Visit North Norfolk

The Broads National Park

The man-made Broads winds its way through the stunning Norfolk countryside. The Norfolk Broads is a National Park with over 125 miles of lock-free waterways with pretty towns and villages along the way, and is home to over quarter of the rarest plants and animals in the UK.

The History of the Norfolk Broads

The unique man-made Norfolk Broads were created in the 14th century when peat was dug out to provide fuel and a sellable commodity after woodland timber and fuel supplies were drained in a densely populated Norfolk. The exhausting job of manually digging the peat started in the 12th century throughout all the east Norfolk settlements until the 14th century, when finally nature overcame man's force.

The holes left behind from the peat extraction began to fill with water with the rising sea levels, and these 'holes' formed the beginning of The Norfolk Broads. More than 200km of rivers and Broads were created by peat digging which provided channels for commerce throughout the 16th century.

Norwich was the second largest city in England after London and its tradable goods of wool, weaving and agricultural produce were exported throughout the world from the port of Great Yarmouth. The waterways also transported bricks, coal, tiles and timber and Norfolk Wherries, with their single black sail, were the boats that plied these routes.

Amazingly, it wasn't until the 1950s that it was realised the Broads were man made, when Dr Joyce Lambert's research revealed that the sides of the deep lakes were vertical and not gently sloping as would be expected of a naturally formed lake.

Since the Victorian times, the Broads National Park has become an increasingly popular holiday destination and is the only National Park with a city in it! The tranquil setting of the Broads is like no other. Big skies, stunning landscapes of marshland, woodlands and reeds that change with the seasons, is a unique holiday.



things to do in the broads national park

Discover the Broads on its lakes and rivers and alongside them, on quiet cycle ways and paths. With miles of peaceful country lanes, exploring the Broads by bicycle and walking means you can enjoy some of Norfolk's most stunning scenery. You can hire a bike from cycle hire centres in the Broads, many of which are close to moorings and there are plenty of cycle routes suitable for all ages and abilities.


Choose from over 300 km of footpaths through attractive landscapes and nature reserves when exploring the Broads by foot. There are circular routes and long distance footpaths suitable for short strolls or striding out on hikes.

Exploring the Broads by boat is one of the best ways to discover these magical waterways. The popular Cruiser is an easy to handle boat with plenty of home comforts on board. Discover hidden places only reached by water, find great places to fish and wonder at wildlife along the way. And there's plenty of it! The Broads is home to over a quarter of the rarest plants and animals in the UK and is Britain's largest protected wetland.

With its many nature reserves, the Broads is also an excellent place for birdwatching all year round. In the summer, keep an eye out for kingfishers and marsh harriers. There are 11,000 wildlife species and 230 nationally important invertebrates in the Broads, such as beetles and moths including the fenn's waistcoat and reed leopard. Keep an eye out for the darts of colour of dragonflies and damselflies, the flash of yellow and black of the swallowtail butterfly, and you may even spot an otter.

The Broads National Park is also great for family days out. Choose from miniature railways, country parks, animal parks and guided boat trips. The nature reserves are ripe for exploring with expert staff on hand to tell you what to look out for. There's plenty of events and festivals on around the Broads throughout the year, as well as lots of pretty towns and villages to explore. Stop off at the many pubs and eateries along the riverside to enjoy a bite to eat with an amazing view.


River Bure, Wroxham Broad and Salhouse Broad are considered to be one of the prettiest rivers in the Broads area. The birthplace of Broads cruising, the River Bure provides many routes for the explorer.

Starting from the quaint village of Coltishall, it flows on through the popular town of Wroxham, before meandering onto the picturesque village of Horning, with its riverside pubs. There are many broads to be explored on this route including Wroxham Broad, where you can either sail alone or take a boat trip and the beautiful Salhouse Broad with its grassy bank and areas of sand, perfect for children.

River Ant and Barton Broad: The River Ant is narrower than the other Broads rivers and in places is a quieter, more peaceful place to sail with some beautiful towns to visit along its banks.

It begins surrounded by reed beds before heading upstream to the market town of Stalham, then opens out in to Barton Broad, the second largest broad, popular for cruising and sailing. Regattas are held here throughout the year including the Barton Regatta in October.

River Thurne and Hickling Broad: Here you will find vast expanses of clear blue sky and sparkling water stretching out as far as the eye can see with only churches and windmills breaking up the horizon.

The River Thurne, Norfolk's shortest river at five miles, meanders onto Hickling Broad, the largest broad in the region, and forms part of a nature reserve run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. The river then continues on to the town of Potter Heigham.




Salhouse Broad Salhouse broad
NWT Hickling Broad Hickling Broad

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