If you are going to see the seals at Horsey, nothing quite prepares you for the sight that you’re faced with once over the dunes and onto the viewing platform which has been especially set up for the seal pup viewing during the winter months of late October through to February.
Horsey beach had 2069 seals that were born in the 2019/2020 season, so this really is a great place to come and see them.
And it isn't just Horsey beach that now has the seals. Every year more and more seals breed at Winterton beach too.
It’s a really special treat, and Horsey Gap is probably the best place in Norfolk to see the seals in the winter as there are no limits as to how long you can stay, how far you can walk and how to spend your time there (though there are roped off areas which you must adhere to for the sake of the seals).
Unfortunately, wheelchair accessibility is not good here. There is a steep incline up to the top of the dunes and once on the dunes, the sand is fairly soft. The other viewing area also has steps up to the top.
The seals at Horsey usually start to have their pups in late October/early November and carry on until early February so there’s a big window of opportunity for you to visit.
However, if you aren't in Norfolk in the winter months, then no worries. Watching the seals in Norfolk is an all year round activity. In the summer months it's mainly on the North Norfolk coast so if you're in that part of Norfolk you can see them at Blakeney Point. You can find out more about other seal trips here.
Every year the seals in Norfolk are increasing which is excellent news for the seal colony.
The Friends of Horsey Seals, a volunteer seal warden group, took over from Natural England in 2012 and now monitor the seals and the area every day. Unfortunately, funding ceased for Natural England and they could no longer use their time to look after the seals.
They do an incredible job. They cordon off the beach during the pupping season so you obviously can’t go onto the beach, and actually you probably wouldn’t want to for fear of being mauled by an angry seal. But there are excellent paths which you can follow and you’ll have no trouble getting great views of the seals and their pups.
The Friends of Horsey volunteers also man the car parks and are dotted around the paths so you can ask them any amount of questions and they'll hopefully be able to answer your questions!
If you’re wondering where to park to see the seals at Horsey, here is what you can do.
Horsey Gap car park is definitely the best place to park to see the seals and their pups. During the winter months there is an overflow car park due to the huge number of visitors who come to see this fantastic sight.
In fact there are over 70,000 people who come to Horsey to see the seals between November and January!
This overflow car park is manned by volunteers, so please be nice to them! If you are told to park here, please do so, and then you’ll need to walk for about 5 minutes to reach the main beach car park. If you have accessibility issues, you’ll be able to park near the beach.
Payment is in cash at the overflow car park, but the beach car park has a pay and display machine.
To reach this car park, you need to turn off the B1159 on the very sharp corner which is about a ¼ of a mile west of the village heading towards Sea Palling. You'll easily spot it.
There are two ways you can arrive to see the seals at Horsey Gap.
The first is to park at the Horsey Gap car park (this is NOT a National Trust car park), pay your parking charge at the machine operated meter and then follow the signs which are clearly marked to see the seals.
This path is a cordoned off track which doesn’t allow you onto Horsey beach, but does allow you to walk all the way along the back of the dunes and eventually on to the top of the dunes to see the spectacle.
From the car park, the first viewing area is on your left and will take you about 10 minutes to walk there. This path takes you up past the old pill box with incredible views inland over the surrounding area. From here you’ll find you can view a short stretch of beach behind the rope.
The second viewing area to see the seals at Horsey is by far the better one as the seals are huge in number compared to the area closer to the car park.
You approach this by walking from the car park along the sand path all the way to the steps which take you over the dunes. This will probably take you about 20 minutes. The sign says 35 minutes, but I think you have to be walking quite slowly to take that long!
The viewing platform on the top of the dunes is an actual metal structure with a roped off area on the top of the dunes where you can walk further along. It is much longer than the first viewing area which is why it's worth the extra walk to get here.
From the viewing platform you can watch the seals and their pups for as long as you like. You can continue to walk away from the viewing platform along the top of the dunes marvelling at the incredible sight of all these seals lying on the beach. All you can see for miles is this incredible stretch of sand, interspersed with large bolders for groynes and seals. Seals, seals and more seals!
It really did blow my mind to see these wonderful creatures in their own natural habitat, just being left to get on with giving birth without any interference from humans. The best thing I loved about it was that there was no health and safety involved, apart from the regulatory signs warning you about “Caution, soft sand” – where does that one fit in on a beach!!!!! Totally back to mother nature on this quite beach in Norfolk.
I would suggest you wrap up warm if you’re coming to see the seals at Horsey, but any weather will do! I went on a cold and blustery day, but it certainly didn’t detract from my pure enjoyment of this amazing scene. There are also wardens on hand to answer any questions, especially during the busy months of December and January.
The second way to arrive at the viewing area is to
However, Horsey Gap isn’t the only place to enjoy the seals in Norfolk. Dedicated seal tours which take you out to Blakeney Point is the other way to see the seals, usually taking a boat trip from one of the boat companies which motor up the creek and out to the spit, giving you a fantastic view of the seals on the beach there. Because you’re on a boat, this is obviously more controlling, but you still get a great picture of these wonderful mammals.
There are numerous Norfolk gems to discover, but this should definitely be top of your list to visit.
The white seal pups that you’ll see on the beach are newly born. This white fur is non-waterproof so they have to stay out of the water and close to their mother for at least 16-21 days before they moult and can then go into the sea.
The mother has to come ashore to give birth, hence the large numbers of seals here. Interestingly, they come ashore 24 hours before giving birth so you may well catch sight of a seal pup being born when you visit!
And these hungry pups put on about 2kg a day!
Yes you can, but never in such large numbers as between November to January. Between February and April they "haul-out". They all group together and moult last year's coat and grow a new one.
At this time of year the beach is open, but you do need to keep your distance, especially if you have dogs. Seals become very distressed by humans AND they can also be very dangerous.
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