An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Heacham North Beach to Hunstanton Cliffs
On the Norfolk coast road A149 - 14 miles east of Kings Lynn, 19 miles north of Wells-next-the-Sea.
Heacham to Old Hunstanton - 3 miles, slightly less, walking or cycling directly along the sea front promenade.
An even terrain, effortless walking/cycling route with stunning landscapes of ocean and beach - from the quiet beach-hut lined promenade of Heacham, along the popular sea front attractions of Hunstanton, to the cliffs and rugged shoreline of Old Hunstanton. A varied and pleasant route that gives stunning views by day and breathtaking sunsets by night – not to be missed!
The main Resort
Hunstanton (Sunny Hunny or Hun’ston to us locals) is the second largest seaside resort in Norfolk and attracts dozens of holiday makers, especially families, each year. I love Hunstanton; it has a pleasant promenade, some well kept gardens, a varied selection of gift shops – some sophisticated and tasteful – plus a great windsurfing community. If you are anything like me though, crowded beaches aren’t your priority, and Hunstanton beach on a sunny summer’s day is definitely that. I find that, unless I’m heading into the town, its best to soak up the atmosphere whilst cycling through it and what better way to do that than via a perfect man-made route along the beach.
Heacham is 3 miles from Hunstanton and a much smaller and quieter affair. It has two beaches – both a combination of sand, shell and shingle - and whilst South beach remains flat and open, North beach has required more sea defence work over the years. So running along the beach one side and a row of 100 traditional beach huts the other, is a concrete stair-cased promenade with a flat top that spans several metres in width – ideal for walkers and cyclists.
The Promenade Route
This promenade continues for just under 3 miles and curves round in line with the coast. You pass beach huts and holiday properties, then the Water sports centre and Searles holiday park before reaching the fun fair and the resort’s main promenade (you must disembark here if you cycle, but it’s only for a short distance), then it’s under the pier, past the windsurfing arena and onto the cliffs were the route ends. You cannot go any further unless you climb the steep path to the gardens and join town level once more. There are advantages to doing so as there is a nice cafe by the Bowling Green and a road that leads to the lighthouse and access to the wonderfully sandy Old Hunstanton beach, the other side of the cliffs.
Remaining this side of the stunning two colour brown and white striped cliffs (made up of three contrasting rock strata: white chalk, red chalk and a base of Carrstone) is an ideal spot for a picnic though. Be careful however as it does warn you of the possibility of loose rocks falling. I’ve spent many an hour there and never once seen anything fall though so don’t let this put you off – no hard hat requirements! The cliffs are constantly eroding and are a good place for fossil hunting. The beach is also fascinating here for in the sand is a large collection of smooth stones that appear in a set regular formation when viewed from above. What they represent and originate from is largely unknown. The remains of the old trawler Sheraton, washed up in 1946, can still be seen too.
The sea in this area of Norfolk goes out considerably at low tide and vast expanses of flat beach can be seen which makes for some stunning landscape views albeit some long walks before any toe dipping and paddling can take place. A tide timetable is handy around here although the promenade very rarely gets flooded. Easier to spot when the tide is in, the focal points of Skegness and Boston in Lincolnshire are visible over the horizon.
To me, and no doubt many of you, the main attraction of this stretch of coastline are the stunning sunsets over the ocean. I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful and mesmerising they are. Most nights offer a view worth seeing as each setting is unique, regardless of the weather. Sunny and clear days give an evening of pink skies and shimmering waters whilst partly cloudy days offer evenings of vivid orange cloud formations and a sunset that is ever evolving as it lowers over the seas. A walk along the shoreline, or a deckchair blanket and flask of tea - either way you’re in for a night to remember!
North beach Heacham can be accessed through the village from a left hand turning by Norfolk Lavender (worth a visit). There is a large car park right by the beach providing an ideal place to leave your car. There is also a disabled access ramp up to the promenade.