grassy terrain with a few paths and small slopes here and there. It gets muddy after rain.

Accessibility

While the Sainsbury Centre itself is accessible, the Sculpture Park is not a massively accessible walk. The largely off-road terrain is quite uneven and can be very muddy after rainfall. There are certainly parts of the park that are buggy- and wheelchair friendly, but you may want to investigate further before heading out.

Dogs

As far as we’re aware, dogs can be taken on the walk around the Sculpture Park.

3. Wells-next-the-Sea

A lovely coastal walk, with a dash of history, and chips by the harbour.

This was our last beach walk of 2021 and we’ve done it a couple of times in the past few months. It’s a ‘classic’ Norfolk coastal day out with lots to discover and enjoy. The walk that we usually do is split into two ‘sections’ – the beach and pinewoods, and then an out-and-back walk to Wells town. It means you experience many of the best elements of Wells-next-the-Sea, in one fell swoop. Plus you get a good walk.

We park at the Wells Beach car park (pay & display), and usually head to the Wells-next-the-Sea Beach Cafe for pre-walk sustenance before heading out. This excellent cafe run by the Holkham Estate serves very generous and high quality Bacon Baps as well as coffees, teas and, more recently, delicious Vegan Sausage Rolls. There are public toilets opposite, behind the Joules shop, which is handy if you’ve driven to get to Wells.

We start our walk by turning left after the cafe and heading along towards the beach. This takes you past the new lifeboat station that’s being built. Left again takes you onto Wells beach, where you’ll see the iconic colourful beach huts on your left hand side.

We amble along the sand (which, when the tide is out, seems to span for miles), until just after the beach huts, turning left into the pinewoods, and making our way back to the car park. There are various trails through the woods, and if you’re lucky you might find the odd rope swing for the kids to enjoy.

From the car park, we head back towards the Wells-next-the-Sea Beach Cafe but this time turn right and follow the Beach Road all the way to Wells harbour and town. As you walk out, the sea and then the harbour is on your left, and you’ll spot multiple small fishing boats as well as lifeboats and sailing boats.

Once you reach the town, there are many sights to enjoy, and you can walk all the way along The Quay, past Wells Maltings which protrudes out and is a recognisable feature in many images of Wells, up to the Standard House Chandlery. Located on the East Quay, the Chandlery building housed The Royal Standard Inn in the 18th century. A lively haunt by all accounts, it was frequented by a young Nelson and doubled as the first rural Post Office in Norfolk.

A little way along from the Chandlery is The Old Custom House, built in 1560. Now a B&B, the garden of the former Custom House boasts one of the only remaining original spring wells that gave Wells its name.

At the town we got Fish & Chips from Platten’s, which we ate beside the harbour before strolling back. On previous visits, we’ve also popped in to the arcade and also John’s Rock Shop for some sweet treats.

Notes about this walk:

Time & Distance

If you do both parts of the walk (beach and woods and then to the town and back), it’s a good stretch. Most of the route is fairly easy walking, though there are some uneven trails and slopes in the Pine Woods. depending on how long you stop for food, and how fast you walk, it’s a good couple of hours out at least.

Accessibility

The walk to the town along the Beach Road is accessible, but the beach part and the woods not so much.

Dogs

Dogs are not permitted on certain stretches of Wells beach and it’s worth checking the latest details before you head out. Other than a stretch of the beach, on the days we visited there were lots of people with dogs at various parts of the walk.

We thoroughly enjoyed all these days out. they’re family- and budget-friendly, full of fresh air and lots of points of interest to discover. Add them to your list of places to visit in 2022 – perfect to see you through until Spring arrives!

Check out these other ideas for days out in Norwich and places to visit in North Norfolk.