Great Yarmouth is a seaside town in Norfolk, around 20 miles east of Norwich, and just under an hour’s drive from Cromer. Originally a major fishing port that flourished in the 1700s, it has also been a popular family holiday destination, and the opening of a railway in 1844 led to an influx of visitors and settlers. Today, Great Yarmouth is still a favourite place for holiday makers, with plenty of fun things to do.
A Maritime History of Great Yarmouth
Although today Great Yarmouth is best known as a traditional seaside resort, it is also one of the most significant ports on the east coast of the country. The town has an important maritime, trade, industrial and tourism history, and more recently, the energy industry with the development of offshore wind, oil and gas farms. Great Yarmouth began as a herring fishing village in the 10th century, and the industry grew rapidly after the Norman Conquest. The size of the fishing fleets grew, and this became the main industry until its decline in the 1930s.
Due to its location, places along the East Anglia coast have always been vulnerable to attacks. Great Yarmouth has had a significant role in defending attacks since the medieval period. During important battles including the Battle of Sluys, the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of the Nile, Great Yarmouth has played a role, from supplying ships to serving as a naval base.
During the mid 18th century, the aristocracy and gentry were the visitors to the coast, who came on the belief that seawater had healing properties. The arrival of the railway in 1844 transformed Great Yarmouth, bringing in thousands of visitors each summer. Although the appeal of British seaside holidays declined in the 1970s with the increase in cheap holidays abroad, Great Yarmouth has seen huge regeneration projects and has successfully regained its status as a popular destination.
Things to do in Great Yarmouth
The Pleasure Beach
The Pleasure Beach is rated in the top ten most-visited amusement parks in the country. The park first opened in 1909 and has been attracting all ages ever since. The park is free to enter, and rides can be paid for with an all-day wristband or pay as you ride with tokens. There are around 30 rides, as well as children’s entertainment, games arcades, food stalls, sweet shops and ice cream parlours. One of the favourite rides is the Scenic Railway Roller Coaster, built in 1932. It’s currently one of only less than ten roller coasters in the world to have a brakeman travel on the ride. Other popular attractions include a 4D cinema and a carousel.
Great Yarmouth Central Beach
The Great Yarmouth coastline stretches along 15 miles of sandy beaches. Central Beach sits between the Britannia and Wellington Piers. It’s a great place to sunbathe and swim in the warmer months, and there are deck chairs available for hire. You can even take a boat trip out to Scroby Sands and go seal spotting. Running alongside Central Beach is Marine Parade. This promenade is often referred to as the Golden Mile, and is packed with amusements, attractions, pubs, restaurants, shops and snack stalls. During the summer months, fireworks are displayed every Wednesday evening and are not one to be missed.
Elizabethan House Museum
This National Trust property is a Tudor house that has since been converted into a museum. Over the years, the house has been home to wealthy merchants and high-profile businessmen, and this is evident in the house’s decor. Wood panelled rooms, lavishly decorated ceilings and an imposing stairway give an insight into life as a merchant in Tudor times. The house has a strong connection with Oliver Cromwell, who was a frequent visitor, and the house became a regular meeting place for Parliamentarians during the Civil War. The museum has a large collection of items, including fine art, Civil War coins, antique furniture and costumes that you can try on.
Merrivale Model Village
Located on the Marine Parade is the Merrivale Model Village, one of the area’s best loved family attractions. Set in over an acre of landscaped gardens, the attraction features streams, waterfalls and a Koi Carp lake. It’s a classic old school model village, made with a high level of detail. There are many scenes, and highlights include the Merrivale Castle, The Church, The Mansion and The Stadium, each with a story being told. There is also the model Garden Railway, set on a 350 metre track with different locomotives making their way around the garden. Visit the Old Penny Arcade with its vintage slot machines, try your hand at Crazy Golf, or have a bite at the Merrivale Tea Rooms.
Time & Tide Museum
Norfolk’s third largest museum is set in one of the UK’s best preserved Victorian herring curing works. It shines a light on Great Yarmouth’s maritime and fishing heritage, from all the way back in the Stone Age, to the present day. There’s lots to do at the museum, from immersive galleries to archive film shows and hands on displays. Make your way down a Victorian ‘Row’ and take a peek inside a fisherman’s home, or listen to captivating stories of shipwreck and rescue on the stormy seas. Learn about what life was like in Great Yarmouth throughout history, and hear stories from different characters.
Great Yarmouth Minster
Founded in 1101, Great Yarmouth Minster is the third largest parish church in the country. The church is open to visitors, and has a beautiful interior including stained glass windows and decorated organ. There is also a free heritage exhibition which portrays its role in the history of Great Yarmouth. Apart from being used for religious services, it is also a centre for events such as choirs, orchestras, art exhibitions and festivals and fairs.
Places to Stay in Great Yarmouth
The Old Hall Hotel
The Old Hall Hotel is set in the heart of Caister-On-Sea, a lifeboat village 3.5 miles away from the centre of Great Yarmouth. The hotel facilities include a swimming pool, gym, sauna and steam rooms, hydrotherapy pool and treatment rooms. The independently run restaurant offers a varied menu alongside a wide selection of wines, real ales and draught beers.
The Pier Hotel
If you’re looking for a hotel right on the seafront, The Pier Hotel is a great choice. Overlooking Gorleston Beach, the hotel is only five miles from the main attractions of Great Yarmouth. The hotel offers relaxing surroundings, and the restaurant specialises in home cooked food and fresh seafood.
Knight’s Court Hotel
This seafront hotel overlooks Great Yarmouth’s North Beach, and is only a few minutes walk from the attractions. Knight’s Court has a range of rooms, from seaview doubles and family rooms, to twin rooms with easy access. The restaurant uses seasonal local produce, and caters for all diets.