An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Nearest Satnav NR29 4BP
(This will take you to the holiday park on the dunes but once you reach the village follow signs to the beach)
An ancient sandy beach backed by dunes and nature reserve grasslands that was recorded as far back as the Domesday Book; ideal for quiet relaxation, walking and Natterjack Toad spotting!
Where to find it
You’ll find the pretty village of Winterton-on-Sea 8 miles north from Great Yarmouth on the B1159, 1 mile from Hemsby. Drive through the village down to the beach where there is a large grassy car park that overlooks the sea. You’ll also find a cafe with a sea view terrace, the unique roundhouses of the nearby holiday park and an active Coastguard lookout tower which has been moved onto the dunes as a result of erosion. It is part of the Sea Safety Group that has five stations across East Anglia, all manned entirely be volunteers 365 days a year.
What to expect
If you’re looking for a busy resort, this is not your ideal beach. If you enjoy a quieter affair with vast sands and few people, this is worth a visit. The large car park suggests it can get busy in peak season but I’ve never felt crowded here, nor do the Terns whose colony have moved to the dunes in recent years. This is a great beach for bird watchers and nature lovers alike; the pools now provide a breeding site for the rare Natterjack toad for instance and you’re likely to also spot the odd Adder snake too. This is because the dunes back onto an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ with the heath and grasslands forming special scientific interest. 110 species of moths have been recorded here for example. A colony of around 30 to 40 seals also lives just north of Winterton so take your binoculars for a sighting.
In the past Winterton villagers were renowned for excelling in their long shore fishing. In the 1800’s, when salvage work was a lucrative business, “beach men” would look out for ships in distress here and begin a race out to be the first to reach the stricken vessel. A detailed history of the fishermen hey days can be found in a pictorial display in the Coast guard tower, open from Easter onwards. Exhibits also include photos of a Stone Age axe dug up on the beach, Napoleonic ammunition plus a whole range of other subjects.
Another distinct feature of Winterton beach is the presence of a family run holiday camp. The eye catching roundhouses were inspired by a previous owner’s trip to Hermanus Bay in South Africa and provide 12 single cottages and some double houses. They overlook the sea and sand dunes and provide subject for some excellent photos over the heath. I’ve not stayed in them yet so cannot vouch for their finest status but they’re certainly a unique accommodation idea which children and adults alike would enjoy.
All in all Winterton-on-Sea is an ideal beach for anyone who likes to venture off the beaten track of highly commercial resorts for something a little bit different and special.
Hermanus cottages start at £50 per night or 7 nights for £315. For further information visit www.hermanusholidays.com