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Wells next the Sea

A lovely town on the North Norfolk Coast, but due to silting, it is nearly a mile from open water.

An Introduction to Wells next the Sea

Beach Huts
Mud Channel
Wells Harbour
Wells Harbour Railway
Despite its name, Wells next the sea is situated a good mile or so from open water. Like many places along this stretch of the North Norfolk Coast, silting has resulted in limited access to the sea, but back in Tudor times, Wells was one of the great ports of eastern England. It’s still one of the most attractive towns on the North Norfolk coast, and the only one to remain a commercially viable port. It features many narrow lanes nicely sheltered from the offshore winds and makes a very good base for exploring the surrounding coastline. Apparently, the name of Wells comes from from the old word 'welles' meaning a clear spring of water, which Wells used to have many.

The town is divided into three distinct areas, starting with Buttlands, a broad rectangular green, lined with lime trees and some very fine Georgian and Victorian houses. Next are the narrow lanes of the town centre with Staithe Street having some interesting shops for browsing. At the bottom end of Staithe Street stands the quay and harbour, with many traditional seaside attractions. The harbour itself is lined with boats with the landmark Granary marking the mid-point. Wells next the Sea has many attractions and facilities including 2 steam railways, hotels, pubs, tea rooms and countless shops. Wells next the Sea was made famous by the ITV drama Kingdom, where it makes up one half of a fictitious Norfolk town called Market Shipborough (the other half being Swaffham).
Local Websites

Norfolk Cottages

Wells next the Sea Map

Wells next the sea Map Holkham Blakeney Walsingham

Wells next the Sea Guided Picture Tour

We start our tour of Wells next the Sea at the beach. A large car-park is situated here and many people park and walk the mile into the town. There are other car-parks in the town itself, but most are small and the streets are narrow. The car park by the beach has loads of space and plenty of facilities. The adjacent sandy beach is exceptional and is backed by woods with a row of colourful beach huts. Walkers can enjoy the trek along the beach to nearby Holkham Bay.
Wells Beach Huts
Beach huts at Wells next the sea
Beach Car Park
Wells beach car park on a busy bank holiday
Wells next the Sea Beach
Wells beach at low-tide

The walk into Wells next the Sea town centre (about a mile) is along a raised pathway, giving fine views over the channel into Wells harbour and the marshes beyond. The view is continually changing depending on the state of the tide. If you do not fancy walking, the alternative is to ride the Wells Harbour Railway (WHR). Steam and diesel trains operate on 10¼” gauge track, transporting passengers the mile from the beach to the town centre. This service operates from mid-March to mid-October. Along the walk or train ride you will also get to see a golf pitch and putt and a large holiday park, as well as many boats in the harbour.
Wells Harbour Railway
The Wells Harbour Railway running past the pitch and putt golf course
Norfolk Coast Path
The footpath from Wells town centre to the beach
Pinewoods Holiday Park
Pinewoods Holiday Park in Wells
Wells Low Tide
A typical view of the channel into Wells harbour at LOW tide
Wells High Tide
A typical view of the channel into Wells harbour at HIGH tide

The channel provides access to Wells harbour and quay. Moored in the harbour is the Albatros, one of the oldest sailing ships still afloat. This beautiful ship was built in Rotterdam in 1899 and used as a cargo ship, exporting grain from Denmark to Sweden and even assisted Jewish refugees with their escape from Nazi Germany during WW2. In 1983 Tonn Brouwer purchased the ship and she was used to carry Soya beans from Belgium to Wells for a Norfolk agricultural merchant. The Albatros then served Greenpeace as an environmental study centre for school children, before becoming a tourist attraction. The quay also serves as a starting point for several boat trips, one of the harbour and the other offering sea fishing trips.
Wells next the Sea  Harbour and Quay
The view of Wells next the Sea Harbour and Quay
Albatros Clipper
The Albatros moored in Wells harbour
Clipper Decks
The Decks of the Dutch Clipper Albatros
Wells Harbour Office
Wells Harbour Office adjacent to the quay
Wells Pontoons
Pontoons for the mooring of visiting boats at Wells

At the mid-point of the quay, is the famous landmark of Wells next the sea, a large Granary building with a green loading gantry sticking out from the building. The Granary was built around 1905 and used to store grain and other cereals, from ships from all over the world. The last ship to unload was the MV Palbro Pride in 1990 which had 250 tones of soya from Rotterdam. The granary was then converted into luxury apartments. The harbour is still used by fishing boats that unload their catch into the Fishing Shed, situated on the east quay. Whelks were once popular, but these days shellfish unloaded in Wells include crabs, shrimps, lobsters and mussels.
Wells next the Sea Granary
The Granary in Wells next the sea
Wells Granary
The loading gantry
Harbour Chandlery
A boat chandlers overlooking the harbour in Wells
Wells Fishing Shed
The Fishing Shed on Wells Quay
Wells Fishing Boats
Fishing Boats moored against Wells Quay
Wells next the Sea  Harbour View
Enjoying the view over Wells Harbour and Creeks
Wells Harbour
Boats at low tide in Wells East Harbour

Most of the shops along the quay are traditional seaside fare, such as amusement arcades and chip shops, however there are exceptions, such as the People Tree, selling musical instruments, soft furnishings, furniture and other items from around the world. Most of the shops in Wells are located in Staithe Street, which runs up from the quay towards the centre of the town. This street has shops, selling all kinds of goods, its a great place to just wander and browse, but it does get busy during peak season.
Staithe Street
A busy Staithe Street in Wells next the sea
People Tree
People Tree shop on the Quay
Golden Fleece
The Golden Fleece Pub/Restaurant adjacent to the Quay
Something Different
Something Different for sale in Staithe Street
Nobby for Value
Nobby's for Value in Staithe Street
Neverending Stories
A hardware store in Staithe Street
Bang Cafe Bar
BANG! Cafe and Bar at the top of Staithe Street

At the top of Staithe Street is the grassy rectangle known as Buttlands. The name comes from a time when the locals used the green to practice their archery! Around the edge of the square you will find some lovely Victorian and Georgian property. In two corners of the green you will find two classy inns, offering drinks, bar food and a room for the night - The Globe - and The Crown (a former coaching inn). Various events are also held in the square during the year.
The Globe Inn
The Globe Inn in Buttlands
The Crown Hotel
The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea
Georgian Property
Victorian Property in Buttlands
Georgian House
Georgian style property around Buttlands
Morris Dancing
The Edinburgh Inn on the corner with Buttlands

The parish church of St. Nicholas is located on the outskirts of Wells. This large church is almost entirely Victorian, its medieval predecessor was destroyed in a fire in 1879. Also on the outskirts of Wells, you will find the painted town sign, which depicts a typical local scene consisting of a fishing boat and a coastline backed by pine trees.
Wells Church
Wells next the sea parish church of St. Nicholas
Inside Wells Church
Inside the church Wells next the sea
Wells Sign
Wells Next the Sea town sign

Hidden in a car park in Freeman Street in the west end of Wells town centre, you will find a little one up and one down cottage. Ostler Cottage is a wonderful reminder of the town's past, having been built around 1750 and once used by stableman, who looked after the horses which pulled the coaches. During this era, Wells next the Sea had a regular coach service, connecting it with other settlements on the North Norfolk Coast, plus the port of King's Lynn and the city of Norwich. The cottage had a water pump and toilet in the rear yard. The cottage was last used as a dwelling in 1935. You can take a peek inside the cottage for £1 (payable at the house next door).
Ostlers Cottages

Finally, on the outskirts of Wells is the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway, which takes visitors on a 4 mile train ride from Wells next the Sea to Walsingham. The railway was one man's passionate dream, hard work and sheer determination - Lt. Cmdr. Roy Francis. In 1979 he started to construct the WWLR on the 4 miles of old Great Eastern track bed from Wells to Walsingham. Work was completed in 1982 and on 6th April services began on schedule making it the longest 10¼" narrow gauge steam railway in the world. In 1987 a new unique 2-6-0 + 0-6-2 Garratt locomotive "Norfolk Hero" came into service and has a seating capacity of 76.
Norfolk Hero
Wells Walsingham Railway
Train on the Wells Walsingham Light Railway
Little Walsingham Streets
Beautiful old streets in nearby Walsingham


10 Things to SEE & DO in Wells next the Sea

Walk to the sea or play in the sand on the beach.
Ride the Wells Harbour Railway or walk the path to the town centre.
Enjoy the ever-changing views over the harbour, creeks and mud-flats.
Explore the quay, including the historic clipper Albatros, fishing boats and granary building.
Take a boat trip around the harbour or a fishing trip out to sea.
Wander up Staithe Street and browse all the shops and galleries.
Enjoy a pub lunch or evening meal on the towns inns, including the Globe, Swan or Edinburgh Inn.
Walk around the Buttlands and find the nearby parish Church.
Explore some of Wells's hidden delights, such as Ostler Cottage.
Take a steam train ride to Walsingham on the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway

Our Verdict

Wells next the Sea is one of the most popular settlements on the North Norfolk Coast and one of our favourites. It has plenty to offer the visitor, including traditional seaside attractions, an attractive town centre and plenty of beautiful coast and countryside to explore. A good base for a family holiday or short break!
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My Day Out
Wells Harbour Railway
Wells Walsingham Light Railway
Wells Harbour Trips
Sea Fishing Trips


The Crown
Globe Inn
Wells next the Sea Short Break


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This is a good and comprehensive Norfolk guidebook

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The best paper map for North Norfolk Coast walkers

If you like circular walks to a pub, this is the book for you!


Great website. I am visiting Wells in the summer and this is the best website I have visited by far. My kids are really looking forward to their holidays now, Thank You. Hotels
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