Sun, sea, sand dunes and seals!
Blakeney National Nature Reserve is famous for its wildlife, especially the Common and Grey seal colonies at Blakeney Point. The best way to see the seals is not by foot, but by boat! Take a ferry trip to Blakeney Point and observe these lovable creatures in their natural habitat. A truly unforgettable day out!
A ferry trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point has been on my bucket list for a quite some time. Having been born and raised in North Norfolk not far from the coast, the fact that I had never enjoyed one of the area’s most popular attractions was becoming somewhat embarrassing.
One day in August, even though the school summer holidays were in full swing and the coast would certainly be busy, and even though the forecast wasn’t ideal with some cloud and a fairly brisk breeze, I took the plunge. I picked up the phone and booked 2 tickets for the following morning at 9:30am. It would be a 2 hour trip, with 1 hour on land at Blakeney Point.
Bright and early we made our way to the Anchor Inn, a pretty pub in Morston and the ticket office for Temples Seal Trips, one of the four ferry businesses offering daily boat trips from Morston Quay to see the seals on Blakeney Point. The Temple family have been operating boat trips for over 70 years, and are happy to share their knowledge of the area during the trip.
We purchased 2 adult tickets at £13 each, then parked at Morston Quay just a couple of minutes away. The National Trust car park is free for members, £4 otherwise. There are toilets and an information centre where you can buy drinks and snacks, or join the National Trust!
We spotted Temple’s red and white boats where a small crowd was gathering, just as the skipper pulled up and boarded the boat, along with his 3 lovely looking labradors, clearly keen and experienced seafarers.
Our boat for the day was The Four Sisters, a spacious 50 seater. The passengers were young and old, couples and families, and a few more well-behaved dogs. With the sun shining but clouds looming, we set sail.
The lady next to me said she was super excited as she’d wanted to do this trip for the longest time. She echoed my thoughts exactly.
We began our journey in Morston Creek, travelling towards Blakeney Harbour, and the skipper talked us through the trip. Having had my fair share of bumpy boat rides, it was reassuring to know this trip was based entirely within the harbour and at no point would we venture out onto the open sea.
The harbour was littered with boats – fishing boats, row boats, sailing boats, wooden dinghies, inflatable dinghies, even a striking sailing barge called JUNO.
The 45ft JUNO was built in a boatyard at Morston. The design was inspired by the famous Thames sailing barges which were a common sight until the early 20th century. Based in Blakeney Harbour, you can charter JUNO for full or half days.
As we continued our gentle journey, we learnt more about the birds at Blakeney Point. Four species of tern breed there regularly – Sandwich, Common, Little and Arctic – before migrating to West Africa for the winter. Sandwich terns have been present on Blakeney Point for over a century, and in recent years, as many as 4000 pairs have nested on the end of the Point.
After 20 minutes or so, we swung to the right and the seals were in sight, dozens of them basking on the shore under the sun. They were all different shades of brown and beige, lolling and lounging around on their backs and bellies. Large, lumbering beasts, hefty yet adorable.
It was a strangely comical sight, with some seals clapping their flippers, others seemingly waving at us. Sleepy seals closed their eyes. Some sported huge smiles, others looked heart-breakingly sad, their big black eyes looking right at you. They were completely captivating.
Playful seals swam around the boat and popped their heads out of the water, wet nose and whiskers, then disappeared almost instantly, too fast to photograph.
The boat turned a couple of times so everyone on both sides got a good long look at the seals. All too briefly, our time was up. I could’ve watched and wondered for hours. We headed for land.
The nearby terns were hard to ignore, thousands of birds shrieking and screeching relentlessly. As we passed the tip of the Point, a flock took off from the shingle en masse and flew overhead, an impressive sight. We sailed past the iconic blue Lifeboat House, landed, then disembarked, eager to explore.
Blakeney Point is a National Nature Reserve and has been managed by the National Trust since 1912, the oldest nature reserve in Norfolk. The reserve is made up of rare habitats including saltmarsh, shingle and sand dunes, and is home to several unusual plants.
The purple flowers of the Sea Lavender cover the saltmarshes from July to August, and the colourful flowers of the Yellow Horned Poppy bloom from June to September. They certainly added splashes of colour to the rather other-worldly landscape. Marram grass grows in the sand dunes, trapping sand blown by the wind and binding the dunes together.
The four mile long shingle spit of Blakeney Point offers protection for Blakeney Harbour and the surrounding saltmarshes, providing a perfect habitat for wildlife. It is an amazing breeding and feeding ground for terns, oystercatchers and ringed plovers.
It’s also famously home to Common seals in the summer and Grey seals in the winter. Blakeney Point is a perfect breeding site for Grey seals, with over 3000 pups born in 2018. It is now the largest seal colony in England.
We walked along a shingle path, admiring the boats in Blakeney Harbour and the grassy, marshy landscape, and soon found ourselves at the Lifeboat House, the famous landmark that is visible for miles around. Originally built in 1898 as a lifeboat station, it only functioned for a few years before the build-up of shingle made it impossible to launch the boats. Now it’s a visitor centre, displaying fascinating old photos, and home to National Trust rangers.
We continued past the Lifeboat House, along a boardwalk through undulating terrain, reading the occasional information board, until we couldn’t go on – the incoming tide blocked any further exploration. We retraced our steps, and headed back along the boardwalk.
We met up with our fellow passengers at the landing point, and sat on warm pebbles as the sun shined, waiting for the ferry. Children played on the wooden landing ramps, dogs cooled off in the water, someone took a nap on the beach, others chatted and shared stories. We watched the waves and the steady stream of passing boats.
By the time the boat arrived, dark clouds had replaced the sun and the weather took a decidedly chilly turn. We settled into our seats and enjoyed the short, silent journey back to Morston Quay.
We were well-walked, slightly sun-kissed, and our tummies were rumbling. Luckily, there was a pretty pub not too far away.
Temples Seal Trips
T: 01263 740791