The Norfolk Broads

July 27, 2023

The Norfolk Broads


The Norfolk Broads, often referred to as “Britain’s Magical Waterland,” has a fascinating history.

Probably the most surprising fact about the Broads is that they are man-made. Medieval peat diggings created areas that gradually filled with water due to rising sea levels. This created the unique and picturesque network of rivers and Broads we see today.

The Broads National Park covers an expansive area of about 303 square kilometers (approximately 117 square miles).  Stretching across Norfolk and Suffolk, this captivating landscape is composed of seven main rivers and numerous smaller waterways.


The Norfolk Broads | Britain's Magical Waterland | Explore during your stay on the Suffolk Coast


The Broads National Park is Britain’s largest protected wetland. It covers fens, marshes and woodlands making it a vital area for nature. It is looked after by the Broads Authority who balance conservation with tourism and protecting the interests of navigation.

There is a staggering collection of rare wildlife in the Broads National Park. Despite comprising only 0.1% of the UK, the park area boasts more than a quarter of its rarest wildlife. In fact, a subspecies of Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio machaon brittanicus, can’t be found anywhere else in the entire world! The Broads are also home to a host of other nationally scarce species such as Norfolk hawker dragonflies, bitterns, cranes and black longhorn beetles.

Boating on The Norfolk Broads | Britain's Magical Waterland | Explore during your stay on the Suffolk Coast

Boating on The Broads

The Broads are perfect for boating enthusiasts, offering an extensive network of navigable rivers and lakes. Visitors can rent a boat and explore the waterways at their leisure, admiring the scenic landscapes and spotting various wildlife.

Known as the “Capital of the Broads,” Wroxham and Hoveton offer a vibrant boating community, riverside shops, and restaurants, making it a lively destination for tourists looking to take to the water. Oulton Broad, the southern gateway to the Broads is closer to our holiday cottages on the Suffolk coast. Here you can also hire a day boat or take a  guided river tour with Waveney River Tours.

For more information on boating activities and where to go, visit the Broads National Park website.

Norwich a city on The Broads | visit the Norfolk Broads during your stay on the Suffolk Coast

Norwich, a City within a National Park

The River Wensum flows right through the city, ending at peaceful Whitlingham on the outskirts of Norwich where it merges with the River Yare. This means that parts of Norwich, a UNESCO City of Literature, falls within the boundaries of the Broads National Park, ensuring that the diversity of the Broads can truly be enjoyed from rural idle to historic city.

In the medieval era, Norwich was a very wealthy city with a thriving wool trade. As a result, the prosperous people built churches – a lot of churches, in fact there are 659 medieval churches in Norfolk alone, which is the highest concentration in the world. The Broads is the ideal location for history lovers as these ancient buildings can be found up and down the waterways and in the local villages and many are accessible to curious members of the public.

Barton Broad Norfolk Broads National Park

Broads of all Shapes and Sizes

There are over 50 Broads in the National Park, ranging from small pools to vast expanses of water. Of the 63 broads, only 13 are fully navigable with a further five that are either partially navigable. The largest broads by size are Hickling Broad, Barton Broad and Oulton Broad.

Hickling Broad the largest of the Norfolk Broads, is a haven for nature lovers. It is home to an impressive variety of bird species and features the distinctive sight of windmills on its shores.

Barton Broad has a fantastic Boardwalk which offers accessibility for all. The boardwalk allows visitors to experience the Broads’ natural beauty up close, passing through reed beds and providing excellent views of the wildlife.

Oulton Broad is the closest of the Broads, just two miles inland from our cottages. From here our guests are able to experience the beauty of the Broads close at hand. See the blog on Oulton Broad for more information.

A Swallowtail butterfly | The Norfolk Broads | Britain's Magical Waterland | Explore during your stay on the Suffolk Coast


In conclusion, the Norfolk Broads hold a unique place in British history and culture. This vast and cherished wetland area provides a sanctuary for wildlife and offers diverse recreational opportunities. Whether you’re interested in boating, birdwatching, or simply immersing yourself in nature’s splendor, the Norfolk Broads promises an unforgettable and enriching experience for all who venture to explore its wonders.

Staying in Pakefield on the Suffolk Coast, accessing the Norfolk Broads for a fulfilling day trip couldn’t be easier or more enjoyable. Guests can choose to stay close to home and visit Oulton Broad, the southern gateway to the Broads. Or guests on longer stays can venture deeper into Norfolk and visit the likes of Wroxham, Hoveton and Hickling.