When Richardson’s Boating Holidays asked if we would be interested to skipper our own cruiser, a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads for 5 days, I nearly bit their hand off!
I have always had this idea that living on a boat is one of the best things you can experience, so it’s something that has been on my to do list since I was a little boy!
Since moving to Norfolk nearly 3 years ago now, the first thing we said we wanted to do was to explore the Norfolk Broads.
I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone, but the panic started to set in quickly.
Would they allow someone like me to drive a boat for 1 week?
Where would we go?
Are there already routes planned or will this be something I had to research?
I needn’t have worried as everything was extremely straight forward from the moment we arrived.
As soon as you arrive you park up and head to reception at Richardson’s Boating Holidays, then you go through all of the necessary details.
This is where your worries are put at ease, as all of the people that worked in reception at Richardson’s Boating Holidays were extremely helpful and offered us a wealth of advice with regards to route options and the best places to moor up for each evening.
Once you have gone through all of the checks, got your life jackets and hairdryer if you need one (quick note here, some of the boats are 240v but they will break your hair straighteners if you try to use them so don’t bother taking them). You will then be met by someone who will show you your boat and then run through everything you will need to know, including how to drive, moor up and do 3 point turns.
So rest assured you won’t be left to it until you are fully confident.
We had a cruiser which sleeps up to 6 people. At first I was a bit worried it would feel as claustrophobic as a caravan but it really didn’t. We had 2 bedrooms with double beds, 2 bathrooms with showers, a pull out sofa bed and ample places to store all of our stuff. Most peoples perceptions are that boats compromise on space but this is definitely not the case on the cruiser we stayed on, which was called ‘Moon Discovery’.
I think this was helped by the fact that most of the canopy can be opened (mechanically) within 2 minutes.
We did the best of the Broads 3-day route (recommended by Richardson’s Boating Holidays), where you spend the first night in How Hill.
However we decided to go to Neatishead instead as it had a lovely little pub we wanted to try. Be careful though, what you may not realise until it’s too late is that for first timers, this is very narrow. So the first recommendation we were told, was to moor up in Gay’s Staithe which is about a 10 minute walk (if you have kids) from Neatishead.
If you moor up here there is a brilliant pub which serves hearty home cooked food called the White Horse Inn. I would recommend booking in advance though as this place does get busy.
Onto Day 2 and you leave Neatishead/Gay’s Staithe and head to Wroxham. Everywhere you go on the Broads there are speed limits and these vary between 3-6mph. So don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry. Neatishead to Wroxham takes about 3 and a half hours but please don’t be put off by the sound of that. Wherever you head there are ample places to moor up for free along the way.
One of the places we stopped at on the way to Wroxham was Toad Hole Cottage Museum (How Hill). It’s a tiny marshman’s cottage situated on the River Ant which was home for a whole family in Victorian times.
On display you are able to see how they lived and the tools they used for working on the marshes. The cottage looks like it has been frozen in time with everything still there including the beds. The kids loved exploring there and learning more about what it was like.
Continuing on your route, you will next come to Ludham Bridge, don’t be alarmed as there is ample space to pass under this one!
Along the route to Wroxham there are also various nature reserves you can stop off at if you want to explore as well some extremely picturesque little villages.
Also there is a house dubbed the wonky house, an extremely sad story. A couple have lived in this house for the last 17 years but overnight it started to tilt. If you are lucky you will be able to catch a glimpse of this as you cruise by, as it really does have to be seen to be believed.
One of those pretty villages you must check out if you do this route is Horning.
There are some pretty shops, pubs and lots for the kids to see and do. One of those things is BeWILDerwood, a huge forest of family fun including giant slides, marsh walks, storytelling, zip wires, mazes and more.
Check out our review of BeWILDderwood!
When you get to Wroxham though you have 2 options, and this is where another useful piece of information came in handy from the people in the Richardson’s Boating Holidays reception. If you follow the 3-day route where it tells you about places to moor up but this is on the other side of the bridge. As of quite recently anyone who hires a boat has to pay the bridge pilot (a man who sits in a shed at the bridge) to come on board your boat and take it through the bridge for you. It costs about £12 from memory.
Given Wroxham is your destination for the night, there is no need to pass under the bridge here. We were told that just before the bridge is a boatyard called Barnes Brinkcraft. Richardson’s Boating Holidays customers are entitled to free mooring here, there is also water pumps to fill up your tank. It’s quite tight here, but if we managed to do it, anyone can. But here the thrusters will be your best friend in navigating the tight corners.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Wroxham is known as the capital of the Broads. There are ample places to choose to eat in and Wroxham is also home to the famous Roy’s stores.
We really wanted to eat in the Station Smokehouse but unfortunately this is a popular place so it’s advised to make a booking if you plan on eating here. It is located right on the railway station and it smelled absolutely delicious in there!
We have driven through Wroxham many times in the years we have lived here and each time we do, the moment we drive over the bridge the smell of fish and chips hits us, so we decided to check out one of these restaurants instead. Please don’t make the same mistake we did though, walking by McDonalds on the way there, our daughter wasn’t happy!
We ended up in Ken’s Traditional Fish and Chip restaurant. It looks like a place you wait for your food, but if you go out the back, there is a sit down restaurant. We all had Fish and Chips and a drink and it came to about £35, not bad for a family of 5, and the food was absolutely spot on, some of the nicest cod I have ever had. Then we made a compromise and had a McFlurry for pudding!
Onto day 3 and from Wroxham you take the 3 and a half hour trip to Acle. You pass much of what you did on the way to Wroxham and loads more. So if you didn’t make Horning, you can moor up on the way back.
Another place that is worthy of a visit on the way to Acle is St Benet’s Abbey. 1,000 years ago this isolated spot was a thriving monastery. There are places to moor up here, so it’s a perfect place to stop and explore. There is also lots of wildlife to see here at dusk.
When you get to Acle, there is lots of places to moor up, some are free and some you have to pay for.
We have visited Acle many times over the last 3 years, specifically for the Acle Bridge Inn. If you choose to moor up outside the pub, it’s free until 6pm. After 6pm you have to pay £10.
Just before the bridge, on the same side as the Bridge Inn pub is a restaurant called Pedro’s, a kind of Tapas restaurant. There is mooring outside of Pedro’s but this is paid.
On the opposite side of the river to Pedro’s there is free mooring, I would recommend getting a spot here if you can. It’s only a 5 minute walk to the restaurants, and there is also a café on this side if you get there early enough, Acle Dunes Café where they serve ice creams, cakes, drinks etc.
The Bridge Inn was the very first pub we went to when we moved to Norfolk and we have been back many times since. On a good day with the weather on your side they have a cute little play area for the kids, an amusement arcade area and a pool table with lots of outside seating. We rarely make a booking here as we haven’t you needed to, but sometimes there can be a wait on food if it’s busy, but trust me it is worth the wait.
The portions are generous and the food is delicious.
There is lots of selection and the kids menu, the food is perfectly sized.
Day 4 you leave Acle and make your way to your final moorning spot of either Ludham Bridge or How Hill. There isn’t anywhere to eat in the evening in How Hill so you would have to take supplies with you.
Alternatively you can do what we planned to do, on the final night you can head to Wayford as there is a pub called the Wayford Bridge Inn. There is plenty of places to moor up either before or after the bridge (the bridge looks very low but the cruiser we had managed to fit through). Ready to return your boat the next morning between 9-9.30am. Wayford is about 50 minute cruise back to Richardson’s boatyard so I would recommend getting packed up the night before, ready to leave at 8am.
Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan with us on our final night, so we ended up mooring up back at Richardson’s Boating Holidays which isn’t a bad thing to do. It means you are already there ready to check out in the morning, plus there is a Tesco’s which is a 2 minute drive away.
I can honestly say this one of the best experiences I have had for a holiday in the UK and what was even better, it was on my doorstep.
An off-peak 7-night boating break for up to six people on Moon Discovery with Richardson’s Boating Holidays costs from £1,150, a peak break costs from £2,404 . Prices accurate at the time of writing and subject to availability. For more information visit, www.richardsonsboatingholidays.co.uk or 01692 668981.
When you take these prices into consideration, depending on when you go, it is an amazing alternative to something like Center Parcs. Plus you have the luxury of seeing and doing more, and visiting multiple places in a short amount of time.
Plus if you have a dog, all Richardson’s Boating Holidays boats are dog friendly, and with plenty of places to stop off along the way to give them a run around, your dog can join in the adventure too.
Boating holidays really are the perfect way to spend time together as a family.
And if you time it right, having the weather on your side definitely helps too.
Having experienced our first boating holiday, it won’t be our last but I now have the experience to answer those all important questions!
What happens with the toilet waste?
As a family of 5, our tank didn’t need emptying during our stay, however if yours happens to need to be emptied, there are places along your route you can stop off and pay someone to empty it.
How do I fill up the boat with fuel?
Your boat is full when you collect it, and during our holiday we used ¼ of the tank, so chances are you won’t need to worry about this.
How often do I need to fill up the water tank?
A full tank lasted us approximately 2 days, but we were told it’s good practice to fill up daily to keep the water as fresh as possible. But when this isn’t possible it should last 2 days or more depending on how many of you there is.
Can I use my electrical devices on the cruisers?
The cruiser we had was 240v and we had 4 main sockets we could plug things in like phone chargers, battery chargers, laptop charger, hairdryer (provided by Richardson’s Boating Holidays). It’s best to do this whilst the engine is running though to prevent the battery going flat. One thing to note, hair straighteners won’t work and it will break them. Apparently it doesn’t heat up the plates enough, so they will break, so just don’t bring them with you.
Do we need our own bedding and towels?
Platinum cruisers benefit from having towels provided and bedding is provided across all boats.
Can kids drive the boat?
Yes if they are 8 or over.
Anything else we should know?
Handy Kids guide to the Broads here
River guide here
Idiots guide to boating terms here
Thank you so much to Richardson’s Boating Holidays for having us, it was an experience we will never forget.
Nb. This is a collaborative post in partnership with Richardson’s Boating Holidays, but all views and opinions are our own.