Norfolk Broads Day Boats, Picnic Boats and Dinghies

How far can you get on a boat trip in a day or less? This is a common question that we're asked but we feel it's the wrong question. The river is a relaxing place; it's about slowing down and enjoying the day and the journey. It is not about rushing about at breakneck speed, trying to cram as much in as you can. For many, this is what daily life is; let your Freedom boat trip be your escape from all that.

Here's a simple table of typical journey times, in hours, from the major locations on the River Yare and Wensome which form part of the Norfolk Broads. These time are a rough guide only and your actual time will depend on your speed (remember the limits and heavy fines for ignoring them), wind, current and other river traffic.

Remember: This Norfolk Broads river journey timetable represents a one-way trip at standard river speeds (i.e. under power rather than sail or paddle), therefore Thorpe to Norwich return will be around one and a half hours non-stop cruising. All travel times are approximate and you need to remember that travelling with the current will increase your speed but against it will have the opposite effect.

  River Wensum River Yare
  Norwich Kingfisher
Surlingham Ferry Brundall Cantley Reedham
Norwich - ¾ 1 ½ 2 3 ¼ 4
Kingfisher Boatyard ¾ - ¾ 1 ¼ 2 ½ 3 ¼
Surlingham Ferry 1 ½ ¾ - ½ 1 ¾ 2 ½
Brundall 2 ½ - 1 ¼ 2
Cantley 3 ¼ 2 ¼ 1 ¾ 1 ¼ - ¾
Reedham 4 ¾ 3 ¼   2 1 ½


Day hire boats are not permitted to travel beyond Reedham on the River Yare, so a Freedom day boat trip to Great Yarmouth is out of the question. Sorry.

Day Boat Itineraries

The Norfolk Broads are best explored by boat with many places being quite inaccessible by any other means. But just how much can you see on your day boat? There's often a tendency to try and tear around in a day boat in an attempt to see as much as possible but, truthfully, this rarely happens as you disturb more wildlife and have to concentrate too much on driving. Hiring a day boat is all about slowing down and relaxing, just watching the world go by at a slow pace.

Our quick list gives you an idea of where you can explore. Just click on the length of trip or type of boat to get an idea of what you can comfortably see.

Half Day Boat Trips

Hire a Day Boat for half a day (4 hours) and you can get to see many things on the river. Our recommended routes are:

Thorpe to Brundall

About 1 ½ hour each way

Explore the tree-lined River Yare from our base at Thorpe Marshes to Brundall. On the way, you'll pass undulating countryside passing The Water's Edge Restaurant and bar at Brammerton and The Ferry House at Surlingham, both great places for a stop-off. Brundall opens out initially to the major boat yards and then to a row of pretty riverside bungalows with the Coldham Hall Tavern marking the end of Brundall. Return via Surlingham Broad.

Thorpe to Norwich

About 1 hour each way.

The pretty River Yare makes its way inland past Thorpe Marshes on the north bank and Whitlingham Country Park on the south. Soon, you'll have the option (if the water level is right) of passing under the railway bridge that leads to Thorpe Green where the southern bank becomes an island with the Yare to one side and the village suburb of Thorpe on the north. Here you can stop off and have a snifter in the pretty Buck Inn next to the iconic church or have a bite to eat at the ever-popular Harleys cafe. Don't forget though, you need to catch the tide if you're in a picnic boat else you won't get back under the bridges. Moseying on upstream to Norwich, you'll first pass through the industrial centre. Once a bustling port where wherries and later coasters would unload their goods, only Coleman's and Britvik remain and many of the old mills and factories have now been developed into luxury riverside apartments which have regenerated the area. Soon, you'll have the towering spire of Norwich Cathedral ahead of you and the whole estate runs down to the river.

Full Day Boat Trips

An eight hour trip gives you a greater scope to enjoy the river and the surroundings without having to rush about.

We recommend the following trips.

Thorpe to Hardley

About 3 hours each way

Between Thorpe and Brundall, the river is surrounded by pretty banks but beyond Brundall, the land flattens out giving big views and huge skies. The northern bank offers no mooring points between Brundall and Cantley, but on the southern bank you can explore Rockland Broad (stay in the marked channel) and the on to Cantley. This is a village that has long been on your eye line for it's commonly known for the huge factory that processes one of Norfolk's premier crops; Sugar Beet. Love it or loathe it, the factory is an icon of the Norfolk landscape and is passing it marks the approach of your stop-off or turning point; Hardley Windpump.

Hardley is a fabulously restored and fully working Norfolk Windpump and is the only mill that can be regularly seen in action. Floating pontoons are available for mooring and you can enter the mill and visitor centre.

Thorpe to Reedham

About 4 hours each way

This can be a bit of a non-stop trip so pack a picnic as you probably will not have time to stop off.

You'll pass all the points of the Thorpe to Hardley journey and continue downstream to Reedham, passing the mouth of the River Chet to the south and then approaching the Reedham Ferry which is the only vehicle ferry on the Norfolk Broads. Do not pass until the Ferry has docked! Another 10 minutes downstream and you're in Reedham proper. The currents here can be strong and the rise and fall of the tide big. But, if you've made good time, moor up and explore or just sit and watch the Reedham Swing Bridge in action.

Pedal Boat Trips

Whilst it is remarkably easy to pedal Winsome with very little effort, we don't recommend long trips and limit all travel to Surlingham Broad in the East.

Head into Norwich, though, and you can explore parts of the river that are inaccessible to motorised hire boats. Bishop's Bridge is a fine example of a mediaeval river crossing and is the limit of navigation for hire boats, but not Winsome. Pedal your way under the bridge and you'll be exploring the Wensum in places that few people can access. You'll pass parkland, the iconic Jarrold Printing building, colleges and fine Edwardian terraces as you meander through the fine city of Norwich

Half a day is enough for many people, but for the fitter one amongst you, why not take a day trip and explore Norwich and the Yare to Surlingham?

A single person can handle it our pedal boat well, but it is ideal for two people.

Canoe Trials

A canoe is a fine way to explore the river and its banks and inlets. Our location at Thorpe Marshes is ideal for the start of your canoe trail and we'd recommend exploring the Yare up to the area known as Surlingham Broad. We say this as the wide area that is frequented by cruisers is actually Bargate; Surlingham Broad itself is largely inaccessible to motor vessels and is to the west of the first entrance to the system (with Bargate being to the east).

Heading towards Norwich, you can explore the River Yare further than on a motor boat, just keep left at the fork after Whitlingham. If you choose to venture into Norwich, be sure to pass under Bishop's Bridge and explore beyond the main hire boat limit too.

Thurne Windpump - River Thurne - Norfolk Broads

Norfolk Broads Day Boat Special Offers

Get a discount on your Day Boat Hire for bookings during rainy days.

All inclusive day boat hire prices

All Boat Hire Prices Include:

  • Fuel
  • Buoyancy Aids
  • Broads Map (to keep, subject to availability)
  • Instruction / tuition