An A to Z of East Anglian beach days out

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Words by Helen Dorritt

The sun is out, the sky is blue and those golden sands are looking inviting -- it’s time to hit the beach! We spell out how to have the best coastal holiday this summer.

A is for arcade games

Part of the quintessential British seaside experience, arcade games can provide hours of fun, especially if the weather isn’t playing ball. Arcades to look out for in East Anglia include Adventure Island in Southend on Sea, The Tower in Great Yarmouth and the Arcade in the pier at Clacton-on-Sea.

Nearest stations: Southend Victoria, Great Yarmouth and Clacton-on-Sea

B is for beachcombing

The beaches in Norfolk are part of what is known as the Deep History Coast, as it’s here that the first humans crossed over a land bridge from Europe over 850,000 years ago, making it an area rich in fossils and prehistoric artefacts. Beachcombing on West Runton, Sheringham, Cromer and Happisburgh is a fun activity, particularly after a big storm – things to look out for are fossils, coral, sharks’ teeth and amber.

Nearest stations: Sheringham, Cromer and West Runton

C is for crabbing

Cromer is renowned for its crabs and fishing for them off the pier in the town is something the whole family can enjoy. You’ll find a handy step-by-step guide to crabbing here, then just set yourself up with a bucket and line and see what you can pull up!

Nearest station: Cromer

D is for digging

Once at the beach you just have to build a sandcastle, and there are plenty of spots in the area where you can get busy with a bucket and spade. According to the Visit East Anglia website, the best spots for sandcastles include Sheringham and Scratby, while the golden sands of Cromer also make this beach an excellent spot for digging.

Nearest station: Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and Cromer

Sheringham's sandy beach is perfect for sandcastles

E is for events

There are lots of events to enjoy along the coast during the summer, including the Felixstowe Book Festival and the International Festival of Circus and Street Arts in Great Yarmouth, while foodies will adore Cromer and Sheringham’s Crab and Lobster Festival.

Nearest stations: Felixstowe, Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Sheringham

F is for fish and chips

It wouldn’t be a visit to the seaside without some fish and chips, enjoyed al fresco on the beach. Top rated East Anglian places by fish and chip trade magazine Fry include Fish Dish in Felixstowe and My Plaice in Great Yarmouth.

Nearest stations: Felixstowe and Great Yarmouth

Fish and chips on the beach

G is for the Golden Mile

Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth is affectionately known as the Golden Mile and is the focal point of this vibrant seaside resort. On a stroll down you’ll take in Britannia Pier, Wellington Pier, Joyland theme park, a bowling green, a tropical pool, a model village and much, much more. And once you’ve walked it one way, you can get the Lord Choo Choo train or a horse-drawn landau back!

Nearest station: Great Yarmouth

H is for huts

There’s something so beautifully British about a beach hut, and there are plenty on East Anglian coastlines to brighten up your holiday photos, from the stacked layers of huts at Walton-on-the Naze to those lining the seven miles of beach at Southend. The ones in Frinton on Sea have just got a lot more colourful, too, as they’re now allowed to be painted in the owner’s choice of colour!

Nearest station: Walton-on-the-Naze, Southend Victoria and Frinton-on-Sea

Colourful beach huts at Walton-on-the-Naze

I is for iron lighthouse

The two iron lighthouses that flank Dovercourt Bay in Harwich have dominated the landscape since 1863. Known as the ‘high’ and ‘low’ lighthouses, they mark a milestone in the history of lighthouse design, as many technological advances were employed in their construction. This Essex seaside town is also home to the Electric Palace, one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas in the country, and was where the Mayflower was built, the ship that took the Pilgrims to the Americas in 1620.

Nearest station: Harwich International or Harwich Town

J is for jaguar

Want to see one of these beautiful big cats? Amazona Zoo in Cromer is home to jaguars as well as a host of other animals from tropical South America, such as monkeys, iguanas, flamingos and tapirs.

Nearest station: Cromer

K is for Kursaal

One of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks, the Kursaal in Southend is a Grade II listed building with a distinctive glass dome. Over the years it’s hosted a circus, greyhound racing, billiards, ballroom dancing and ice skating, and nowadays you can head there to go bowling or enjoy the amusement arcade.

Nearest station: Southend Victoria

Kursal in Southend-on-Sea

L is for lift

Or more specifically Southend's cliff lift. For the bargain price of 50p, you can be transported 40m in the air at a 43 per cent gradient in a lift that runs up the cliffs of the town. Once at the top, you’ll get amazing views of the Thames Estuary and Southend pier, which is the UK’s longest pleasure pier.

Nearest station: Southend Victoria

Southend-on-Sea's cliff lift

M is for mini golf

Mini golf is intrinsically linked with the seaside, and there are plenty of spots along East Anglia’s beaches to enjoy a game or two, from the ocean-themed pier course and Arnold Palmer course at Southend to Felixstowe’s water-filled Adventure Golf. Great Yarmouth boasts three courses, so it’s definitely the place to head for a family tournament!

Nearest stations: Southend Victoria, Felixstowe and Great Yarmouth

N is for Ness Point

Ness Point in Lowestoft is the UK’s most easterly point, so if you stand here at dawn then you’ll be the first person in the country to see the sun. After enjoying the sunrise, take time to enjoy Lowestoft's stunning white sandy, gently shelving beach, colourful beach huts and Victorian gardens.

Nearest station: Lowestoft

Ness Point in Lowestoft

O is for outstanding natural beauty

While all of the East Anglian coast is beautiful, there are two ‘official’ Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths and the North Norfolk Coast. Both showcase some of the most pristine beaches, breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife that the UK has to offer, and are full of activities for visitors of all ages.

Nearest stations: Ipswich, Woodbridge, Melton, Wickham Market, Kings Lynn, Cromer, Sheringham, West Runton and Great Yarmouth

P is for pier

From the UK’s longest (Southend) to one that still has its own theatre (Cromer), East Anglia has plenty of piers for you to explore. Felixstowe demolished its old pier in 2016 and opened a £3m new one the following year, while Walton-on-the-Naze’s pier is set for a £1.5m refurbishment soon.

Nearest station: Southend Victoria, Cromer, Felixstowe and Walton-on-the-Naze

Cromer Pier

Q is for quality

Many of the beaches in this region are Blue Flag-rated, meaning that they meet strict guidelines for safety, facilities, water quality and cleanliness. Beaches awarded this important award in East Anglia include Cromer, Sheringham, East Runton, West Runton and Three Shells Beach.

Nearest stations: Cromer, Sheringham, West Runton and Southend Victoria

R is for reef

The world’s largest chalk reef lies just off the Norfolk coast, and is reportedly why the crabs from this area taste so sweet – they have plenty of food to nibble on! If you’d like to explore this 100-million-year-old phenomenon, there’s a buoy-marked trail off the beach in Sheringham, which follows an old Victorian water pipe.

Nearest station: Sheringham

S is for seabirds

The East Anglian coast is home to many different times of maritime birds and is a great place for birdwatching. Specific reserves in the area include Holland Haven Country Park near Clacton-on-Sea and Landguard Bird Observatory in Felixstowe, where you’ll have the opportunity to see species such as warblers, lapwings, water rails and skylarks. But you’re also guaranteed to spot birds at any seaside resort, especially a cheeky seagull or two – just make sure you keep an eye on your snacks when they’re swooping overhead!

Nearest stations: Clacton-on-Sea and Felixstowe

T is for trains

Running from Holt through Weybourne and into Sheringham, the North Norfolk Railway is your way to arrive at the seaside in vintage style! Steam and diesel trains run daily from April to October.

Nearest station: Sheringham

Platform on the North Norfolk Railway

U is for underwater adventures

Find out more about the creatures in our seas with a trip to the Sealife centre in Great Yarmouth. This aquarium is home to sharks, turtles, clownfish, penguins, seahorses and lots of other fascinating animals, divided into different zones to explore. Why not take advantage of our 2 for 1 tickets for this family-friendly attraction?

Nearest station: Great Yarmouth

A grey reef shark at the Sealife Centre in Southend-on-Sea

V is for viewing seals

If you want to spot common and grey seals then head to Walton-on-the-Naze, where both can be found in Hamford Water – with red coloured fur due to lying in iron oxide-rich mud! Wildlife Boat Trips offers two hour trips with an experienced local guide to go and spot these gentle creatures.

Nearest station: Walton-on-the-Naze

Grey seals at Blakeney Point in Norfolk

W is for the West Runton mammoth

This Norfolk beach was the site for a hugely important fossil find, when the skeleton of a steppe mammoth was discovered in the cliffs. Fully excavated in 1995, it’s the largest most nearly complete mammoth skeleton ever found in the world and the oldest found in the UK. You can’t see the full skeleton, unfortunately, but some of the bones are on display in Cromer Museum, as well as Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum and Norwich Castle Museum. Fancy finding your own mammoth? The cliffs at West Runton are a fossil hunters’ paradise, and new discoveries are being made all the time.

Nearest station: West Runton

X is for extreme rollercoaster

Head to Adventure Island in Southend and you’ll find Rage, a massive rollercoaster featuring twists, turns and stomach-churning drops. But if you fancy some more gentle amusements, there’s plenty of other rides to enjoy, including water slides, a train and a carousel.

Nearest station: Southend Victoria

Y is for yum

As well as fish and chips, you’ll find plenty of other traditional tasty treats to enjoy during your trip to the coast. Cromer and Sheringham are the places to try crab and lobster – Browne’s on Bond Street and Whelk Coppers are renowned for their crab sandwiches. Cockle fishing still takes place in Leigh-on-Sea and you can try these coastal delicacies in the café at Osborne Bros, as well as jellied eels and prawns. In Felixstowe, we recommend the newly opened Old Fishing Hut Winch No. 1 on the docks to sample crab, whelks, crayfish, shrimps and other fishy delights. For ice cream, check out No 1 Cromer and the award-winning Rossi Ice Cream Parlour in Southend.

Nearest stations: Cromer, Sheringham, Felixstowe and Southend Victoria

Z is for zero waste

You can help make East Anglia’s beaches even more beautiful by doing a two-minute beach clean [] every time you visit. Some cafes will even reward you with a free drink for your hard work.