All you need to know about Wells-next-the-Sea
Generation after generation have enjoyed living in, working in and visiting Wells. Discover some of the reasons why the town has proven so popular over the years. With its rich history as a fishing and commercial port, its enduring appeal as a holiday destination, and its role as a haven for wildlife, Wells is steeped in history and charm.
Wells is a small seaside town with a population of around 2,000 townsfolk, situated centrally on the North Norfolk coast. Almost the entire 50 mile stretch of coastline from Snettisham in the west to Mundesley in the east is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Wells is perfectly located as a base from which to explore the area.
Wells-next-the-Sea is a popular tourist destination in its own right, renowned for its expansive beach and colourful beach huts. The iconic overhanging harbour gantry, crab fishing off the Quay alongside families eating fish ‘n’ chips are among the town’s indelibly memorable features.
Visit the Highlights page for more information on the town and its charms.
Referred to as “Guella” in the Domesday book of 1086, the town was named after the clear spring wells rising through the area’s underlying sedimentary chalk – famously visible in the cliff face at Hunstanton to the west.
By the early 19th century the town was known as Wells-next-the-Sea, differentiating it from inland towns with the same name. But when the Wells and Fakenham Railway was opened in 1857, the terminus was given the name of “Wells-on-Sea”.
Almost exactly 100 years later in 1956, Wells Urban District Council voted to re-adopt the name Wells-next-the-Sea, and this has been its official name ever since.
Read more about the History of Wells.
The region has become increasingly popular among tourists, second home owners and new residents alike – understandably so, as Norfolk is blessed with a multitude of world-class visitor attractions.
For devotees of heritage and history, the region is peppered with Stately Homes, both privately owned and in the care of The National Trust. Blickling Estate, Royal Sandringham, Houghton Hall, Felbrigg Hall and Oxburgh Hall are all deserving of a visit.
Nearest to Wells is Holkham Hall, an 18th-century palladian mansion built by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester. Boating, cycle hire, a museum, deer park and gardens are all on offer. The Holkham Estate owns much of the land in and around the town, including the beach and pinewoods.
There are wildlife and nature reserves across the region – barely has one ended than another begins. Birdwatchers and seal spotters are particularly well served.
And of course, it’s the seaside! Beaches stretch for miles all along the coast, with raucous arcades and exhilarating funfairs entertaining holidaymakers in larger towns.
Visit the Local Attractions page for more details.
The Norfolk coast has always been famous for its seafood. Cromer crab, Lowestoft kippers, King’s Lynn brown shrimp, lobsters, mussels and skate are all traditional favourites. From the fish stand on Wells Quay you can buy the day’s catch straight off the boat.
Recent years have seen a flowering of refined restaurants and upmarket gastro pubs all across the region. The highest quality local produce and provenance is a key attraction for restaurateurs, chefs and patrons alike. North Norfolk is now a destination for those searching out exceptional dining venues.
But there’ll always be a place for that great seaside staple – good old fish ‘n’ chips! Wells has two fabulous chippies right on the Quay, selling the best fish suppers money can buy.
Sitting on the harbour wall, fending off the seagulls, watching the crabbers dangling their lines and the fishermen working – while tucking in to salty chips and battered cod – is surely the essence of a visit to Wells-next-the-Sea.
Explore more dining options on our Food & Drink page.