Holkham Beach in Norfolk is a perfect day out for outdoorsy families. You can paddle in the sea, run in the sand dunes, play games on the beach and charge through the pinewoods. We love it!
We visited Holkham Beach for the first time this summer and are kicking ourselves for not discovering it sooner. We’ve lived around 60 miles down the road in Cambridgeshire for more than a decade and have driven right past it loads of times, so when someone told us recently it was a great beach for kids we loaded the car with Sonny and the dog and headed straight there.
Holkham Gap pinewoods
You park in the bays beside the long, straight road opposite the entrance to Holkham Estate, then walk past the new Lookout visitor centre and cafe and into the pinewoods at Holkham Gap. There are boardwalks and plenty of paths to choose from, all leading towards the lagoon behind the sand dunes at Holkham Meals. At low tide you’ve got a long, flat walk to the beach – perfect for racing the dog, kicking footballs and jumping over tidal channels and pools.
When you reach the beach, you’ll realise you’ve discovered one of the most wonderfully unspoilt sweeps of sand in Britain. Holkham National Nature Reserve is one of the largest of its type in the country, with loads of important plants and wildlife species, and it’s a really beautiful place. We set up base camp in the sand dunes, which give decent shelter from the wind on blustery days, then headed down to the sea to splash around in the waves.
At just a few months over two years old, Sonny loved it. We built sandcastles, threw tennis balls, searched for shiny sea shells, paddled, swam and watched slightly jealously as other children flew kites in the sea breeze (because we’d left ours at home by mistake). When we’d dried ourselves off and eaten our picnic, we set off with Mario (our awesome Jack Russell terrier) to explore the sand dunes.
Holkham sand dunes
For me, this was the best part of the day. The dunes at Holkham Beach feel endless, following a gently undulating ridge with loads of sandy pathways to race around between pockets of long grass. They also give a great viewpoint back to the pinewoods, out to sea, and all the way along the beach towards Wells in the east and Scolt Head Island in the west.
We charged up and down the dunes for over an hour, with the ulterior motive of tiring out toddler and dog at the same time – and it worked! We almost had to carry them both back to the car they were so shattered.
Holkham Woodland Play Area
One of the best things about visiting Holkham Beach as a family, is that if you buy an all-day parking ticket you also get free parking at the Woodland Play Area at Holkham Hall. It’s designed for kids slightly older than Sonny, but that didn’t stop the little dude spending over an hour jumping in and out of the giant wooden combine harvester, scampering through tunnels, tiptoeing over logs and swinging through the trees.
Even better, I got to go in there with him. It’s probably the best adventure playground of its kind we’ve been to, and we’ll definitely be going back.
Fish & chips at Burnham Market
There was no way we were heading home from the coast without fish and chips, so we stopped off at The Mermaid in Burnham Market (highly recommended) and scoffed them in the car. Perfect end to a perfect day out.