Seaside Spontaneity: A day trip to North Norfolk

In a world of routine and clock-watching, it can be hard to be spontaneous. Every free second of the day is consumed with work, plans or errands and scheduling time for yourself is often put on the back burner. Even if we think we’re being spontaneous, we’re actually just taking advantage of planned ‘free’ time. Oscar Wilde said: ‘Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art’.

On a rainy Monday in July, I woke up with no plans for the day. I had recently been brought back to work for a few days here and there, but for the most part I was still furloughed. I followed my normal morning routine and found myself making my way to the sofa for a day of Netflix. After watching 10 minutes of TV, I was bored and disengaged with whichever daytime show had come on. I wanted an adventure.

It’s easy to stay indoors when it’s raining. A lot of people use the weather as an excuse to back out of plans and stay at home – myself included up until this year. Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were covered by a cloud of drizzle that was set in for the day, but a quick glance at the weather forecast showed a sunny day at the beach might be possible. Living in the Midlands means I have easy transport links to pretty much anywhere in the country, but it does mean I’m at least a two-and-a-half-hour drive away from any coastline.

The sun was shining in Norfolk, so I picked a random beach along the North Norfolk coast and packed my rucksack ready for a road trip. Having fond childhood memories of Norfolk from family holidays to Cromer and Wells-next-the-Sea, I was excited to see if the seaside towns further round the coast were just as nice. I was drawn to Hunstanton, but I figured the sun might mean the family-friendly pier would be overcrowded, so I headed to the more peaceful Heacham Beach first.

Heacham is a small village located about three miles South of Hunstanton and offers a long stretch of beach, made popular by caravaners and campers frequenting the many sites in and around the area. With a West facing beach on the East coast, Heacham is one of the sunniest seafronts in Norfolk and provides a sheltered bay of water for family fun. Lined with beach huts for hire and book-ended with ice cream vans, the vast stretch of sand was filled with families enjoying the British summer – it was an impressive 25 degrees.

After the long journey through Lincolnshire’s web of A roads, I parked up and spent the majority of the day walking along the sand, looking for shells, and sunbathing on the sea defence steps. I wandered away from the beach to grab an ice cream and after about 20 minutes, I returned to find the seabed visible for miles thanks to the low tide. Walking through a few inches of water out to sea is something I’ve never experienced before. Kids were playing in the warmth of the shallow sea, seagulls were pecking at the sand for food, and I was splashing my toes in the water as I took in the beautiful views.

There are a few restaurants, cafes, and fish and chip shops in Heacham, but I fancied nipping up the coast a bit further to Hunstanton, to explore the pier and grab some chips by the sea. Hunstanton is known for its ragged cliffs and spectacular sunsets and offers arcades, boat trips, and every type of food stall you can think of along its pier. My first port of call was to get some chips and find a bench with views out to sea – fighting off the seagulls along the way.

It would have been rude to leave without having a go on the 2p machines at the arcades and £10 later, I cut my loses and walked away empty handed – it’s the taking part that counts, right? As the sun started to set behind clouds on the horizon,  I headed back to my car and set off on the journey back home. All in all, a great day out. Where should I visit next?

Want to visit Heacham and Hunstanton? Here are some details you may find useful:
Heacham

Heacham technically has two beaches, North and South. There are car parks at both, as well as cafes, shops, and public toilets. I headed to the North Beach car park, located next to the North Beach Holiday Home Park. Parking for 4 hours cost £5, with shorter and longer options available – it’s cash only, so make sure you bring enough change for your ticket and the ice cream van, of course.

Hunstanton

A busier seafront town, Hunstanton offers numerous places to park, explore, eat, and shop. There are several streets with non-restricted parking bays if you’re happy to walk 5-10 minutes down the hill towards to the beach. I parked for free on Cliff Parade and enjoyed a scenic stroll towards the town centre, heading past the Boston Square Sensory Park and down the steps next to the Hunstanton Watersports shop. If you’d prefer to park up as close to the action as possible, Southend car park is probably your best bet – £7 for the day during peak season.