Let's staycation in...Great Yarmouth
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Great Yarmouth isn’t just for summertime…this fun-filled resort has stunning beaches, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and boasts an enormous range of things to do.
Every year, just after Christmas, my husband and I go to stay in Yarmouth for a night and enjoy bracing walks along the sand, salty chips in paper, the thrills and spills of the circus and a night in a hotel where the sea lulls you to sleep. Perfection.
One of the Victorians’ favourite seaside resorts, Yarmouth is where the Broads meet the North Sea, with miles of golden sand and enough attractions to keep the whole family enchanted for days.
There’s far more to Yarmouth than flashing arcades, doughnuts, candyfloss and fish and chips, although we humbly suggest you also enjoy the former, while also checking out some of the ideas below…
Where to stay in Great Yarmouth
The Imperial, on Great Yarmouth’s seafront, is a family-run four-star hotel with incredible views and is the perfect base from which to explore this wonderful corner of Norfolk.
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Owned and managed by the Mobbs family, The Imperial is a stone’s throw from the beautifully restored Venetian Waterway Gardens and boasts 39 beautiful rooms and absolutely delicious food.
Choose to eat on the fully-glazed Terrace that gazes out over the sea and North Beach or the cosy adjoining Victoria Suite restaurant, enjoy a drink in Bar Fizz or go below decks to the two AA Rosette Café Cru Restaurant for a wonderful dinner or Sunday lunch.
Menus are packed with local produce and seasonal ingredients and in addition to serving fish caught in the borough and meat raised in the beautiful nearby countryside, there are equally imaginative vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus to choose from.
Sunday lunch is a particular treat: Imperial roast sirloin of beef, duck-fat roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, seasonal vegetables and horseradish sauce for £13.35 with desserts including orange and mascarpone cheesecake or baked lemon tart with blackberry sorbet and mint (both £7.50).
Owner Nick, whose lifelong love of wine has seen him win international renown, has hand-picked the wine list and staff are happy to make the perfect recommendation.
While you’re in the town, owner Aileen Mobbs has a few suggestions for how to spend your time while using The Imperial as your base. In Yarmouth itself, she suggests a trip to Time and Tide Museum of Yarmouth Life, a walk through the Venetian Waterways and a hot chocolate at Munchies café on North Drive, a walk on the beautiful beach, a trip to Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus and a round of golf at Great Yarmouth and Caister golf course.
Find out more at imperialhotel.co.uk Book direct for the best rates.
What to do in Great Yarmouth
Visit one of the town’s fascinating museums: Time and Tide Museum - A really exciting attraction set in one of the UK’s best-preserved Victorian herring curing works. The museum has brilliant ever-changing exhibitions – at present there is a stunning exhibition charting the early years of the iconic Ladybird books from 1940 to 1975 and the artists who illustrated them. Blackfriars Road, NR30 3BX, museums.norfolk.gov.uk/time-tide
Visit the historic Hippodrome Circus – This remains not only my number one suggestion for something amazing to do in Great Yarmouth, but also my number one for Norfolk as a whole. The curtain has just come down on this year’s Christmas Spectacular, but do come back for Pirates Live at Easter, the Summer Circus and Water Spectacular and the Halloween Spooktacular! Don’t think you’re ‘a circus person’? You’re wrong. Take my word for it. St George’s Road, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2EU, hippodromecircus.co.uk , 01493 738877.
Take a walk along the historic South Quay – In 1913, it’s said that so many boats were operating out of Yarmouth that you could walk across the river from boat to boat and the beautiful buildings along the river are an echo of this seafaring port’s past. Just off South Quay you’ll find the Great Yarmouth Row Houses and Old Merchant's House. The Rows were a network of winding alleyways were port workers lived.
Where can you find Venice in Norfolk? At The Waterways, where the Venetian Waterways, the Ornamental Gardens and the Boating Lake, just north of Yarmouth’s Golden Mile can be found. There are winding canals, miniature bridges, walkways and islands. A great place for a picnic and for hiring a boat or pedalo for a leisurely trip on the lake. North Drive, NR30 4EW
Peerless entertainment - The Piers - Yarmouth has two, the 210m Wellington which opened in 1853, and Britannia Pier which opened in 1858. The Wellington was the seventh pier to be built in Britain and is now a fun family entertainment centre with a ten-pin bowling alley with diner and amusement arcade while the Britannia has a traditional end-of-the-pier funfair, showbar and theatre and a wood-slatted walkway. Joyland fun park, which opened in the town in 1949, is just next door with the famous Snails and Tyrolean Tubs.
The beach is brilliant – From Winterton-on-Sea in the north to Hopton-on-Sea in the south, there are 15 miles of wide, clean, sandy beach to explore and Central Beach in Yarmouth between the two piers is a glorious place for a paddle. Even in the winter the beach is absolutely beautiful.
The fairground rides -
Where to eat in Great Yarmouth
Fish and chips: Whether from the sea front or from the market, a visit to Great Yarmouth wouldn’t be the same without a bag of chips. Personally, I’m partial to the market’s pickled onion vinegar…
Take afternoon tea by the sea - There are lots of places to take afternoon tea (or smaller sibling, a cream tea) in Great Yarmouth. Try Palm Court Hotel or The Imperial Hotel on North Drive and there are cream teas a-plenty at venues such as Sara’s Tearooms on South Beach Parade. Fancy cats with your Cream Tea? Darling Darlings Cat Lounge on Marine Parade can help.
Dimascio’s Ice Cream Van by the Outer Harbour, opposite the Power Station - A very personal recommendation, but a trip to Yarmouth wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Richard in his van for a 99. There are better views in Yarmouth, but the ice cream is a dream.
Duarte’s and Eric’s Coffeeshop - This Nelson Road café is a lovely place to stop and enjoy a Portuguese treat, such as a traditional Bifana, a Lisbon speciality which sees thinly-sliced pork cooked to a special recipe and served in a roll. You can also enjoy pastries, cakes, omelettes and other snacks: try the bolo de arroz, a muffin with a lemon-sugar crust.
The Beach Hut Great Yarmouth - A great place to escape to regardless of the weather, this cute café on the seafront (Kiosk 4, Esplanade) serves precisely the kind of treats you want as you survey the sea. From Posh Fish Finger Ciabattas to Salt Beef Bagels, Halloumi Stacks to Clam Chowder, thick shakes (in mouth-watering flavours – try the toffee or mint chocolate) to burgers, full English breakfasts and avocado on toast, there’s something for everyone. facebook.com/beachhutGY
This restaurant, bar and cocktail lounge on Wellington Street is open from Wednesday to Saturday evenings and is great for special occasions where you can dress up and enjoy the ambiance. Fine dining with service to match. facebook.com/PamelasRestaurant/
One of Yarmouth’s architectural gems has reopened as a bar, live music and street food venue filled with vintage props and posters from Yarmouth’s theatrical past. Run by the Jay family of Hippodrome Circus fame, the Marine Parade venue is an atmospheric place to enjoy something to eat and drink and an unforgettable experience. Also try Café 1903 next door to the Hippodrome, a circus-themed café filled with incredible memorabilia.
Where to shop in Great Yarmouth
Cobholm Miniatures – I do love a specialist shop…this gem of a store (open from Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm) sells miniature items for dolls’ houses and an amazing selection of local interest books which covers a huge number of varied subjects. What owner Roger Silver doesn’t know about Yarmouth probably isn’t worth knowing! 14 Broad Row, Great Yarmouth, NR3- 1HT, 01493 262789
Rock on at Docwras Rock Factory and Shop – It’s a seaside treat that families have got their teeth stuck into for more than a century in Great Yarmouth and in its 1950s and 60s heydays, the Great Yarmouth factory, which had 140 workers, was making 120,000 sticks of rock for resorts across East Anglia and other parts of the UK. Crowds gather in the shop to watch the cocktail of sugar and glucose transformed into colourful sweet souvenirs. There’s an incredible selection of pocket money treats to buy in the shop – and some saucier items for grown-ups! 13 Regent Road, NR30 2AF, 01493 844676.
The Victoria Arcade Book Shop: I love this treasure trove of secondhand books where thousands are for sale for just £1 each. Open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday, the Holmes’ shop is packed to the rafters with an incredible range of books to suit every single reader. With an ever-changing stock list and hundreds of new books arriving every day, you can be lost in here for hours…11-12 Victoria Parade, Great Yarmouth, NR30 2NU, 07426 039920.
In the area
Africa Alive!: Take a walking safari with a visit to Africa Alive! in nearby Kessingland. Explore the sights and sounds of Africa discovering lions, giraffe, meerkats, hunting dogs and many more animals from the African continent and spot five species of African savannah animals, including graceful giraffe and heavyweight rhinos. africa-alive.co.uk
Winterton-on-Sea: If you fancy some seal watching but don't want to battle the crowds at Horsey beach, Winterton offers a great, safe alternative. The beach is easily accessible, and there is a car park right by the water – please follow the guidelines if you are seal spotting and keep away from these beautiful creatures. Winterton boasts a lovely unspoilt beach with plenty of space to relax and one of the largest colonies of little terns can also be found here. Look out for the pastel thatched huts next to the lighthouse – the Hermanus roundhouses are available for holiday lets and offer a unique stay in Norfolk.
The Broads: From the mild, earthy woodlands of the south, to the wild, open reedlands of the north, discover a world of rare wildlife, breath-taking scenery and a fascinating history. Whether you want take to the water on your very own cruiser, long for days walking and taking in the view, or choose to cycle along its many paths and trails – you’ll always find somewhere new to go and something different to see. Visit one of Britain’s most extraordinary national parks and become part of the balance between humans and wildlife, water and land. Find out more at visitthebroads.co.uk/