Why you should visit Hunstanton this summer
- Credit: Archant
Spectacular sunsets, beautiful beaches, Victorian charm and traditional seaside resort fun — Hunstanton has plenty to offer everyone — even the adrenaline junkies and Wimbledon lovers
It is the only place on our beautiful coastline where you can watch the sun sink in to the sea on the horizon in a blaze of orange and red; where geological history is there on view in the distinct rusty striped layers of its cliffs – and where you can idle away hours, enjoying the childlike pleasure of the 2p slot machines, the taste of salt and vinegar covered fish and chips in sight of the beach and the countless other joys of a traditional seaside town.
Hunstanton, which began life as a purpose-built resort in the 1840s, not only retains much of that Victorian charm and character today, but also remains one of Norfolk’s most popular tourist destinations.
The beaches are enjoyed year round, vast and sandy and, in the cooler months, largely empty. You can walk for miles, exploring the spectacular coastline and watching out for seals bobbing in the water. The beautifully kept cliff top gardens are the perfect place to soak up the seaside views, or you can wander along the prom, taking in the sights and sounds of the fairground rides, amusement arcades, bingo callers and crazy golf. The town also boasts a historic links golf course at Hunstanton Golf Club, a popular theatre and even a Michelin starred restaurant – The Neptune Inn.
But this isn’t just a resort town to be enjoyed by tourists. There is a strong community spirit with many events held throughout the year – benefiting both locals and visitors alike and adding a fresh dimension to the local economy. Activities like sailing, paddleboarding and kitesurfing are also helping to put the town on the map and are inspiring people to try something new on their doorstep.
Up, up and away
If you prefer your kites on dry land, then head to the annual Hunstanton Kite Festival on August 20.
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Now in its 21st year, the colourful event is organised by the Hunstanton Rotary Club and is a real spectacle with professional kite displays filling the sky.
There are also air displays, a classic car and motorbike rally, a craft fair, kids’ activities and plenty of stalls, as well as the many different kites on display. The festival, held at Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, runs from 11am to 6pm. Tickets are £6 (adults); £2 (children); £15 (family ticket – two adults, three children).
Soaring above the waves
While it might be considered by many to be a sedate, traditional seaside town, Hunstanton has a growing reputation offering a very different pace of life for its visitors thanks to its high octane extreme sports scene.
It has become one of the UK’s top spots for kite surfing – and on a sunny, windy day, when the horizon is filled with huge, powerful kites zipping through the sky, it is not hard to see why.
Rob Fuller, owner of kitesurfing shop and school CBK Hunstanton, which sells and hires equipment and provides tuition to all ages and abilities, says that the beaches in and around the town create the perfect conditions for the sport.
“I started kitesurfing about 10 years ago when I was working in the Caribbean and when I came back to England, initially to Cornwall I gained various water sport qualifications and carried on kitesurfing as a hobby. So when I moved to Norfolk it seemed the obvious thing to start the business in Hunstanton which has a really exciting, growing scene.
“Not all of Norfolk’s coastline is very good for kitesurfing because of the predominant wind direction, but due to Hunstanton’s position facing west, the wind direction here is perfect. It is also helped by the close proximity of the Wash because there are wide shallow channels, with plenty of expanses of knee deep water, which is really good for people when they are learning. It makes them feel safer and helps build confidence. You also need a safe environment to launch from and because we have got vast expanses of beach which are not overly populated, it is perfect.”
Rob offers a range of tuition, from a half-day introduction and one and two-day courses to pro level coaching, as well as hiring out equipment to skilled riders.
“It is an amazing sport to get involved with. I have had people aged from 16 to 81 come to me for lessons and although it can be tough physically, it is also about keeping your mind focused. Kitesurfing is extremely exhilarating and a lot of fun, but you have to be constantly aware of the conditions. You need to understand the pressure systems, the local weather conditions and the wind directions. Not only do you need to understand that before you set off, you need to be able to read it as you are out there, to be aware of any changes. Mother Nature isn’t always very forgiving, but if you understand the environment, then you will love every minute.”
“For me, kite surfing is a form of escapism. I used to work in the corporate world and in the evening or at the weekend, as soon as I could get out on the water, any worries just ease away. There is no noise when you are out of the water, so it is an amazing way to see the coastline and the wildlife, while being extremely exhilarating and challenging as well. We ride out into the middle of the Wash, and the sense of freedom you feel is incredible.”
Every year, Hunstanton hosts a round of the British Kitesurfing Championship, bringing top competitors to the town and raising the profile of the resort as a top kitesurfing destination.
“We get people coming from all over the country to kitesurf here because of the excellent conditions and it is a real boost to the local economy. When I first started, on a good summer’s day, there were maybe 50 kites up, some days now you will easily have 100 plus which is quite a spectacle. A lot of those people will stay locally and use the facilities, so it is great for bringing people to Hunstanton and appealing to new markets, plus it provides an exciting sport for locals to get involved with.
“I think it is essential to work closely with other connected businesses to promote the watersports available on the coast, to make it a key part of our tourism offering, whether kitesurfing, paddleboarding or surfing. The more we all come together, the more people will hear about the fantastic scene we have here.”
Game, set and match
What started as a gathering of well-healed local gentry keen to test out their skills with bat and ball is now the country’s largest tennis tournament which sees more than 1000 competitors descending on Hunstanton every August.
Almost 100 years on from those first matches, the Scott Dunn Hunstanton Lawn Tennis Tournament attracts players of all ages and abilities, nationally and internationally.
Not only is it a fantastic event for tennis lovers, it also gives a huge boost to the local economy, with competitors and their families staying in and around the town and making the most of everything this corner of the coast has to offer.
Club secretary Christ Holt has been involved with the tournament for 43 years and says it has grown beyond anyone’s expectations.
“We think the tournament started in 1920 as that’s when the Ladies Open Singles Trophy was presented for the first time. Talking to those involved in those early years, it seems it was a group of local nobility and dignitaries who began the event, rather than the small tennis club in Hunstanton. They thought it would be great to have their own mini Wimbledon, a genteel social event, where they could play tennis followed by gin and tonics on the lawn. Out of those small seeds grew the event we have today.
“By the time I became involved in the 1970s, there were 10 courts and 240 players; this year it will be 38 courts with 1200 competitors playing in 40 different events,” he says. “It attracts a fantastic array of players from youngsters to veterans, and the standard is really good. It is competitive but a lot of fun.”
Over the years, the event has attracted some top class players – including grand slam winner Ann Haydon, nee Jones, who, after winning at Hunstanton, went on to win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title in 1969.
The tournament, which is organised by a committee of just 10 people, takes an incredible amount of work to bring to fruition.
“My job when I first started was to check out and check in the tennis balls. The players had to sign out and sign in four balls before and after every match, or else,” says Christ. “Today, as it has grown, the logistics are enormous from preparing the courts, organising entries and planning the match programme, to getting the trade stalls in, the sponsors, the parking and the social side of things.
“But last year was my best one ever; in terms of the tennis quality, the number of players, the atmosphere and of course the weather. Every year we are at the mercy of the weather, but we have only had one year when it has been so bad we have had to cancel midweek when there was non stop rain every day and gale force winds. Thankfully, normally Sunny Hunny lives up to its name.”
The tournament isn’t just about the tennis – alongside the packed programme of matches, there are social events organised for both young and old, entertainment, a café and bar on site and plenty of trade stands with local food and drink producers, arts and crafts stalls and many other businesses selling their wares.
“For many, the week is as much about the social side as it is the tennis and the tournament has a real festival feel, with people having picnics on the grass and the atmosphere is wonderful. Many treat it as a holiday and come with all their family and of course, it brings an incredible boost to the local economy. They all stay locally, eat and drink in and around the town and of course visit Hunstanton’s many attractions and shops.”
Chris says the town is lucky enough to have grass courts open all year round and that he hopes a new system put in place this year will encourage more people to use them.
“To have such well kept grass courts on your doorstep is fantastic, but they are not always that well used by the local community. They are all open to the public and we hope that our simple new booking system will get more people of all ages, coming out and playing this summer.”
The Hunstanton Lawn Tennis Tournament, sponsored by travel agency Scott Dunn, runs from Sunday, August 20 to Saturday, August 26. See www.hunstantonltt.co.uk.