Visiting Norfolk’s seals
A well-known sight on our coast are the common (also known as harbour) and grey seals, often seen resting on the beach or curiously watching us from the water. With over half of the world’s population, approximately 80,000 individuals, choosing to use Britain’s coastline, we are incredibly lucky that a large proportion of these can be found around Norfolk’s shores.
While both species can be seen throughout the year, increasing numbers of grey seals are gathering here every winter to breed and give birth to their pups. With such a large proportion of the world’s seal population found in Norfolk and with both species protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, it is essential we all do what we can to look after these iconic animals.
Watch a short film made by students at City College Norwich – The Grey Seals of Horsey tells the story of the efforts to look after one of the UK’s most successful breeding seal colonies
During your visit to see the seals in Norfolk, please follow this advice:
- Keep a minimum of 10 metres (further is even better) from any seal and move on quickly. Seals can be easily spooked from their resting spots and this will happen if you get too close or if you observe the same seal for a long period of time, at close range. Disturbance to a suckling pup may cause its mother to abandon it or prevent the mother from feeding it as much as it needs. If the pup does not build up enough reserves before being weaned, it is unlikely to survive until adulthood. If a pup is spooked it may also move into a bull seal’s territory and be hurt or killed.
- Stay on the landward side of the seal. While the pup stays on the beach, their mother will often remain in the water, watching their pup from a distance. By staying up the beach from the seal you avoid walking between them and their mother. This enables the mother to reach their pup for feeds, and for mature seals, it gives them an escape route should they become spooked.
- Keep your dog on a lead. Quite simply, seals and dogs should not mix. Seal disturbance will be kept to a minimum and you will avoid the risk of your dog being bitten by a seal and potentially contracting a bacterial infection
- Keep an eye out for seals. Seals move around so keep to marked paths and be aware that seals may also be on them.
- Don’t approach a seal. If you have concerns, contact British Divers Marine Life Rescue: 01825 765546 or RSPCA 24hr emergency line: 0300 1234 999. Never chase a seal back into the sea.
- Follow advice from the volunteer seal wardens (Horsey and Winterton). The wardens will have the most up to date information about the seals and where to walk. By following their advice you will minimise disturbance to the seals and other wildlife and minimise impact on the fragile environment.
- Care for the environment. The sand dunes along our coastline are internationally and nationally recognised as important habitats for a wide range of plants and animals. They also play a vital role as sea defences, a barrier to the fierce easterly storms which hit this coastline in the winter. By keeping to marked paths and staying outside of enclosed areas (intended to protect certain species and allow the habitats time to recover from trampling), you will be helping to care for this stunning environment. Please take your litter home with you and if you have a spare five minutes, why not have your own mini beach clean? Not only will it keep the area looking good but it will reduce the amount of harmful litter in the marine environment.
- Care for the local community. When visiting please consider the small, rural communities in this area. If you must come by car, please park considerately in the allocated car parks. Use local shops and services as much as possible. And please try to minimise your impact on the local area and its residents.
The differences between grey and common seals
|Grey seals||Common seals|
|Large dog like head||Smaller rounded head|
|Large size. Males 2.5m long and 300kg|
Females.1.8m and 200kg
|Smaller size: 1.8m long and 100-150 kg.|
|Large arched muzzle (nose) (Dog like.)||Small turned up muzzle (nose) (Puppy like)|
|Parallel nostrils||V shaped nostrils|
|Pups born in the winter||Pups born in the summer|
|Pups have thick white fur||Pups have short fur when born|
|Pups stay on land for at least 3 weeks when born||Pups can swim with their mothers soon after they are born|
|Like to lie in groups with other seals||Like their own space on the beach|
|Also known as Atlantic seals||Also known as Harbour seals|
|Their scientific name Halichoerus grypus means hook-nosed sea-pig||Their scientific name Phoca vitulina means calf-like seal|
How to see the seals in Norfolk
Guided seal boat trips provide the best and safest way for you to get close to the seals without disturbing them.
Blakeney Point boat trips
The best way to get close up to the seals on Blakeney Point is to go on a seal boat trip.
Departure times vary daily according to tides so check details with operator at time of booking.
Blakeney Point Seal Trips
Blakeney Point Seal Trips operate a traditional clinker built ferry boat ‘Ptarmigan’ offering one hour trips in Blakeney Harbour to view the seals, birds and other wildlife on Blakeney Point and in the harbour itself.
Operating daily April to October and occasionally throughout the winter.
Tel: 01263 740792
Beans Seal Trips
A family run business running five purpose-built ferries from Morston or Blakeney Quay to view the seals at Blakeney Point. An optional landing at Blakeney Point extends trip to 1.5-2 hours.
Operating daily April to October and occasionally throughout the winter.
Tel: 01263 740505
Temples Seal Trips
Temples operate two ferries providing one-hour seal trips from Morston Quay to Blakeney Point. An optional landing at Blakeney Point extends trip to 1.5 to 2 hours.
This family run business has two traditional clinker boats and one smaller boat offering 1 hour seal trips to Blakeney Point from Morston or Blakeney Quay. An optional landing at Blakeney Point extends trip to 1.5-2 hours. Operate every day from April to October inclusive as well as occasionally throughout winter.
Wash boat trips
One of the most well known boat trip operators in the Wash is the Searles Sea Tours whose trips from Hunstanton, include a seal safari.
Travel information when visiting the seals
The east coast of Norfolk between Sea Palling and Winterton is very rural with small villages, narrow roads and limited parking. Please try to visit at less busy times (outside of the Christmas holidays) and use alternatives to the car where possible. While you are in this area why not make use of local cafes and shops as part of your visit? Please note that WC facilities in these establishments will be for customers only.
Public transport is limited, however buses do travel to Winterton from Great Yarmouth.
By car: Please car share where possible and use official car parks at the following places:
Horsey Gap: Horsey beach car park from which you can follow the allocated paths to dedicated viewing areas and find out more about the seals from the volunteer wardens.
National Trust’s Horsey Windpump from which you can cross the road and follow the footpath up to Crinkle Gap to access the viewing areas as above.
Winterton: Beach Road car park with adjacent public toilets and café. Please do not park on Beach Road itself as 24 hour access is required down this narrow lane.