An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Beans Boat Trips
(then look for signs to the quay)
Tel: 01263 740505 or 01263 740038
Take to the waters on a ferry trip to see hundreds of seals in their natural environment, as well as landing on Blakeney Point for migrant bird watching.
Where to find it
Beans boat trips depart from the quayside in the small village of Morston on the A149 between Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea. The quay is easily accessible with a large car park, toilets and a small cafe. There’s usually also a trailer serving fresh Morston fish and crab sandwiches too if you’re feeling peckish after being out on the water. Tickets can be reserved over the phone (advisable in peak season and sunny days) and collected from a van on the quayside. Then head down to the jetty and look out for the crew wearing bright orange tops; hop on board and relax for harbour life will calm you instantly.
What to expect
A trip to see the seals alone will take around an hour – 20mins cruising out to the far end of Blakeney Point, 20 mins with the seals, and 20 mins return journey – although many trips also offer the option of landing at the other end of the point for between 30 minutes to an hour depending on weather conditions.
Being on the water is a joy. On a sunny day the quiet calm harbour is serene and peaceful, the only sounds are subdued ferry engines and bird calls. You’ll pass anchored boats and sailing dingy enthusiasts as you head out around the point to the far reaching and far superior sandbanks of the top end where the seals prefer to spend their time.
A colony of around 500 – both common and grey – you’re almost guaranteed to see at least several as they bask in the sun. They spend 90% of their time out of the water submerging to catch fish (eels, whitebait and flounders) and swim alongside the ferries; they’re inquisitive friendly creatures. The ferry, along with others out on trips, will hover around them crawling within a few metres of the banks, then circle again repeating this to ensure passengers on both sides of the boat get a good look and good photo opportunities. I took an average camera with limited zoom function and was delighted with the results of my happy snapping. I only wished I could stay longer with the seals as an hour trip, once you’ve reached them, does not allow for lengthy observing.
Common seals (rounded face and ‘v’ shaped nostrils) have their young between June to August and Grey seals (larger, speckled with pointed heads and parallel nostrils) have theirs November to January. Seals pups are a joy to see, particularly for the first three weeks when they suckle, growing rapidly due to the rich fatty milk they are fed on. The ferries go out all year round and in any weather so wrapping up on a chilly winter’s day can be just as rewarding as in the peak summer season.
I highly recommend lengthening your trip with a stop off at the Point too (owned by the National Trust since 1912); an hour is about the right time to explore your surroundings. There is the old lifeboat house which is now an information centre displaying recent seal counts by the wardens and sightings of birds. The hides also give a base to take a closer look; you can expect to see all varieties of Terns as they arrive from West Africa and breed into the season, as well as Oyster Catchers, Ringed Plover and Turnstone to name but a few.
You can follow the boardwalk over to the far side of the island or simply relax in the dunes. I like to drift along the shoreline and watch the shimmering waters as sailing boats amble past, looking out over the harbour and back to land. Blakeney Point has the feel of Scolt Head Island (click here for a review); uninhabited nature at its best. If you love water, wildlife or remote places, you’re in for a treat. Beans are a family run business since the 1930s and know this area thoroughly; take a trip with the experts and you’ll not be disappointed.
Beans Boat Trips operate all year round and everyday from April to October. Ferries are only able to operate on the tides so times of the trips will change daily; a timetable is available on their website but ring to confirm. Their boats are licensed by Maritime Coastguard Agency and carry full life saving equipment. They do not take credit cards and cheques only over £30. Tickets are £10 for adults and £5 for children. Private charters are available from £100, email [email protected] for further information.