43 things to do in Norfolk with kids
Wide open beaches and traditional seaside resorts, historic houses and castles, family attractions like zoos, cities and nature reserves, seals and dinosaurs – when it comes to things to do in Norfolk with kids, you’re spoiled for choice.
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Splitting our summer trip between Norwich and the coast at Cromer, our Norfolk family holiday tried to pack in as many days out as possible (although reluctantly I had to leave the Norfolk Broads for another time) yet still left plenty on our wishlist.
So whatever makes the perfect trip for you, I’ve picked out some of the top things to do in Norfolk with kids to start you off.
Outdoors in Norfolk
There’s around 90 miles of coast in Norfolk, so you’re never far from the beach – and when the tide’s out, there seems to be twice as much sky and sand here as almost anywhere else in the UK.
You can’t go wrong if you’re hoping for somewhere to make sandcastles, but for a few of Norfolk’s best beaches with kids, don’t miss these.
Hunstanton’s red and white striped cliffs are famous, and you’re also walking distance from a Sea Life Centre – as a bonus, it’s one of only a handful of beaches on the east coast which face west, so it’s a perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
Old Hunstanton beach is also dog-friendly year-round.
Holkham beach is one of those endless unspoiled stretches of sand that are perfect for kite flying and racing along (just watch out for the naturist section).
Dogs are also welcome on the majority of the beach off-lead, although there are restrictions during the summer to protect wildlife.
Check out my picks for more of the best beaches in Norfolk with kids
Or for more facilities, nearby Wells-next-the-Sea has a café, toilets, lifeguards… even a branch of Joules as well as some shaded dunes and tide pools to paddle in. The car park gets booked up fast in summer.
This is another dog-friendly option, although as at Holkham there are restrictions during the summer to protect wildlife.
Towards the border with Suffolk, Winterton-on-Sea is another huge unspoiled white sandy beach with its own dunes, a small café and toilets, plus the chance to spot seals that congregate at nearby Horsey. Dog-friendly year-round.
For something a little more off the beaten track, try Cart Gap beach between Happisburgh and Sea Palling – there’s a single lane track to the beach, so you can escape any crowds, and it’s also dog-friendly.
Realistically, though, you’re never far from a lovely spot to relax by the waves in Norfolk.
Or for a taste of traditional seaside, head to Cromer where you can wander along the pier or pick up and ice cream and fish and chips in the town before walking down to the beach – dogs are not allowed from May to September.
Spotting seals in Norfolk
You can’t go to Norfolk without trying to see seals. Well, you can… but you shouldn’t. The county is famous for its seals and there are two places along the coast where you’re all but guaranteed to spot them.
We headed to Blakeney Point to spy grey and harbour seals, with hour-long boat trips running from nearby Morston Quay – in summer, there are pups to be seen too, lounging on the spit of land as the others swam and lazed, occasionally barking and flapping a flipper at each other.
Several boat companies run tours: all tend to go at similar times because of the tides, with similar prices, and it’s well worth booking in advance – even for early September, trips sold out around a week ahead.
We booked with Beans Boat Trips who were fantastic and my top choice for a Norfolk seal tour with kids.
At Horsey, grey seals come ashore to mate and give birth during late autumn and winter, and the sand is crowded with seals and their newborn pups between November and the end of January, if you’re visiting Norfolk in winter.
Although you can go down onto the beach to see them, always keep at least a 10m distance away and never get between a seal pup and its mother.
Deep History Coast trail
There are some fantastic walking routes along the coast which are short enough for kids to enjoy – but it’s always great to have an extra motivator, which is where the Deep History Coast trail comes in.
Following the same route as much of the Norfolk coast path, and running between Weybourne and Cart Gap, there are information signs with AR points dotted along the way.
As a bonus, you can download the app to ‘collect’ mammoth bones to assemble your own virtual mammoth at West Runton (where actual mammoths have been found) and Mundesley.
With tips on fossil hunting as well as extra information on creatures which once lived here, you can also find out more about the area’s prehistoric past as you roam.
We walked several stretches along the clifftops and the beach, discovering more about monkeys in Norfolk, not to mention hyena poo, sabre-toothed cats and violet sea slugs.
For more about exploring the Deep History Coast in Norfolk with kids, check out this post for some of our highlights
This national park is made up of 30 waterways covering 125 miles, so you can cruise gently between villages or simply pootle along soaking up the views, spotting wildlife and watching the sun set.
You can pass through RSPB reserves for birds galore, spy rare dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies, or head to some of Norfolk’s family attractions. The manmade waterways even stretch into Norwich itself.
It’s easy to hire boats, whether you fancy a day trip or a longer holiday sleeping aboard, as well as boat tours if you prefer to let someone else do the navigation.
Canoeing in Norfolk
If you prefer to get closer to the water, there’s plenty of choice in the Norfolk Boards including canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding.
But for a rather different day out in Norwich with kids, you can hire canoes to explore Norwich by water, including family canoes.
Norwich Treasure Trail
We’re a big fan of Treasure Trails as a way to get out and explore new places, as you’re led down streets you might not otherwise discover, and with eyes peeled for all manner of little details as you look for clues.
Norwich has not one but four different trails – we tried the Cathedral murder mystery trail which took us through Tombland and the Norwich Lanes, past the Cathedral and along the Quayside, for some of the city’s highlights.
There are also a string of other Norfolk Treasure Trails, taking between 90 minutes and two and a half hours, including for Cromer and King’s Lynn plus more spots along the coast.
For more ideas of things to do in Norwich with kids, check out this post
The Forestry England site is actually the country’s largest manmade lowland forest, with a whopping 18,730 hectares to explore.
There are various walking trails dotted throughout Thetford Forest including an easy walk nature trail at High Lodge, as well as a walk through the pine trees.
Or Lynford Arboretum also has several walking trails, including an accessible path that’s easy to follow with a buggy: great if you’re visiting Norfolk with a baby or toddler.
If you want more adventure from your woodland, ExTREEme Adventure in Weasenham Woods is built in some of the country’s tallest trees.
Between Easter and October, try the 1000ft long zip line from the High Platform, suitable for age eight and above – definitely one for mini thrill-seekers. There’s even an army-style assault course too.
Explore the Fens
The fens stretch across Norfolk into Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, and if you’ve got kids who love nature, it’s an unbeatable place for a family day out.
If you head off on a boating holiday in the Norfolk Broads, you’ll find yourself exploring along the way, although if you’re looking for a day out with kids, you can also head to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen where orchids flower in the meadows and you can wander through the reedbeds.
Or try the Wheatfen Nature Reserve with its two-mile circular path to take you through many of the reserve’s highlights.
Pensthorpe Nature Reserve
The setting for the BBC’s Springwatch for several years, Pensthorpe Nature Reserve has woodland walks and a wildflower meadow as well as birds galore in its different habitats, including wetlands.
Part of Pensthorpe Natural Park, there’s also a sculpture trail and gardens to explore, plus an outdoor adventure playground, as well as regular family events throughout the year.
The indoor playground, Hootz House, is currently closed – check here to see when it is able to open with new safety restrictions.
Norfolk castles and historic sites
For a relatively small county, Norfolk is packed with historic sites from royal palaces like Sandringham to medieval houses aplenty, often with activities and trails to appeal to kids.
Some sites are temporarily closed/part-closed, and tickets often need to be prebooked at present, so always check before you visit
The birthplace of Anne Boleyn, Blickling Hall was later home to the Earls of Buckingham, with some fascinating items on display from Jacobean and Georgian times – including early weighing scales, where you could sit down as you checked your weight, and Chinese pagodas in glass cases designed to work as earthquake detectors, with a small bell ringing at a tremor.
Once you’ve wandered through the old rooms, including the huge library, you can stroll past the parterre, amble around the walled garden and tackle one of the three walking trails around the estate, including a route which leads around the lake.
Read my review of a day out at Blickling Hall with kids here
This wonderful moated house was once at the heart of history – the Catholic Bedingfield family who owned Oxburgh Hall kept the future Elizabeth I under house arrest and were among the first supporters of Mary I.
Items on show include scissors which supposedly belonged to Mary Queen of Scots, while you can also spot decorative leather wallpaper and the usual opulent furniture and portraits.
The house is currently tucked away under scaffolding as part of a major £6 million restoration, with some of the new finds also on display, but you can still head inside, and wander through the gardens and woodland.
There’s a little spotting trail for kids to follow too.
Read my review of a day out at Oxburgh Hall with kids here
Another National Trust property in Norfolk, this historic house has influences from around the world including the Chinese Bedroom and items picked up by its aristocratic owners on their Grand Tour of Europe. There’s an I Spy trail for kids as they look round Felbrigg Hall.
Along with the gardens, including a Willow tunnel and walled garden, there are also 520 acres of woods and trails to wander, with buggy-friendly options, plus tracker packs for families.
This grand hall was built by Robert Walpole in the 18th century, and fit for the country’s most powerful politician – the state rooms are as lavishly grand as you’d expect, designed to impress his guests while allowing the family to indulge in luxury when they visited from London.
As a bonus, you can also visit the Soldier Museum, the largest private collection of model soldiers in the world.
But it’s not just the history which makes Houghton Hall stand out: the grounds and gardens are home to regular sculpture exhibitions, including famous names like Anish Kapoor, along with white fallow deer.
The Queen’s country retreat stretches over 600 acres of grounds and lakes, quite apart from the royal collections in the museum – you can visit the ground floor apartments, which include some family portraits as well.
There’s a quiz for kids to try at Sandringham, plus a sculpture trail and play area out in the grounds, as well as woodland and walks galore.
It’s free to enter the woods (and there’s free parking too) if you’re looking for a cheap day out in Norfolk with kids, and while you can’t nip into the house while the Queen is in residence, it’s worth keeping an eye out to see who’s driving around the estate. You never know…
There’s far more to the Holkham Estate than the Hall – a nature reserve, huge open beach, deer park, farmland… the list goes on. Even the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea is part of the estate, if you fancy adding a good walk into your visit.
The house itself, built in the 18th century for the Earl of Leicester, has been picked as one of the 10 most magnificent palaces, houses and castles in England today. From Roman statues to Old Masters, bedrooms which have hosted Queens to the old kitchens, what will make most kids’ jaws drop is the fact that children live at Holkham Hall to this day.
Add in trails using the whatthreewords app and spotter guides in the grounds, walks galore and a nature trail, you could easily spend a day exploring.
This 12th century castle is one of the largest and best preserved keeps in England, sitting in splendour on 20 acres of earthworks. You can still climb up to get a view of these defensive fortifications, as well as heading inside the ruined medieval castle.
Best known for being home to Queen Isabella, widow of Edward II, where she was imprisoned (in quite a lot of luxury, admittedly) by her son Edward III. You can visit the remains of her apartments, as well as the Great Hall and an early Norman church that pre-dates the castle itself.
Castle Rising is currently closed for reasons of social distancing – check here for the latest information on its reopening.
Part of the Roman network of defences along the English coast – the so-called Saxon Shore forts – Burgh Castle dates back to the 3rd century. Three of its stone walls still survive, making it one of Britain’s best-preserved Roman monuments – and you can still see the remains of later Norman fortifications.
Looking out across Breydon Water, it’s a perfect stopping point if you’re planning a walk along the Angles Way, as well as for playing your own Romans vs Anglo-Saxons battle – or if you’re looking for free things to do in Norfolk with kids.
Combine it with Caister Roman fort, not far away; the walls there are missing but you can get an idea of the layout inside the fort, to complete the picture.
Dating back to the 11th century, there are a few things to tempt families to Norwich cathedral over the area’s other historic churches – for starters, the cathedral has its own cat.
Budge the cathedral cat – who strolled in during the Good Friday service and has now settled in as official feline resident – can often be spotted prowling around, or when we visited, sitting on a side altar for some paw washing and relaxing.
There’s also a labyrinth to walk through in the cloisters, winding through the grass, while the cathedral runs regular family trails. When we visited, there was a dinosaur-themed one including little models dotted around the building, with the Natural History Museum’s diplodocus due to arrive next spring for Dippy on tour. It’s also free to enter.
Norfolk is home to the only Neolithic flint mine that’s open to visitors – keep your eyes open, and you’ll see flint used in buildings across the county, as well as coming in very handy for the area’s prehistoric inhabitants.
Mined just outside Thetford, at Grimes Graves you can still see evidence of 400 pits: a series of bumps and dents in the landscape looking like a giant orange peel covered in grass.
The mines themselves date back over 5,000 years, and as well as learning more about the history of the area at a small exhibition, you can head 30 feet under the ground by ladder into one shaft to see the black flint.
Grimes Graves is currently closed for reasons of social distancing – check here for the latest information on its reopening.
Explore a historic Norfolk house
Away from the grandeur of the halls and palaces of Norfolk, you can step inside some equally fascinating historic houses on a much smaller scale. The 16th century Elizabethan House in Great Yarmouth was home to wealthy merchants, and has links to Oliver Cromwell.
Or Ancient House in Thetford is over 500 years old, and you can wander through recreated rooms from its history, as well as discovering more about some of its inhabitants – human and animal!
Stranger’s Hall in Norwich is older still: there has been a building here since at least the 13th century, with some of the city’s leading citizens living in it since the 14th century. You can explore the Great Hall and the bedchambers showing life in the 17th century, plus other rooms themed around Georgian and Victorian history.
Animal attractions in Norfolk
The seals (scroll up for more details) aren’t the only creatures you can find in Norfolk, with a series of Norfolk zoos and farms.
Amazona Zoo, near Cromer, focuses on South American animals from jaguars to monkeys, with over 200 to see and an emphasis on education and conservation.
There are also smaller creatures, including guinea pigs, if you’re visiting Norfolk with toddlers, and a soft play area (currently closed) as well as an outdoor playground (also currently closed). Tickets need to be prebooked.
This 50-acre zoo is not far from Thetford Forest and from the Suffolk border, so it’s a great one to keep on the list if you’re staying away from the Norfolk coast.
Home to 2,000 animals, the award-winning zoo has a range of creatures from farmyard animals to tigers, snow leopards, monkeys and zebras, along with birds and reptiles. You can also sign up for experiences, including a Big Keeper Little Keeper experience for over-eights.
Thrigby Hall wildlife gardens
At Thrigby Hall near Great Yarmouth, you can find a series of endangered big cats, along with reptiles, birds, and other animals including red pandas, meerkats and gibbons – plus one of the highlights is getting close to the furry inhabitants on the Tiger Treetop walk.
Tickets must be prebooked. The soft play area is currently closed, as is the 3D adventure maze, although there are separate play areas and tree ropes which remain open, plus gardens to explore.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary
Home to donkeys and mules as well as horses and ponies, Redwings Horse Sanctuary rescues abandoned, mistreated and neglected horses and donkeys from across the UK, responsible for around 2,000 animals at its centres across the UK.
There are two of these in Norfolk, at Aylsham and Caldecotte, the largest of the sanctuaries, with Shetland ponies to Shire horses – there’s no entry charge, if you’re looking for a free day out in Norfolk with kids, although donations are welcomed. Opening hours are currently limited and you need to prebook a timed ticket.
Sealife Sanctuary Hunstanton
Home to Norfolk’s only seal rescue centre that’s open to the public, Hunstanton’s Sea Life Centre has something extra on top of the usual attractions of an aquarium.
It’s also home to penguins and a colony of Inca terns, while the Ocean tank houses over 30 species of fish plus Green Sea Turtle Ernie, along with 187,500 litres of seawater. You can also get hands on with some creatures, helped by the Rainforest Rangers, see life on a tropical reef and meet a pair of cheeky otters. Tickets must be prebooked.
Sealife Great Yarmouth
Right on the seafront in Great Yarmouth, there are some fabulous marine creatures to discover in the aquarium – the ocean tunnel winds through a huge tank holding a quarter of a million litres of seawater, where the inhabitants swim around the lost city of Atlantis.
Sealife Great Yarmouth is also home to African Dwarf Crocodiles, and lets you discover more of the world of jellyfish in the Jelly Invaders display, as well as watching the aquarium’s penguins. Tickets must be prebooked.
Museums in Norfolk with kids
Whichever corner of Norfolk you’re visiting, you won’t be far from one of the county’s museums – ideal for a rainy day in Norfolk but with plenty to tempt year-round.
Not all Norfolk museums are open thanks to lockdown closures, so check the individual websites for the latest details.
One of Norfolk’s most important museums is set in Norwich Castle; you can still climb the Norman steps of the staircase to the top of the keep, as well as exploring the displays and artwork in the collection.
With galleries telling the story of Boudicca’s revolt against the Romans, of Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, plus Ancient Egyptians, it’s a fantastic spot to visit with primary-school-aged children – and a great idea for a rainy day in Norfolk.
There’s also work going on to create a new medieval gallery in partnership with the British Museum, and restore some of the castle keep – parts of the museum will reopen during the redevelopment works, although the site is currently still shut.
Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell
Norwich was once England’s second city, and this museum tells the tale of Norwich’s history, including the industrial heritage – not least a 19th century hand loom on display – as well as everyday life as you step inside a recreated early 20th century chemist’s shop .
Set in a former prison, you can still visit the Undercroft (for ages 8+ only) as well as learn the tales of some of the Bridewell’s inhabitants – including Peter the Wildman, a German boy brought to Britain by King George I.
With a welcome roar from Horace the tiger, Lynn Museum is designed to appeal to kids from the moment you walk in. And there’s plenty more to entertain in the galleries.
The collections cover centuries from Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings to wealthy medieval finds, and tales of the Civil War. Perhaps one of the most fascinating parts, especially with slightly older kids, is learning about Seahenge, the Bronze Age timber circle discovered on Holme Beach and preserved for over 4,000 years in the sand.
The Geology Gallery is packed with fossils found in Norfolk, and you can learn more about the West Runton Mammoth, as well as seeing the cast of the skull of a Mosasaur, a marine reptile which would have swum in the seas covering what’s now Norfolk over 80 million years ago.
There are also exhibits on Cromer’s maritime past, including fishing and its time as a popular Victorian seaside resort.
Gressenhall Farm and workhouse
If you want a bit of everything, Gressenhall Farm has plenty to entertain kids – as the name suggests, it’s still a working farm, and you can also learn more about farmhouse life during your visit.
One of the highlights though is seeing the Museum of Norfolk Life with over 2,000 objects donated by people in Norfolk to show how life has changed over the past 200 years, including a circus caravan and tales of the Women’s Land Army. Set in an old workhouse, you can also learn more about those who once lived here, with an app to guide you around.
Time and Tide
Set in a converted Victorian herring curing works, Time and Tide in Great Yarmouth tells the town’s story, and you can see inside a fisherman’s home as well as wandering through a Victorian ‘Row’, not to mention getting behind the wheel, virtually visiting the 1950s quayside and indulging in tales of wreck and rescue at sea.
There are also children’s activities, free audio guides and plenty of games, puzzles and ways to get hands on for kids.
Norfolk family attractions
If you’re looking for theme parks in Norfolk or other family attractions, there are plenty to choose from – not to mention dinosaurs and steam trains too.
Bewilderwood calls itself an adventure park (there’s one in Cheshire, as well as the Norfolk site) and that’s exactly what you can expect at this outdoor site, with a hefty side helping of fairytale magic.
There’s storytelling, if you haven’t encountered the Boggles, Twiggles and other characters before, plus outdoor fun including den building and treehouses, marsh walks and boat rides, zip wires and extra themed events during school holidays. Tickets must be prebooked.
Roarr Dinosaur Adventure
This dinosaur-themed theme park is fantastic with younger kids, if you’re visiting Norfolk with a toddler, as well as for older ones.
Kids can have fun in the splash zone, or find treasures in the dino dig, escape mazes and more adrenaline-fuelled fun like swinging on high ropes. Head into the woods to follow the dinosaur trail, meet animals, play crazy golf and spot deer too.
Lost World Adventure Golf
If your kids love adventure golf, the nine-hole Lost World course at Hemsby near Great Yarmouth is great fun, and only a few pounds for kids and adults.
Putt past dinosaurs, fossils, water hazards, even an ancient Aztec temple, and you can also go panning for gold while you’re there.
Pettits Animal Adventure Park
This is another great family attraction in Norfolk which has a bit of everything – the chance to see animals, rides and play areas, plus extra themed activities year-round (including some of the best pumpkin picking in the country)
There are rides suitable for younger kids if you’re visiting Norfolk with toddlers and preschoolers, while the animals include birds, reptiles and a few small fluffy inhabitants like marmosets and red squirrels. Tickets must be prebooked.
Caister Castle Motor Museum
For kids who love cars (not to mention adult fans!), this Norfolk family attraction is unbeatable with one of the largest motor collections in the country. The displays range from classic and vintage to sports cars, as well as bikes, plus some very rare veteran motors – one dating back to 1893.
You can even spot steam cars and electric vehicles at Caister Castle Motor Museum, as well as taking a wander to the 15th century Caister Castle tower.
North Norfolk railway
Running from Sheringham to Holt, the ‘Poppy Line’ heritage steam railway still works as a fun way to get from A to B, as well as a lovely relaxed way to see the Norfolk coast.
There are special events during the year, including Santa Specials, while the North Norfolk railway trains run from April to October, taking about 20 minutes to chuff their way from one station to the other.
Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
This narrow gauge steam railway runs between the seafront at Wells inland to Walsingham – and children under four travel free.
There’s currently a reduced service on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway after lockdown, running a round trip to Wighton from Wells which lasts around 30 minutes, with no need to prebook.
Bressingham Steam Experience
There’s more family fun for mini transport fans at Bressingham Steam Experience – you can take a ride on a steam train, with four railways winding through the gardens, as well as visiting the steam locomotive sheds.
Adults will enjoy the collection from Dad’s Army, while kids shouldn’t miss a chance to ride on the steam-powered gallopers – the carousel dates back to the 19th century.
Merrivale Model Village
The award-winning model village is home to a penny arcade as well as crazy golf, so there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained during a visit – including the model railway which runs through the miniature village.
With a mini castle and holiday park, theatre and airship, not to mention a floodlit game of cricket and a house fire, it’s the little details which make it extra fun – spot the morris dancers, crown jewels and Victorian seaside.
Wroxham Miniature Worlds
You can see some of the largest model railways in the world on permanent display at this family attraction – in fact, it’s the largest indoor modelling attraction in the UK, covering over 10,000 square feet.
As well as the model trains, you can see a city made of Lego bricks, model boats, a vintage penny arcade and toy collection plus there’s a chance to drive trains and test out a flight or train simulator. Kids aged under five go free.
PIN FOR LATER: THINGS TO DO IN NORFOLK WITH KIDS
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Images: Roarr Dinosaur Adventure courtesy of VisitNorwich, fens/Sandringham/steam trains courtesy of Depositphotos, all others copyright MummyTravelsLIKED THIS? SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL NEWSLETTER