Living in East Anglia, it is relatively easy for us to visit the seaside. One of our favourite day trips is to Hunstanton on the North Norfolk coast on the Wash. Hunny has a fairly easy access to the beach, and their is a good sized promenade, and all of the usual “seaside” attractions such as penny arcades, ice cream shops, and chippies.
The best sandy beach section is on the east of the town in “Old Hunstanton.” In the spring and summer months it is very busy, but we still had room to lay out a blanket and enjoy the sunshine. We parked at the Lighthouse Car Park (£3.50 for 3 hours) and took the short walk down to the beach below the low point of the cliffs. There are a few grassy dunes, but it is mostly sand, and there was a good atmosphere, though with loads of children and dogs it couldn’t exactly be called peaceful. It was nice just to set in the sun and watch life and the sea go by. Note there is no life guard in this section of beach, but there does seem to be beach patrols by the Coast Guards. Toilets and cafe are back up at the car park, and the walk is a little steep down to the beach, but still doable even with limited mobility. There was at least one wheel chair, and several babies’ pushchairs on the beach if that gives a feel for its accessibility.
The beach area near the sailing club is little to the west of light house. This area also has pay and display parking, and there is a seawall to negotiate to get to a cobbled beach portion. Many people seem to use this area for wind surfing, and other similar activities.
Further to the west still (near the town centre) is the main promenade. There is beach beneath it as well, and this area also has easy access to several arcades, and snack venues.
Above the beach front there are cliffs to the east, and the town westward. The cliff areas give good views of the Wash, and as it is on-road parking there are no parking fees. This grassy expanse is used by hikers and dog walkers and there are several benches and pavilions to rest, and just watch the sea.
The town above the promenade has a lot to offer. There is a quality fish shop, the aforementioned arcades, and some nice sweets and ice cream venues.
We have eaten at/from Fishers of several occasions on our visits to Hunstanton. These have been take away meals from the “chippy” side of the house, and from the “dine in” restaurant.
The dining room is rather spacious and goes much deeper of the street than one might first imagine. The tables are somewhat close together, but no claustrophobically so. The decor is simple, but really sets a flavour. The large mirrors with the shop logo, and fish and chip references are well in keeping with a seafood restaurant atmosphere.
The service was attentive and very professional. Orders and drinks were very quickly done, though food service was a little delayed, but not enough to downgrade the restaurant for service.
The food was well presented, tasty, and massive in portion. My wife had haddock and chips, and I had a jacket potato. This proved too much for us. I had 1/3rd of her fish and her mushy peas, and my potato with baked beans, and was totally full. She had her 2/3rd portion of fish, and 1/2 her chips, and we still left loads of chips behind.
Candy ‘N’ Cream sweet and ice cream shop is convenient to the car park by the information centre, and is next door to Fisher’s fish shop. We have had good experiences with the Pavilion Ice Cream Parlour (also in Hunny), but found parking closer to Candy ‘N’ Cream, so gave it a try. I am glad we did.
The shop is a traditional sweets shop with loads of variety, but they also serve some really good quality take-away ice cream. The shop lacks the fancy options of its neighbour down the hill, but the ice cream itself is in my opinion better. We had a nice strawberry which was very fruity, a banoffee scoop which was really well balanced and not sickly sweet, and a rich caramel/toffee scoop.
This bright pink building looks like a sweetie itself, and the entire “kid in a candy shop” experience is there. It is not a sit down for a sundae venue, so it all down to what you are after.
For true foodies there is also a very high quality deli up the hill from Fishers and Candy ‘N’ Cream. The Norfolk Deli a treasure trove of treats. There was a wonderful selection of gluten free and local goods, and the cooked meats and cheeses were top quality. We got some pastrami that was a good as any found in New York delis. There was also an assortment of olives and on every shelf there was a yummy surprise to be found. The service was friendly, and it was a really great experience to add to a beach visit.
Slightly to the west again, there is a Sea Life Centre and a public swimming pool. Again note, that all the parking in the main car parks is pay and display.
As the journey across town takes you closer to King’s Lynn end, you will find Big G’s. This venue has a wonderful concept for a seaside restaurant. It is not alone in the world of pizzerias in offering an all you can eat buffet, but in decor, location, and customer service it really works as an alternative to the fish and chips and ice cream of many a beach visit.
Decor: The dining area is arranged with pastel coloured picnic table-style seating, with beach chalet type enclosures in what might traditionally been booth seating. Decoration is of the style found in beach side souvenir shops with the beach visit theme tied wonderfully together.
Location: Set on the landward side of the South Prom car park it is easily accessible, and convenient to both beach and town.
Service: My step-daughter and I received a friendly welcome, and were given clear guidance on the way the buffet worked, and we were checked on periodically to make sure it was continuing to be a good experience for us. We were even asked if there was any particular ingredients we wanted on the next pizza to be put onto the buffet. Wow, a personalised buffet offering.
The food was good, and with a salad, pasta, and pizza spread well in keeping with the pizza joint buffet genre. That said, the salad bar was limited with the iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, cucumber and beetroot standards. It made up for this by having homemade coleslaw and potato salad. The coleslaw was course chopped, and had purple cabbage making for a nice change from the thin shred mass produced stuff of a Pizza Hut. The real difference from the chain pizza places was the pies themselves. These are hand thrown, thin (Tuscan-style) based pizzas with a crisp texture. The toppings were tasty, and the cheese portions generous especially on the garlic and cheese “garlic bread” pizza. The pasta was fairly average, and the cheese sauce very thick but lacking a bit of “umph.” That said the pasta is way overcompensated for with the pizza and coleslaw.
The value for money is very good, and with Pepsi brand drinks on all you can drink tap, a bargain for a beach outing.
Hunstanton is one of the only places on the east coast of the UK where you can watch the sunset into the sea. It is an anomaly of the geography that the Wash provides a westward view over the ocean. It is a great way to end a day at the seaside. Hunny is a great place to relax, enjoy, and explore.