First Time Boating Guide on Norfolk Broads

Boating, for some that have never done it, may seem like a daunting prospect. At Herbert Woods, we understand this. The 'First Time Boating' page will help guide you through the boating holiday process, answer some of your questions and hopefully put your mind at ease.


Is a Boating Holiday Right for You?

Do you have a sense of adventure? If the answer is 'yes' then a boating holiday is perfect for you. Imagine cruising along miles of waterways, taking in the beautiful Norfolk countryside, calling in to riverside pubs and villages, or going to explore one of the many nature trails or footpaths. On a boating holiday, you're in charge so you can choose to do as much or as little as you prefer.

You don't need to have any previous boating experience to hire one of our cruisers as our friendly staff are always on hand to help out if you need them.


Why Choose the Norfolk Broads?

It's easy - The Norfolk Broads are a great place to start boating as there are no locks to worry about and the rivers are much wider than the canals.

Norfolk has it's own micro-climate and this means that whilst the rest of the UK is soaked by rain, we can often be found basking in the sun.

The Broads are great for outdoor activities as such as cycling and walking, as well as having some fantastic fishing spots. There are also numerous attractions for children and adults alike, from adventure parks to zoos.

Norfolk is steeped in history and art, theatre lovers will find plenty of concerts and art galleries to keep them entertained.


When to Visit the Broads

The Broads are beautiful all year round but we only let our cruisers between February and November for safety reasons.

Early Spring and late Autumn are the quietest times on the Broads. They are also the cheapest times of year to hire one of our boats. You may experience colder, wetter weather, but will also have the waterways largely to yourself; this is also the best time to enjoy our unique wildlife - and all our cruisers have hot air heating systems.

Late Spring and early Summer provides the best of both worlds with warmer temperatures but without the bustle or high prices of the peak holiday period.

With the kids off school and endless Summer holidays, the school Summer holidays are the busiest times on the Broads. As such, they are also the most expensive, boats book well in advance for these weeks so it is advisable to book early to secure your cruiser.

Our cruisers come in many shapes and sizes and there really is something for everyone. You can view all of our cruisers online or request a brochure.

For a first time boater, choosing a cruiser can seem a bit overwhelming. To make life easier, we highly recommend you discuss your requirements with a member of our Booking Team. They know our boats inside out so are the ideal people to match you with your perfect cruiser. 

Things to consider when selecting your cruiser:

  • Number of people - Our cruisers show their sleeping capacity as 4 + 2, for example. This means that the cruiser will sleep a total of 6 people: 4 in fixed berths and 2 in convertible beds, usually in the main seating area. You need to decide whether this is enough space and consider that the 2 convertible beds would need to be made up on a daily basis. It is also very important to look at the floor plans for your chosen cruiser(s) as this will show how many double and single beds (berths) you get.
  • Style of cruiser - this often comes down to personal preference, some people like the more modern dual steering cruisers whereas some prefer cruisers with a sliding canopy. It is really up to you, you can read more about the different styles of cruiser.
  • Where would you like to go - some of our cruisers are unable to pass under specific bridges, so if you are desperate to get to Hickling, for example, you will need a low, single level cruiser. Information on bridge clearances are specified on the description of each cruiser.
  • Level of comfort - All of our cruisers are perfectly suitable and fit for purpose, however, if you like a little extra comfort, you may want to consider one of our Elite Cruisers.
  • Bringing along a pet - the majority of our cruisers do allow a pet onboard, however, we do keep some pet free for people who may suffer from allergies.


How Much Will it Cost

The cost of the holiday varies widely depending on the type of boat and the time of year. The cost is made up of the following:

  • Hire charge - this is the cost of hiring the cruiser
  • Damage waiver - this is a mandatory non-refundable payment to cover any damage or loss to the boat, its equipment or a third party.
  • Fuel deposit - this is required in advance and covers a full tank of fuel for your cruiser. The value of any fuel left in the boat at the end of your holiday will be refunded to you.
  • Security deposit - All single sex and non-family groups are required to pay a refundable security deposit of £50 per berth, secured against the hirers credit or debit card.


How to Book Your Holiday

How you book your holiday is entirely up to you. We are able to take bookings online via our website or you can call our booking office. When you book we will ask for a 25% deposit of the total amount to secure your holiday. The balance of your holiday should be paid within 56 days of your holiday start date. If the date of booking is within 56 days of the holiday start date, payment in full will be required when booking.

Once your holiday is confirmed you will receive login details to the 'My Booking' area of our website where you can manage your booking and pay any balances due. Before you arrive you need to make sure you have entered the name, address and date of birth for each passenger. We need this information for insurance purposes and will be unable to let you depart for your holiday without it.


Planning Your Route

When you arrive we will give you a map which has lots of useful information on it, however once your holiday is booked you might want to start thinking about where you would like to go.

We have created a number of suggested itineraries to get you started.

How far you go really depends on how much driving you want to do; it is perfectly possible to cover all of the Northern Broads within a week. See cruising times between different locations.


What to Pack

You can find information as to what is included on the boat and a suggested packing list here. The most important things to remember are:

  • Towels - these are not provided
  • Rubber soled shoes for walking on deck
  • Sun cream - Even though it may seem overcast the sun can still be very fierce on the water
  • Bottled water
  • Torch - there are very few street lights and it can get very dark at night
  • Waterproof jacket - even if it's sunny when you set off, there is no guarantee it will stay that way.

For more suggestions see What to bring on your Boating Holiday


On Arrival

Your arrival time can be found on your booking confirmation. It will be 2.30pm or 3.00pm depending on the type of cruiser and the duration of your holiday. Before your holiday you will be sent a Car Park Access Code, this is unique to you and your party and will be required to access the Herbert Woods site.

Find a parking space and then make your way to Reception (the large blue building) where you will be checked in and directed to 'A Section'. Here you will be given your life jackets and shown on board your cruiser. We will then leave you to unpack your belongings from the car and settle in.

Once you are ready to go, return to 'A Section' and say that you are ready for your boat handover. One of our Engineers will then take you through all of the controls on board your cruiser, explain how to do the daily checks to the engine and weed filters and show you how to operate the canopy (if applicable).

We understand that you are excited to get off on your holiday but it is very important that you listen carefully, understand this information and ask any questions if you are unsure. You will be required to sign a boat handover certificate before you are allowed to depart.

Our Engineer will then show you how to cast off and will take you out on to the main river for your trial run. This is your opportunity to take the helm and practice manoeuvring and mooring the boat with the guidance of a professional.

Once you feel confident handling the boat you will return to the boat yard to drop off the Engineer and then you are on your way.

Don't worry if you struggle to remember everything, there will be a folder on board called the 'Skippers Manual' which contains everything you need to know. You can also download a generic version of the Skippers Manual' to read before you begin your holiday.


Driving your cruiser

Driving a cruiser is very straightforward there are just a few things to remember:

  • Do not cast off before starting your engine
  • Make sure all your mooring ropes are coiled up on deck and not trailing in the water - they could cause a trip hazard and/or catch on the propeller
  • Always drive to the right-hand side of the river.
  • Make sure the throttle is in neutral before starting the engine
  • Push the throttle forward to go forward and backwards to reverse. When the throttle is pointing straight up, the boat is in neutral.
  • Boats don't have brakes. To stop, simply ease off the throttle and engage neutral and then reverse. Your boat will slow to a natural stop.
  • Boats do not steer like cars, the back-end (stern) swings out when you turn the wheel. Always make sure you have enough room.



There are miles of free moorings along the banks and rivers. Look out for the Broads Authority signs.

Other boat yards will provide free moorings for Herbert Woods' customers. A full list of all moorings available is provided within your 'Skippers Manual' on board.

Moorings can also be found outside many of the pubs and restaurants and in the villages. There is often a charge for this. 

Your cruiser may also be supplied with a mud weight which can be used to anchor the boat away from the banks. Always make sure the rope is attached to the boat and the mud weight before throwing it in the water.

Click for more advice on Mooring on the Broads



All bridges on the Broads must be navigated with caution, but particular care should be taken when passing under Potter Heigham, Wroxham, Ludham, Wayford and Beccles Old bridges.

Whether you can pass under these bridges will depend upon the height of your cruiser and the level of the water (tide). Cruiser that cannot fit under certain bridges will have this clearly marked on the helm.

Herbert Woods pay for a Bridge Pilot to navigate you through Wroxham and Potter Heigham bridges and it is compulsory that you use the Bridge Pilot service. For all other bridges, please follow the instructions in the Skippers Manual.

Click for more advice on navigating Bridges


Looking after your cruiser

Whilst living on board there are a few checks that you should do each day to keep your boat running smoothly:

  • Top up your water tanks, these will be full when you arrive but should be topped up daily. Water is available from boat yards, yacht stations and public moorings
  • Check engine oil level and top up as required
  • Top up engine coolant with fresh water from the tap
  • Remove weed filters and rinse before replacing.


If you have a problem

Don't panic, if you do encounter a problem on your holiday, we are on hand day or night. Just give us a call using the number in the 'Skippers Manual' and if it's not possible to solve the problem over the phone, one of our engineers will be straight out to assist you.

Are you looking for a Norfolk Broads boating holiday? If so, have a look at our entire fleet of hire cruisers.

© Herbert Woods LLP. Company Registration Number: OC352044. VAT Registration Number: 997 3363 63.

Registered Office: , Bridge Road, Potter Heigham, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR29 5JF. Telephone Number: 0800 144 4472.