PUBLISHED: 17:37 06 July 2015 | UPDATED: 17:38 06 July 2015
Archant Norfolk © 2015
Norfolk is defined by its watery landscape – and there are so many ways you can enjoy, celebrate and immerse yourself in it this summer, says Rachel Buller.
From tranquil tidal estuaries stretching into the horizon to rolling waves pounding the sand, from busy rivers bustling with boats to wildlife-filled corners of the Broads - Norfolk’s watery landscape it all. And it is these sharp contrasts which make the county such a very special place.
There are few places in the UK where you can enjoy such diverse environments and where the demands of tourism and industry are so carefully balanced with heritage conservation. Many artists have sought inspiration in the dramatic light and natural beauty of the area, while for others it is a place of childhood memories, of days spent building sandcastles or eating piping hot fish and chips while watching the waves.
Cley Marshes, run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, has a fantastic visitor centre, trails to follow and bird hides from which to spot the wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, bitterns and marsh harriers which make the shingle beach and saline lagoons their homes.
Teach your little ones more about the creatures which live in and around the sea at the Titchwell RSPB reserve, which has fun, free family activities from Monday to Friday during the summer holidays.
While away the hours with the kids as you search for fossils, shells and other sea life in the rockpools at West Runton beach, one of the best places in the region for unearthing exciting finds.
Head inland to Strumpshaw Fen, east of Norwich, to spot kingfishers, marsh harriers and Cetti’s warblers or beautiful moths and butterflies and glorious dragonflies hovering above the water.
The recently restored Lucy Lavers lifeboat has returned to Wells Quay after sailing in the flotilla of little ships commemorating the Dunkirk evacuation, of which she was part 75 years ago. She will now be permanently moored at Wells for heritage trips so everyone can learn more about this “little ship’s” history.
The historic wherry is an icon of the Broads. Make time to sail on The Albion, a 117 - year-old vessel restored and run by the Norfolk wherry Trust. It holds free public open days and can be charted for day or overnight trips.
The Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth explores the life and times of seafaring hero Lord Horatio Nelson; The Henry Blogg Museum in Cromer is dedicated to another local hero, Britain’s most decorated lifeboatman Coxswain Henry Blogg; The Museum of the Broads at Stalham brings the history of our inland waterways to life.
Take the passenger ferry in King’s Lynn across the River Great Ouse that has been running since 1285. Get a stunning view of the historic quayside which was the centre of trade and industry for centuries and understand more about the port’s heritage.
Try surfing or paddle boarding in Cromer or learn to windsurf or kite surf in Hunstanton.
At the Whitlingham Outdoor Education Centre, near Norwich, there are sailing lessons for all ages and abilities to get you started in all manner of craft.
Join the Blakeney Coastal Rowers - no experience is necessary and the friendly group rows traditional St Ayles Skiffs, which they build themselves, in and around Blakeney Harbour.
Follow in the footsteps of the many famous artists for whom the sea and Broadland landscape have long been inspiration. Take an art or photography course or visit one of our many coastal galleries.
Walk along Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile, ride the historic wooden rollercoaster, enjoy fish and chips followed by some sticky doughnuts and soak up the fun in our most famous holiday resort.
Watch the fishermen bring in their catch of crabs and lobsters in Cromer by the slipway, then try your luck at catching your own, with a spot of crabbing on the beautiful old pier.
Build sandcastles at Gorleston; explore the dunes at Brancaster, or fly a kite on the vast sands of Holkham beach.
Hire a canoe from the Broads Canoe Hire Association, pack a picnic and explore hidden inlets and unspoiled stretches of river.
There can be no better way to understand the diversity of our coastline than by walking the entire 63 miles of the Norfolk Coast Path from Hunstanton to Sea Palling.