Norfolk is an excellent county for wildlife spotting. There are several spots along the coast where you can go to view seals. One of our favourite places to head to in winter is Horsey Gap near Great Yarmouth. In December and January, every year, grey seals gather to give birth. The large groups of seals lolling about on the sandy beach attract hoards of wildlife watchers to the dunes above.
Tips for Taking Kids to See the Seals at Horsey Gap
- Wrap up warm – There’s always a cold wind so remember the gloves and hats.
- Follow the rules – In peak season, the public is not allowed onto the beach to protect the seals. The pups will nestle down in the dunes, so you are still able to close enough. Towards the end of January, the public is allowed onto the beach. Still, it is essential to make sure children now to keep their distance and not disturb the seals. See below for more information.
- Finding the seals – Signposts from the car park point you in the right direction.
- Walk – There is a small group of seals within a 2-minute walk of the car park. You will be able to find a much larger group if you are happy to brave a 10-minute windswept walk.
- Dead seals – be prepared that there are likely to be a few dead seal pups on the beach.
- Toilets – There are no facilities at Horsey Gap. The closest toilets are at Poppyfields Cafe or a little way down the road at Horsey Windpump (National Trust).
Important Information for Visiting the Horsey Seals
The Friends of Horsey Seals work hard to protect the seals of Horsey Beach. They manage the beach and provides wardens to patrol the areas where there are seals. Their website has lots of valuable information on visiting Horsey Beach. Here are the essential rules they ask visitors to stick to:
- Keep your distance – Maintain a distance of at least 10 metres between you and the seals.
- Never come between a pup and their mother – Approaching seal pups may lead the mother to abandon the pup.
- Keep dogs close and on a lead – Seals are protective of their pups and will bite if approached.
- Do not chase seals or their pups into the water – this is very dangerous for the pups.
When to Visit The Horsey Beach Seals
The busiest time to visit Horsey Gap is late December and early January when there are lots of pups on the beach and in the Junes. It’s lovely to be able to see the cute balls of white fluff, and you can get pretty close. The disadvantage of going during this period is the crowds.
The seals arrive on the beach at Horsey Gap in November, so it is possible to see pups much earlier. Early December is the best time to see seal pups and miss the worst of the crowds.
If you go in the second half of January, the crowds will have thinned a little, and you can get down onto the beach to view the seals. The major disadvantage at this time is that there are far fewer seal pups on the beach.
Where are the Horsey Gap Seals?
Horsey Gap is a sandy beach on the East Norfolk coast. It is 30 minutes drive to the north of Great Yarmouth and around 45 minutes drive from Norwich. It is just outside the Norfolk Broads National Park.
If you are approaching from the south, the turn is on the right as the road turns to the left just after Poppyfields Cafe.
Parking at Hosey Gap
There is a small pay and display car park close to the beach. In peak season there is also a maned overflow car park a little further away. The proceeds from the car park do not go towards helping maintain the beach and dunes and protecting the seals. To donate to Friends of Horsey Seals visit their website.
Food and Drink at Horsey Gap
There are two options for food and drink at Horsey Gap. In the car park, there is a burger van with a decent selection of hot food. The coffee isn’t great, but it will keep your hands warm.
A significantly warmer option is Poppyfields cafe which is situated just across the road from the car park entrance. They have gone all out with the 1940s theming, down to the air-raid shelter and unexploded bomb in the car park. It was also a bit of a surprise to see Hitler keeping David’s Earl Grey warm (Churchill can be found on the other side). The cafe gets extremely busy during seal season so I would definitely recommend booking a table if you want to eat at lunchtime. The service was friendly and quick, though. The menu didn’t have a massive number of options, but there was something for everyone.
Poppyfields also has a charming themed gift shop. It’s full of local crafts, old-fashioned sweets and 1940s souvenirs.
Are the Horsey Gap Seals Worth a Visit?
The Horsey Beach seals are a great way to introduce children to the wonderful wildlife we have in the UK. Often wildlife can be small and difficult to see. This is definitely not the case at Horsey Gap. For our family, it is one of the best winter adventures.