Hippersons Boatyard is a self-catering holiday destination on the Broads with houseboats, hideaways and floating pods offering visitors a unique way to experience the water.

The family-owned microbusiness won the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year award, sponsored by Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.

Located in Beccles, Hippersons offers a range of watercraft to allow visitors to explore the wonders of the Waveney Valley including day boats, canoes, kayaks, standup paddle boards (SUPs) and pedal boats. Guided tours and lessons are available for those looking to add some adventure to their holiday, while six accommodation units offer the perfect spot from which to gaze on the peaceful ripples of the River Waveney as it drifts by.

Owners Mary and Simon Sparrow say the Hippersons experience offers a brilliant introduction to the Broads.

“We offer an unusual but lovely way to explore the river on the edge of a little market town,” says Simon.

The husband and wife team recently welcomed the crew from Channel 4’s My Floating Home to film their accommodation, demonstrating how picturesque and quaint the surroundings are – qualities which impressed the judges at this year's East of England Tourism Awards.

“We were not expecting to win the award,” said Mary. “So we're absolutely thrilled!”

The team spread word of their win through their newsletter. “Regular guests who come back time and time again have told us that it was deserved, so we’re very proud.”

Hippersons Boatyard offered the first floating glamping pods in the UK, each with its own balcony or deck. The Sparrows and Amazons packages enable guests to book accommodation and experiences featuring fresh produce, reservations at local eateries, itineraries and tours.

In July and August, Hippersons will introduce the highly anticipated twilight canoe tours, which have already received bookings from visitors as far afield as New Zealand. The twilight tours will be guided by qualified instructor Stephen Fletcher in a choice of either a Canadian canoe or single or double kayaks.

“Ecotourism is really important to us,” Mary says. “We've got amazing wildlife here including kingfishers, herons and cormorants, to name a few. Seeing the birds fly over in the evening is just lovely.”

Funding administered by Norfolk County Council has allowed Hippersons to invest in its Wildcat Island, as well as create a new job role. The family-run business has also invested in upskilling its staff with customer service training. Mary and Simon’s son Nathanael, 11, also helps out in the summer and impressed judges with his customer service.

Hippersons Boatyard recently signed up with Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions and prioritises collaborating with other local businesses to boost the visitor economy in East Anglia.

“As a holiday destination, we provide experiences and accommodation. But we need the local businesses – like restaurants delivering breakfasts or the lady who makes picnics for people to take out in their day boats – for it to be an all-round experience.”

Mary, who is chair of Visit the Broads, DMO for the Broads National Park, says that the award won’t just boost Hippersons Boatyard, but will positively affect the local area in general and the businesses within it.

“We are all in this tourism ecosystem together,” she says.

Mary’s single most important piece of advice for other tourism businesses is to join your destination management organisation (DMO).

“If it wasn’t for the beautiful town of Beccles with all of its amazing businesses, we'd be lacking. We're all part of a bigger picture, which is great for guests. It's good to remember that and to try to support each other.”

Mary and Simon have made a lifestyle as well as a career out of their passion, living onsite on a boat and making the most of every minute.

“We love the river,” Simon says. “We want people to enjoy it as much as we do. The power of the water to revitalise is so fantastic and to share that with other people is a real privilege.”

For more information, please visit www.hippersons.co.uk

Archant organises and hosts the annual East of England Tourism Awards to recognise and celebrate those businesses and individuals that contribute to the regional visitor economy. To register for more information on the 2022/23 competition, please visit www.tourismawards.co.uk