Last Updated on September 9, 2020 by Anisa
The North Norfolk Coast is full of charming seaside towns and Cromer is definitely one of my favorites. It has a scenic coastline, historic pier, and plenty of entertainment. The mix of the architecture, independent small businesses, and natural beauty makes it feel a bit like you’ve gone back to Victorian time.
You may be wondering what makes it special and if it is worth a visit? Let me share more about the history of Cromer and the best things to do in Cromer. Then you will understand why I enjoy spending time here.
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COVID-19 Notice: Please follow government advice. Note that there may be closures or special restrictions during this time. Please make sure to check the website for the attraction to plan your visit.
Cromer is a town of about 10,000 people located about 23 miles north of the city of Norwich. It’s traditionally been a fishing town, but now tourism is also an important part of the local economy. In the early 19th century, some of Norwich’s richest families began to make Cromer their summer home. It became a popular vacation destination that attracted some famous guests including the future King Edward VII, Oscar Wilde, and Winston Churchill. Cromer was also mentioned in Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma.
It hasn’t always been happy and carefree here though. Cromer has had its fair share of bad weather. There have been several storms that have caused significant damage, especially to the pier. Additionally, Cromer suffered several bombing raids during the Second World War.
13 Things to do in Cromer
Cromer is a family-friendly town, so there is something for all ages. It is also suitable for both couples and those traveling alone. Whether you choose to spend a day or a weekend in Cromer, there are plenty of things to see and do. Many of the suggestions are free. In general, Cromer is a reasonably priced place to visit.
1 Go Crabbing
One of the most popular things to do in Cromer is to go crabbing. Many people on the pier try their luck. You can purchase all the supplies needed at the gift shop on the pier. We tried it a few times and it took a bit to perfect our technique and finally catch one.
Choose bait that the crabs will love. When we bought our equipment it came with mackerel. Other popular bait options are smoked bacon or squid. A mix of baits will work too. You will also need to borrow a decent-sized rock from the beach to use as a weight to make sure the net will rest on the seafloor. Then once you put the net in the water, wait at least 10 minutes before pulling it back up.
Any crabs caught on the pier should be returned to the sea. It’s best to take the crab back to the beach and release it there. Watch out for the seagulls though as they will try to eat the crabs. Luckily, ours buried itself quickly in the sand.
The best time to go crabbing is May or June, although the crabbing season now lasts from March through October. There is a slight decline during July and August, when the crabs breed, molt and grow new shells.
If you enjoy crabbing, consider also visiting Walberswick in Suffolk. That’s where the world championships are held.
2 Spot the Goats
From spring to fall, there are some Bagot goats living on the cliffs just west of the town. Whenever I am in Cromer, I try to spot them. Sometimes I have seen them close to the walkway and other times it has been more challenging to find them.
Bagot goats are one of the oldest breeds of goats in England and have survived since the 1300s. They enjoy eating brambles, stinging nettles, and other vegetation that grows on the cliffs. Similar to the sheep we saw in Avebury, the goats are also used for conservation grazing by the National Trust and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
3 Enjoy the Beach
Cromer has a large beach with Blue Flag status. It’s a lovely beach for swimming during the summer (although the water is chilly), especially when low tide exposes acres of soft sand. At high tide the beach is shingle. Watch out for the surfers that like to hang out just east of the pier. Along the promenade, during the summer you will find a small fun fair for the kids.
If you plan on spending time on the beach, you might find my beach packing list helpful.
4 Admire the Beach Huts
I have to admit I have a bit of an obsession with beach huts in the UK. The cute names make me smile, and they are perfect for photographing. Maybe at some point, I will rent one for the day. The colorful beach huts in Cromer are located towards the western end of the beach.
Note that you can’t rent a beach hut in Cromer for just a day, but they can be rented on a weekly basis here.
5 Hunt for Fossils
It may not be as iconic a location for fossil hunting as the Jurassic Coast, but you can still search for fossils on Cromer Beach. Unfortunately, I don’t know about any fossil hunting tours so you would have to do it independently. Please remember to wear safety goggles if you plan on hammering the rocks.
6 Visit the Church
It is worth stepping inside to explore Cromer’s Parish Church. This church, named St. Peter and St. Paul, was built in the 14th century to replace St. Paul’s (which was on this site) and St. Peter’s (not far away, closer to the sea). Its tower is 160 feet high making it the tallest bell tower in Norfolk. They used to let people climb the tower to take in the views, but now it is home to a pair of peregrine falcons.
Inside the church there are a few things you don’t want to miss:
- The organ. It was purchased in 1897 from Bath Abbey but has been overhauled and rebuilt several times.
- The Ascension Window. This stained glass window on the west end of the church shows Jesus ascending into heaven and was a replacement for the previous window destroyed in World War II.
- The Angel Roof. The roof has beautifully carved angels which were added as part of the Victorian restoration.
7 Enjoy Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is one of my favorite British traditions (partly because clotted cream is one of my favorite British foods). Luckily Cromer has plenty of places offering afternoon tea like the Grove or Hatters Tea Shop. It’s best to make a reservation as some places require 24-hour advance notice.
For more options, check out these recommendations from the locals.
8 Eat Some Cromer Crab or Fish & Chips
Cromer is a seafood-lovers paradise. It is the home of Cromer crabs. These brown crabs are known for being particularly flavorful, tender, and fragrant because of the chalk shelf and nutrient-rich waters in the area. They also have a relatively high proportion of white to brown meat. If you weren’t able to catch any of your own, there are plenty of places around town that sell Cromer crabs. One of the local favorites is the Crab Pot.
In addition to the local crab, there is also plenty of delicious fish & chips. The most popular place for fish & chips in Cromer is No1 Cromer. It’s owned by Galton Blackiston who also owns the nearby Michelin-starred Morston Hall. In 2013, it was named by The Times as the 6th best place to eat by the sea. They also have a more formal restaurant called Upstairs at No1 and an ice cream kiosk that is open during the summer.
9 Try Your Hand at Surfing (or Just Watch the Surfers)
Most times I have visited Cromer, there are surfers riding the waves. I prefer to watch, but if you want to give it a try there is a place that offers lessons just east of the pier. When the waves are calm, a stand up paddle board could be a practical alternative.
10 Visit the Henry Blogg Museum
At the Henry Blogg Museum, you can learn the inspirational story of the most decorated lifeboatman in the history of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Coxswain Henry Blogg served on the lifeboat for 53 years and saved 873 lives from the North Sea. He became a national hero and was awarded the George Cross, the British Empire Medal, and seven medals from the RNLI medals for gallantry.
He was coxswain of the lifeboat H.F Bailey during World War II which is on display in the museum. There are also model lifeboats, Henry Blogg’s medals, old videos, photographs, paintings, and some hands-on activities that kids will love. The family-friendly museum also documents the history of lifeboats in Cromer. Over the last 215 years since the first lifeboat in Cromer, the incredible volunteers have won 64 medals.
Admission is free. The Henry Blogg Museum is located In the Rocket House on the east end of the Promenade. The operating hours vary throughout the year, so check here to confirm.
11 Play Carnival Games or Mini-Golf
Can you have a British seaside town without carnival games? Well, the kids will be relieved that while there aren’t any on the pier, there is an arcade with carnival games in Cromer. Towards the west end of town, you will also find Crabstix adventure golf where a mini-boating lake used to be.
12 Pier (and show)
There has been a pier or jetty in Cromer for almost 600 years! The current pier is 500 feet long and dates back to 1901. At low tide, you can see how iron structure is starting to corrode and the marine life that has made the pier its home.
Unlike many other piers, the one in Cromer does not have any amusement arcades or other modern entertainment. Instead, you can pick up a tea, coffee, or some snacks at the cafe on the landward end and watch the world go by on a seat sheltered from the prevailing wind.
At the far end of the pier, there is the lifeboat station and the Pavilion Theatre, which is host to the last surviving “end of the pier” show in Europe. The show follows the traditional variety format with song, dance, music, and comedy which was hugely popular in the 60s and 70s, but not as much anymore.
13 Go to the Pub
It almost goes without saying that a seaside town in England would have some lovely pubs, but I thought it was worth mentioning so that you would know which ones to check out. The most popular pubs in Cromer are:
- The Wellington also called the Welly. They have live music on the weekends and also the Smokehouse Restaurant.
- Red Lion offers both a selection of local ales and fine wine. It is dog-friendly.
Special Events in Cromer
Of course, you can visit Cromer any day, but there are a few annual events that you won’t want to miss. Keep in mind there will be crowds so try to arrive early if possible.
New Year’s Day Fireworks
Cromer is the place to be in Norfolk for New Year’s Day. For over 20 years, they have had a fireworks show over the pier that attracts over 10,000 people. In the past, they have also had a fun run and torchlight parade.
Crab And Lobster Festival
The crab and lobster festival is a joint celebration with nearby Sheringham typically held the third weekend in May. It kicks off with a traditional seaside variety concert at Cromer’s Pier Pavilion Theatre on Friday evening and the festivities continue over the weekend on Evington Lawns in Cromer. It’s a weekend full of local crab and lobster delicacies.
Boxing Day Dip
Each year on the day after Christmas (Boxing Day), people gather to do a quick dip in the icy cold North Sea. People wear costumes, shorts, bikinis, mankinis, and Santa hats, but wetsuits or drysuits are frowned upon. If you want to join in on the craziness be sure to bring a robe or other warm clothing to put on after the swim.
How to Get to Cromer
Cromer is one of the few places on the North Norfolk coast that is well connected by public transportation. Greater Anglia provides train service from Norwich to Cromer, which takes about an hour – check prices and schedules here. Alternatively, Sanders Coaches provides bus service from the Norwich bus station – check the fares and timetables here.
If you are coming from London, take the train from Liverpool Street Station to Norwich then transfer to the local train to Cromer. Another option is to take the National Express bus from Victoria Station to the Norwich bus station and transfer to the Sanders Coach bus.
Typically, we drive from Norwich to Cromer. It takes a little less than an hour. We use the pay and display parking lot towards the west end of town by the mini-golf.
Where to Stay in Cromer
Since we live close by, we usually do a day trip to Cromer, but if you are traveling from further away, consider staying longer as there are some excellent hotel options. The iconic Hotel de Paris is conveniently located right by the pier. It’s almost 200 years old! Read the reviews on Tripadvisor and check rates and availability here.
For those looking for a hotel in Cromer that is a little more luxurious, check out the Cliftonville Hotel. While it is not quite in the center of town, it’s still within walking distance of everything and has sea views. Read the reviews on Tripadvisor and check rates and availability here.
There are also some lovely Airbnb options. Check them out here.
Places to Visit Near Cromer
The area around Cromer also has a lot to offer. If you want to get out and explore here are some suggestions:
- Blickling Estate – An impressive stately home and gardens best known as the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. During the Christmas season, the decorations are spectacular. It is a National Trust property, so it’s free for members to visit.
- Felbrigg Hall – A 17th-century English country house that is noted for its Jacobean architecture and fine Georgian interior. The house and gardens are now owned by the National Trust, so members can explore for free.
- Sandringham – The much-loved country retreat of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the place where the Royal family celebrates Christmas. It has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862. When the Queen is not at Sandringham, it is open to the public for tours. Get more information here.
Also keep in mind Norwich is only about an hour away and it has lots to offer including a castle, cathedral, market, and more museums. If the weather is pleasant, it’s hard to beat the Norwich Riverside Walk. You should also check out the street art in Norwich.
Other Seaside Towns in East Anglia
Of course, Cromer is not the only seaside town in the area. If you liked Cromer and want to visit similar places, here are some options:
- Southwold – It’s probably the most high-end town on the Suffolk Coast. Like Cromer, it has an iconic pier, but their pier does have an arcade and some shops.
- Aldeburgh – Not too far from Southwold, Aldeburgh has the best fish & chips in Suffolk. When you visit, be sure to check out the controversial scallop sculpture. Read more about visiting Aldeburgh.
- Wells-Next-to-the-Sea – Like Cromer, Wells is a fishing town, with a lovely beach lined with beach huts. It doesn’t have a pier, but it does have a lifeboat station. Don’t miss the horse sculpture in the harbor which shows the dramatic tides.
Now you can see why Cromer is one of my favorite spots on the North Norfolk Coast. With vast sandy beaches, delicious food, and plenty of attractions, it has something for everyone.
Have you been to Cromer? If not, it’s time to plan a visit. I think it’s one of the best day trips from Norwich. If you have been, I would love to hear about your experience.
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