Car-free adventures aroundNorwichNorfolk

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Centuries of history and miles of watery wilderness are easy to access without a car in Norwich. The city is compact to negotiate on foot or by bus and the countryside has some great little branch lines, running through the marshy Broads national park to the sandy coast. And that's not all: you can see flamingoes and cranes at Pensthorpe natural park with its mix of gardens, playgrounds, aviaries and acres of wild, beautiful landscape. For all these reasons and more, Norwich makes a really good base for a staycation holiday. scroll to the end for more about buses, bikes, boats and places to stay.

  • County: Norfolk
  • Great for: architecture | castle | riverside walks | scenic train | wildlife park |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • 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. 3. Pensthorpe Natural Park

    With sculptures dotted around the park, there’s art as well as nature among the 700 acres of woods, marshes and wildflower meadows that make up Pensthorpe natural park. The River Wensum winds through their heart keeping wilderness at the centre of the project. Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf has created one of four on-site gardens: a waterside oasis that looks good even in winter, with intricate seed heads, golden grasses and a Monet-style bridge. The artworks intensify the natural shapes and colours in a wildlife-rich landscape, whether it’s a mossy riverside willow or a weeping silver birch by Moon Water, Pensthorpe’s main lake. BBC Springwatch was filmed here three years running, looking out for badgers, barn owls and bullfinches.

    • There are bird hides to observe the varied habitats as well as crowd-pleasing resident flamingos and huge timber play areas and a Wetland Discovery area.
    • How do I get to Pensthorpe from Norwich without a car? The X29 bus leaves from Castle Meadow in Norwich every hour (Monday to Saturday) and stops at the end of the drive. For more details and a journey planner, follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • Have lunch at Pensthorpe’s Courtyard café. You can have soup of the day or spuds, salad and quiche, a gourmet afternoon tea or apple crumble and custard.
  1. Buses, bikes, boats and places to stay

    Here’s a bit more practical info if you’re planning a staycation in Norwich.

    • 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.
    • If you’re making some bus journeys on the same day that you arrive or leave by train, get a bargain PlusBus ticket to add on to your train ticket for unlimited bus rides around the whole urban area.
    • As England’s only city that’s actually inside a national park, Norwich has the River Wensum and Norfolk Broads within walking, cycling or even canoeing distance (kayaks from £20 for two hours). Wander through a wildlife-rich landscape just outside the city at Whitlingham Country Park. You can even camp by the water at Whitlingham Broad Campsite. There’s a yurt, a new converted train carriage and treehouse-style dens on stilts with firepits and hammocks.
    • Back in the city, there are handy branches of the Premier Inn and Travelodge just steps away from the station. You can also leave luggage at the Premier Inn with Stasher. For something fancier, try the Maid’s Head hotel, near the spectacular cathedral, or the new hotel in the city’s Georgian brick Assembly House, opposite the Theatre Royal. The Assembly House bedrooms (they’ve just added three more) have four posters, curved ceilings or private terraces (look out for all-inclusive deals).