Wetlands, wildlife and ancient history make a family holiday in the East of England one to remember. From the stunning scenery of the Norfolk Broads to traditional seaside towns like Wells-next-the-sea, you’ll easily fill a long weekend or fortnight away.
If it’s a city break you’re after, then Cambridge has family-friendly activities in spades. Pair that with delicious informal dining options, theatre, arts and culture, and everyone will be made up.
Whether you’re focusing your sights on Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex or Cambridge, here are a few ideas to get you started…
4 must-see sights in the East of England
The university city of Cambridge should be on every East of England itinerary. Gothic architecture, botanic gardens and an impressive selection of museums await. Alternatively, make like the gentry from days of old — navigate the river by punt and find a perfect place for a picnic.
If the East England weather isn’t on your side, Cambridge has a long list of indoor activities to enjoy, too. The Museum of Zoology has Darwin’s very own bug collection, while the Scott Polar Institute is the perfect place to get the kids interested in Arctic exploration!
2. The Norfolk Broads
The rivers and lakes of the Norfolk Broads are one of the most famous hotspots in the region. With 125 miles of navigable waterway — and countless picturesque villages along the riverbank — you can sail, cycle, swim and even go on a wildlife safari. On the other hand, the Broads are also the perfect place to kick back, relax and soak in that wonderful scenery. It’s totally up to you!
Visitors can set sail on day-long excursions from Hoveton, Wroxham and other locations. But for a true taste of life on the Broads, rent your own canal boat for a day or two and call yourself ‘Captain’!
3. Peterborough Cathedral
This grand, 12th Century cathedral is well worth a visit for its jaw-dropping architecture and pretty lawns alone. Head inside and you’ll find the tomb of Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and a spectacular medieval painted wood ceiling in the Nave.
Anyone with a head for heights should also climb the steps of the tower, getting up close to the impressive stained glass and looking out across the amazing city views below.
4. Holkham Beach and Wells-next-the-sea
For beach lovers, Holkham is sure to be a dream come true! It’s one of the most unspoilt beaches in the country, home to golden sand dunes backed by a dense pine forest, with a handy little beach café close by.
Spend the day making sandcastles and paddling in the shallow waters at high tide, and stick around for a breath-taking sunset! This beautiful place is a nature reserve, too, so keep your eyes peeled for local flora and fauna.
If you fancy more than a day of seaside relaxation, grab yourself a cosy B&B or camping spot in Wells-next-the-sea. Only a 5 minute drive from Holkham, Wells is the perfect place to base yourself — and a must-see town in itself!
4 must-do family activities in the East of England
1. Wildlife spotting in Essex
The Walton Backwater in Essex is home to some incredible wildlife. Take a boat trip and go seal spotting, looking out for rare and beautiful birds along the way, too.
Back on dry land, seek out fossils, including shark’s teeth, along Red Crag for yet more outdoor fun. To put an educational spin on your adventure, why not ask the kids to keep a ‘finders log’ of all the fossils, stones, and other treasures they find?
2. Travel back to the Bronze Age in Peterborough
Explore ancient history at Flag Fen Archaeology Park, the finest Bronze Age archaeological site in Northern Europe. Kids’ imaginations will run wild as they wander Iron Age roundhouses and walk in the footsteps of our ancestors.
A word of warning: this site is entirely out in the open, so either pack very well with lots of waterproofs, or save it for a sunny day!
3. Go wild at Wildrootz
Wildrootz is an outdoor adventure park where kids can climb, build dens, look for life in the pond-dipping pool, embark on a bug walk and generally get pretty muddy!
This exciting nature adventure zone is set within Norfolk’s Pensthorpe Natural Park, where you can also go see protected local wildlife and enjoy meandering through the sculpture trail.
4. Flip upside down at Pleasurewood Hills Family Theme Park
While this part of the world is more known for its natural beauty, fairgrounds are never that hard to find!
At Pleasurewood Hills, you get daredevil thrill rides, carousel and mini dodgems, and a range of shows and events throughout most of the year. Situated just outside of Lowestoft, it’s a great day out if you’re camping or staying in the Suffolk area.
The best time to visit the East of England?
The East of England is one of the driest regions in the country, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about the rain. Of course, the summer months will be the warmest...but also the busiest.
If you want whole beaches to yourself, travel during spring and summer when there are fewer tourists but the weather is still relatively good.
What to pack for the East of England?
The English weather is ever-changeable, so be sure to pack a variety of layers in your suitcase. Beach explorers and rockpoolers should also have a pair of water-ready sandals, to protect little feet from pebbles and rocks.
Getting around the East of England
Exploring the Norfolk Broads by boat is an experience not to be missed. For the rest of the region, there’s a reliable train and bus network running between towns and cities.
But to really get the most out of an East of England stayfaction, travelling by car is the best option. That way anywhere that takes your fancy is easily accessible.