Boating & sailing in Norfolk: a quick guide to exploring the Broads & coast by water
Whether you’re taking a short weekend break or exploring Norfolk for a couple of weeks, there’s so much to see, we know you’ll have an unforgettable time.
When you consider that this amazing part of the world has 125 miles of Broads waterways and a world-famous stretch of coastline, seeing it by boat really gives you a unique and unforgettable access to all it has to offer.
It can be hard to know where to start though, so we’ve pulled together a quick guide for getting started exploring this region by water during your time here — whether that’s on the Broads or across the sea.
The best boating and sailing in the Norfolk Broads
From canoes to river cruises through to sailing the open sea, there’s something for everyone. Naturally, if you’re new to life on the water, you may want some lessons or basic support before you get started.
Experienced captains and skippers alike will be wowed by the man-made Broads; there’s endless beauty, peace and wildlife up for grabs if you take the right routes and there’s no shortage of day trips on offer.
When you’re planning a day or two out on the waters of the Broads, you have to think about the kind of environment you’d like to take in on your days on the water — because the area is split into two fairly distinct sections.
The southern Broads — for quiet, open space & picturesque broadland villages
If you choose to take in the southern Broads, you’ll be tracing the River Yare and be greeted with open space and plentiful wildlife. These routes offer an incredible experience, awash with blue sky (on the right day) and allow you to take in some of the stunning villages and their pubs as you go!
If you follow the River Yare from Norwich to Great Yarmouth, you’ll enjoy a tree-lined route and can stop on the moorings of villages such as Bramerton, a picturesque village sheltered by ancient woodland. You’ll have time for a bit of bird spotting and you can enjoy the much-loved Water’s Edge pub.
Keep following this path downstream and you’ll be treated to more excellent pub stops, though as you move down, make sure you know about places where the river becomes tidal (taking care to note times and advice) and you need to navigate some obstacles such as the Reedham village and the railway swing bridge.
Staying on this route, you’ll eventually have to choose between heading towards the sea via Yarmouth, or stick with the Broads towards Lowestoft.
The northern Broads — for the ‘capital of the Broads’
If you select the northern section of these famous waterways, you’ll enjoy a more sheltered set of channels through which to sail.
The northern side, running the River Bure, is the most favoured with holiday makers, so it can be busier, but that’s no bad thing if you like to chat and greet your fellow captains as you go!
There’s plenty of stops, pubs and sights as you meander along these impressive and attractive waters. Along the banks of the River Bure on this southern section you’ll find Wroxham & Hoveton, the stunning ‘capital of the Broads’.
Some routes are well suited to a long day out on the water. You could take a trip from the north end of the River Bure and make it to Great Yarmouth sea outlet in a day (approx 9am-3pm). Broadland Boat hire has lots of great route information and handy distance calculators to make sure you can get the best from your day.
You might want to enjoy a kayak lesson or guided trip, a seal boat trip or even hire your own day boat with which to explore. There’s something for every ability and if you want a real treat, you can even find trips with dining experiences included — the perfect treat to round off a Norfolk break.
New to boating on the Broads? Here’s a few top tips for first timers…
Whilst taking to the Broads by boat for the first time is exciting, it can be equally daunting. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to be a seasoned boater to have a great time.
Planning your trip
Avoid being like a fish out of water by planning. Have a crystal clear day itinerary: know what time you’re starting, where you’re heading to, what time you’ll be there by, what vessel will be best and what equipment you’ll need — food, drink, maps, clothing.
Get in touch with your boatyard before you arrive. Most will be more than happy to guide you through the entire experience. Many will provide a welcome pack and plenty of advice on a suitable vessel and expected timings.
On the day
Make sure all your phones and devices are completely charged and arrive in plenty of time at the boatyard. This is so you can be shown how to operate your vessel — and to ensure you have plenty of time for questions.
You’ll be shown how to navigate, moor up, stay safe and much more. At this point, you’ll probably have an idea of whether you feel comfortable with boat safety and handling the vessel.
Be aware of the weather forecast. Some parts of the Broads can become tidal, making it challenging to navigate bridges or certain areas — although your boat hire provider will be able to keep you abreast of any possible dangers.
Staying safe on the water
Always wear a life jacket when you’re on the boat — this includes getting on and disembarking, when you’re probably at most risk of falling overboard! If you’ve got four-legged friends, doggy life jackets are also a great idea. Most boatyards will be able to provide these.
Whilst many will boat on the Broads for a good time, certainly know your limits when it comes to alcohol consumption, particularly if it’s your first time.
Needless to say, keep a close eye on any little ones who are with you and don’t jump in the water or try to rescue anything that happens to fall in — you’ll be endangering yourself. Don’t reverse your boat near anyone or anything in the water, either. That’s where the propeller is.
Be aware of the speed limits — 3, 4, 5 or 6 mph — and always keep to the right of the channel. The Broads authority have a Waterways Code leaflet and list of byelaws and speed limits which any would-be boaters should take a look at.
There’s a network of free moorings that operate 24 hours a day throughout the Broads, each with a range of facilities. Some mooring points may require a payment, so keep your eyes peeled for signs indicating a charge for mooring.
Of course, given the popularity of the Broads, the most popular spots can quickly become occupied, particularly during peak season. Arrive as early as possible if you’re concerned about missing out on your favoured moorings.
Most boating accidents happen when entering or departing moorings, so keep your life jackets on and be aware of wind, other traffic and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Have your ropes to hand and always moor slowly and carefully — there’s no rush!
Norwich, Yarmouth and Reedham have Broads Authority Yacht Stations which can help you to moor up.
Never let go of the beauty in the Norfolk Broads
This 90-mile stretch of coastline is one of the country’s most spectacular, so don’t miss out on the chance to explore it by boat.
Thinking about staying a while longer? We can’t blame you. Norfolk’s pristine coast and its Broads are a destination like no other and with easy access to trips, days out and exciting activities, you wouldn’t be alone in wanting to return time and time again.
Our Waxham Sands Holiday Park offers luxury touring and camping holidays beside the gorgeous sands of Waxham, just a few miles from the Broads.
For those wanting to make a more permanent base in Norfolk, we also offer holiday home ownership at Golden Beach, our other location in Norfolk. Those at Azure Seas, our owners-only park in Suffolk, will also be able to slip up to the Broads in no time at all!