Earlier this year we ticked something off our holiday bucket list – a boating holiday in the Norfolk Broads. It’s a great time for UK holidays at the moment, and we love both boat trips and cruises, so it was the next logical step for us to actually hire a boat for a week and sail it ourselves.
Things to Consider When Hiring a Boat
There are many things to think about when hiring a boat on the Broads. You can of course hire a holiday cottage and a day boat, which would still allow you to enjoy boating around the Broads. But assuming, like us, you want to live onboard your vessel for the whole trip, there are few things you’ll want to consider.
1. Your budget
There’s quite a lot of choice out there. We hired our boat from Herbert Woods, but there are various other companies you could use. And each company will have a large fleet with all types of cruisers. What you go for will likely depend on what your budget is. For us, we had already decided to splash out as it would be our main holiday for the year, and our boat was the Olympic Light from the newer range of cruisers. It was supposedly intended for 7 people but we found it a great size for us. It felt fairly luxurious, was easy to navigate and we felt it had a lot of advantages over the older or cheaper vessels.
Something to be aware of is that although a boat may claim to be a certain berth, you may not comfortable if you fill it to maximum capacity. Our cruiser apparently slept 7, but there were only 2 bedrooms and one of those was pretty snug. We felt like this size boat was great for the 2 of us, and if we’d had 2 kids they would have been fine on there with us. Any more than that and we would have been extremely cramped. I have no idea how we’d all have eaten dinner together or watched TV or played a game in the evening. So be realistic about how much space you need and don’t assume a boat for 2 is really enough for 2!
Another reason we chose the Olympic Light is to have a choice of driving the boat from up on the sundeck, or from its inside dual controls in case of rain. Some boats don’t have a dual control but a retractable canopy roof over the saloon instead. Some have communal front decks with outdoor seating for a small group. Ours had a large roof space for sunbathing. The ideal cruiser will depend on what your group wants from the trip.
Navigating the Norfolk Broads
We initially tried to plan our trip in advance, but we found this was unnecessary when we got there. We were given maps for navigating the broads which proved useful for planning where we would sail to each day. But the most useful tool of all was the Aweigh mobile app which is perfect for showing your current location and what is nearby, including mooring spots and their details, places to eat and more.
Places to Visit on the Norfolk Broads
We only visited the Northern Broads on our trip, as we were advised against sailing through Great Yarmouth on our first trip with it being tidal. This was fine for us and we were happy to explore the Northern Broads, get used to mooring and driving, and discover the towns and landmarks on those routes.
We moored up at various small villages and towns including Ludham, Horning and Wroxham, and enjoyed pub lunches and stocking up on supplies. None of the towns are likely to take up much of your time, but there are opportunities for walking, visiting nature reserves or travelling further afield on land. We particularly enjoyed mooring at Salhouse Broad and walking up to Woodforde’s brewery for lunch at The Fur and Feather Inn and to sample the locally produced ale.
And if we’d explored past Great Yarmouth to the Southern broads we probably would have sailed all the way to Norwich for a city visit.
Boating life is a slower pace of life, which is perfect for a relaxing holiday. We spent the majority of our time exploring the waterways, as we felt that this was the most unique part of the trip. Aside from mooring up in towns for lunch or for the night, we spent time feeding birds with ethical bird seed (available all over the broads), reading or watching DVDs in our cabin in the evenings, and playing 2 player board games.
In terms of food we took some supplies for rustling up easy meals in the small kitchen on board. We also enjoyed a trip to Roys of Wroxham and their bakery section where we happily stocked up on cakes mid week. It’s the perfect trip for pub lunches (many pubs can be moored at right outside if you’re lucky), and we also stopped off for fish and chips one lunchtime. And on one stormy night in port we ordered a takeaway to be delivered to the boatyard through Just Eat.
We enjoyed most evenings moored in a proper boat yards with easy access to shops and power hookups. But we did also sleep over in a wilder moorings a couple of times which appealed to our sense of adventure.
What if it Rains?
One of my top tips for a boating holiday is to take one or two old towels with you, which will act as floor/deck towels. Ours became our most used towel because we had a few rainy days on the trip and needed to dry outdoor seats and indoor floors.
Other than deciding whether to drive our boat from inside or outside, the rain didn’t really hinder us. Even though it was far pleasanter to be sunbathing on deck, we still had plenty to entertain ourselves, and we love a cosy holiday as much as sunny one.
Top Tips For Your Boating Holiday
So here are my top tips for holidaying in the Norfolk Broads:
- Hire the best boat available in your budget, and don’t believe the berth sizes on the website – check the floor plans and photos and try to visualise the space.
- Download the Aweigh app before your visit ready for navigating the Broads.
- Take an old towel for keeping the floors and deck dry.
- Plan for a slow and relaxing holiday, and take plenty of books and games.
- Take warmer clothing than you think you’ll need. It’s chilly on the water, even on sunny days. And much like camping, there’s nowhere to dry wet clothes, so make sure you have enough.
- Don’t worry if it is your first time – you get a lesson in driving your boat AND mooring up, and you soon pick it up.
- And ENJOY your time exploring the waterways!