Car-free holidays in NorfolkNorfolk

With wide expanses or grass and water in the Broads and miles of sandy beach along the coast, it's easy to escape the madding crowds in Norfolk. A great network of trains helps you reach some really remotes areas as well as interesting towns and cities. Buses, bikes and boats will help you explore further at your own pace. Whether you are looking for nature, culture or seaside fun, there are some great car-free choices here.

  • County: Norfolk
  • Great for: architecture | art | beaches | birds | boat trips | family | food and drink | historic houses | nature reserve | parks and gardens |
  • Refreshments: lots of fabulous restaurants, pubs and cafes
  • Please note: researched/updated in May 2022. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 1. Norwich

    There’s plenty to do in Norfolk’s lovely county capital. For more ideas, take a look at our detailed city guide. You can get the train from London quite cheaply with advance tickets starting from £10 each way. Anglia Plus rover tickets offer unlimited train travel in the area and local buses too. You can bring your bike on the train for free. Or there are Beryl Bikes and scooters all over town.

    • And don’t forget to add PlusBus to your train ticket for unlimited bus rides around the whole urban area on the day you arrive or leave by rail.
    • You can reach the Norfolk Broads national park from Norwich by bus, train, walking, cycling or even canoeing. Hire kayaks or stand-up paddleboards from the Canoe man near Norwich railway station (from £20 for 2 hours).
    • The single-track railways known as the Wherry Lines also carry visitors through the watery landscape of the Broads from Norwich to the coast.
    • Take a bus journey north-westwards to reach Pensthorpe Natural Park (7 on the map above) and you’ll save £4 off entry when you get there. See Good Journey’s directions.
    • Bus X29 leaves Norwich hourly (Monday to Saturday) and runs through miles of classic Norfolk countryside. At wild, lovely Pensthorpe, there are bird hides near the winding Wensum and bee-friendly flowering gardens, playgrounds for all ages and a focus on conservation.
    • The riverside Premier Inn is the handiest place to stay if you arrive in Norwich by train, but if you really want to push the boat out, check out the Assembly House, where the fancier bedrooms have four posters, curved ceilings or private terraces.
  1. 2. King's Lynn

    You can find thousands of years of history in the walkable ancient streets of King’s Lynn, starting with a 4000-year-old timber circle (sea henge) in the museum. And it’s a bus ride away from the striped cliffs of Hunstanton, the RSPB reserve at Snettisham or the wild delights of the North Norfolk coast.

    • The Tourist Information (in the chequered Town Hall opposite the Minster) has handy maps with detailed routes past the major sights or cycling maps for heading further afield.
    • The bus and railway stations are pretty central and the town itself is not huge so it’s easy to explore on foot. Don’t miss the park with its waterways and Red Mount chapel, almost next to the railway station or True’s Yard museum, ten minutes’ walk north, which celebrates the town’s fishing heritage. A PlusBus ticket can take you all around town on the day you arrive or leave by train.
    • The Norfolk Coast is just a bus ride away. Lynx buses run frequently (343536) from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton, leaving four times an hour from the bus station (twice an hour on Sunday) and costing about £6 return. Bus 36 runs every hour (every two hours on Sunday) along the coast as far as Wells-next-the-Sea. An adult Day Coast Pass costs £10 (a three-day pass is £21).
    • Ride the bus all the way to Holkham (6 on the map above) for dune-backed beaches and playgrounds, a deer park, walled garden and elegant Palladian mansion. It’s nearly two hours by bus from King’s Lynn, but the journey is packed with interest, from the woods around Sandringham and the lighthouse-topped cliffs of Hunstanton to stretches of saltmarsh, purple in summer with flowering sea lavender. And you get 30% off entry when you arrive by bus.
    • For a great view of King’s Lynn riverfront, simply catch the Lynn Ferry over the Great Ouse. It leaves every twenty minutes 7am to 6.30pm, Monday to Saturday (not Sunday) and costs £1.20 each way.
    • For more car-free adventures in the area, see our guide to King’s Lynn. It’s a great base for a staycation. There are places to stay in King’s Lynn that will suit most budgets, from the top-end Bank House hotel near the river to some bargain bedrooms above the White Hart pub. In between, there are plenty of comfortable choices like the Beeches guesthouse and Duke’s Head hotel.
  1. 3. Cromer

    With the beach just ten minutes from the railway station and plenty of places to eat and stay, Cromer makes an obvious base for a car-free holiday. The North Norfolk heritage railway chugs through the countryside nearby from neighbouring Sheringham, where the National Trust park with its Humphry Repton gardens is a jungle of colourful rhododendrons in spring. It’s a great hub for walking the coast path too.

    • More than thirty trains a day head out from London to Cromer (via Norwich) and advance tickets start from £6 each way.
    • How do I get to Sheringham Park without a car? It’s two miles from Sheringham railway station and bus 9 stops at the gates on request.
    • Stay at YHA Sheringham, the affordable Sandcliff guesthouse or at Cromer’s Wellington pub (known locally as “the welly”). Great food on-site too and the beach within easy staggering distance.
  1. 4. Great Yarmouth

    Yarmouth (as it’s known locally) is a really interesting coastal town, packed with unexpected treasures from the Time and Tide museum in an old Victorian fish-curing factory to Duarte and Eric’s Portugese café (don’t miss the lemony, sugar-crusted rice muffins).

    • Greater Anglia runs a regular service to Yarmouth with smart hourly trains through the marshy Broads from Norwich (advance tickets from London start at £12 each way).
    • Nearly all the sights are within walking distance of the railway station. There’s a light, airy Minster, a new art gallery in a Georgian merchant’s house and the newly-renovated Waterways near the seafront Beach Hut café serving salt beef and clam chowder.
    • Yarmouth’s Plusbus ticket is particularly good value. It covers a long coastal area that stretches from Winterton-on-Sea down to Gorleston and beyond.
    • Catch hourly bus 5 to visit third-century Burgh Castle, also covered by PlusBus. It’s one of Britain’s best-preserved Roman ruins with flint walls standing nearly five metres high in places and views over the reed beds towards Berney Arms windmill, another great outing (by train or on foot) from Yarmouth.
    • Winterton-on-Sea is a 45-minute ride on Coastal Clipper bus 1 heading north. Every winter, thousands of grey seals give birth on the beaches nearby – one of Britain’s great natural spectacles. A new beach café opened nearby in July 2021: Norfolk’s Edge, serving out of three silver, seventies Airstream caravans.
    • Families and groups who’d like to stay in Winterton, should check out the eco-friendly barns at Mill Farm, which sleep two, four or eight people). The owners have created an orchard, wildlife pond and flowering paddocks around it, and planted 1800 native hedgerow shrubs to line the permissive path that keeps walkers safely off the road from the village and nearby bus stop.
    • Alternatively, there are crowds of hotels and guesthouses near Yarmouth’s seafront and an unpretentious Premier Inn near the railway station (the nicest way to walk there is along the River Bure).
  1. 5. Thetford

    For a different kind of Norfolk break, Thetford is a quiet town in the sandy, pine-tree-studded area known as The Brecks. It makes a cheaper base for visiting tourist hotspots like Ely and Cambridge as well as an interesting destination in its own right and a hub for hiking through the forest or along the Little Ouse river.

    • Don’t miss the ruined priory on the banks of the river or the statue of Captain Mainwaring – Dad’s Army was filmed here! In fact, there’s a surprising amount to see once you start looking.
    • There’s more information, including places to stay, in our car-free guide.