“ Seaside village located in Norfolk „
Review of Hemsby, Norfolk.
My partner and I have just returned from a week long break in Hemsby. We had visited the area previously, around 10 years ago and had a very pleasant holiday, so when the opportunity to take a last minute holiday presented itself, we decided to return to Hemsby.
Situated on the beautiful Norfolk coast, Hemsby is definitely a divided village! The residential part is a mixture of old and new houses, a few small shops and other facilities. Then comes Beach Road, the main thoroughfare leading to the beach, this and nearby Newport Road make up the 'resort' section of Hemsby. The two areas could not be more different.
My review will concentrate on the resort area as this is where we stayed. We chose to go self-catering, this suits us as I am a very picky eater which can make dining out a bit of a trial at times!
We have had a particularly difficult year and were in dire need of a break. We had booked online and on arrival, found to our delight that we had been allocated a chalet in the quieter area of the resort, on Newport Road. We did not particularly want to be near entertainments or amusements, so the Sundowner site was good for us.
As we were not visiting during school holidays, the site was very quiet, with few people, other than chalet owners on our part of the resort. There was a clubhouse and bar on the site, but we did not use this at all.
The chalet was designed for four and although far from perfect, due to inadequate kitchen utensils and the most uncomfortable beds I've ever come across, it was OK and we were just happy to be on holiday!
Hemsby is located approximately 12 miles north of Great Yarmouth and is an ideal base for touring Norfolk. We settled in and once rested after our 4 hour drive from home, took a walk into Hemsby resort. It had not really changed in the years since our last visit other than to look somewhat shabby and tired.
Beach Road is lined with amusement arcades, bingo venues, places to eat and convenience and gift shops. There are several pubs and bars in Hemsby and various attractions such as mini golf and children's rides.
At first glance, it has to be said, that if you don't want fish and chips, you feel you'll be hard pushed to find anything to eat in Hemsby! Closer inspection does reveal one of the best Chinese take aways I've ever come across, plus a few other types of food outlets, it is however predominantly chips, chips and more chips!
For those who opt for self catering, the biggest drawback in my opinion is the distance from a decent supermarket. There is a small Spar shop in Hemsby which stocks the basics, but is a little on the pricey side. There is also a Co-Op supermarket in Martham, a few miles away, but you would really need a car to access this. We found a convenience shop on Newport Road which was useful for milk, bread and other sundries. Luckily we had brought almost everything we needed with us so shopping was not an issue, however, a proper supermarket would definitely enhance this resort in my opinion.
Hemsby is a purpose built resort, whilst buzzing with activity in the holiday season, things wind down in the late season and most of the shops shut for the winter. I have to say that in my view, the whole resort looks a bit tatty, tacky and brash.
All this can be forgiven in my opinion, once you reach the beach!
This coastline of Norfolk is blessed with miles and miles of beautiful sand, rolling dunes and amazing sea views. The beach at Hemsby is accessed by several paths, the main one at the end of Beach Road has a wooden slope making access for pushchairs/wheelchairs and so on easier. We used to walk through the nature reserve that runs behind Beach Road for many miles and we would then access the beach via a steep sand track which led over the dunes and on to a particularly gorgeous stretch of beach. This was usually pretty deserted. Given the season, early September, the weather was super and we were able to relax on the beach in a pleasantly warm temperature.
Unsurprisingly, Hemsby is very popular with families, the beach is lovely for little ones and the sand makes great castles! This I can vouch for having spent an enjoyable hour or two engaged in sand construction activities....well, I am only 53!
*==My thoughts and Conclusion==*
All in all, Hemsby is a great place for a good old fashioned British bucket and spade type holiday. The is a wealth of self catering chalet and caravan parks, camp sites in the resort area and bed and breakfast accommodation is available in the residential part of Hemsby.
The resort area of the place is a bit shabby, the large 'Pontins' holiday camp stands empty and semi derelict, as this is literally at the start of Beach Road it is a bit off-putting and doesn't enhance the resort at all!
I must admit that I found the tinny music from the amusement arcades when walking along Beach Street very intrusive, I appreciate that the penny falls and similar machines are a source of great enjoyment and an intrinsic part of holiday fun for many people, but they do not do much for me personally.
We paid a tad over £200 for our weeks self catering stay at the Sundowner Park in Hemsby. I do not class this as cheap for two when added to travel expenses and the cost of buying your own food, however it should be born in mind that had we travelled as a party of four, the accommodation would have cost us exactly the same!
As mentioned Hemsby is ideal as a base for touring the area, personally I feel a car is required if holidaying in the resort. Of course, some people are content to stay in Hemsby, relaxing on the beach or using the amusements available, but we prefer to go out and about. We found the road system to actually leave Hemsby and return to the main road, a little confusing and we did get lost a couple of times! It didn't matter, we took it as part of the holiday experience! We discovered that once on the main road (A149), we were fairly central to all the locations we wished to visit, Stalham and Potter Heigham on the Norfolk Broads, Caister-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth on the coast. We ventured as far afield as Cromer, approximately 30 miles from Hemsby and found the drive very pleasant.
For me, it is definitely as a base for exploring all that Norfolk has to offer, that Hemsby comes into it's own. The area is packed with places to visit, admittedly we already knew the area and had a good idea of where we wished to go and what we wanted to see. I understand that there is a public transport service from Hemsby to Great Yarmouth which is great for those who do not wish to drive.
To conclude, it is hard to recommend a holiday to others as we all have different tastes and expectations from a holiday. Hemsby suited our purposes very well indeed and although I do not think I would like the place in high season, for a September break, it was ideal.
I would return to Hemsby, but would probably opt to take my motor-home and stay on one of the camp sites in the area, rather than a chalet park.
Thank you for reading
©brittle1906 September 2011
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.
*This review is based solely on my family's experiences as holiday makers*
In an era where it seems to be the norm to take holidays abroad in far flung destinations, many of our traditional seaside resorts seem to be taking a battering. I for one, think it's time to take a stand and support our local destinations, especially as we are all struggling in these money pinching times. So rather than taking our holiday abroad this year, we decided to re-visit Hemsby, a relatively small sea side village/town on the Norfolk coast. Well, if I'm going to be absolutely honest, I never had any intention of going abroad, don't have a passport and we enjoyed our visit so much last year that we decided to return this year.
Travelling to Hemsby by car is fairly straightforward and little more than a case of making your way towards Great Yarmouth and then following the signs. To give you an idea, it's situated about eight miles away from Great Yarmouth and the route is quite scenic as it takes you through the flat, Norfolk countryside. Unfortunately I no longer own a car and we had to make our way from the Essex/Suffolk border using public transport. A train runs from London Liverpool Street to Norwich several times an hour and there you need to change to the hourly Great Yarmouth service. I will warn you that the Great Yarmouth train gets very crowded especially on intake days at the holiday camps and surprisingly there is no where to store luggage, leaving very little room for manoeuvring. Once you've arrived at Great Yarmouth, there's the small problem of the eight miles to Hemsby, and if you have lots of luggage the only real option is to take a taxi, of which there are generally plenty waiting outside the station, with the available seats ranging from 4-8 people. The actual journey takes about 20 minutes and costs between £15-£20, so don't forget to factor that into your budget, if travelling by public transport.
Once you've arrived in Hemsby there are plenty of places to stay, although these are all of the holiday camp variety, which you would have booked before arriving. Although I have seen signs pointing to them, I haven't stayed at any of the camp sites where tents are permitted, so cannot comment on them. Personally we've stayed at the Richardson's Hemsby Beach Holiday Village, which a reasonably small family site, that we plan to return to again next year. There are two other Richardson's sites in the area, another family site and an adult only site. It must have come as a real blow to the area when the very large Pontins site shut down, and I must say that the site going to rack and ruin is a real blot on the landscape.
Although I am positive there is a completely different side to Hemsby, with the community that live there, I'm now going to focus solely on the tourist side of the town. Starting with what I feel is a very important aspect and that is how difficult it is to withdraw money. Although there are a number of cash machines in the area (many in amusement arcades) they all charge a varying amount for withdrawals (ranging from £1.25 to £1.75). Call me a skinflint all you like, but I begrudge paying to get my own money. The only place that money can be withdrawn for free is the local Post Office, a forty minute or so walk from the seafront, but of course this is only true if your bank has an arrangement with the Post Office, or you can ask for cash back at the Spar (a twenty minute walk).
Once the problem of getting hold of your cash is dealt with there are plenty of opportunities to spend it along the road leading to the seafront. As with most seaside towns there are a plethora of amusement arcades, some better than others. 2p pusher machines definitely seem to be in abundance, but there are plenty of other opportunities to waste your cash, including grab machines and prize bingo. Our favourite was the Caesar arcade, where many of the machines give out tickets which can be saved for prizes. (Mind it takes a lot of tickets to get a half decent prize).
There are also a number of souvenir shops, although surprisingly it can be quite hard work to find souvenirs that actually have Hemsby on them. But if you like to spend time perusing china ornaments and personalised pens, then you'll be in seventh heaven here. Me, I don't see the point in buying a souvenir unless it actually has the name of the place on it, and wish there had been a greater selection. I did manage to find a few bits, including a fridge magnet and bookmark, while Nana was delighted with all her finds (none of which were actually specific to Hemsby), Great Grandma bought several tea towels, Daddy got an hilarious (not) T-Shirt and Freddy got a bucket and spade. Overall the prices in the souvenir shops were pretty reasonable and on a par with tourist traps anywhere.
When it comes to buying groceries, unless you are able to make the trip to one of the major supermarkets (which is a car or bus journey away), your wallet really will feel the force. There is a fairly small convenience store close to the seafront, but it's prices are verging on extortionate (it does offer cash-back though). The Spar is slightly cheaper, but not that much and shopping there means lugging your bags back to wherever you are staying. So, this year, learning from experience we brought all the essentials such as toilet roll and milk with us and only used the shops to restock on the bits we inadvertently ran out of. There is also a market that is held on a Sunday, or at least there is supposed to be one, they obviously haven't learnt the great British tradition of carrying on regardless of the weather and didn't set up when we were there, because it was "too windy".
Although we were staying in a self-catering camp, we didn't actually do a lot of cooking and still managed to eat somewhere different every night for a week. There is an amazing variety of different eateries dotted along the approach to the seafront, from fish and chips to steak house to Indian. One thing they have in common is the portion size, which is huge. There's a small fish and shop affair that sells home-made chicken curry, which I'm reliably informed is "delish", then there's the Hollywood Grill that sells a large variety of different meals, from All Day Breakfasts to roast dinners to steak. They do a particularly good deal for OAPs, with a roast (with 5 veg), ice-cream and cup of tea for £5, but I did find the breakfast a bit greasy and the portion size rather large. The children's meals are a little unimaginative wherever you eat in Hemsby, with the usual sausage/fish fingers/burger and chips along with spaghetti bolognaise. There are a couple of places that do child-size roast dinners, or their idea of child size anyway. Personally I would struggle to finish one of these junior portions and one of them would have done Freddy (who is a very hearty eater) for two or even three meals. The prices for food are pretty reasonable as well, most children's meals were around the £3 mark and adult's could eat a very filling meal for £4-£7 a head.
So that's the shopping and eating out of the way, what else? Well there are plenty of different activities that you can involve yourself in, starting with a couple of mini-golf games. Of the two, we've only actually played one, which is The Lost World, which is very reasonably priced at just £2.50 per adult and £2 per child, or £14.95 for up to four players with a pizza thrown in. Although there are only nine holes, they are all based around a dinosaur theme and deceptively difficult, it took us a good 40 minutes to complete them, with lots of smiles and laughs along the way. There are also a few fairground type rides within the Hemsby area, which we didn't actually try, as most of us were too old and Freddy was too young. Prices for these rides seemed reasonable, but just don't expect any thrills a la Alton Towers. Hemsby Beach Holiday Park also has a swimming pool that is open to the public at a small cost, although I must say it's not the biggest of pools.
Although there are all these different ways to have fun while spending money, there is an activity in Hemsby that doesn't cost a penny. And that is spending time on the beach. The beach is beautiful and a great amount of thought seems to have been taken in making it accessible for as many as possible. There is a car park not far from the beach itself, although not having use of a car, I've no idea how many spaces there are or even if you have to pay. For those of us on foot or in buggies or wheelchairs, there is a wooden decking path leading to the beach proper. This path passes the Life boat station and if you're lucky you'll get a glimpse of the lifeboat. We were even luckier and were invited in to get a closer look, much to Freddy's delight.
The beach itself is very clean and sandy, there are a few stones but these are fairly large and scattered thinly over the whole beach. There's no areas of gravel that you would find on many beaches, but there really aren't many shells either. This was a little disappointing, as we were planning to collect some shells to make a collage with when we got home and all we found was a tiny remnant of an unidentified mollusc. The sand is of a beautiful consistency for building sandcastles, needing just a little digging down to get past the dry top layer. While the sea looked pretty clean, even at the beginning of June it was cold, too cold for anything more than a very quick paddle.
If paddling and building sandcastles isn't your thing, then maybe you'd appreciate the views a little more. The beach is set within rolling dunes and it really is a delight to just sit and take in the panoramic view. I managed to take some beautiful pictures and enjoyed a peaceful moment watching the waves roll onto the sand. You could also walk along the beach to nearby villages, seeing how many of the anti-tank blocks you can discover on the way. If you need to spend a penny while at the beach, there are public toilets that are kept fairly clean, but these toilets are up a flight of stairs and do not have baby changing facilities. There is a disabled toilet, but when we asked to use that to change Freddy we were refused.
Should you get bored with all the fun Hemsby has to offer, it makes an excellent base for visiting attractions in the local area. There is the Hemsby Mega maze, which is set in 10 acres of maize and features four miles of path. I really did want to visit here having passed it on the bus several times, but it is only open from 17th July to 4th September, and so wasn't open when we visited. If you're willing to travel a little further there is Great Yarmouth in one direction and Lowestoft in the other. Buses to both of these places run from the Spar, but I must warn you that fares are relatively expensive. Although we didn't travel to Lowestoft, we did visit Great Yarmouth a couple of times and at £5.70 per adult, I do feel that the fare was very steep (although to be fair we could have travelled wherever else we wanted with the same ticket). While the buses run from the Spar all through the year, there is also a bus that operates only during Summer season from the beach itself.
There is also a small coach operator that runs trips to all the major local attractions including the Pleasure Beach, Greyhound Stadium, zoo and theatre. Although we didn't avail ourselves of these services this year, we will be next as the prices seem very reasonable. Something else I've seen advertised is a Viking festival, which we missed by the matter of a week.
All in all we really enjoyed our week long visit to Hemsby and will definitely be returning next year (In fact we will be returning in October as Freddy's Great Grandma won the Grandest Gran and won a weeks holiday). From what I could see, Hemsby is a great place to visit for a day-trip with lots to do without the garishness that often comes with seaside resorts. During the week we visited we were never bored, even when the money was starting to run a little dry. So in my (and my family's) opinion, Hemsby is a great, little seaside resort that has something for everyone, from 14 month old Freddy to his 92 year old Great Grandma and is more than entitled to five stars out of five.