Cottage holiday put a Broads smile on our faces

The view of the moorings from the cottage.

The view of the moorings from the cottage.

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A mere mention of the Norfolk Broads conjours up images of families and friends taking to the vast expanse of inland waterways in that region in boats of all shapes and sizes.

But as we discovered last month, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Jasmine at Great Yarmouth Sea Life centre.

Jasmine at Great Yarmouth Sea Life centre.

We stayed in a cottage, courtesy of Herbert Woods, at its working boatyard and marina at Potter Heigham,where thousands of people every year collect their crafts to go adventuring.

There are a number of cottages and apartments on the site, and ours was right next to the entrance to the river, with a spacious decking area, so we got a good view of the would-be sailors coming in and out of the moorings- which proved quite entertaining at times.

And we also spent a couple of fun hours in one of the dayboats to take in the sounds and sights of the river nearby.

The cottage itself slept four in two bedrooms which were very roomy.

Donna Steele and children Jasmine and Sasha on the day boat at Potter Heigham.

Donna Steele and children Jasmine and Sasha on the day boat at Potter Heigham.

The lounge area was comfortable with two sofas, a TV and DVD player, the kitchen diner was well appointed and there were bathrooms on both floors; very homely indeed.

We were a stone’s throw from a pub, takeaway, cafe and tearooms and the well-known Latham’s superstore which sold everything imaginable seemed to attract shoppers by the busload.

We were also very conveniently placed for all the attractions the boaters would be seeking out.

Nearby we found Horning, a beautiful little broadland village with pubs, shops and cafes lining the water. As well as lunch overlooking the boats we also enjoyed a very interesting two-hour journey on the Mississippi steamboat - with two-year-old Jasmine even getting hold of the wheel and sounding the horn as we entered the River Bure.

Feeding time at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens

Feeding time at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens

Five minutes further we ventured into Wroxham, a slightly bigger, busier village on the water and home to Miniature Worlds, with stunning, huge model railways, a dolls house display, vintage arcade games and my favourite - a collection of the UK’s top 100 toys that brought back childhood memories.

Our longest journey - about 30-minutes - took us to Pleasurewood Hills, a family orientated theme park near Lowestoft with a fair few thrill rides, and lots aimed at the younger family members.

Our two only qualified for half-a-dozen or so (height restrictions) but had plenty of turns on each and loved it; took a ride on a train and cable car as well as enjoying two great shows - parrots and the incredible Claude the sealion.

Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, hidden away just 10 minutes down the road, was home to some very cute creatures - lots of active monkeys and meercats of course - as well as crocodiles and alligators. And there are some great walkways, offering terrific views.

Claude performing at Pleasurewood Hills.

Claude performing at Pleasurewood Hills.

The highlight, though, thanks to the helpful rangers, was a very intimate, close-up view of feeding time for the majestic tigers and other wildcats including the snow leopards, proud parents of two tiny cubs.

We were only a short drive to Hemsby on the coast - a bit windy admittedly but a nice beach nevertheless to build sand castles on. And on the walk back to the car a fair collection of amusements to soak up the loose change.

More of the same, although on a much larger scale, is Great Yarmouth. Again only 15 minutes by car, the hotel-lined seafront is awash with the slots, fast food and funfair attractions including one with toddlers in mind where we managed to while away an hour on so on mini bigwheels, waltzers, ghost trains and the like.

It is also home to the Sealife Centre and a chance to get up close and personal with all manner of creatures from tiny seahorses to sharks.

There’s a great trail to follow to keep the little ones inline and the opportunity to handle crabs, shrimps and starfish - and win medals.

Lego also has a part to play at the attraction this year with a Deep Sea display and the young - and old - can use their creative skills to build seacreatures with their bricks.

The doll collection at Miniature Worlds at Wroxham

The doll collection at Miniature Worlds at Wroxham

A boat-iful holiday indeed.

FACTFILE

Brad Barnes and his family stayed in a Bittern cottage at Herbert Woods, Bridge Road, Potter Heigham (www.herbertwoods.co.uk).

They visited Wroxham Miniature Worlds (www.wroxhamminiatureworlds.co.uk, tel 01603 781728); Pleasure Wood Hills (www.pleasurewoodhills.com, tel 01502 586000); Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens (www.thrigbyhall.co.uk, tel 01493 369477); and Great Yarmouth Sea Life centre (www.visitsealife.com/great-yarmouth, tel 01493 330 631).