Between the epic expanse of sand of the world-renowned Holkham Beach and the unique bird sanctuary of Blakeney Point, lies the harbour town of Wells-next-the-Sea.
Its name, dating back to the Domesday Book, derives from the fresh water springs which still percolate through the glacial chalk of this stretch of coast (though mains water has long replaced them as a source of drinking water). Its pretty harbour jostling with crabbing boats and visiting yachts in summer is sheltered by salt marshes from the open sea, access to which is gained through a wide channel. Its west bank provides an ideal walk to the Pinewoods which fringe the beach beyond. To the west lies reclaimed farmland, while to the east the marshes are a haven for gulls, wading birds and, in winter, hosts of geese. A narrow-gauge railway runs from the town to the beach, with its lively array of stilted beach huts and visitor car park.
The harbour, where fresh shellfish can be bought off the quay, is overlooked by an imposing granary (dating from 1904), with its gantry stretching across the street to the quay. Together with its remaining malthouses, it evokes memories of the town’s history as an important manufacturer and exporter of malt. Running back from the Harbour, the old Staithe Street boasts a range of traditional shops – butcher’s, baker’s, fishmonger’s, greengrocer’s, (lacking only a candlestick maker!), and convenience stores as well as a variety of bookshops, boutiques and art shops and a variety of places to eat. (The town has a number of local artists whose works can be bought.) Beyond lies the Buttlands, a large town green surrounded by mature lime trees, elegant Georgian houses and several splendid pubs.