The ultimate guide to spotting seals in Norfolk
The best places & top tips for spotting seals on Norfolk’s coast
Not only is Norfolk a special place to us, but also for seal colonies up and down the coastline. Normal for Norfolk, seals are no stranger to Nelson’s County or its beaches, where many choose to set up home each winter to bring their pups into the world.
Throughout the rest of the year, these beautiful marine mammals make themselves comfortable on Norfolk’s shores and can be spotted basking on the sand or bobbing about in the sea. No trip to the Norfolk coast is complete without seeing the resident seals, so we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to spotting and seal watching on Norfolk beaches.
How to visit Norfolk’s seals safely
According to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, about 50% of the world population of grey seals live on British shores, with many of them calling Norfolk home. When visiting one of the seal hotspots we’ll mention, you can do your part to keep yourself and our seal friends safe by following a few simple rules.
Don’t get too close: Seals are timid creatures and that’s why we encourage seal watching to be observed from a distance. Approaching seals can distress them so much that they react by biting, leading to an infection known as ‘seal finger’, so it’s better for everyone to air on the side of caution.
Stay up the beach from the seals: Mothers often leave their pups on the sand as they patrol from the sea on their search for food. Disrupting the mother’s pathway to her pup risks upsetting the food gathering process.
Take a boat tour where you can: Local boat excursions offer the best of both worlds as you’ll get to observe seals out in the wild without scaring them.
Think twice before bringing frisbees to the beach: Flying ring frisbees, in particular, are a real choking hazard to curious seals.
Keep your furry friends close to you on a lead: While many Norfolk beaches welcome well behaved dogs, it’s best to keep them nearby for everyone’s safety including yours, your dog’s and of course, the seals.
What type of seals will you meet in Norfolk
Norfolk is home to two types of seal colonies: grey seals and harbour seals (or ‘common seals’). To know which you’re seeing when you’re out and about on Norfolk’s coast, keep your eyes peeled for their size, noses and facial profile. Grey seals tend to be larger, with a flat head profile, compared to harbour seals’ short, curved muzzle.
Grey seals are identifiable by their long straight noses in a nod to the species' Latin name, which translates to hook-nosed sea pig. While you might expect them to always be grey, these majestic creatures come in various shades, with males often darker and less speckled than females.
Grey seal pups are born in the autumn and winter with white fur, but grow into a waterproof coat that takes on the grey or fawn shades we recognise on Norfolk beaches in adult seals.
When it comes to the grey seal population, the numbers in Norfolk are staggering, with the county witnessing 3,000 births in Blakeney Point and 2,000 at Horsey Beach in recent years. Aren’t we lucky?
Also known as common seals, these beauties are often found ‘hauling out’ in a banana position in groups on the sandbanks. They’re light brown or grey in colour but tend to be smaller than their grey seal cousins. Their profiles are also concave and short in comparison to the grey seal. If you spot pups in the summertime, they’re more likely to be harbour seals.
Now you know which seals to look out for and how to say hello safely, let’s get on to the best Norfolk beaches to see seals in the wild.
The best beaches to see seals in Norfolk
Horsey Gap and Blakeney Point are perhaps the seal spotting capitals of Norfolk, the year-round home of grey and harbour seal colonies. Other coastal ports of call where the resident pinnipeds are sure to seal your heart include Sea Palling, Hunstanton, Winterton and Waxham.
Spot seals at Horsey
Wander over the sand dunes and walk down for a seal sighting to remember. While many seals reside year-round, the winter months (November–February) see grey seal colonies give birth and nurse their rather adorable grey seal pups right here, so it’s a particularly great time to visit.
The mums-to-be are drawn to Horsey’s beach, shallow waters and high dunes; all things we love about Horsey, too. Dune side viewing platforms give you a birds eye view of the new life happening below.
During these times, beach access is limited to ensure our neighbours get the space they need. Well behaved dogs are welcome on Horsey Gap, but should be kept on a short lead at all times so they don’t run up and scare our seal friends.
Waxham Sands, our holiday park nestled behind sand dunes, is blessed with direct access to Horsey beach. This is a really accessible way to see the seals.
For lovers of nature, there’s nothing more exciting than spotting animals in their own habitat. We still get just as excited when we see seals in our special corner of Norfolk.
Seal watch at sea at Blakeney Point
Set further to the north — about an hour’s drive from Horsey Gap — is England’s largest grey seal colony, located at National Trust’s Blakeney Point National Nature Reserve.
Set against unique coastal backdrops made up of shingle and dunes, salt marshes and tidal mudflats, Blakeney Point is a must-stop for Norfolk coast hoppers and seal lovers.
Like Horsey, you can find seals all year round at Blakeney Point, but the winter months are great if you’re after seeing grey seals and their pups. If you’re visiting in the summer, you might be lucky enough to see the harbour (or ‘common’) seals and their newborns — this type of seal are commonly spotted with their pups in August, June and July.
Offering up flat landscapes like nowhere else, it’s easy to see why seals can enjoy peace and privacy in equal measure here. So, you don’t disturb their peace, Blakeney Point invites you to meet the seals where they’re at their happiest; at sea.
With multiple daily boat tours departing from Blakeney Quay and Morston Quay and extra on during summer, there’s never been a more enjoyable way to watch seals in the wild. Good news for Fido too, as most of the seal trips to Blakeney Point are dog friendly, but only good boys are allowed on board.
Seal watch at Sea Palling
With its Blue Flag beach, Sea Palling is an excellent place to go and spot seals. There aren’t as many on the beach, but the sea is their playground, so grab your binoculars and get spotting. If you’re lucky enough, they might even come up to the beach.
A 25 minute beachside walk from Waxham Sands, pick up your Big 5 kit from the park shop and you’ll be ready to go. The dogs can come too, but leads are necessary to protect the seals.
Head to see the Hunstanton seals
When someone mentions Sunny Hunny, your mind will probably go straight to the red hued cliffs rather than the seals. But with the famous Hunstanton Wash Monster as your nautical carriage to the seals, it’s worth keeping this iconic Victorian seaside town on your seal watching Norfolk bucket list.
There’s a full commentary on board, offering an interactive way to learn about the local common seal population and plenty of facts to talk through on your drive back to our park. Don’t set off home before a family beach walk in from New to Old Hunstanton though. Here, the whole family, including Rover, can enjoy breathtaking west facing sunsets. You don’t get those at home!
Spot seals in the Winterton waves
Thanks to the expansion of the grey seal rookery at Horsey, more and more seals are spreading out onto Winterton beach.
From female seals with pups to male bulls in the dunes, a sandy stroll from Winterton back towards us near Horsey lets you see them all, but do remember to give our seal friends their space.
For seal-spotting with slightly more of a challenge, consider the circular walk from Winterton to Horsey. It takes you from Winterton beach northwards to the main colonies at Horsey, and then inland, where you’ll pass Horsey Windpump and Brograve Mill — a Norfolk Broads icon.
While Winterton is a dog walking beach, we advise keeping dogs on leads so they don’t spook the seals. To keep the seals’ pathways clear, we recommend walking your dogs and family towards Hemsby; there’s a great dog-friendly pub called The Lacon Arms to welcome you off of the beach.
Watch seals at Waxham
Pinnipeds are known to sprawl and wallow all along the immaculate stretch of shoreline in and around Horsey Gap, so you’re also in with an excellent chance of spotting them at Waxham beach, which is just adjacent.
This one’s just on the doorstep of our Waxham Sands park — literally, with direct access — so, when it comes to seal spotting, there’s no need to stray far from ours. From here, you can give our playful grey seals a wave, but please don't get too close.
Keeping yourself and your dog up to 10 metres away will ensure our neighbours aren't disturbed. That’s why we ask dogs to remain on leads on our stretch of beach and on park year-round.
Our closeness to the seals makes ours the ideal (and idyllic base) for seal spotting adventures with all the family. Spotting seals is one of our favourite park pastimes and we can’t wait to welcome you to see them for yourself.
The best times of year to see seals in Norfolk
Seals can be spotted at Horsey Gap and Blakeney Point all year round. However, November to February is a particularly great time to visit these two beaches if you’re looking to spot grey seals with their pups; the mums-to-be pile onto these beaches in large numbers in the winter months.
If you’re after seeing some harbour (or ‘common’) seals with their delightful pups, head to Hunstanton or Blakeney Point during June, July and August. A summer boat tour almost guarantees seeing this spectacular sight.
Stay a while in Norfolk…
Looking to greet gorgeous grey seal colonies? We’ve got two holiday parks which are in just the perfect place.
At Waxham Sands, step over the dunes and you’re straight onto Horsey Gap — perhaps the hotspot synonymous with year-round seal spotting in Norfolk. Whether just a quick weekend or fortnight of fun, book a tent or tourer slot today.
Already fallen in love with Norfolk? You can make the ultimate commitment to its stunning surroundings by making Golden Beach your home from home.
This perfectly-placed park, just up the road in coastal Sea Palling, gives you the opportunity to make some distinctly cute seal soul mates. Whilst there are no holiday homes currently for sale at Golden Beach, it’s a popular park with a waiting list we’d love to add your name to.
Four-legged friends are welcome, and with both parks backing onto dog-friendly beaches, it’s the perfect escape for our canine companions, too.