Did you know that Norfolk is home to the largest grey seal colony in the UK? It’s pretty easy to go and see them too! There are a couple of great places for seal watching in Norfolk, but I went to Horsey Beach, around 20 minutes from Great Yarmouth. So here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Horsey Beach seals!
Disclosure: I do my best to try and keep information up-to-date but please check direct with businesses for current opening times and prices.
Horsey Beach Seals
Horsey Beach Parking | Where To Find The Seals at Horsey | Visiting the Seals at Horsey Gap in Breeding Season | Horsey Beach Seals FAQs
Horsey Beach Parking
How Much is Parking at Horsey Gap?
The closest place to park when visiting Horsey Beach is the Horsey Gap car park. It is pay and display between April and September. The machine accepts cash, card payments and mobile payments (such as Apple Pay)
Horsey Gap parking machine 2023
We paid £3.50 for parking up to 2 hours. This was plenty of time to walk down to the seals, spend a bit of time watching them and then walk back. There is an overflow field that is in use during peak visiting times.
Other than a mobile coffee van selling drinks and ice creams in the summer, there are no other facilities at Horsey Gap beach.
Coffee van at Horsey Gap Beach
The nearest toilets are for customers of the Poppylands Tearoom, back along the main road. Alternatively Horsey Windpump is around 1 mile away. This is a National Trust property that also has a pay and display car park (free for members), public toilets and a tearoom kiosk.
The National Trust have mapped out a round trip 3-mile walk from Horsey Windpump to the seal beach and back. Directions can be found in the Horsey Windpump car park and on the National Trust website. They recommend that it takes 2 to 3 hours to complete.
Where To Find The Seals at Horsey
Horsey Beach Norfolk
The Horsey Beach seals can be seen year round. They come to the beach in the winter for breeding season and at other times they come up to moult.
If visiting during spring, summer or autumn visitors can walk along the beach to see the seals.
From the car park, walk up and over the dune path towards the beach.
Horsey Gap dune beach path
Once on the beach, turn right. The area near the car park is popular for beach day trippers. However we did see a couple of seals swimming out in the water around this area. For this reason you may want to be careful if you decide to swim.
Horsey Beach Norfolk
After around a 10 to 15 minute walk, we came across a large group of seals just relaxing on the sand. For reference, the rocks dividing the beach had a big number 35 painted on them. During my visit in September, there was also a second group that we could see a little further on, but we stopped at the first group.
I tried to count them but I gave up somewhere around the 150 mark. Some years during the breeding season, numbers can be upwards of 3000 seals!
Seals at Horsey
Visitors are expected to stay at least 10m away from the seals. Putting this in perspective, this is about the length of a large bus. On a Saturday in early September, the beach was fairly empty of people and everyone was respecting this rule.
(I took my superzoom compact camera, so I could get close up photos while staying 10m back. The photos of the seals in this post are not taken using a phone camera. Keep this in mind if you want to get photos as zooming in on a phone often pixelates the image).
Horsey Beach Seals
The majority of seals at Horsey are grey seals. The male seals can grow to over 3 metres in length, so it’s best to give them a wide berth as they are BIG. When provoked grey seals will bite. They mostly just hang out on the ‘hard’ sand closest to the water.
Grey seals at Horsey Beach
Horsey Gap also has common or harbour seals that are quite happy hanging out with the grey seals. These are smaller and lighter in colour in comparison.
The common seals also give birth to their pups during the summer months. There may not be as many in summer, but it might give you another chance to spot young seals! And they are SO CUTE. The pups were definitely the highlight of my visit.
Young Common Seal at Horsey Beach
Visiting the Seals at Horsey Gap in Winter (Breeding Season)
If you plan to see the seals at Horsey Beach in the winter, visiting is a little bit different. November to February is the breeding season for grey seals. During these 12 weeks, the beach is closed off.
Instead, you’ll need to follow the track through the metal gate. There are a couple of information boards about the seals, and the route through the dunes is clearly marked.
Seal information board at Horsey Beach
Wardens help point visitors in the right direction, and ensure that everyone stays back to view the seals from a safe distance. This is in place for both the protection of visitors and the welfare of the seals. Female seals will abandon pups if disturbed.
During the winter months, over 100,000 people visit Horsey Beach to see the seals!
View of the seals from up on top of the dunes
Note For visitors That May Be Sensitive
Of course the seals in Norfolk are wild animals and they are mostly left alone to behave naturally. If visiting with children please be aware that there is a chance there may be dead seals on the beach.
When they die the seals are not removed, they are left to become part of the natural food chain. When I visited in September, I saw a fully grown dead seal (before reaching the main colony) as well as a smaller pup. Both were fairly decomposed.
Horsey Beach Seals FAQs
What time of year are seals at Horsey Beach?
There are seals at Horsey Beach year round!
Are there seals in Horsey now?
Obviously the seals in Horsey are wild animals, they are free to come and go. But generally yes, there are seals at Horsey year round, so you should be able to see some!
What time of year is best to see seals in Norfolk?
Specially at Horsey Gap, peak breeding season for grey seals is between November to February. However the beach is close off during this time and viewing takes place in designated areas on top of the dunes. For the rest of the year you can see seals in Norfolk along the beach. Summer is breeding season for harbour seals.
What seals are at Horsey Gap?
Grey seals make up the largest seal colony at Horsey Gap. Common seals (also known as harbour seals) can also be seen.
Can you see seals in Norfolk without a boat?
Yes! You can see seals in Norfolk without a boat at Horsey Gap. Winterton Beach and Blakeney Point are other locations for seal watching in Norfolk.
Visiting the seals at Horsey? Pin this guide for later!