We had a simple plan as we set out on the first of our Norfolk coastal walks which would take us - eventually and in instalments - from Hunstanton to Cromer. One, reach Hunstanton and park in the Clifftop Carpark. Two, walk down the hill into Hunstanton, enjoy a fish and chip lunch. And three, catch the Coast Bus to the small village of Thornham, and walk back to our car.
Easy, except that the hourly bus came past us as we were eating our lunch. Not wanting to hang around for an hour, we quickly changed our plan and decided to set off from Hunstanton and catch the bus back. And this 5-mile Hunstanton to Thornham walk was the start of our journey along the Norfolk Coast Path!
Since our first holiday in Blakeney many years ago, we’ve spent lots of time on Norfolk coastal walks, exploring the marshes and tiny paths and lanes. We've been regular day trippers to
Hunstanton, too, but what we’d never done before is walk place-to-place and hop a
bus to return to our starting point. Our target is to walk between Hunstanton and Cromer in shorter
stages so that families and less “athletic walkers” know they
can complete what we believe is a stunning coastal walk.
Although the Norfolk Coast Path is signposted, we do recommend using some form of map. I use Komoot.com to plan and map our walks and can use it on my phone to track our progress. You can also use the speaking function to help guide you along the route. As a backup, we also use a GPS device that requires a gpx file for the route. Use the “Discover more info about this tour” link to get access to the gpx file.
If you're starting your Norfolk coastal walks Huntstanton's Clifftop carpark, you might miss the distinctively coloured Hunstanton Cliffs - because you're standing right on top of them! If the tide is low and you want to view the stripy cliffs descend to the beach and turn left.
Otherwise, stick to the signposted North Coast Path, which does not quite join the beach, and walk along a sandy path between beach huts scattered in the sand dunes to Old Hunstanton Lifeboat Station, where you'll find a beach café in the original Lifeboat Station from the 1900’s.
Leaving the Lifeboat Station, the Norfolk Coast Path twists and turns in the dunes between beach huts and the golf course and up and down gorse-lined sandy banks. Along this part of the route, you'll have some very pretty views of the sandy beach. At the end of the golf course, the landscape changes again, as the sand beach merges into saltmarsh.
Continue following the waymarked way, past Gore Point, some World War II concrete anti-aircraft structures, and the site of Seahenge. It's a peaceful walk with stunning views over Holme-next-the-Sea Beach, before you skirt around the edge of the delicate Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve. The scenery along this part of our Hunstanton to Thornham walk is outstanding!
Seahenge, on Holme-next-the-Sea Beach, is a modern-day name given to the site where two Bronze Age ceremonial timber circles were found in the 1990’s. The timber circles were made in the spring or summer of 2049BC - yes, the scientists can be that precise! - and built in the saltmarsh to observe sunrise and sunset whilst looking out towards the sea. The timber came from oak trees, and archaeologists believe that an organised group of between 50 to 80 people would have worked on the site.
Part of Seahenge and a collection of Bronze Age objects are on display in the Seahenge Gallery at Lynn Museum, and there is a replica built by Time Team in an apple orchard at Drove Orchards near Thornham.
After traversing a small, wooded area the sandy path turns into a boardwalk as it passes the entrance to the Holme Bird Observatory and leads around the lake. As so much on our Norfolk coastal walks, the views are stunning and the surroundings very peaceful!
Luckily, there’s a nice bench in this position so you can sit and relax and take in the scenery.
Soon after leaving the lake, the path turns from boardwalk to a compacted hard surface on top of a bank. The bank is Roman-road-straight and divides the saltmarsh from the reclaimed fields. A third of a mile later, the footpath curves to the left and continues for the same distance until it reaches Thornham Old Harbour. I really can’t emphasise how peaceful it is walking beside the saltmarsh!
The tide was out when we arrived at the old harbour, and had we not got a bus to catch and a 120-mile drive home to tackle we could have sat on the convenient bench placed here and just watched the sea slowly drift in. It really was a lovely location!
Walking through the old harbour area, the route joins Staithe Lane and quickly turns left following the sign to Thornham (half a mile) and avoiding the sign to the Lifeboat Inn!
The footpath winds its way between saltmarsh and grassland to join Church Street in Thornham. Turn right and follow the road until it joins the main A149 road where there are bus stops for buses towards Hunstanton and Wells-next-the-Sea.
It had been a very hot day with little protection from the sun, and we'd finished the 1.5 litres of water we'd carried with us from Hunstanton. Since the bus wasn't due for another 30 minutes, the beer garden of the Orange Tree beckoned for a very refreshing quick “half”. Well, it was that or visiting the church, so it looks like the church will have to wait until we return to Thornham to start the second stage of our Hunstanton to Cromer walking challenge.
The bus was a little later than advertised, but it got us back to the Clifftop Carpark in no time. Forgetting, the little hiccup about bus times in Hunstanton, we thought our first place-to-place walk went really well and look forward to completing more walks in this way.
Norfolk has no shortage of fabulous holiday accommodation whether you want to spend time on the beach, love boating or want to explore inland. You may covet a tiny fisherman's cottage like the one in Blakeney we kept returning to. You may like something larger and more modern like a loft overlooking the Norfolk Broads, or the right place for you may be a chic city apartment perfectly placed to explore Norwich...
However, if you fancy a hotel how about some of these...
To view more hotels in Norfolk click here or you could use our search box below.
It's next to impossible to be bored in Norfolk, there's just so much to do and see. The list below includes some of our favourite places