Some of my fondest memories of childhood summers, are our family holidays to Wells Next to the Sea in Norfolk. Its just a couple of hours away from us in Suffolk and most years we’d visit for at least a week every summer holidays. With us kids squished in the back of a cram packed car, walkman on, perched high on top of all the bedding and bags, excitedly watching out the window to claim the victory of the precious first sight of the sea as it came into view.
As a family we always stayed at Pinewoods holiday site, so when we recently decided to have a last minute weekend away in Norfolk, I was really excited to show my two children one of my favourite childhood places.
With international restrictions still in place and the summer of staycations upon us, I knew it would be a bit of a tall order booking anywhere to stay with just a weeks notice – So although I could only get a booking from Wednesday to Saturday, I was really chuffed to bag us a caravan on Pinewoods the same holiday site we always stayed on as a family when I was little.
So how does the town of Wells compare with the Wells of my memories thirty years ago? Well for a start it doesn’t feel possible that my childhood holidays could be thirty years ago, considering I still feel about 25, but I guess that’s beside the point!
To sum up, we had a fabulous weekend – The essence of the Wells I remember, the never ending beach, feeling engulfed by the enchanting forest, and the buzz of racing about in the arcades and harbour remain, although as you’d expect there are few 21st century updates thrown in too.
Now seeing the town through the eyes of an adult, there are new things to appreciate – little independent boutiques and cafes tucked away down winding lanes and the beauty and calm of the beach and forest. Now I can see beyond just the pull of the arcades (Although I still love the grabber machines!) I can see how this quintessential little harbour town appeals to so many.
Wells Next to the Sea – Our Family Review
First up the beach – a sight this beautiful has and always will be the main draw to this town and for me visiting now, it was magical seeing my children just run free and play on the sand as I had done so many times before
It’s a pretty spectacular sight, especially watching the beach open up as you come over the peak of the forest steps. I’d really recommend doing it that way the first time you visit if you can. Climb the sandy steps lifting you up out of the cool dense wood and whatever the weather you will be greeted by stretches of golden sand, the horizon only broken by the grassy dunes swaying in the distance.
We had torrential rain the first day of our visit and manged to grab just an hour window when the rain stopped long enough for a quick walk up the beach. The wind was blowing and it was ridiculously cold for a June weekend, but still: the sea air, the kids running free and a windy game of French cricket, was enough to make us forgot the cold and for me anyway, I felt like I released a bit of the tension I’ve been storing up these past crazy pandemic months. On the second day the weather was much better and although the beach was busier there was still so much space to walk and play.
Something wonderful that happened (that my daughter still keeps talking about) is when taking a dip in the sea with my dad on the second day, they suddenly spotted a seal swimming alongside them in the ocean. They then watched it come on land into a nearby roped off area of the beach that’s now become a seal enclosure. Not sure how long its been there or how often they come, but it was pretty special for them to experience nature so up close.
Walks in the Forest at Wells next to the Sea
The forest is also pretty special. Now I’ll admit I’m not normally overly enthused by a country walk and think I’ve already inadvertently passed that on to our kids. So, days roaming about in nature are not often top of our list. However stepping into these woods, I loved that feeling of being transported out of the hustle bustle, the loop of open tabs in my mind quietly muting for a while, as we enjoyed the shaded woodland, engulfed by towering trees. Originally established a 150 years ago to protect the town from the tide, the forest makes the perfect spot to enjoy a break from the weather, rain or heat, and a nice add on, when enjoying a day at the beach.
One of my favourite things when I was little was getting the little train from the campsite up to town. Its still there and my kids were equally as excited when it arrived the first time. You pay £1.50 and it runs on a track just under a mile long, adjacent to the coast road.
They go every twenty minutes of so, seven days a week during high season, but they do stop far earlier than I remembered (around 4.30pm when we went) and we ended having to walk back on our last trip. It is a nice walk too though, a straight path with views of the boats moored up and out to sea. My little ones were distracted from their tired legs, reading out all the boat names as we walked along.
Where Are Electric Car Chargers in Wells Next to the Sea?
If you are visiting just for the day the parking can be pretty pricy. The car park right on the harbour had a minimum fee of £5. There’s also another round the corner (If you turn right at the Pop In arcade (Coming from the campsite end) that’s cheaper but still adds up if you’re staying a while. Something we were really impressed with is there were also electric car chargers in this car park. Although both myself and husband have electric cars, I have to confess because of the lockdowns, we’ve mostly charged our cars at home and not used a lot of public points. So I was surprised that such a small town had them. There were four spaces with chargers and all were free when we went
What’s Pinewoods Wells Holiday Site Like?
On to the caravan site – Pinewoods holiday park is the main place to stay and is in prime location, with both easy access to the town, beach and forest. Now I have to confess, I wasn’t overly expecting a lot with the caravan, having only booked it a week before. I was just happy to find anywhere to stay on such notice, but it was great, nice décor, decent size seating areas, plenty of room for us all with three bedrooms, and far wider than the caravans I remembered staying in the 80’s. There were also the nice touch of a little bag of essentials ready for us when we got there with bread, tea bags etc and milk, butter and local fruit juice in the fridge. The only disappointing thing was that the site didn’t feel as family friendly as when we used to visit then. There used to be lots of things to do on site for children such as trampolines and mini golf and these have all gone now along with the option to camp in tents.
Overall if you are after a minibreak in the East, whatever your age I’d really recommend Wells next to the Sea – its a lovely little getaway, perfect for enjoying a slower pace on the pretty Norfolk coast.
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