After spending September and October driving around the UK, visiting all the National Parks, the end was near. The Broads National Park was my last stop before heading back home to Nottingham. Although it is called The Broads National Park, most people know it as the Norfolk Broads. I stayed at a Herbert Woods apartment on the waterside, with a wonderful view from the lounge.
I had a few days to explore so wanted to experience the Norfolk Broads from both points of view. One as a walker and secondly, on a boat on the waterways. My last day in the Norfolk Broads I had the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. It was ironic that my final days exploring and hiking the National Parks in the UK would actually be spent on a boat. No physical activity required!
My trip was arranged via Kate at Jungle PR. As a solo traveller, we discussed options for a boat trip. I’m willing to give most things a go on my own. How hard can steering a boat be??? Well, it turns out mooring a boat on your own isn’t that easy! Kate asked if I had ever moored a boat. In fact, the only boats I’ve ever be in control of were canoes and kayaks. At this point, Kate offered to join me for the day, with her husband who we could put in charge of mooring. Sounds like a great idea to me!
arriving at Herbert woods
I arrived early at Herbert Woods’ reception. Probably because I was staying in their Dragonfly apartment, 1-minute walk across the car park. And I was excited about my day trip on The Broads! I signed some basic paperwork, then popped next door to pick up the life jackets.
A few minutes later Kate and her husband arrived. We were ready to board the Starlight Picnic Boat. This is one of the luxury day boats that Herbert Woods rents out for the day. There were several all lined up they looked like lovely boats. I’m not a boat expert but when you’re comparing it to a kayak, anything with a roof is a bonus!
We were shown on board and given a brief run through. I did ask him to slow down a bit, as I wanted to understand the controls too. Then that was it, we were off! The staff member from Herbert Woods offered to move the boat out for us. If you’re new to steering boats then it’s good to have the option. I like to try things out myself but I would have accepted his offer to avoid any embarrassment leaving the boatyard.
What’s the boat like inside?
Onboard the boat there is a long corner sofa down one side. Yes, I can confirm it was nice and comfy! Plus another two seats, one in front of the driver’s chair and one behind.
The boat says it’s for up to 10 people, we had 3 adults and 3 dogs. It did seem full when you tried to move about. But I genuinely think that’s because one of the dogs was so excited about being on a boat for the first time. He managed to get in my way every time I moved but in a cute way!
There’s a small kitchen with a sink, fridge and one burner stove. You can boil enough water to make hot drinks for everyone on board. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks for the journey too.
And finally, there’s a decent sized toilet with sink. I had expected it to be quite small but much more spacious than I thought. Ok enough about the toilet!!
The starlight picnic boat
At the front, there are two double doors leading to a small outside area. You could probably fit four people seated here. On top of the boat, there are metal runners going all the way around. And the boat roof is non-slip so you could comfortably sit on top too (only when the boat isn’t moving!).
If you want the best of inside and outside there is another option! The two roof panels slide back. So you can have an open-topped boat in sunny weather and protection from the weather when it’s misbehaving.
They were easy enough to slide open but when it came to sliding them back it was a bit more of a challenge. I like to think I’m strong but I had to do a good heave-ho to get them shut.
Day trip on the Norfolk Broads
Once on the main waterway, I took a turn at steering. I was surprised how slow the controls were, I turned a bit to the right, then a bit more and then oh no I’d over-steering so back to the left again. It took a bit of getting used to but I enjoyed the new challenge.
The best thing is that the waterways are wide so you have plenty of room to manoeuvre. I felt confident steering the boat and enjoyed being captain!
Herbert Woods give you a map with journey times from Potter Heigham. (This is where you pick the boat up from). The furthest point you can go to is Stalham which takes 3 hours 45 minutes. We didn’t have that much time so opted for a closer destination Ranworth near Malthouse Broads. The estimated journey time was 1 hour 45 minutes. Plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and to explore Ranworth!
Arriving at Ranworth
Mooring the boat took a bit of time here. It’s a busy place and we had arrived at one of the busiest times. Kate’s husband did an amazing job mooring the boat. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with everyone watching!
There a short walk you can do on boardwalks to a Nature Reserve and bird watching area. The Wildlife centre at the end of the walk was closed when I went in the middle of October. But I still spotted a few birds, including a heron perched on top of the hide. And many dragonflies flying about among the reeds. There are information signs as you go so you can do the walk in about 15-20 minutes but allow longer if you want to stop and enjoy the peace and quiet.
In need of some food? The Maltsters is a lovely place to stop for lunch. It’s a pub and restaurant so pop in for food or just a drink. They allow dogs too.
Top boating tips
If you’ve never driven a boat on the Norfolk Broads there are a few things you need to know. Herbert Woods’ staff give you a summary of the rules and these are also included on the information leaflet and map they give you.
- Always keep your boat on the right. It’s not like on the road where we all drive on the left. This would make a lot more sense to me.
- Anything without an engine has right of way. For example, sailing boats, kayaks, rowing boats. Anything that could struggle to move out of your way quickly. Take care of your boating neighbours :).
- Keep to the speed limit. It’s normally between 4-6 mph. There’s a speedometer on your instrument panel.
- Also look out for people fishing and make sure you avoid their fishing lines.
What do you need to bring?
- Food and snacks for your day trip
- Tea/coffee, milk, sugar if you want to make a hot drink
- A warm top/jumper, in case you want to sit outside whilst the boat is moving. (Depending on the time of year.)
- Money – when you stop off at the pub for lunch
- Camera – I took some beautiful photos on my trip
- Binoculars – there are so many birds, it’s great for identifying what you see
How much does the Starlight Picnic Boat cost?
£160 per day* (1st Oct – 27th May)
£180 per day* (6th – 30th Jun/ 5th – 30th Sep)
£220 per day* (28th May – 5th Jun/ 1st Jul – 4th Sep)
*Prices are correct at time of writing. Dates are based on 2017 calendar so subject to change. Please click here for up to date prices
Where to stay in the Norfolk Broads?
Herbert Woods have a range of different apartments and cottages that you can stay in. I stayed in one of their waterside apartments, called Dragonfly apartment. It is the ideal place to base yourself from and means you can explore the Norfolk Broads by car and boat.
Full review coming soon on my stay at the apartment.
Did you know the UK had 15 National Parks? Find out where the other ones are here!
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**The Starlight Picnic boat trip and apartment was provided by Herbert Woods. However, all opinions are my own.