July 27th is Norfolk Day, a celebration of the county in East Anglia and it’s an area me and my family love to go to every year so here is my top 10 ideas of things to do in Norfolk for Norfolk Day!
I have gone to Norfolk, specifically Great Yarmouth and staying in the nearby village of Hemsby for many years (I think around 8 times in total now) so this is a countdown of some places I would recommend if you are planning a stay-cation in the area with the current rule changes due to coronavirus restriction.
NB: This list isn’t in order and really I could recommend these in any order.
10) Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens
Thrigby Hall is a beautiful zoo and wildlife garden around a 18th century property built by Joshua Smith Esquire though the gardens themselves were opened in 1979.
The zoo has many rare and endangered species to look at, including Sumatran Tigers, Red Pandas, Snow and Amur Leopards as well as Meerkats, Gibbons, Otters, Alligators, Crocodiles and Reptiles.
I visited Thrigby Hall during one of my first holidays to Norfolk in 2011 when I was 16. I can remember at the time we used a coach company that did local tours to take us there from the holiday park we were staying at (though sadly the coach company that does this no longer provides these tours any more).
En route I can remember us travelling through a village called Filby which is also worth a stop to have a look at their beautiful hanging baskets of flowers in the summer.
The wildlife gardens themselves are very beautiful and relaxing to walk around – two areas that stick in my mind was a lake with Japanese-style moon bridges as well as the Tiger Treetop Walk where there is a walkway suspended over the tigers – though you do need a head for heights for this and I can remember only me and my dad went on this part!
Pricing (correct at the time of writing)
For Adults it is £15.50, Children (4-14) and Senior Citizens it is £14.50 and Free for under 4’s.
9) Great Yarmouth Hippodrome
The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is Britain’s only surviving circus building, built in 1903 by legendary circus showman George Gilbert.
Owned now by Peter Jay, the circus on Great Yarmouth’s seafront perform shows during most of the school holidays, including Easter, Halloween, Christmas and the Summer Spectacular.
This venue was frequently one which got away for me and my family as for many times we went we were either one week early for the Summer Show or one week too late. Finally though in September 2019 I saw their Summer Spectacular and it was absolutely fantastic.
There was The Chicago All Stars who performed an amazing basketball and tumbling routine, the Skating Daltons, Melany and Jess, whose rollerskating saw them rotate and hang off each other by a thread. There was even a Globe of Death with four motorbike riders riding around it at high speed, missing each other by inches and I can still remember the smell of the petrol engines.
There was also plenty of aerial acrobatics from Ada Forsberg on the Washington Trapeze and The Arctic Ensemble who did a Korean Cradle routine. There was also comedic routines form the double act Jack Jay (son of owner Peter Jay) and Johnny Mac who have a fantastic chemistry.
The most exciting part however is the mechanism which allows the circus ring to drop and flood turning into a pool. Here Estelle Clifton’s dancers and synchronized swimmers performed some amazing routines.
Afterwards there is also the Peter Jay Back Stage Museum which is definitely worth having a look around. From memory there was a small charge for this but it was definitely fascinating and included old props and memorabilia from the last century as the building was in use including vintage lighting and props and costumes from previous shows. Peter Jay also performed in a band in the 60’s so his music memorabilia is also there, including items form his tours with bands such as The Beatles.
Special mention should also go that during the lockdown the circus did put on a free show on YouTube for New Years Eve which we watched as a family to get the evening started on a New Year which was unlike any other. I’ve put the video below so you can take a look.
Pricing (correct at time of writing and for the 2021 Summer Spectacular)
8) Merrivale Model Village
Merrivale Model Village was a great attraction which we took a look at whilst walking down Great Yarmouth Seafront. The main attraction is of course the Model Village itself which is about 1 acre but includes models of a town centre, village inn, farm, sports stadium, country club and more. Running around the entire village is a model train set which runs around the entire attraction.
The village has various buttons on the models which activate different sound effects e.g. the sports stadium activates a crowd cheering. There are also always some new ones added each time we have been. One year there was one which recreated the Specsavers “dad the car’s broken” advert.
The attraction also has some great extras which we felt added value to the visit – there is a free crazy golf which can be played any time during your visit there. There is also an old Penny Arcade where you can play some of old traditional fairground attraction which were great fun to play.
There is also a tearoom on site serving sandwiches, cakes and coffee.
£9.99 for an all-day pass
7) Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden
The Fairhaven Botanical Gardens we first visited when I passed my driving test and travelled by car to there for the first time.
As a result a number of attractions were open to us we couldn’t go to previously and Fairhaven was one of them.
It is a beautiful organic garden with over 130 acres of cultivated, wild and natural plantings set near the beautiful Norfolk Broads (also a fantastic place to visit in it’s own right).
The garden itself is beautiful and I can remember feeling a sense of total calm, even sleepy, whilst wandering around there as it is very quiet and relaxing garden. For an extra charge too they also have a tour of their private Broads which also includes a visit to the ruins of the 12th century St. Benet’s Abbey which is a 50 minute boat ride and was also very exciting with a knowledgeable tour guide explaining the history of the Norfolk Broads.
Pricing (correct at time of writing)
Adults £7.95, Concessions (60+, students, disabled and carers) £6.95, Children 4-16 £4.15 and Free for under 3’s.
Boat Tours did have an additional cost but aren’t running this year.
6) Scroby Sands Boat Trip
Something about me being an urban living Black Country boy means I love anything which involves going on a boat and this is another really fun trip.
The Scroby Sands Boat Trips run during the summer months from along Great Yarmouth’s Sea Front. Note even when the boats run, if the weather gets particularly bad or the water gets choppy then the boats may stop for the day, which is what happened to us after we came back from the trip.
Getting on and off the boat is something most kids and those young at heart will enjoy as the boat is on the beach and to get on and off it you have to walk up a rig and sometimes make a small jump onto it, though the boat itself is very sturdy and comfortable. You then pay on the boat and the tour takes you out to sea to Scroby Sands, a sandbank or shoal off the coast of Great Yarmouth which historically is the site of many shipwrecks but is now the home of grey and common seals. You will see many seals as you near the sands. The boat also takes in the wind farm which is great to have a closer look at.
You pay on the boat and the pricing is below at the time of writing:
Children (under 12 yrs) £7
5 / 4) Great Yarmouth Racecourse / Yarmouth Stadium
This one is something of a family tradition as my parents are huge fans of horse and greyhound racing so each year we usually take a trip to the horse racing and the greyhounds which are literally located around the corner from each other (most of the time the meetings run on different nights as well so can easily do both). It is probably easier for me to include both of these together in one section.
The main horse racing highlight was in 2015 we went to see the Eastern Festival as we went in September. This was also the year that Hayley Turner was meant to retire (though she has since returned to the sport) so I saw her at the time for what we thought was going to be one of her last races and got her to sign my program, along with other jockeys such as Andrei Atzeni and Paul Hanagan. I also saw Frankie Dettori race there one year though he then had to fly to another meeting by helicopter.
We also normally go in the Grandstand and Paddock where you can also take your own picnic and can borrow some plastic chairs to sit on.
At the greyhound racing we normally go on an evening (there is also speedway racing on other evenings though I haven’t been to one there). There is an upstairs seating area which we usually sit in as it can get quite chilly at night time but can be an enjoyable evening.
We also normally have a flutter at both of these and occasionally pick a winner too!
Pricing – Yarmouth Stadium (Greyhounds)
Pricing – Yarmouth Racecourse (Horse Racing)
Dependent on meeting but the Norfolk Day meeting is £15 per ticket for the Grandstand enclosure. Note Children under 17 go in free.
3) Time and Tide Museum
The Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth tells Great Yarmouth’s fascinating history, from its prehistoric origins, to life during the Victorian era and it’s key role in the two World Wars.
Some personal highlights for me include a full recreation of a Victorian “row” which were basically rows of slum housing which existed up until the second world war, when bombardment and post-war clearances meant they were replaced with more modern housing. Inside the row you can go into the houses with different artifacts from people’s everyday lives including clothing, paperwork, food and medicine packaging and so on.
There are also parts of the original Tower Fish Curing Works used with herrings where you can go into the smokehouses where the smell of smoked fish unbeliveably still lingers. There also more modern galleries which show prehistoric and Roman artifacts from when it was originally a Roman fort where there was an estuary, before the sea retreated and turned it into the Norfolk Broads you see today.
There is also a fascinating wartime exhibit with a film which talks about people who lived there and there experiences of war, such as the bombardment of Yarmouth and nearby Lowestoft during the First World War, which was the UL’s first aerial bombardment in 1915. One thing which in particularly struck me was during World War Two, the town had pillboxes and roadblocks to prevent people entering and exiting as the town was a key part of Britain’s defence.
There is also an exhibit showing showing Yarmouth’s recent history as a tourist destination with flyers showing acts who had performed at the theatres there including Hippodrome circus posters, (CHECK PHOTOS FOR MORE).
During my visit which was in 2019, there was also a Medieval Medicine exhibit which had a funny video hosted by Horrible histories writer Terry Deary and included information about things such as the Black Death or Bubonic Plague, such as the skull of what was believed to be a young girl of around 10-15 who died. There was also full skeletons, replicas of primitive surgical equipment and apothecary medicine. There is also a cafe on site serving drinks, snacks and meals though we didn’t go in there during our visit.
Overall it was a really interesting day out and I liked the museum’s layout of showing the rows and then the journey through time of the galleries from prehistory to the present day.
- Adult: £6.70
- Concession*: £6.40
- Child: (age 4 – 18) £6.20
- Family groups:
- Adult(s) in a family group: £6.03
- Child(ren) in a family group (age 4 – 18): £5.58
- Family (1 Adult + 1 child): £11.61
- Family (1 Adult + 2 children): £17.19
- Family (2 Adults + 2 children): £23.22
2) North Norfolk Railway
I first went on the North Norfolk Railway during my first trip to Great Yarmouth in 2011. The North Norfolk Railway was built in 1887 by William Marriott and ran it until 1924. The line was still in use until the Second World War where the popularity of steam trains as a means of transport declined steeply and most of the network was closed down.
The 5 1/4 mile line which runs today from the villages of Sheringham to Holt is managed by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Society, a supporting charity and major shareholder in the line and is operated almost entirely by volunteers.
On the day we went, we first took a more modern means of transport in a coach trip to Holt at one end of the line, a historic Georgian town which was lovely to have a wander around – a highlight for us was The Christmas Shop which sold exactly what you can imagine it sold. It was bizarre standing in there in my summer clothes in the middle of August surrounded by Christmas trees, snow globes and more!
After an hour or so we went on the North Norfolk Railway itself which is a heritage steam railway with beautiful period carriages. The scenery of the countryside is also spectacular.
At the other end we arrived in Sheringham which was larger than Holt. In Sheringham when we visited unfortunately the weather did turn a bit grey and overcast though we did take a walk down to the beach and around the shops. Something we did miss out on was walking around the National Trust’s Sheringham Park but that may also be worth a look and something I would like to do on a future visit.
It was a great day out to two lovely small villages and riding the train is definitely highlight.
A compartment on the steam train is £20 for up to 4 people.
For my last place to visit I’m going to mention our base where we have stayed every time we have been to Yarmouth which is the small village of Hemsby which is about a 15 minute drive to Great Yarmouth.
The village has a number of traditional holiday attractions including arcades and shops – our personal favourite one is Oasis Amusements and Martin’s Bingo where you can collect tickets in exchange for prizes which we normally use to get some gift vouchers to buy us something when we get home. We also enjoy the Lost World Adventure Golf, the Hemsby Fun Park and MB’s Leisure Bar which has pool tables, darts, big screen and play area.
There are also some great places to eat, the Hollywood Diner serves plenty of American style burgers, fries, ice cream and more. We also liked the Hemsby Beach Cafe which is a little tucked away between two shops but do a fantastic roast dinner. There is also the Lacon Arms on a Sunday which also does a popular carvery. One thing I will say whenever we have been to Yarmouth and ate out is the food has always been delicious with plenty in terms of portion sizes.
During the summer there are also additional events which take place, unfortunately when I go I haven’t seen these but look to be great fun for families. A few minutes drive from Beach Road is Hirsty’s Mega Maze – a hedge maze for families to run around in. Whilst at night during their week their is fireworks displays on the beach which are free to attend.
I will also have to give special mention to where we stay which is the Hemsby Belle Aire Holiday Park. The park is owned by several companies and private holiday lets so availability is limited but the caravans that we have stayed in there have been beautiful.
They are spacious, with central heating, shower and towel rail. They also have large flatscreen TV’s with Wi-Fi throughout which is amazing for those rainy days in. The beds have always been comfortable and warm and there is a small balcony at the back of the caravan to seat in. There also some chalets available though we haven’t stayed in those personally.
There is also a small children’s play area and Club Belle where there is a great variety of entertainment and bingo and disco bingo which me and my family always have a go on. If you are on a week where the team themselves are doing a show or Double Impact are on they are definitely worth watching as they are fantastic!
If you would like to book a caravan or chalet, the link is here: https://hemsbybelleaire.co.uk/