Burnham Overy Staithe Guide

July 19, 2021  •  Leave a Comment


A guide to Burnham Overy Staithe

Green Dots - Low Tide walking route

Blue Dots - Low Tide walking route


Purple Dots - High Tide kayak route

Orange Dots - Low Tide kayak route



Walking Options: - Both of these assume an able body and an understanding that there will be water potentially knee high. You also need to pay careful attention to the tide because you will get cut off and need to swim if not. Shorts and wet shoes are recommended.

Green Dots - This is a popular route to go across at low tide and then walk on a path across the salt marsh before dropping out onto the sand and a short walk across to Scolt Head. I've done this once and didn't really enjoy it. I much prefer the Blue Dot route. 

Blue Dots - This would be my personal choice if walking. Where you leave the sea wall path you have to walk across the top of a stone rock wall to cross a muddy area and reach the sand bank so you need careful footing to avoid slipping and twisting an ankle or worse. 


Kayaking Options: - These are a rough guide. The conditions can be different depending on tide state and wind. Generally if going against the tide it's best to avoid the channel because this is basically like a river and where the current will flow strongest. So knowing where the channel is at low tide is very handy for knowing where to paddle on a high tide. 

Purple Dots (High Tide) - When setting off at high tide especially if the tide is coming in you want to get straight over to opposite bank and then hug that all the way out until you have passed the harbour mouth. If you aim straight for the mouth on an outgoing tide you'll get swept out very quickly. At High Tide in the summer months the harbour is likely to very busy. Lots of swimmers and people on paddle boards and kayaks. Also many small craft with outboard motors heading to the island. There's two ferries that run from in front of the boat house out to the island carrying day trippers. These will not adjust their bearing for you! Keep close to the bank or move out of the channel when you see them coming,  which is another reason to study the low tide channel. It is marked by buoys but knowing it is better. 

Orange Dots (Low Tide) - At low tide you need to follow the channel. This is mostly deep enough, in some places like dead mans hole it's still over your head (where the purple and orange lines converge). There's a couple of spots where it's really narrow and a couple of spots where you'll have to drag for a few metres. Some spots look deep enough but aren't so following the channel keenly is best. Getting out before the tide switches is the aim. Then you can drift back in with the tide. 



High Tide & Low Tide


You can see in these two photographs the difference between high tide and low tide. The eastern tip of Scolt Head Island is on the left and in the low tide picture you can clearly see the channel heading out to sea and the two routes that feed into it. Then in the high tide image you can also clearly see the two current flows converging hence the reason to go past the mouth in the slack water before heading across with the flow. When you hit that flow you will see up so it's a good idea to be focused on hitting the shore. It's also a clear example of a rip current because you can see the gap in the white horses. The white horses on the left can be great fun to surf in. You encounter waves crossing at 90degrees so it can be very choppy and a lot of fun if that's what you want. Best saved for an incoming tide though for obvious reasons. 


This image shows the length of Scolt Head Island, looking towards Brancaster Staithe and the surf in the foreground. 


This image shows dead mans hole in the foreground. The two rock walls create a vortex that has dug down deep meaning even at low tide the water is very deep. I'd love to know how deep! This is the barrier that stops you being able to walk out at low tide. If you walk along the sea wall on the right side and then down onto the rock wall you can cross the mud and reach the sandbank. 


These two images show the car park and the first image shows why it's important to check the tide height. I use this website https://www.deepdalebackpackers.co.uk/tides/  because it gives the heights. 1.3mtrs is a small tide. Anything near to 2mtrs is where you probably should park on higher ground. I don't know the exact height for flooding the carpark but that basic rule has kept my car dry so far. You can also see the alternative parking area at the very bottom of the image although there's only a handful of spaces so in summer they're often already taken. 

This images highlights that alternative parking area and that won't flood unless it's a full on flooding incident. The two arrows show the front entrance and rear entrance to the Boat Shed. This is where you can hire a kayak. There's someone always there so if the front door is shut wander round the back and look for Tim or Maxine. They hire out sit on kayaks £20 for a single or £30 for a double for 8 hours. Les at Hunstanton Kayaks sometimes runs 'creek safaris' which you can book on and enjoy a guided tour: Like his facebook page to keep an eye out for these:  https://www.facebook.com/hunstantonkayaks 


Another image showing the low tide channel. This is the root that larger boats will use at high tide. 


What I love about Burnham Overy is the tide state doesn't really affect your decision. There is enough water for a sit on kayak or Paddleboard or even my three man canoe at low tide with just a couple of points where you need to drag. The wildlife is pretty good. Most times I see a spoonbill and Marsh Harrier. More Oyster Catchers than you can shake a stick at. Plenty of Oyster Shells to find as well. Terns diving for sand eels often right next to you! Until recently I'd never seen a seal in Burnham Overy Harbour but one was fishing in the harbour mouth and then again at deadman's hole. It is also a completely different experience at high tide from low tide and if you experience both you will see what I mean. What was once a large expanse of sand is now a large wide expanse of deep water...with fast currents. There is not really any danger at low tide. At high tide if you are a competent swimmer the only real potential danger is in the harbour mouth where the current will take you out faster than you can swim to the shore. You could end up tired and swept into breaking waves. 

You don't need a kayak or paddle board to enjoy the water. Get some beach shoes and a dry bag with strap or a proper swim bag. Walk out to the island at low tide then float/swim back in with the tide. It's one of those amazing experiences and it's free. 

One last point. Buy these, get the right one for your phone and use the spare one to put your car keys in: https://www.amazon.co.uk/YOSH-Waterproof-Underwater-Crossbody-Swimming/dp/B08P476RS3/ref=sr_1_3_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=Syncwire+Waterproof+Phone+Case%2C+2-Pack&qid=1626714539&s=electronics&sr=1-3-spons&psc=1&smid=A7EAIEALQGBOW&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFQM1lSVkFJV0NDS0QmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAxMjk5NTQyQVU5VkUwSkxRNFI5JmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA3ODA3MDc1ODZTSUFHM0RQR1Qmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGYmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl




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