Rebecca Gamble visited Blakeney Point at the North Norfolk coast to get up close to its fabulous colony of seals – and enjoyed wonderful seafood and great walking, too.
Sailing out of Morston Quay on our 30ft boat towards the shingle spit of Blakeney Point, I can’t wait to catch a glimpse of the famous creatures that call this peninsula off the coast of North Norfolk home.
Searching for seals in Norfolk
And as we make our way around the tip of the Point, part of Blakeney National Nature Reserve, we are suddenly rewarded with the remarkable sight of more than 100 seals basking in the sunshine on the shingle.
The boat’s engine slows and a couple of the seals launch themselves into the water, diving under the waves for fish, while a handful of the graceful creatures bob along near us in the water, apparently inquisitive about this posse of visitors.
Our vessel sways to and fro as the waves lap against it, and I can hear the distinctive sound of the seals’ barks. The calmer the water, the closer you can get to them but, despite it being a rather windy day, my view of them is fantastic.
On my visit, the majority of the beautiful creatures are Grey seals, many with smaller seals next to them, born just a few months ago. Grey seals come to the spot and have their pups in the winter, and the colony’s size can swell to thousands, spread over two miles of Blakeney Point; large numbers of these can usually be seen on boat tours.
I also see a few common seals lazing on the beach. These have their young here in summer between June and August, when the colony will typically be around 800 strong – so the chances of seeing seals on summer trips is very high, too.
Our skipper for the trip is Jason Bean, who represents the third generation of his family to take visitors out along this pretty strip of coastline. The family business started out as a ferry service to Blakeney Point, but boat trips have been running with the specific aim of seeing the seals since the 1960s.
However, it’s not just seals you can encounter on the trip; on my visit I also see birds, including cormorants, oystercatchers and curlews.
Where to stay while watching seals in Norfolk
My base for the weekend is The White Horse at Brancaster Staithe, overlooking Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve. There’s a telescope in my room, and I’m able to get an excellent view of the fabulous array of birds that call this habitat home.
The fantastic seafood caught locally has helped gain the area a reputation as a foodie haven, too. The conservatory restaurant showcases the best of it – from the deliciously creamy oysters grown in Brancaster Bay to the show-stopping mussels, delivered daily from Brancaster Harbour and served plump and tasty in a white wine and shallot sauce.
An array of smoked fish from the on-site Staithe Smokehouse is available, too, and you can take some home from the shop.
Exploring Norfolk’s Coast path
The Norfolk Coast Path runs for 84 miles from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea, and is popular with walkers. Shorter sections, from the White Horse at Brancaster Staithe to Brancaster Harbour, and from Wells-next-the-Sea to Holkham Bay, I find easy to manage and wonderfully peaceful.
Many of the area’s pretty towns and villages are lined with classic Norfolk flint homes. Burnham Market offers independent shops, galleries and tearooms.
The attractive Georgian town of Holt has traditional department store Bakers & Larners of Holt, with a great food department and wine store –and you can stock up on Norfolk Gin there, too!
Booking a seal trip in Norfolk Blakeney seal trips with Beans Boats run daily from Morston Quay and cost £13 per adult and £7 per child aged 14 and under. Visit beansboattrips.co.uk or call 01263 740505. For more information on Norfolk generally, go to visitnorfolk.co.uk.
The White Horse at Brancaster Staithe offers rooms B&B from £120, based on two people sharing.
Nearby places to visit near Blakeney point in Norfolk
Head to RSPB Titchwell Marsh, with its diverse habitats that include reed beds, salt marshes and freshwater lagoons, where avocets, bearded tits and marsh harriers nest. It has a wide sandy beach, too. For more info, visit rspb.org.uk.
Holkham Hall is an 18th-century Palladian-style house with sumptuous State Rooms housing paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Gainsborough. Surrounded by rolling parkland, you can also hire boats on The Lake at Holkham.