Considering that much of north Norfolk is set along the coastline, there are a surprising number of farm and animal attractions to be enjoyed in this part of the county. Whether you want to see the exotic animals of South America or get up close to a herd of rescued Shetland ponies, there is this and more to be discovered in north Norfolk.
Amazona Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in and around Cromer and with good reason. It offers an exciting day out for the whole family, allowing visitors to experience over 200 different tropical animals from South America. Species housed here include jaguars, flamingos, monkeys and snakes and the zoo’s purpose is not just to have the animals on display for members of the public to view but to help people understand a bit more about the animals and the challenges they face in their natural habitats. As well as the animals there is an indoor soft play, an outdoor adventure playground and an on-site restaurant. It is less than half an hour’s drive from The Harper North Norfolk hotel making it the ideal family day out.
Located in Stow Bardolph, Church Farm is open every day from 10am-5pm and is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to get up close with some traditional farm animals. There are also a number of activities available which make a trip here a great day out including pig racing, animal encounters, nature walks, tractor rides and an indoor and outdoor play area. There is also a tea room and a gift shop and as you might expect, the farm hosts special seasonal events throughout the year including visits from Father Christmas, evening Deer Walks and even a Grandparents Weekend with grandparents being offered half price entry.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary
There are a couple of Redwings horse sanctuaries located in Norfolk, so depending on which of the Norfolk hotels you stay in, Aylsham may not be the closest but if you are in north Norfolk then it’s a good option. There are currently more than 50 rescued horses, donkeys, mules and ponies housed at the sanctuary and entry is free although donations are always gratefully received. The sanctuary is surrounded by glorious Norfolk countryside and is the ideal place to bring your own picnic on a nice day or there is a café on-site which sells hot drinks and snacks as well as a playground to allow younger visitors to burn off any excess energy. Throughout the school holidays there are also special family events held here, well worth exploring if you have children.
Blakeney Point Seal Trips
Blakeney Point is home to the largest colony of seals in the UK and there are a number of boat companies who offer trips out to see these spectacular marine mammals. Most of the boat trips last for over an hour with plenty of opportunity to observe the seals in their natural habitat, sometimes with their pups. Seals tend to be inquisitive creatures by nature and many will swim around the boat allowing you a real glimpse of the seals up close. The majority of the boat trips also land at Blakeney National Nature Reserve which is owned by the National Trust and is itself a haven for all kinds of unique wildlife as well as being home to a lifeboat house which was built in 1898 but only used for a few years before the build-up of shingle made it impossible to launch the boats. Since 1923 it has been home to National Trust rangers, with just a brief interlude during World War Two. It is well visible with its bright blue exterior and offers some of the best views over the Point.
Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens
A bit further down the coast you will find Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, an attraction which is home to an interesting array of wildlife from cockatoos and owls to big cats, tigers and primates. Thrigby Hall is known as a ‘progressive’ zoo which means that they are dedicated to the protection of rare species, such as the Sumatran Tiger, working with specialists to try and breed these magnificent and endangered animals in captivity to ensure that they don’t die out. This was particularly evident when the animals at Thrigby became the first to be signed over entirely to the Joint Management of Species Programme. As well as the animals, there is also a Willow Pattern Garden, a Lime Tree Lookout and a Tiger Tree Walk which gives you the opportunity to look down on the tiger enclosure from a unique vantage point and is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary
On the opposite side of the north Norfolk coast you will find the Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary; a seal rescue centre which is also home to a number of other marine exhibits including creature zones from all over the world. The main focus of the centre however is the seal rescue, rehabilitation and release which it engages with. It is possible to see some of the centre’s seal residents when you visit and to follow their progress as they are treated and as they work towards being released back into the wild. Each year the centre rescues around 40 grey and common seals and the seal hospital here can handle 15 at any one time. Hunstanton is the only sanctuary open to members of the public in Norfolk and it’s a very interesting and worthwhile attraction to visit. Other highlights of the centre include the otter family, the Green Sea Turtle affectionately known as Ernie, and the Black Tip Reef Sharks.