Cley Beach lies between the sea and Cley Marshes, a nature reserve owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and one of the UK’s most renowned bird watching sites. Beach Road runs through the reserve, and the beach car park is operated by the NWT, with parking charges for non-members helping to support the wildlife charity.
This is also the closest vehicular access point for Blakeney Point, making it the starting point for the 5.3km (3.2mi) walk along the beach to the iconic Old Lifeboat Station, now a National Trust visitor centre.
There are marshes running behind the beach in both easterly and westerly directions, so whichever way you head there are open views of grazing marsh, reed beds, pools and saline lagoons, offering an idyllic backdrop for a day at the beach. This stretch of coast provides habitats for a wide variety of birds including avocet, bearded tit and bittern, and attracts birdwatchers all year round.
Cley Beach is a pebble beach with a steep drop-off, making it popular for angling. Local fishermen also make good use of the beach, and you’ll find boats of various sizes, tractors, lobster pots and collections of fishing paraphernalia dotted around near the beach entrance.
Cley and Salthouse Beaches have designated Barbecue zones. If you’re planning a beach barbecue party with more than 12 people attending you’ll need to complete an application form which can be downloaded from the North Norfolk District Council website, where they also have a handy list of Barbecue Do’s and Don’ts.
Located just 120m off the beach is the wreck of the cargo ship SS Vera, beached at Cley after being involved in a collision with a minesweeper en route from the Tyne to Livorno with a cargo of coal in 1914. She is now a popular dive site. Parts of the wreck are visible at low tide. To locate her, walk 300m to the east from the car park and look straight out to sea.
Being so close to the wildlife reserve, Cley Beach has areas that are cordoned off to protect bird habitats and there are restrictions for dog walkers to protect nesting birds from April to August.
The Norfolk Coast Path runs down Beach Road and along the beach to the east, towards Salthouse. Cley is popular with walkers at all times of the year.
Parking at the beach is free in winter, and to Norfolk Wildlife Trust members year-round.
During summer months there is a shed at the entrance to the car park which is attended during the day. There is a parking charge for non-members of the NWT, currently £3.00 for half a day.
Address: Beach Road, Cley next the Sea NR25 7RY
There are no facilities at the beach, and no public toilets at the beach or within Cley next the Sea village. There were some toilets at the beach, but they were swept away by the sea around 20 years ago.
The village centre is approxiamtely 1.5km (0.9mi) away, back along Beach Road and then right along the A149 coast road. Cley has a number of food shops and eateries, including Cley Smokehouse, the Picnic Fayre delicatessen, Artemis, a coffee shop, café and antique shop, and The Three Swallows, a pub with beer garden.
Turning left on the coast road takes you to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes Visitor Centre containing a café, shop and wildlife viewing areas.
Dogs can be walked on the shingle beach at Cley throughout the year, but ground-nesting birds are often present between April and August. Please keep your dog under close control and walk as near to the sea as possible during this important time.
From 1 April until 15 August each year there is a dog restriction zone which includes all of the beach to the west of the car park.
No lifeguard service at any time of year.