Kate TaylorSee other travel guides written by Kate Taylor
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Wildlife watchers, history lovers and those with children will all love their caravan holidays in Great Yarmouth – it offers a huge amount of entertainment suitable for all the family, including safe and sandy beaches, great museums and much more besides.
In the county of Norfolk, Great Yarmouth – or simply Yarmouth, as it’s often known – is one of the UK’s most popular seaside holiday resorts. That’s thanks to its combination of a pretty seafront (called the Golden Mile), clean beaches and numerous fantastic attractions, which give something for all the family.
When you visit Yarmouth you will find two piers to explore: Wellington Pier and the Britannia Pier. The former was opened in the mid-19th century and was recently revamped to include an entertainment centre, including a bowling alley, a café and a children’s play area. The Britannia Pier, meanwhile, features the Britannia Theatre, so there's a chance that you'll be able to go to the theatre and see well-known comedy and musical acts during your caravan holidays in Yarmouth.
Children will love the Pirates Cove Adventure Golf Course on the seafront. Putt your way through this 18-hole mini-golf course when pitched at one of the caravan parks and campsites in Great Yarmouth, with its waterfalls, caves and bridges and models of infamous pirates from the past. It's normally open daily from March to November each year.
Britannia Pier's amusements include penny slot and computerised racing games in two arcades. There are also fairground rides and bars. The Pier Tavern has a family/pool room, live entertainment and karaoke, while Long John's Showbar has family entertainment by day, then a lively DJ playing the latest tunes by night.
Another great attraction to visit during your caravan holidays in Norfolk is the popular Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth, where children will marvel at the huge variety of marine life. There is also the Merrivale Model Village, which features a miniature world, complete with a model railway, spread over an acre of countryside.
If you're a bit of a petrolhead, you might enjoy a visit to Britain’s largest private collection of vehicles, at the Caister Castle Motor Museum. While you're there, don’t miss Caister Castle itself, which was built in 1432. It gives visitors tremendous views of the surrounding countryside, and is one of the oldest British buildings made of brick.
To find out more about Great Yarmouth, be sure to pay a visit to the Time and Tide Museum on Blackfriars Road: it’s located in a former Victorian herring-curing factory, and features recreations of the town in past years. It's fun for children and adults alike.
Those who enjoy watching wildlife will love their caravan holidays in Great Yarmouth, because there are so many rare species for you to try to spot. Just outside the town you’ll find Halvergate Marshes, on the Norfolk Broads: this area includes the RSPB reserve of Berney Marshes, where you’ll find lapwing ('peewit'). Breydon Water, meanwhile, has bird hides from where you can enjoy looking for different birds at different times of the year, such as the golden plover, avocets and even flamingos.
There are many caravan parks and campsites in Yarmouth and the surrounding area, and you’ll find that they range from small and intimate campsites to all-singing, all-dancing holiday parks. A large number of the latter are to the west of Yarmouth; head north if you’d prefer to stay on a smaller campsite. There are also plenty of other tourist attractions to see near Yarmouth, which your find in our guide to caravan holidays in Norfolk.
Top five things to do in Great Yarmouth
Go to a festival in Norfolk! Festivals in and around Great Yarmouth include a late May Beer and Cider Festival and the Gorleston Clifftop Festival in July. In August it is time for the bowls festival, two special Lifeboat days and the Longshore Herring Festival in Hemsby. September is the biggest festival time, with the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival and the Out There International Festival of Circus & Street Arts.
Go birdwatching near Yarmouth at Berney Marshes and Breydon Water RSPB reserve. Going birdwatching in spring is rewarding because you'll see waterfowl and wading birds singing out for mates and jostling for the best nesting sites. Winter is another great time for birdwatching in Norfolk, when 100,000 waders and wildfowl arrive on the marshes.
Take a seal-spotting boat trip from Great Yarmouth to Scroby Sands. These inquisitive mammals enjoy a spot of sunbathing on a sandbank at Scroby Sands and boats leave Central Beach in Great Yarmouth every day from early May to the end of September. If you're really lucky the seals will swim around your boat to see what's going on. The boat trip lasts around an hour, depending on sea conditions, but you should allow two hours in total, to include embarking and disembarking. Don't forget your camera!
See a show at one of the Great Yarmouth theatres during your caravan holidays in Norfolk. The Britannia Theatre, on Britannia Pier, hosts many shows every summer, from children's entertainment, to stand-up comedy, singers and even psychics, or how about the Pavilion Theatre Gorleston where you can see live music and comedy. St George's Theatre is sited in a fine Baroque church that dates back to 1721. The building has had many uses over the years, but fell into disrepair a few years ago. After a large restoration project it reopened as a theatre in November 2012. It's now showing films, one-man shows and live music of all genres. It offers acting classes and has a youth theatre, too. The Hippodrome Great Yarmouth describes itself as 'East Anglia's mini Albert Hall'. Its shows include circus acrobatics, daring stunts, a water spectacular and comedy. In the same place is The Hippodrome Circus Museum, with more than 100 years of circus memorabilia, exhibits showing how the old water spectaculars were performed, and old props, such as Houdini's water churn escape.
The best cafés in Great Yarmouth include Woody's, Mark's Pantry, The Market Row Café, The Dining Room near Britannia Pier and The Hamburger in Regent Road. You could even start the day with brunch in Waterways Café on North Drive. Special mention must also be made of the wheelchair-friendly Merrivale Tea Rooms, part of the model village attraction in Marine Parade, which offers a good choice of amazing cakes, including gluten-free delights. For the best evening meals in Great Yarmouth, try the award-winning Café Cru Restaurant in the four-star Imperial Hotel, North Drive – the Sunday lunch menu is also good value.
When to visit Great Yarmouth
If you're looking to pitch at one of the many caravan parks in Great Yarmouth and the surrounding area, when is the best time to visit?
Summer is the season for the traditional bucket-and-spade English seaside holiday, which Great Yarmouth provides so well. People have been visiting the town for more than 300 years and these days this is a top seaside resort for short breaks and family holidays – and it is not hard to see why. Greater Yarmouth has 15 miles of gently sloping sandy beaches. There are sand dunes in Winterton-on-Sea and Hemsby, north of the town, and cliffs behind the sandy beach in Hopton-on-Sea, south of Yarmouth.
September is the month to visit for the biggest festivals in and around Great Yarmouth, including the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival and the Out There International Festival of Circus & Street Arts. But there's also a Beer and Cider Festival in late May and the Gorleston Clifftop Festival in July. If you like bowls, there's a festival for that in August, along with the Longshore Herring Festival.
Birdwatchers visit Norfolk's nature reserves near Great Yarmouth all year round, but Berney Marshes and Breydon Water RSPB reserve is particularly exciting during spring, when birds are singing, mating and nesting, and in winter, when vast numbers of wading birds arrive to overwinter.
How to get to Great Yarmouth
If you're travelling from Scotland, northern England or The Midlands for your caravan holidays in Great Yarmouth, head for Norwich, then take the A47 east to Great Yarmouth.
From London and the south follow the M25 to the M11, then drive north up the M11 to junction 9 and take the A11 towards Thetford/Norwich. Once you reach the outskirts of Norwich, take the A47 towards Great Yarmouth. Or you could take the A11 to Newmarket, then the A14 to Bury St Edmunds, followed by the A143 which will take you to the Norfolk coast.
If you're starting in Essex, get on the A12 and drive to Ipswich, then continue on the A12 to Lowestoft and, eventually, Great Yarmouth.
All these A roads are good for towing, but as some are single-carriageway in places, they can become congested, particularly at peak holiday times.
There's information about parking in Great Yarmouth here.