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Ever since the railway first connected Cromer with the city of Norwich in the 1880s, this seaside town has been attracting tourists for its four-mile stretch of beach and its beautiful location on the north Norfolk coast. Sitting on a hill that winds down to the sand, Cromer’s quaint streets were transformed by the Victorians, whose legacy remains not only in the bustling shops and cafes they built here but in one of the most charming piers in England — its Pavilion Theatre, built in 1901, still hosts a traditional end-of-pier variety show. A more ancient life as a crabbing village is still apparent in everyday Cromer, with fishermen bringing in their haul of crabs up the gangway by the pier to be enjoyed in almost any cafe or restaurant. Adding to its appeal are the coastal villages of East and West Runton a short walk to the west, and the Felbrigg estate, with its Jacobean mansion and gardens, a five-minute drive inland.
Norwich Airport (NWI) is fewer than 20 miles away; its direct flights are limited to a small number of European cities, although it does offer connections to other international destinations. London Stansted (STN) is the nearest major international airport, 2.5 hours away by car, or you can take the train to Norwich and connect with Cromer from there by train or bus. There are some good public transport options that link Cromer with the rest of the north Norfolk coast as well as the Norfolk Broads, including the Coasthopper Bus. You won’t need a car to get around within Cromer itself as the town is compact. If you’re heading inland, however, a car can be helpful to explore the many local villages as well as the area’s stately homes.
Summer is the warmest time to visit; the weather on the north Norfolk coast can get very cold in winter thanks to the North Sea winds that come down from the Arctic. Spring weather varies quite a bit, but is often wet; it’s also the time that the many historic homes and gardens in the area open for the season. By May it’s usually warm enough to enjoy the beaches without wrapping up. May coincides with the Cromer and Sheringham Crab & Lobster festival, which celebrates the local seafood. Another big draw is August’s three-day Cromer Carnival, when the whole town stops to take part in the float parade.
It’s 172 steps to the top of Norfolk’s tallest tower, and worth the climb for the views in all directions. The large medieval church, restored from dereliction in the late 19th century, has more to offer in its stunning Edward Burne-Jones stained-glass windows.
Cromer’s history as a lifeboat station is long and full of legend. The current station, opened in 1999, can be seen at the end of the pier, and just a short walk along the seafront is this museum, fascinating for adults and children alike, charting the many brave ventures of the town’s rescue crews and named for coxswain Henry Blogg, who helped save more than 800 lives over a 53-year career.
Thirty minutes west of Cromer is north Norfolk’s loveliest stretch of coast, preserved as an Area of Outstanding Beauty. England’s largest colony of grey seals lives on the nature reserve at Blakeney Point — book a ferry trip to see them — while further west the flat expanses of Stiffkey Saltmarshes have to be seen to be believed, and fill the skies with birdlife.