West is best
PUBLISHED: 05:28 08 December 2014
As the sun sets spectacularly on the horizon, glistening on the sea and turning the sky golden, it is not difficult to see what makes Hunstanton such a wonderful place to holiday.
This quaint Victorian coastal town boasts a stunning beach, beautiful gardens, great shopping and plenty of traditional seaside attractions. You can sail, play golf, partake in some extreme sports or just while away the hours walking along the vast, sandy shore from the smaller neighbouring resort of Heacham down to the iconic red striped cliffs and beyond into Old Hunstanton.
Known affectionately as “Hunst’on” by locals, the town is famous for being one of the sunniest places in the country, so it is little wonder it is so popular with visitors and residents alike.
It also boasts something else which is rather special – it faces west and is one of the few places on the east coast of Great Britain where the sun can be seen to set over the sea.
But the really wonderful thing about Hunstanton is that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Along the wide and sunny promenade there are plenty of things to keep the family amused all day long. The traditional fair has rides for all ages, there is a great crazy golf course and the Oasis leisure centre on Seagate Road.
The seafront is also home to the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, which has just reopened following a major refurbishment after suffering devastating damage in last December’s storm surge. The centre is home to a huge amount of marine life – from penguins, seals, otters, sharks and rays to clown fish, crabs and seahorses, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the different species as you go.
If the weather allows, a must for any visitor is a trip out on the Wash Monster – a Second World War amphibian craft which takes passengers across the beach and out to sea. Run by Searles Sea Tours, there are different trips to choose, taking in views of the coastline and spotting seals along the way.
Of course there are plenty of places on the promenade to get an ice cream, as well as many traditional seaside shops to stock up on holiday souvenirs and those all-important buckets and spades. Sandcastle-making and a paddle in the clear, shallow sea are a must. In the shadow of the stunning, stripy red cliffs are fantastic rock pools, which are great fun to explore and home to all manner of sea creatures.
For those who like to take life at a slower pace, Hunstanton is the perfect place to spend a day watching the world go by and there can be few better spots to sit on a bench and take in the views than the enormous green overlooking the sea which is at the heart of the town.
Stroll up to the cliff tops and enjoy the lovely gardens which are always a mass of different colours. This rather gentile area is also home to bowling greens and a café.
Just a short walk further is Old Hunstanton which has a much quieter, village atmosphere, with lots of traditional carrstone-built cottages, fantastic pubs and restaurants – including Michelin-starred The Neptune, and The Lodge with its mix of rooms and self-contained luxury cottages – and Hunstanton Golf Club.
Like its busier neighbour, the beach at Old Hunstanton is a great place to spend the day and it is also popular with kite surfers who create quite a spectacle as they ride the wind and waves.
Hunstanton has a wonderful mix of independent shops, as well as a few well-known high street favourites. The choice of eateries is excellent too, from award-winning cafes serving great cakes and hearty traditional meals, to fish and chip shops and welcoming pubs. New this year is The Norfolk Deli, which has been highly commended in the EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2014.
In the neighbouring, but quieter resort of Heacham, is Norfolk Lavender. Surrounded by beautiful lavender gardens and home to the national lavender collection, the centre also has some great shops and a restaurant with delicious scones. It also has its own lavender oil distillery, a herb garden, farm shop and children’s farm and play centre – a lovely way to spend a day.