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Tips on Seeing the Seals at Horsey in Norfolk

Susan enjoys travel, art, writing, and natural products. She lives in Kent, just outside of London.

Seal pups are fun to watch.

Seal pups are fun to watch.

Where is the Best Place to See Seals in Norfolk?

Approximately 50% of the world's Grey Seal population lives in the seas around Great Britain, and a large number of these wonderful creatures choose the coast of Norfolk as their feeding and breeding area. They can be seen in the water just off the beach all year around, and they also spend some of their time on land.

In the winter months, the female seals come onto the sand to give birth and to feed their pups. At the same time the males wait in the sea to mate with the females as soon as they finish feeding the pups. So the months of December to February is the best time to see these mammals in their natural environment.

The quiet beach of Horsey Gap, not far from Great Yarmouth, is an area where the seals return every year to give birth, and this place has become very popular with visitors who enjoy observing these sea mammals. It is important to know that there are no facilities here, it is just a natural area where people can watch the wonderful sight of over 1500 seal pups being born, weaned and taking to the sea for the first time.

Young seal pup

Young seal pup

Horsey Gap Car Park

There is a car park at the back of the beach, accessed along a narrow track. The entrance to this track is on the bend of a road and is easy to miss so look carefully. The car park is very basic, and there are no toilets or any other facilities there. There is a charge to park here, and you need change for the ticket machine. In 2020 the charge is £3.00 for 2 hours, £4.00 for 3 hours and £5.00 for all day.

To get to the viewing area, you must walk along a pathway. The pathway is accessed through a gate which is impossible for pushchairs, wheelchairs or disability scooters to pass through. The walkway is also very muddy with deep puddles.

To make sure you enjoy your time at Horsey in the winter months, wear wellingtons or walking boots. If you have children, take a spare pair of trousers as well - kids cannot resist jumping in the puddles or they take a tumble and end up with wet legs!

It is often quite windy too, so wrap up warm and wear a hat.

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Making the Most of a Seal Watching Visit

The female seals come onto the sandy beach between Winterton-on-Sea and Horsey each year from November to January to give birth to the pups. They feed the pups for 3 weeks, and then the mother seals simply leave them to fend for themselves. The pups' fluffy coats are slowly replaced by a waterproof coat, and at this point, hunger and instinct drives the youngsters into the water.

At the peak time, around mid- December, there can be 500 plus pups and just as many adult seals on the beach. You can see pups laying on the sand waiting for their coats to change, and others venturing into the sea for the first time. There are also mature males waiting to mate with adult females. There really is a lot to witness at this time of the year.

The beach in this area is closed at this time of year, and visitors have to stick to the viewing areas. There are two of these areas at the back of the beach up on the sand dunes, so it is easy to get a clear view the mammals. The first viewing area is only a 10-minute walk from the car park. The second area is larger, but this one takes about 25 minutes to walk to. If you have the time, visit both areas.

There is another way to reach the viewing areas - it is possible to walk along from the car park at Horsey Mill. The path from the mill takes you across the road and through the countryside. It is a pleasant walk, and there is the advantage of a toilet and tea shop at the mill. It takes roughly 25 minutes to reach either of the viewing areas from the mill.

To enjoy the visit, wrap up warm, wear waterproof shoes, avoid the busy times at late morning and early afternoon, and leave yourself around two hours for the experience.

Help Keep the Seals at Horsey Safe

The seals are doing what comes naturally and we are privileged to be able to view them. We must respect them and give them space to carry on. Staying a safe distance away and keeping children and dogs controlled is a must. The seals get stressed if they feel trapped and they may get aggressive, or they might leave the pups early if they feel threatened. Make sure absolutely no rubbish is left behind because hungry pups could try to eat plastics or paper and choke.

There are volunteers there who are very knowledgable so take time to listen to what they say and learn from them. They are all lovely and interesting to speak to.

The seals can often be seen just off the shore in the sea during the rest of the year, so if you visit at any time, look out at the water for them. They pop their heads up to breathe and look around quite regularly.

The Beach at Horsey Gap

The Beach at Horsey Gap


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Susan Hambidge

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