7 places to enjoy the best of Norfolk's nature

Thetford ForestCalendar

Thetford Forest. - Credit: Archant

From stunning coastal views to breath-taking woodland walks, it's no wonder millions of nature-lovers flock to Norfolk every year to enjoy its wide array of diverse habitats.

Here are seven places to enjoy the best of Norfolk's nature.

1. Thetford Forest 

Friends of Thetford Forest have been looking after the commercial, conservation and public sides of

High Lodge at Thetford Forest. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

If you’re looking to get out into nature, one of the most popular destinations - which spans across the Norfolk and Suffolk border - is Thetford Forest. 

Forestry England describes it as a patchwork of pines, heathland and broadleaves which provides refuge for a variety of animal and plant life.  

It is the ideal setting for a great day out this summer. 

The forest covers a huge area with many different places to enjoy, including the outdoor play facilities at High Lodge, the history and heritage of Mildenhall Warren and Lynford Arboretum and the peace and tranquillity of the walks around St Helen's.   

For the ultimate guide to Thetford Forest read our previous story here, https://www.edp24.co.uk/things-to-do/days-out/ultimate-guide-to-thetford-forest-8066120. 

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2. Sheringham Park  

Rhododendrons at Sheringham Park

Rhododendrons at Sheringham Park - Credit: Archant

With its landscape park, woodland garden and coastal views, Sheringham National Park is the perfect place to relax in nature. 

The site is famous for its vast collection of rhododendrons and azaleas and is home to an array of wildlife, including three species of deer, birds and butterflies. 

Visitors can also climb to the top of the viewing tower to see its beauty from above and maybe a steam train passing through.

The rhododendrons in full colour at Sheringham Park. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The rhododendrons in full colour at Sheringham Park. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

It also has a Courtyard Café which is open daily between 10am and 4pm, serving hot and cold drinks, light snacks and a range of cakes to take away. 

Sheringham Park is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm and admission for adults is £6.50. 

To avoid disappointment, book your car parking in advance.

3. The Broads 

People enjoying a day out on boats on the Norfolk Broads. Picture: Danielle Booden

People enjoying a day out on boats on the Norfolk Broads. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The Broads is another must-see for nature lovers in Norfolk. 

It is made up of over 60 open areas of water and seven rivers including the Ant, Bure, Chet, Thurne, Waveney, Wensum and Yare. 

Its stunning landscape is home to more than a quarter of the rarest species in the country, including several that are unique to the area.  

Britain’s largest butterfly, The Swallowtail, and the Norfolk hawker dragonfly are found only here. It is also the country’s largest protected wetland. 

The beauty of its lakes and landscapes attracts around eight million visitors every year. 

Visitors to the Broads can hire out boats or bring your own canoes and paddleboards to explore its winding waters.

If you prefer to be on dry-land, why not sit with a pint at the many pubs dotted along its banks.   

4. Holkham  

Holkham Estate is set to receive valuable funds towards essential restoration from the Historic Hous

Holkham Estate is set to receive valuable funds towards essential restoration from the Historic Houses Foundation (HHF). - Credit: Archant

Holkham has one of the most unspoilt, beautiful stretches of sand and largest nature reserves in the country. 

It forms part of a 25,000-acre privately-owned agricultural estate, including beach, woodland and marshes and is home to many species of flora and fauna. 

Access to the beach is by Lady Anne’s Drive where there is paid parking. The area is particularly popular with dog walkers throughout the year. 

Holkham beach.

Holkham beach. - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHI

Holkham National Nature Reserve offers plenty of beautiful spots to lay down a picnic blanket and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. 

You can also visit the Holkham Hall estate with its Palladian mansion, walled gardens, woodland play area, places to eat, extensive parkland and bike hire - so you can really explore. 

For its opening times visit here, https://www.holkham.co.uk/visiting/details/opening-times-prices.  

5. Scolt Head Island Nature Reserve 

The sandhills of Scolt Head are said to resemble ringworm on a skull or 'scolt'. The island is four

The sandhills of Scolt Head Island. - Credit: Archant

Scolt Head Island is owned by the National Trust and is described as a small paradise of sand dunes, salt marsh, mud flats, and shingle.  

It is located on the North Norfolk coast and can be accessed from Burnham Overy Staithe or Brancaster Staithe. 

The island is an important wildlife conservation site home to a variety of flora and fauna and a popular site for species of bird including terns.   

To get to it on foot can be quite an adventurous walk which requires tidal crossings and good navigational skills. 

People are urged to check the weather and tide times, be aware of local hazards like sandbanks and channels with strong tidal currents and to carry means of calling for help. 

6. Pensthorpe Natural Park 

The gardens at Pensthorpe begin to look really colourful especially on a lovely bright afternoon

The gardens at Pensthorpe Natural Park. - Credit: Richard Brunton

Pensthorpe Natural Park is a perfect day out for families, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts and garden lovers.  

During a visit to Pensthorpe, located along the river Wensum near Fakenham, you can see wetlands, hedgerows, woodland, water meadows, riverbanks, species-rich farmland, breck and heath – all vital habitats for a species-rich countryside. 

It is home to many species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants. 

The 700-acre natural beauty spot offers an indoor play area, experience days, organised family-fun events and outdoor adventure playground. 

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Pensthorpe became the home of the BBC’s Springwatch programme. 

7. Wild Ken Hill 

Red poll cattle have been introduced to graze at Wild Ken Hill

Red poll cattle have been introduced to graze at Wild Ken Hill. - Credit: Chris Bishop

Wild Ken Hill is a 4,000-acre farm, in coastal West Norfolk, which is transforming the way land is used by handing back areas to nature. 

It that stretches from the sea through coastal scrub, freshwater marshes, heathland, wood pasture to nature-rich farmland. 

On its website, it states: “The Wild Ken Hill rewilding project has ambitions to move away from existing agricultural and forestry techniques and allow wild nature to thrive. 

“The project has divided into three main approaches - a rewilding area, where beavers and grazers are being introduced, a traditional conservation approach for their coastal areas, and regenerative farming to continue to provide food in a sustainable and biodiverse way.” 

Its ambition rewilding project recently saw the first beavers return to Norfolk in centuries

Visitors to the area can book guided tours to enjoy Wild Ken Hill’s glorious countryside and learn about its modern approach to farming and conservation. You can book them here, https://wildkenhill.co.uk/