One of the UK's largest and finest wetland landscapes. A unique patchwork of lakes, rivers, woodland, marsh and wide open skies.
An Introduction to the Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads is the UK's largest and finest wetland landscape. This unique patchwork of rivers and lakes is not, as was first thought, a natural landscape, but a result of intensive digging of peat in the Middle Ages to provide fuel. The empty pits were soon filled by rising water levels and now form a network of over 125 miles of navigable waterways providing leisure interest for many. The Norfolk Broads landscape is one of beauty and peace, of water, marsh, woodland and wide skies - with views of church towers and windmills. There is abundant wildlife including many rare butterflies and dragonflies. Some of the nature reserves can only be visited by boat and a tour by road can disappoint. Visit Broadland and you can enjoy many activities including Norfolk Broads boating holidays, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, walking, fishing and cycling. The Norfolk Broads has many lovely hotels, B&B, country cottages, parks and camping sites in which you can stay.
We start our tour of the Norfolk Broads in the Capital of the Broads - Wroxham. From Wroxham you can either hire your own self-drive cruiser for the week, weekend, day, or just for a few hours. Alternatively, you can take an organised cruise aboard one of the large comfortable cruise boats. Norfolk Broads boating holidays date back to the 19th century, when John Loynes founded his boatyard business in 1878. By the late 19th century, boating on the Broads by the Victorians had mushroomed into a substantial tourist trade and that trade continues into the 21st century.
A boating holiday is a great way to see and enjoy the Norfolk Broads. The following boatyards offer a fine choice of comfortable self-drive cruisers, with a good choice of layouts and all well equipped to a high standard - you just need to choose the right boat for you!
Wroxham is also good for shopping, it caims to have world's largest village store - Roys - and also a shopping precinct. You will also find some great attractions including Hoveton Hall Gardens, the Bure Valley Steam Railway and Wroxham Barns.
Roys of Wroxham, Norfolk Broads
Wroxham Shopping Precinct
Steam train on the Bure Valley Railway at Wroxham
Wroxham Barns Craft Workshops
Salhouse Broad, a little way down the River Bure from Wroxham, takes our vote for the most beautiful of the Norfolk Broads and yet it is one of the smallest. It is surrounded by ancient woodland and is the only Broad to feature a small sandy beach. It is ideal to anchor the boat and go for a walk, enjoy a picnic or let the kids splash around.
Boats mooring at Salhouse Broad
A short cruise down the River Bure takes us to Horning. This is one of the most picturesque villages on the Norfolk Broads and contains some fine old cottages, shops, pubs with river gardens and riverside walks. Horning is also one of the main boating centre's on the Broads. From here you can take a cruise aboard the paddle steamer "Southern Comfort" or watch the sailing from the Horning sailing club, which organise's the famous annual three rivers race.
Riverside properties backing onto the river Bure at Horning
Swan Inn, Horning, Norfolk Broads
Horning thatched cottage
Holiday cottage at Horning
A lovely Norfolk Broads riverside garden at the New Inn
Downstream, just off the main river, you will find the lovely village of Ranworth. Here you will find the Cathedral of the Broads - a lovely old church with steps allowing you to climb the church tower for fantastic views over the Broads. The church also has one of the finest medieval rood screens in the country and an ancient book of Psalms.
The Cathedral of the Broads, Ranworth
The Ranworth Antiphoner
The fabulous view of the Norfolk Broads from the top of Ranworth church
Ranworth Broad is a boating paradise with all style, shape and size of boat, and their crew can often be found having a pint of local beer in the pub! Ranworth Broad is said to be haunted by a 12th century monk that is often seen rowing his boat out onto the Broad early in the morning mist.
Ranworth Staithe, Norfolk Broads
The Malsters Pub, Norfolk Broads
Moving up the River Ant, we pass How Hill, a lovely nature reserve and small marshman's museum. There is a fine study centre and you can take river boat trips aboard the "Electric Eel", operated by the Broads Authority.
River Ant, Norfolk Broads
How Hill Cottage, Norfolk Broads
The River Ant opens onto beautiful Barton Broad, the second largest of the Norfolk Broads and until recently you could only enjoy its delights from a boat. The Barton Boardwalk changed all that by providing a viewing platform at the end of a walkway through ancient woodland. Barton Broad itself is a magnet for boats, particularly sailing. The Broad is also home to the Norfolk Punt Club, one of the most famous sailing clubs on the Broads. The villages surrounding Barton Broad (Neatishead, Irstead and Barton Turf) offer much to the visitor, including historic churches, a fine village pub and plenty of beautiful countryside to explore on bike or foot.
Barton Boardwalk Viewpoint
Sailing on Barton Broad
Thatched riverside cottage in Irstead
Barton Turf Staithe
A typical country lane near Neatishead
Upstream from Barton Broad are the villages of Stalham and Sutton. You can also find one the most picturesque windmills in Norfolk - Hunsett Drainage Mill - now privately owned.
River Ant, Norfolk Broads
Hunsett Mill, Norfolk Broads
Stalham is home to the Broads Museum, showcasing the history of the Norfolk Broads, including mans influence on the Broadland landscape. The museum shows how the waterways of the Broads were the equivalent of motorways in times gone by, with all types of goods transported in Norfolk Wherries, from the villages to the port of Great Yarmouth and the city of Norwich.
Norfolk Broads Museum
Norfolk Broads Museum
Returning to Thurne Mouth we come to the junction of the River Bure and River Thurne. The village of Thurne is marked by its famous windmill and is also on the Weavers Way, the long distance footpath covering much of Broadland.
Norfolk Broads Windmill
Norfolk Broads Footpath
Womack Water leads from the River Thurne to the village of Ludham. Here you will find Hunters Yard, the home of the Hunters Fleet, who hire out original 1930's gaff and lug rigged yachts.
Norfolk Broads Boatyard
Norfolk Broads Boat Building
Ludham village has one of the most picturesque tea-rooms in the whole county. A road leads from the village towards the ruins of historic St Benets Abbey, founded in 1020 and at one time was one of the wealthiest Benedictine houses in the country.
Norfolk Broads Tea Rooms
St. Benets Abbey, Norfolk Broads
Further up the River Thurne lies the village of Potter Heigham. Here you will find the famous medieval low arched bridge and the Herbert Woods Tower. Herbert Woods is one of the most famous names in the Norfolk Broads boat hire industry and he built the first ever yacht marina on the Broads at Potter Heigham.
Potter Heigham Bridge, Norfolk Broads
Herbert Woods, Norfolk Broads
The view of the River Thurne from Potter Heigham bridge
Above Potter are the villages of Martham, Hickling and Horsey. These are lovely remote places to visit, as many boats cannot navigate through Potter bridge to get here!
Martham Dyke, Norfolk Broads
Boathouses, Norfolk Broads
Horsey has a fabulous four storey windpump, that was built in 1912 and is now owned by the National Trust. You can see the inner workings and climb to the top for a great view! Horsey is the closest Broadland village to the Norfolk Coast, being only a mile from the North Sea and a path across fields makes an excellent walk.
Horsey Windmill, Norfolk Broads
Horsey Windmill View, Norfolk Broads
Returning back to Thurne Mouth, the River Bure continues its journey across the Norfolk marshes, through the bridge at Acle and towards the sea at Great Yarmouth. Acle is a lovely riverside Norfolk market village, with plenty of historic buildings to admire. The village also contains plenty of shops and other facilities.
The modern Acle Bridge, built in 1997
Norfolk Broads Wherry
The Jubilee Memorial in Acle
Across Breydon Water are the Southern Broads which lead to Loddon, Reedham, Brundall and the Norfolk Suffolk border, before eventually arriving in the capital of East Anglia - Norwich.
Sailing towards Breydon Water
Enjoying the view of Berney Arms Mill
A vehicle crossing on the ferry at Reedham
Statue to commemorate the building of wherries at Reedham Quay
Cruising on the River Waveney past Burgh Castle
Norwich River Bus, Norfolk Broads
Norwich Yacht Station
Norfolk Broads summary of what to SEE and DO
Take a boat trip along one of the rivers and Broads
Visit one of the pretty riverside villages, such as Horning
There is nothing quite like the Norfolk Broads anywhere else in the UK. It is a beautiful mix of woodland, marsh, meadow, water and sky. But to enjoy it you need to get out on a boat, a visit by car will usually prove disappointing.