Greentraveller Guide to the Broads
A member of the National Parks family, The Broads is Britain’s magical waterland, an atmospheric wilderness of rivers and lakes, huge skies and far-off horizons.
As the country’s largest wetland, it’s brimming with wildlife, but it’s not as natural a landscape as you might think: the area’s three main rivers, the Yare, Waveney and Bure, flow into larger expanses, known as ‘broads’, which are the outcome of centuries of peat-digging during the Middle Ages, when they were flooded permanently as sea levels rose.
Most people come here to go boating, and you can do the same – we’ve listed our favourite boatyards offering new, fuel-efficient boats that are signed up to the local Green Boat Charter. You can also explore the Broads by canoe or on a classic, engine-less Broads sailing boat. It’s harder to experience the beauty of the Broads from dry land, but it can be done, and we’ve listed some glorious footpaths and cycleways that can get you into the heart of this unique region.
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Self-cater in an eco barn, get back to nature on a wooded campsite, wake up to riverside views and a delicious home-cooked breakfast: browse our pick of green places to stay
Whatever the setting - be it an award-winning restaurant, an old, beamy pub, a family-friendly café or a well-stocked farm shop - you're never very far from great, Norfolk produce
Explore the Broads and nature reserves by foot, boat or bike, or head inland for a cultural day out at a museum or gallery; here's our pick of family-friendly things to do in the region
- Nearest national cycle network
A word from the Broads
The Broads is Britain’s magical waterland – a special place where land, sky and sparkling water seem to meld into one. It is a uniquely beautiful environment, shaped by people working hand in hand with nature, over thousands of years.
Teeming with wildlife, this is the Nature Capital of the UK, home to the largest concentration of rare and endangered species existing anywhere in the country. Some of these wonderful things are found only in the Broads, like the spectacular Swallowtail – Britain’s largest butterfly. Over a quarter of the area is protected by international designations; such is the global importance of the Broads wetlands.
You can sail away into another world where time seems to slow down, and everyday pressures disappear into a watery dreamland. Water is indeed at the heart of everything here, whether you are walking beside it, canoeing on it – or just sitting by it and enjoying the view.
There is much to do on land as well, and it is easy to get around without a car. A great railway network takes you right out to the very wildest places, as well as to the tourism hot-spots. And if you want nightlife or shopping, just head into Norwich, the historic city of the Broads. But don’t forget the sea and the miles of open sandy beaches of the Norfolk coast, many of which are close by and some actually within the Broads area.
We take climate change and the environment rather seriously here – the very fabric of this special landscape depends on preserving the balance between the needs of people and those of nature and we don’t want our fabulous wetlands to disappear under the sea. We’re finding new ways to reduce our footprint so that future generations can enjoy the jewel of Britain’s National Parks family for many years to come.
The Broads Authority is widely known as a pioneer of sustainable tourism, and it works closely with tourism businesses to promote green initiatives. Green Traveller has selected some of the top things to do in this guide – plus super places to stay and eat, and it will help you to tread lightly as you enjoy the best of this fantastic place. Then go out and discover lots more on your own!
Bruce Hanson, Tourism Officer of the Broads
Did you know?
- There are more than 60 Broads (small lakes) and 200km of lock-free, navigable waterways
- England’s greatest hero, Lord Nelson, was born in Norfolk and learned how to sail on the Broads as a boy
- Britain’s first solar-powered passenger boat – ‘Ra’ – was launched here and you can still take a trip on her today
- Large areas are up to a metre below sea level
- In Roman times, most of the area was a huge estuary, until the sea later receded
- The Broads today are the remnants of mediaeval peat-diggings (for fuel). Sea level then rose again and flooded them – and sometime in the next 100 years the sea will rise further and all will be water once more!
The Broads, England
Map of the Broads