Cromer is a town on the North Norfolk coast famous for its crabs, fishermen and lifeboats. The North Norfolk coast is one of the most rapidly eroding coastlines in Europe. A thousand years ago Cromer was inland ('Crow Mere' - the lake of crows - seen on the town's coat of arms), and the coastal village was called Shipden. This is now several hundred metres out to sea.
Modern Cromer is a mélange of architectural styles. Everything from charming brick-and-flint and stately Georgian, to 1960s carbuncular to modern bungalows and caravan sites. But the heyday was the 19th century, as witnessed by several streets of tall townhouses (now mainly B&B hotels), the growth stimulated by the coming of the railways and when the popularity of the town and environs was raised by the writings of Clement Scott .
The drive from Norwich on the A140 takes about 35-40 minutes. This is a much more dangerous road than it appears - at harvest time especially you should watch for farm vehicles emerging from side roads. Alternatively you might try the train. The Bittern Line is allegedly one of the great railway journeys of the world. Leaving Norwich, it crosses the broads via Salhouse, Hoveton & Wroxham (change for the wee Bure Valley railway to Aylsham), Worstead, North Walsham, Gunton and Cromer. The line extends to West Runton and Sheringham, where it joins up with the North Norfolk steam railway to Holt. You can also get to Cromer quite easily by bus from Norwich. The Coast Hopper operates throughout the year runs to Wells next the Sea with connections to Hunstanton. This is a great way to explore the coast. As you go west along the coast, especially after Sheringham, each village is more picturesque than the last. Lots of barn conversions and vernacular brick-and-flint architecture. By air, the nearest airport is at Norwich.
Cromer is 23 miles from the centre of Norwich, and is a good base for exploring the north coast of Norfolk. Cromer is on several main roads - to Norwich, Holt, along the coast to Sheringham to the west and Overstrand to the west - it can get congested in the town centre especially during the summer months. Although Cromer bustles at all times of the year it is much busier in the summer, especially during Carnival Week in mid-August. There are several car parks inside the town, all of which are pay-and-display. Competition for the few free parking bays is fierce. On the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month, Cromer's Market is held inside the Meadow Car Park, reducing the number of available spaces.
In Cromer and in general in East Anglia, bringing or hiring a car is highly recommended as the area has many small villages and towns separated by long country roads. There are quite a few reasonably good local bus companies (Sanders is the main one) and although Cromer is remarkably hilly for Norfolk, cycling is a good way to get around.
- The Church. Like many Norfolk churches, it is much vaster than would seem to be necessary. Much of it was restored after partial destruction by a World War II bomb. The view from the tower is, reputedly, extensive.
- The Lighthouse is a pleasant walk eastwards from the town centre and affords fine views.
- Amazona Zoo, Hall Road, ☎ +44 1263 510741, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-5PM. View and learn about a wide variety of animals from South America. Cafe and Gift Shop on site.
- Cromer Beach. The beach at Cromer is public and free to access and rated very highly. The West Beach (west of the pier) is more built up, with toilets, a shop and a funfair. The East Beach (east of the pier) has fewer amenities. Walking east along the shore, you'll soon be out of the main tourist orbit, and even in the summer holidays you can have huge stretches of beautiful beach more or less to yourself. Even in winter it has a rugged grandeur. The most notable beach fauna is the edible crab (Carcinus edulis), served when available in local cafés and restaurants. Crab boats can be seen launching and returning with their catch.
- Cromer Museum, East Cottages, Tucker Street (near the church), ☎ +44 1263 513543. The Cromer Museum is housed in several converted fishermen's cottages, and includes many interesting and picturesque arcana of local and town life. It also includes a few scraps of the famous West Runton Elephant. Some of the rest of this enormous fossil beast can be found in the Norwich Castle museum. There are also displays of local lore and legend including the Black Shuck.
- Cromer Pier and Pavilion Theatre, ☎ +44 1263 512495. Cromer Pier is one of the oldest in the country and has been damaged and restored several times. The Pavilion Theatre at the end of the pier runs a Seaside Special variety show during the summer season (June 21 to September 20 in 2014), and also around Christmas. There is lots of other entertainment throughout the year from ballet to variety to blues and folk and rock. Check the web-site for dates, times, prices, and tickets. Fireworks on the pier are a highlight on 1 January and in Carnival Week, and the pier is a good place to stand when observing the traditional Boxing Day Swim on 26 December. Beyond the theatre is the new lifeboat station. The old one is on shore, next to the Henry Blogg RNLI lifeboat museum.
- RNLI Henry Blogg Museum (Cromer Lifeboat Museum), ☎ +44 1263 511294. 10am to 4pm February to early December. Learn about the courageous lifesavers. See one of the lifesaving boats. Free.
- Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Felbrigg, NR11 8PR, ☎ +44 1263 837444, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Cinema - the local cinema shows all the latest releases. Screen one still has a mighty wurlitzer in it. Screen four is hardly bigger than one's front room. If you like 3D and earsplitting surroundsound, go elsewhere - it's a popular local cinema, even more so when it rains (frequently) during the summer holidays. It's also much cheaper than big city picture houses.
- Golf Course - the Royal Cromer Golf Club offers a course as challenging as it is spectacular.
- Shopping - Cromer has many of the usual chain stores, charity shops and so on, but has a selection of unusual independent gift shops, secondhand book stores, grocers, hardware stores and so on, and in the Crossways tobacconists, one of the last of its kind.
- Cromer has three Amusement Arcades on or near the Promenade.
- Surf - believe it or not, Cromer and nearby East Runton offer reasonable surfing.
- Walking - Cromer is at the eastern end of the 44-mile North Norfolk coast path that leads via spectacular cliffs, breathtaking beaches and charming woodland to Hunstanton. A lovely walk at low tide is the mile between Cromer and Overstrand, which has refreshments and loos, and back again. Where else can you walk a mile completely barefoot?
- Along the coast - to the west, visit the village of Overstrand. This was once very fashionable with some spectacular houses and one or two fairly upscale hotels such as the Sea Marge, reminiscent of an earlier age.
- Along the coast, progressively further eastward along the coast road, you'll find Sheringham, Weybourne, Cley, with its marshes and birdwatching opportunities, smokehouse and superb deli; Wells-next-the-Sea; Morston, with its oysters and its seal-watching trips to the amazing National Trust Blakeney Point Nature Reserve; and Stiffkey, with a lovely campsite, a village shop that's straight out of the Guardian Weekend Colour Supplement.
- Inland - lovers of great houses can visit Blickling Hall (National Trust), home of the Boleyns, with lovely gardens and one of the best secondhand bookshops anywhere; Felbrigg Hall (also National Trust) and Sheringham Park. The latter is a Repton landscape which comes to life in May and June when the rhododendrons are out.
- The Old Rock Shop Bistro - great local café
- The Rocket House café - a room with a view, this is found on top of the lifeboat museum
- Peggoty's - great when you need that all-day fry-up.
- The Bann Thai - homecooked Thai cuisine
- The Aristocat tea rooms, Bond Street.
- Tandoori, Church Street - Indian.
- Dalya Spice - Indian
- Mary Janes, Garden Street - Fish and chips.
- Bolton's Bistro, Alfred Road - Slightly posher than most, a short walk from the town centre
- Kanton Chinese, Church Street.
- Le Moon Chinese, Prince Wales road.
- Buffers Restaurant, Holt Road.
- Breakers, Garden Street.
- Park Chippy, Station Road .
- The nearby village of Roughton has the Grovelands Farm Shop which has a small attached cafe specializing in sweet and savory waffles. Many of the ingredients are fresh grown on the farm.
- Will's Plaice (East Runton Fish & Chip Shop), Beach Road, East Runton, ☎ +44 1263 519222.
- Sticky Earth Café - enjoy hot and cold drinks while painting pottery
- White Horse Inn, West Street - live music occasionally on Saturdays.
- The Red Lion - great selection of beers and superior bar food. A good place for a quiet pint overlooking the sea.
- The White House bed and breakfast on cliff drive is just one of dozens of similar establishments throughout Cromer. Accommodation is plentiful and cheap, especially out of season.
- Many of the private homes in Cromer are Holiday Homes and may be available for rental or time sharing, especially out of season.
- Touring - there are many touring parks and campsites around Cromer, especially on the west side towards East Runton.
- Visitor Centre. Next to the Meadow Car Park. Inside are some very nice loos - and all the information you'll need on local sights and accommodation.