Best Guide to Crabbing at Wells-next-the-Sea Norfolk

Craving a unique seaside activity? Look no further than a spot of Crabbing at Wells-next-the-Sea, on the stunning North Norfolk coast. Normal for Norfolk, that’s me.   Most school holidays the Cultural Wednesday family answer the siren call of the East.  One of our favourite things is meeting up with friends crabbing.

How to go Crabbing at Wells next the Sea

No Norfolk childhood is complete without crabbing or gillying, as it is known locally.  Does it happen elsewhere?  I confess that beyond Suffolk I have never crabbed but friends tell me that Padstow and Mullion cove in Cornwall are also prime crabbing spots.  Crabbing can done in all weathers, which is just as well as whilst the does shine a lot in Norfolk, rain is not unknown.

Wells next the sea

What do you equipment do you need for crabbing?

All you need is: a bucket of sea water (and it must be sea water as the crabs will die in tap water); a long piece of string with a weight on the end; a long-handled net; and of course some bait and the smellier the better.  Fish heads or bacon are the traditional lures.  Armed with your equipment you secure the bait onto the line either tie it on or wrap it in old tights.   Fear not if you don’t have these the shops in Wells next the Sea are awash with crabbing kits.  Throw the line over the harbour edge and wait.  On a good day crabs will soon bite.

Crabbing bait fish heads
Fish heads – yum

What to do with your crabs once they are caught?

Put them in your bucket of sea water.  No more than 10 at a time.  Keep an eye on them as sometimes they fight.  If this happens separate them or even better put them back in the water, gently.  It is important to keep on refreshing the water every 10 minutes or the crabs will die. When you have finished for the day make sure you put the crabs back and take all your equipment home with you.

Can you eat the crabs you catch?

Almost certainly not.  Most will be very small.  You might get lucky and catch an edible Cromer crab but most will be inedible Common Shore Crabs.  Just a note, not all crabs caught in Cromer are Cromer Crabs, it is a type of crab not a location specific thing.

Plastic Free Crabbing Kit

Quite a lot of the lines and buckets on sale for crabbing are made of plastic. Kit made from wood, hemp and metal are kinder to the environment and available in some shops. It is worth taking a bit of time to find renewable, degradable crabbing kit to reduce the amount of single use plastic. When you have finished your day gillying keep the kit for next time or maybe repurpose the bucket for making sandcastles.

Wells-next-the-Sea sandbanks at low tide
Wells next the Sea

Where else can I go crabbing in Norfolk and Suffolk?

Wells next the Sea crabbing is not the only option.  Other places that I have enjoyed a spot of gillying are Blakeney, Cromer pier, Titchwell, Brancaster Staithe, Burnham Overy Staithe and (slipping over the border into Suffolk) Walberswick.

What to do in Wells next the Sea

Wells next the Sea has much to offer.  Round by the harbour there are many excellent places selling fish and chips. Walk up away from the harbour and you will find cute streets and shops selling all manner of stripy jumpers. 

Wells beach is reckoned to be one of the best in Norfolk.  That is saying something, the beaches in Norfolk are among the best in the world.  It is a decent hike away from the harbour, you can catch a miniature train there if want. When you get there you will find beach huts on stilts and at low tide a huge expanse of sand that is perfect for beach cricket.

Wells next the Sea beach perfect for beach cricket

Where to stay in Wells next the Sea

We have stayed in Youth Hostel at Wells next the Sea.  This is one of the smaller hostels that we have stayed in, it is entirely self catering but the kitchen is adequate and there are lots of places to eat in Wells.  It does have en-suite family rooms.  It was the perfect place for a short family break on the North Norfolk Coast without breaking the bank.   My cousins speak highly of the Pinewoods the campsite which nestles behind the dunes of the beach.  Pinewoods is also the place to hire one of the iconic Wells next the Sea beach huts

Where to eat in Wells next the Sea

This depends on what kind of day you plan on having, what the weather is and who you are with.  Over the years we have decided that the best fish and chips are from French’s on the Quayside and that if you want something a little more refined head to the Wells Crab House just on the corner of Quay.  Both places do taekaways if you fancy eating al fresco.

No Norfolk Coast holiday is complete without trying your hand at Crabbing. One of the best places to learn how to crab is Wells next the Sea. Come with me to discover crabbing at Wells next the Sea and what to do once you've finished. #Norfolk #FamilyHoliday #NorfolkCoast

Whilst you are in Norfolk why not take time for a some Seal Watching or find out about the fascinating history of Great Yarmouth at Time and Tide or explore the fine city of Norwich or discover amazing art at the Sainsbury Centre or see discover the home of the first British Prime Minister and fabulous Sculpture at Houghton Hall. Come with me and discover Norfolk places off the beaten track.



  1. April 8, 2015 / 7:14 am

    Ah, we were unlucky with our first crabbing expedition in Ilfracombe last year so we’re going to have to try again at some point.
    I’m adding North Norfolk to my bucket list too. Thanks so much for linking up to Time Traveller, you’ve reminded me to dig out our crabbing kit ready for our next travels.

  2. August 27, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    I’ve never been crabbing, maybe it’s just a south East England thing? I’m assuming we could still try it up here in Scotland, not sure where the best place to try is though, we don’t have the traditional promenades and piers. Probably why crabbing isn’t common here? It looks fun though and even better when you actually catch some crabs!
    Thanks for linking up to #Whatevertheweather 🙂 x

  3. chloelifeunexpected
    August 30, 2015 / 10:12 pm

    Crabbing is so common in Cornwall. Every little seaside town you always see people on the sides of the harbour or standing on the edge of the rocks crabbing. I’ve never been and I don’t know why. I have no excuses really. I can’t wait till my daughter is a bit older so we can take her. It sounds like you had fun despite not catching anything. Fingers crossed for next time.Thank you so much for linking this to #whatevertheweather x

  4. April 11, 2016 / 9:24 pm

    Still never tried crabbing, but will need to try this year. Not sure if it’s as much of a thing in Scotland? Or maybe it’s just that I don’t live by the sea, so I don’t hear about it as much! Sounds like a fun way to while away some time while watching the world go by. Hopefully you will catch something next time! Thanks so much for linking up to #Whatevertheweather 🙂 x

    • April 11, 2016 / 9:35 pm

      Catching something is a bonus but very popular with or without actual crabs!

  5. June 19, 2019 / 9:09 am

    That’s the best place ever to go crabbing!!

    • June 20, 2019 / 7:44 am

      Isn’t just, always enjoy fish and chips afterwards

  6. June 20, 2019 / 11:26 am

    This is super popular in Scandinavia as well – we’ve done it in Sweden (using meatballs of course) and Denmark. One spot even had a crab race course on the dock. As an Oregon Girl, crabbing means something quite different from our coast. We put big puts and traps out and pull up large Dungeness crabs to take home for dinner! One of our family’s favorite things to do when home visiting in Oregon. So tasty too. Looks a very fun day out at the coast in Norfolk. Cheers from this side of the North Sea. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles.

    • June 20, 2019 / 11:37 am

      Sounds like an idea for a collab post, crabbing around the world

  7. Bright Lights of America
    June 20, 2019 / 4:51 pm

    I didn’t know that crabbing was called gillying! (Did I butcher the spelling?) Does that have anything to do with the Scottish Gillie? That’s a gameskeeper right? Or am I completely off-course… #FarawayFiles

    • June 20, 2019 / 5:29 pm

      Good thought …. never given the origin of the name a second thought before, will investigate

    • Sarah Rhodes
      August 29, 2019 / 7:26 am

      The crabs are Norfolk Gillie crabs apparently

      • September 3, 2019 / 10:39 am

        I know that is called gilding or gillie crabbing locally but never knew that it was because that is what the crabs are called!

  8. June 20, 2019 / 6:42 pm

    Great, this brings back memories for me, I used to do crabbing with my brother when we lived on the Isle of Wight #farawayfiles

  9. June 20, 2019 / 10:23 pm

    Crabbing is indeed a very useful past time when the sun isn’t shining: we spent quite some time doing it in the rain several years ago. Good to hear the youth hostel has en suite family rooms. And yes, I’ve heard good things about that campsite, the location is pretty unbeatable! #farawayfiles

  10. June 21, 2019 / 9:07 am

    My kids would love to try this – and I’m always up for the fish & chips after!

    • June 22, 2019 / 11:06 am

      Fish and chips are the nectar of the gods

  11. June 21, 2019 / 3:42 pm

    Crabbing, but you can’t eat the crabs? I don’t know seems like a lot of trouble. Still, a fun activity though I think I’d rather explore around, especially those colorful beach huts we don’t have here in the US. #farawayfiles

    • June 21, 2019 / 4:48 pm

      Never thought of it like that!

    • Sarah Rhodes
      August 29, 2019 / 7:27 am

      It’s great fun and the kids love it seeing how many they can catch to compete with each other.

      • September 3, 2019 / 10:39 am

        The best way to spend a day

  12. Lyn
    June 22, 2019 / 2:24 am

    Nothing like the flavour of freshly prepared crabs and great fun for kids to enjoy the experience of crabbing.

    • June 22, 2019 / 11:05 am

      Cromer crab sandwiches are the best

  13. June 22, 2019 / 6:23 am

    I like visiting Wells (although we got absolutely soaked when we went on Sunday). Loads of people crabbing that day. I’ve only ever crabbed once, off Cromer Pier. It wasn’t really my cup of tea.

    • June 22, 2019 / 11:05 am

      I want to go and see the horse statue

  14. June 22, 2019 / 8:46 am

    Quintessential England – fabulous. The things more kids should be doing rather than on their devices. Loved reading it.

    • June 22, 2019 / 11:04 am

      Advice free time is essential

  15. June 22, 2019 / 10:58 am

    I’ve been crabbing in Northumberland, so I can vouch that it happens there too. Love that threatening black sky behind the funky beach huts. So very different to the beaches on the Riviera! #culturedkids (&#wbps)

    • June 23, 2019 / 8:11 pm

      It absolutely chucked it down about 15 minutes later

  16. June 22, 2019 / 3:04 pm

    Looks like fun! A bit like catching crayfish off the pier here in South Africa, in the days when we could do it.

  17. June 25, 2019 / 8:20 am

    Ar, Wells… love it! And crabbing too – what a nostalgic past-time, the kids love it! I think people forget about Norfolk although we don’t want it to get any busier, it’s loevly as it is! 😉 #farawayflies

    • June 25, 2019 / 5:47 pm

      It is that tricky thing, that I want the world to know how wonderful Norfolk is but I quite like it being a bit secret!

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