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Things to do at Blakeney National Nature Reserve

Common seals, on a sand and shingle spit at Blakeney Point, Norfolk, amongst a breeding colony of sandwich terns
Common seals and sandwich terns on a sand and shingle spit at Blakeney Point, Norfolk in winter | © National Trust Images/Ian Ward

From witnessing England's largest grey seal colony at Blakeney Point to exploring the scenic Friary Hills and Blakeney Freshes, discover the things to see and do at Blakeney National Nature Reserve.

Seal watching at Blakeney Point

Blakeney Point is home to England's largest grey seal colony with around 4,500 pups born between the end of October and mid-January each year.

The best way to get up close and personal with the wildlife on Blakeney Point is by boat, with one of the seal boat tour operators that are based at Morston Quay (see below for list of boat operators). It’s recommended you book ahead this winter to ensure your place on the boats.

Visiting the seals on foot

It is possible to view the colony by walking from Cley beach. Visitors are advised that this is a 6-mile round trip, much of it on shingle, and a protective cordon will limit how close you can get to the main seal colony. For the best experience on foot, wrap up well and bring a pair of binoculars. It is not possible to walk to the colony from other locations.

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Grey seal pupping season at Blakeney Point

Duncan Halpin, Norfolk Coast Ranger, explains how Blakeney Point has become home to the UK's largest grey seal colony and what to expect during the pupping season, from end-October to mid-January.

Book your seal-watching trip

We recommend you book a boat trip from Morston Quay if you’re planning to come and see the seals. Views of the seals are much better from a boat.

Several local businesses run boat trips to see the seals. These are not operated by the National Trust, so please raise any queries with the relevant provider.

Beans Boat Trips

Beans Seal Trips have been a family run business for over 50 years. They run seal boat trips throughout the year with daily trips during the summer months as well as regularly through the winter too.

Book with Beans

Temples Seal Trips

The Temple family have been operating boat trips for well over 60 years, with skipper Jim starting when he was just nine years old. The whole family helps to run the business with future generations often on board learning the ropes.

Book with Temples

Ptarmigan Seal Trips

A family-run, local business offering daily boat trips out to Blakeney Point in their purpose-built ferry boat, the Ptarmigan. They sail from Morston Quay daily, from April until early November.

Book the Ptarmigan

Bishop's Boats

Bishop's Boats have been running seal-watching trips departing from the picturesque Blakeney harbour and Morston Quay since the early 1960s. This family-run business has two traditional purpose-built clinker construction wooden boats and one smaller boat with trips running seasonally.

Book with Bishop's

A group of people sit in boat on the water whilst on a seal-watching trip at Blakeney Point in Norfolk.
Visitors on a seal-watching trip at Blakeney Point | © National Trust Images/Hanne Siebers

Book in advance and arrive early

Trips to visit the seals are very popular and must always be booked in advance. They run at different times according to the tide.

During busy periods the car park at Morston Quay can be full so please allow plenty of time to arrive, park your car and get to your departure point on time.

Come prepared

Even in the summer it can be a lot cooler on the water, with spray coming over the boats. Please make sure you have enough clothing and wear sensible footwear as it can be slippery underfoot.

The length of your trip is approximately one hour. Drinks and snacks are available from the café at Morston Quay.

Bring a camera or binoculars

There's a lot to see on your trip so don't forget to bring your camera to capture those special moments. You'll get up close and have great views of the seals but do bring binoculars if you have them.

A view across the lush green scenery of Blakeney Freshes at Blakeney National Nature Reserve, Norfolk
A view across Blakeney Freshes | © National Trust Images/Ian Ward

Explore Friary Hills

To the east of Blakeney village is a small area called Friary Hills. Part of an old friary, the site is a mixture of grassland, trees and gorse and overlooks the Blakeney Freshes. It's family friendly and perfect for a picnic.

Birdwatching at Friary Hills

Friary Hills is known locally as being a great spot for birdwatching. This part of the coast is the first place that migrating birds flying in from the continent are able to stop and rest.

Hilltop views

Head to the top of the Friary Hills, where you'll find a couple of well placed benches. Pause to take in the panoramic views over Blakeney Freshes and beyond to Blakeney Point and harbour.

Discover Blakeney Freshes

Comprising approximately 160 hectares of freshwater grazing marsh, Blakeney Freshes is an important area for breeding birds and overwintering wildfowl. For this reason, it's a popular place for birdwatchers.

Some areas are closed for grazing but the National Trail Norfolk Coast Path goes around the perimeter and offers spectacular elevated views.

Wildlife watching at Blakeney Freshes

During the warmer months, Blakeney Freshes is an important area for ground-nesting birds. Species such as lapwing and avocet raise chicks in the surrounding fields.

It's also home to water voles and otters, so be sure to keep an ear out for the tell-tale 'plop' as they drop into the water in the ditches that criss-cross this site.

As the weather turns colder this expansive area becomes the feeding and roosting spot for the thousands of pink-footed and brent geese that migrate to this part of Norfolk.

Walking trails

Whether you're looking for a short meander or a longer stroll, Blakeney Freshes is perfect for a scenic walk. Take a short circular walk to Friary Hills, taking in three different habitats along the way. Or why not take a coastal walk through Blakeney village and around Blakeney Freshes? The 3-mile wheelchair-accessible route is fantastic for spotting wildlife.

Grey seals and a pup on the beach at Blakeney National Nature Reserve, Norfolk in winter

Discover more at Blakeney National Nature Reserve

Find out how to get to Blakeney National Nature Reserve, where to park, things to see and do and more.

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