Why Should I Visit a Swamp?

These vast wetlands were formed when the rivers Wensum, Bure, Waveney and Yare flooded the big gaping holes inland, which had been dug by 12th-century crofters looking for peat. They comprise fragile ecosystems and are protected as a national park. They're also home to some of the UK's rarest plants and birds – the appeal to birdwatchers and naturalists is obvious. Apart from that, if you've ever envisioned yourself captaining your own boat and living afloat, there are 125 miles of lock-free waterways to explore. Or if paddling a canoe and losing yourself in lapping water away from the rest of humanity appeals, there's plenty of scope for that, too.

What Is There to See and Do on Land?

Museum of the Broads Five miles north of Potter Heigham off the A149, this museum features fine boats and colourful displays on the local marshmen, their traditional lifestyles, peat extraction and modern conservation. You can ride on a steam launch too.

Toad Hole Cottage The life of Fen dwellers is revealed at this tiny cottage, which shows how an eel-catcher's family lived and the tools they used to work the surrounding marshes.

Bewilderwood A forest playground for children and adults alike, with zip wires, jungle bridges, tree houses and old-fashioned outdoor adventure involving plenty of mud, mazes and marsh walks.

St Helen's Church The Broads' most impressive ecclesiastical attraction is this 14th-century church, known locally as the 'Cathedral of the Broads'. It features a magnificent painted medieval rood screen and a 15th-century antiphoner – a rare illustrated book of prayers.

Bure Valley Steam Railway Steam buffs will love this train, which puffs along 9 miles of narrow-gauge tracks between Aylsham and Wroxham. You can make the return trip by boat.

How Do I Get Around?

Driving around the Broads is missing the point and pretty useless. The key centres of Wroxham, on the A1151 from Norwich, and Potter Heigham, on the A1062 from Wroxham, are reachable by bus from Norwich and Great Yarmouth, respectively. From there, you can either take to the water or to the trails.

Exploring By Boat

Launches range from large cabin cruisers to little craft with outboards; they can be hired for anything from a couple of hours' gentle messing about on the water to week-long trips. Tuition is given. Depending on boat size, facilities and the season, a four-person boat costs from around £25 per hour, from £80 for four hours and from £110 for one day. Week-long rental ranges from around £550 to £1400, including fuel and insurance.

Broadland Day Boats hires boats and canoes. Barnes Brinkcraft offers short- and long-term rental, while Broads Tours lets out boats by the day and week, and runs boat trips. Blakes arranges all manner of boating holidays.

Exploring by Canoe

Paddlers can find canoes for hire for around £35 to £40 per day; Whispering Reeds and Waveney River Centre are recommended. Mark the Canoe Man knows the secrets of the Broads and arranges guided trips to areas the cruisers can't reach (from £25), as well as offering canoe and kayak hire, weekend camping canoe trails, and two-day canoe and bushcraft trips (adult/child £175/125).

Exploring by Foot & Bike

A web of walking trails stretches across the region, including the 61-mile Weavers' Way, which stretches from Cromer to Great Yarmouth, taking in some choice landscapes along the way. The Broads' highest point, How Hill, is just 12m above sea level, so superhero levels of fitness are not required. The section between Aylsham and Stalham is open to bicycles.

Broadland Cycle Hire and Mark the Canoe Man are among those hiring out bikes. Expect to pay between £18 and £20 per day; child seats and tandems are also available.