From beaches to the Broads: a family weekend in Great Yarmouth

Updated on 10 June 2021 | 0 Comments

Dreamy sands, thrilling rides and boating on the nearby Norfolk Broads – this Great British seaside resort is a winning long weekend for kids of all ages.

Great Yarmouth on Norfolk’s east coast lies just 20 miles (32km) from Norwich and acts as a gateway from the Broads National Park to the North Sea.

With an exciting range of new attractions including open-top bus tours linking its golden sand beaches, a giant London Eye-style wheel, additional rides at the Pleasure Beach – and even an exhilarating slingshot catapult for two – there are plenty of reasons to visit during 2021 and beyond. 

Rich history

Great Yarmouth has been attracting holidaymakers for over 250 years. Tourism flourished here when the railway opened in 1844 and the building of Wellington Pier in 1853 and Britannia Pier in 1858 added to the town’s appeal for Victorian visitors.

Charles Dickens even stayed at the Royal Hotel on the marine parade and used Great Yarmouth as a location in his novel David Copperfield, describing the town as the “finest place in the universe”.

During most of the 20th century, Great Yarmouth boomed as a resort with its stunning sandy beaches, promenade and pubs bringing families from far and wide.

Vintage image of Great Yarmouth's Britannia Pier, taken in August 1912 (Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

While the town was bombed heavily in both the First and Second World Wars, plenty of its historic attractions have survived remarkably intact. The original medieval town walls are among the most complete in the country, with 11 of the original 18 turrets still standing.

There’s also a 13th-century tollhouse with one of England’s oldest gaols, the fine Elizabethan House Museum as well as plenty of Tudor, Regency and Victorian architecture to enjoy during your stay.

Great Yarmouth view from above (Image: Jayden Johnson/Visit Great Yarmouth)Jayden Johnson/Visit Great Yarmouth

Plus, Great Yarmouth’s ‘Golden Mile’ seafront means even in peak season there is plenty of golden sandy beach for all. 

Here are the best places to stay, the top things to see and what to eat on a weekend in Great Yarmouth.

READ MORE: 7 reasons to visit the North Norfolk coast

Friday: get your bearings

Check-in to: Wild Duck Holiday Park, just 15-minutes' drive from Great Yarmouth it's a superb base for families to explore the town and the surrounding area. 

Accommodation options are split between caravans and lodges with on-site facilities including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, crazy golf and a supermarket. Plus there's plenty of woodland for easy ambles. 

Wild Duck Holiday Park, near Great Yarmouth (Image: Courtesy of Haven) Haven

Top tip: Travelling without the kids? Try the sophisticated 4-star Imperial Hotel which has been family-run and owned since the 1930s. Offering sea views, fine dining, and superb service, it’s renowned for its award-winning sommelier. Don't miss the afternoon tea served on the Imperial’s terrace with direct sea views. Tuck into a spread of finger sandwiches, fruit scones, fancies and tea or coffee – or swap that for some fine fizz. We also loved that parking and electric car charging are available for free for customers too.

See an early evening show at: the Hippodrome Circus. Circuses may have declined in popularity over the last 50 years but here you can enjoy Britain’s last remaining one that runs year-round. In a beautiful building built by legendary showman George Gilbert in 1903 it’s a unique treat offering brilliant combinations of gymnastic acts, impressive lighting effects, dance and water spectacles.

Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth (Image: Courtesy of Visit Great Yarmouth)Visit Great Yarmouth

READ MORE: 6 reasons to visit terrific Tenby

Saturday: tour the town

Explore Great Yarmouth’s historic spots: take a 20-minute stroll down the ‘Golden Mile’ promenade then dive inland to the Time and Tide Museum, complete with reconstructed Victorian row houses and a 1950’s wharf scene. There’s also a rolling programme of visiting exhibitions that currently includes ‘May the toys be with you’ a display of 300 Star Wars playthings (until 27 June 2021).

Step back to Tudor times: at the Elizabethan House Museum, run by the National Trust. A 10-minute meander from Time and Tide, the former merchant's house was built in 1596. It has close connections with Oliver Cromwell and it was allegedly here that King Charles I’s bloody fate was decided. Enjoy the wood-panelled period rooms, beautiful ceilings and kitchen details that bring the era to life.

Elizabethan House Museum, Great Yarmouth (Nick/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)Nick/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Stop for lunch at: the award-winning Sara’s Tearooms in the Pleasure Beach Gardens. Enjoy the homemade special lunches but save room for Sara’s homemade cakes at this family-run historic beachside café.

See England in miniature at: Merivale Model Village. Opened in 1961 the Merivale was the second of three model villages by the Dobbins family – who later created Babbacombe model village in Torquay too. It’s a charming reflection of England’s towns and countryside scenes with trains and interactive displays alongside a vintage penny arcade and café.

Have the ride of your life at: Great Yarmouth’s famous Pleasure Beach, featuring over 25 rides including a scenic wooden rollercoaster, classic dodgems, a Waltzer, haunted house and a log flume guaranteed to drench you.

Kids having a whale of a time on a wooden rollercoaster at the Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach (Image: Visit Great Yarmouth)Visit Great Yarmouth

For those needing even bigger thrills, try the Slingshot capsule ride outside the Pleasure Beach which catapults two brave souls about 196 feet (60m) in the air, offering an adrenaline rush with sea views.

For something gentler: take in the vistas from the new Great Yarmouth Observation Wheel which, on a clear day, affords views up to 10 miles (16km) away. Then head next door to SEA LIFE where you can get close to sharks, turtles, jellyfish, rays, penguins and all manner of exotic fish.

Top tip: A joint ticket for the wheel and SEA LIFE is available and saves up to 20%.

Great Yarmouth Observation Wheel and SEA LIFE Aquarium (Image: Jaydn Johnson/Visit Great Yarmouth)Jaydn Johnson/Visit Great Yarmouth

Stop for a burger: at Joyland American Diner, next door to the aquarium. This American-themed joint has been operated by the same family since 1949 and it’s legendary among the town's residents. A super-thick shake is highly recommended. 

Sunday: go day-tripping

Hit the beach: at Gorleston-on-Sea. At the far southern tip of Great Yarmouth lies yet another golden sandy beach that curves around the bay and was made famous by the Danny Boyle movie Yesterday. Spend the morning enjoying the beautifully clean sands with lower and upper promenades, cafés and shops.

Gorleston-on-Sea's golden sandy beach on a sunny day with kites and sunbathers (Image: Visit Great Yarmouth)Visit Great Yarmouth

Lunch at The Lacon Arms: a 15-minute drive north brings you a pleasant pit stop for lunch at the family-run Lacon Arms next to Hemsby’s super beach. Here you’ll find all manner of proper pub grub alongside tapas and lovely light bites.

Go boating on the Broads: no trip to the area would be complete without exploring the calm waterways of the Broads. Martham Boats makes life easy with its electric-powered vessels like ‘Jackie’ allowing you to spend the afternoon pootling along in a classic wooden river cruiser. It’s a short jaunt up to nearby nature reserves bristling with swans, herons and other beautiful river life.

Martham Broad (Image: Helen Hotson/Shutterstock)Helen Hotson/Shutterstock

More information

A family of six can enjoy a four-night Stay+Play holiday at the Wild Duck Holiday Park for £474.20, sharing Prestige accommodation and arriving 28 June 2021; booking 202 5250.

For more information about the area see Visit Great Yarmouth.

Map of Great Yarmouth

Main image: Nigel Jarvis/Shutterstock


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.