Where to see seals in Norfolk

You can see Atlantic Grey seals all year round along the Norfolk coastline, if you know where to look. Flat beaches, tall dunes and shallow waters make parts of the Norfolk coast ideal locations for seals to birth their pups in the winter months, and it’s easy to locate seal colonies throughout the summer, too.

Before you set off on a seal-spotting expedition, please remember the following rules to ensure that no seals come to harm as a result of your visit:

  • No matter when you visit, you should never get within 10 metres of a seal on the beach. During the ‘pupping’ season (November – January) it’s also crucially important not to walk among the seals at all. Doing so can cause the mothers to abandon their seal pups, meaning the pups may starve or drown attempting to enter the water before they are fully waterproof.
  • If you’re taking a dog with you to see seals, keep it on a short lead. Seals will bite if they feel that they are in danger, and they see dogs as predators.
  • Supervise children when exploring sand dunes in areas where seal colonies are resting. Seals may be hidden in the dunes, and aside from the risk of disturbing the seals, there is also a risk that they will hurt small children by biting them in a fight-or-flight response.
  • Whether you’re looking for seals or not, don’t take ‘flying ring’ frisbees to the beach. These can ‘necklace’ seals if they go into the water, which can result in serious injury and even death. Plastic bags, fishing netting and rope are also major offenders, so please take rubbish home with you and better yet, remove litter you see on the beach and bin it safely elsewhere!

Blakeney Point (Best time: May – August)

Credit: Ptarmigan Seal Trips

Probably the best known place to see seals in Norfolk, Blakeney Point is the home of England’s largest Grey Seal colony. The best time to see seals and their pups at Blakeney Point is between May and August, when you’re sure to see them basking on sandbanks a short way from the coastline. Blakeney is around an hour’s drive from Norwich and King’s Lynn.

There are several companies offering seal-spotting boat tours around Blakeney Point, and you’ll need to book with one of them as it isn’t possible to reach this seal colony on foot. Setting off from Blakeney itself or from Morston Quay, a few choices include:

  • Beans Seal Trips – departing Morston Quay – all year round
    £20 per adult, £10 per child, Infants (under 2) free of charge
  • Bishops Boats – departing Blakeney and Morston Quay – April to October
    £20 per adult, £10 per child, Infants (under 2) free of charge
  • Ptarmigan Seal Trips – departing Morston Quay – April to October
    £20 per adult, £10 per child, Infants (under 2) free of charge

With any of these companies, it’s advisable to book as far in advance as you can – trips do sell out in the busier seal-spotting months!

Horsey Gap (Best time: November – February)

Credit: Jo Davenport

Seals come onto the beach at Horsey Gap every year between November and February, to give birth to new pups and bask on the sand. While you’re likely to spot the odd seal in the water and on the shoreline all year round, winter is hands down the best time to see seals en masse as the local colony settles in.

Because the colony hangs out on the beach and in the dunes at Horsey, there’s no need to book a boat trip. You can see plenty on foot, free of charge, without needing to venture off into the water. The car park at Horsey Gap does get full, so to save the planet and make your own life easier, share a vehicle with other seal-spotting pals if you can!

It’s really, really important to keep dogs on a lead and to obey the other best practice rules for visiting the seals that I listed at the start of this post, because it’s too easy for human interactions to wind up being harmful to the seals at Horsey Gap. Every year there are instances of pups being abandoned because humans taking selfies have gotten too close, or dogs off the lead have chased a mother away from her pup – whatever you do, remember to be mindful of the wellbeing of the seals first and foremost.

Horsey Gap is around a 45-minute drive from Norwich, or 30 minutes from Great Yarmouth.

Waxham (June – August, November – February)

Waxham is often overlooked by people searching for a place to sea the seals in Norfolk, likely because it’s a little off the beaten track. With no proper car park, roads that lead up to Waxham beach can get crowded in the summer months – and there are no toilets or other facilities here either. What there is, however, is a peaceful stretch of beach edged in by sand dunes, where you can spot seals in small numbers throughout most of the year.

I’ve highlighted the summer and winter peak times here, but the truth is that whatever time of year you go, you’re sure to see at least a few seals at Waxham. In the summertime, Waxham’s seals are often found swimming with surfers and bobbing around to get a look at people swimming just off the shore. In the winter, you’re more likely to find seals on the sand, as pupping season brings mother ashore to have their young.

While there aren’t typically as many seals here as there are at Horsey Gap, the two beaches sit side-by-side on the Norfolk coastline and seals often spend their time between both. You can drive from one beach to the other in under 10 minutes, or take a leisurely walk if you’re making the most of the summer weather.

For a great place to stay in the area, checkout Shangri-La, a holiday home mere metres from the dunes.

Winterton-on-Sea (June – August, November – February)

Just as Waxham is a good place to see seals due to its close proximity to Horsey Gap, so the same can be said of Winterton-on-Sea. The same distance south of Horsey as Waxham is north (less than 10 minutes’ drive away) Winterton is something of an ‘overflow spot’ for the Atlantic Grey Seal colony that hangs out at Horsey Gap during the winter and at other times of year.

The dunes at Winterton are part of a site of special scientific interest, and as well as seals you may see terns, Natterjack Toads and even adders during your trip. While there is no longer a cafe at Winterton beach (coastal erosion put paid to that some years ago) there is still a reasonably-sized car park for ease of access.

As with other areas, the prime time to see seal pups (from a distance!) is during the winter months, but you’ll be able to see seals swimming near the shore throughout the summer months as well.

Seal-spotting tips to remember

Please, please, please, remember to always stay at least 10 metres away from any seal or seal pup during your trip to see the seals, and keep dogs on a short lead if you’re taking any with you. There’s a reason I’m repeating this when it was already mentioned earlier in the post: visitors being mindful of seals and their safety is the difference between life and death for new seal pups.

If you see an injured seal or a seal pup you think has been abandoned in the Horsey Gap area, contact the Friends of Horsey Seals rescue team on 07706 314514 , or the RSPCA on 0300 1234999.

Visit the Friends of Horsey Seals website to find out more about how you can help Norfolk’s seal colonies.

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