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The Norfolk coastline is one of the most beautiful in England with great dunes overlooking sandy, golden beaches. It really is picture postcard perfect.
One of our favourite seaside places to visit in Norfolk is Wells-next-the-Sea. (quite a mouthful isn’t it?). This pretty and very quaint town has enormous character, and it really is a perfect location for a day to the seaside or to visit for a relaxed, laid-back holiday. It has something to offer everyone.
Information about the Well’s annual Carnival week of entertainment with next years date here.
Wells is ideally positioned along the North Norfolk coast. It is situated in the Holkham National Nature Reserve, and if you want to explore the famous coastline, you’re able to get to most places easily by car. All the little towns along the coast are worth venturing to Burnham, Overy Staithe, Stiffkey, Morston, Blakney and Cley to name just the closest ones.
We try to visit Wells when the Carnival week is on end July first week in August and normally stay at the Caravan and Camping Club temporary holiday site organised by (Notts DA) at the Alderman Peel High School. Its a great location as its a 5-minute walk from Buttlands and 10 minutes to the harbour.
If like us, you are visiting in a motorhome, or just don’t fancy driving, then you can pick up the Coasthopper bus from Wells, which runs along the Norfolk Coast road and visits Kings Lynn, Heacham, Hunstanton, Holkham, Blakeney, Sheringham and Cromer.
A five-minute drive away is Holkham Hall. This splendid Palladian mansion is a must see. You can spend the whole day just walking and wandering around the grounds without even going into the house. It’s a beautiful place to visit.
If you don’t know Wells, you may not know that the beach is, in fact, a mile away from the town. This doesn’t cause any problems as there are various ways of reaching it from the town. You can either drive to the beach car park, walk along the sea wall, or you can take the small miniature railway which heads back and forth from the town to the beach.
We used the little train as we had the grandchildren with us and they thoroughly enjoyed it, especially waving to all the people walking on the footpath. The train takes you as far as Pinewoods campsite, and from there it is just a short walk to the beach passing the beach café.
On previous visits, we have walked alongside the harbour on the path which takes about 30 minutes.
The views of the harbour from this path are beautiful. On a sunny day when the sea is calm you can see the sailing boats silhouetted on the water and when the tide is out, the boats are tilting on the sand waiting for the water to rise. It really is a lovely postcard perfect picture.
The beach was voted Times Beach of the Year in 2016 and is perfect for families. The sand is golden, clean and stretches for miles and miles all the way to Holkham and beyond. There is plenty of space even on a busy day and never looks too crowded. I love the incredibly long row of quaint, colourfully painted and aptly named beach huts all backed by a beautiful pine forest.
We were lucky enough to spot two sea lions basking on a sandbank while we were there this time.
The Beach Cafe
On our way back to the little train we stopped for lunch at the beach café. We were so impressed with the decoration inside. They were reasonably priced serving excellent food with quick self-service. The toilets were clean too. Outside there were a couple of photo opportunities with the giant deckchairs and funny pictures with the face cut outs. There is also a very nice Joules outlet shop next to the café.
Wells Harbour Tours
Back at the harbour in town opposite the old Lifeboat house Wells Harbour Tours offer two trips: the beach trip which gives you lovely views of the shoreline and open water, or the marshes trip travels up the creek and into the marshes for a view of the various flora and fauna there. Tours take place between June and October. You can also try out one of the great seal trips from Blakeney Point. The trips work with the tide, so times change daily, but they run every day between April and October and regularly throughout the winter.
They have blankets on board just in case the weather turns cool and you are caught out.
One of our favourite pass-times when in Wells is to get fish and chips to take away and join the other people lined up along the harbour front, perched on the wall with their fish and chips just watching the world go by. We think that quite possibly the best fish and chips in Norfolk can be had here at French’s. It’s not unusual to see the queues winding out the door and along the pavement! (Now that’s got to say something hasn’t it?).
The town is not short of places to eat. There are masses ranging from fish and chips shops to tea rooms and cafes, to delis to pubs as well as ice cream shops and the obligatory rock shop.
Staithe Street is the main centre of the town and is a tiny narrow, mostly traffic free, a street full of interesting independent shops.
Walk up Staithe Street, and you’ll come across some tea rooms, lovely little shops, hardware shop, butchers, bakers, greengrocers, fresh fish shop, a small Nisa supermarket and much more. We found we could get just about anything from this small high street. We would highly recommend you try the butchers for great meat if you are self-catering. The sausages are fantastic as is the bacon. We always come home with us for the freezer.
Just a short walk away from the main streets of Wells is the Buttlands which is a lovely village green lined with trees and surrounded by Georgian houses, and there are two gastropubs, The Crown and the Globe which both serve excellent food.
Wells Crab house Café near the harbour is the place to go if its fish and seafood you are after.
Back down to the harbour wall you’ll see the lobster pots, buoys and fish trays as it is a working fishing port. Crabbing from the harbour is a very popular activity in the summer months, and you will always see lots of families with the little ones lining the edge with their crabbing lines.
Tied up on the quay is The Albatros which is a former Dutch cargo ship built in 1899 as a North Sea clipper. She is one of the oldest sailing ships still afloat. She is now permanently moored alongside the quay of Wells-next-the-sea and is used as a bar, restaurant, music venue and offers unique accommodation as B&B.
They specialise in Dutch pancakes but also offer plenty of other food including the chef’s specials which change regularly. You can sit on or below deck. It really is a unique experience. Every Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon you can listen to great live music.
There are two small amusement arcades for the kids, and even those are not tacky, as they can be in some other seaside towns.
Wells Carnival Week
The Wells Carnival week is usually at the end of July first week in August)
We always visit Wells during the carnival week as its jam-packed with, mostly free, entertainment.
During the carnival week, the committee organises approximately 6 evenings of live music at different venues around the town. It’s a wide range of music to appeal to people of all ages and tastes and in the past have included a Wild West evening, a Beach Party, Classical Music and various Tribute Groups.
There is normally a film screened on the green at Buttlands. (This year was Bugsy Malone).
Food & Craft Day – Held on Buttlands and is a summer fair packed with stalls offering food from around the world and closer to home, plus craft stalls and entertainment.
Sandcastle & Sculpture Competition – Takes place on Wells Beach.
Teddy Bears Picnic – For the under 6’s
Crabbing Competition – Takes place by the Harbour Office,
Carnival Day & Evening – The 2nd Saturday of Carnival week brings Carnival Day itself. The event takes place on the Buttlands and includes stalls, entertainment, fancy dress competitions along with the famous Carnival Parade around the town. There is then live musical entertainment in the evening bringing the day to a close.
Some of the other events throughout the week include Bingo, Craft Fairs, Carnival Bike Ride, Children’s Painting Competition, Children’s Pirate Party, Classical music.
All the events during Carnival week are either free of charge or of minimal cost to cover expenses. The committee is made up of volunteers and rely on donations from members of the public to ensure the continuation of the Carnival. They endeavour to repeat old favourites and bring in new and exciting entertainment each year.
Here is the full programme of events for last week’s 2017 Carnival week to give you a better idea. http://wellscarnival.co.uk/pages/2017/Programme-2017.pdf
Next year the carnival will run from Friday 27th July to Sunday 5th August (incl). with Carnival day on Saturday 4th August ‘(subject to circumstances beyond their control). Please check online nearer the time.
Wells Pirate Festival
Every year in September Wells holds a Pirate Festival which is great for all the family and sees activities and entertainment such as ball games, treasure trail and lots of costumes. Unfortunately, though the festival has been cancelled for this year 2017.
Where to Stay
There are two temporary holiday sites run by The Camping & Caravanning Club DA’s which are held in local schools for the Wells Carnival week. You can find the information on their website under temporary holiday sites.
Notts DA run the one held at Alderman Peel High School NR23 1RB. Norfolk & Suffolk Da run the one at The Wells-Next-The-Sea Primary and Nursery School NR23 1JG. Please do not contact the schools regarding these meets. You will need to contact the DA’s through The Camping and Caravanning Club
Pinewoods is a picturesque site within a short walk to the beach. The walk to wells town centre is a lot further but here is a small tourist train that takes you in. There is a new spacious toilet and shower block. Water and electric for all pitches. Well spaced pitches with good views of Wells. Great playground for the kids and a shop.
Stiffkey Road, Wells-Next-The-Sea
It’s a small basic campsite. Friendly and helpful owners and staff. No electric hookups but clean facilities. The pitch size is good. 15-minute walk to Wells-Next-The-Sea centre. There is a bus stop on the main road outside the campsite. Price was £22 a night in September 2018 but I expect you are paying for the location.
There are some nice Holiday Cottages for rent in Wells-Next-The-Sea