Snettisham is located on Norfolk's sunset coastline. Snettisham Beach offers a wide expanse of open sea views into an endless horizon. When the sun sets on Snettisham Beach you are guaranteed a memorable sight of a variety of shades of orange and even pink. You can even see shades of crimson and deep silver blue. These wondrous sights happen when the upper atmosphere is still bathed in sunlight and from a higher altitude the clouds and ice crystals act like billions of tiny mirrors on high. It is well known that Norfolk has big skies. This is because there are no mountains and valleys to limit the horizon. On any day you can look skywards above the setting sun and marvel at the delicate wisps of cirrus clouds and feel truly close to nature. The Australian sunset cannot equal the sunset you find along our sunset coastline and this is down to the fact that the difference in sunset times for the longest and shortest days of the year is about 2½ hours. Here on Norfolk's sunset coast, it is 5½ hours!! This means that, during mid-Summer, the sun takes its time over the task. So when it is a great sunset (which is very common in Snettisham) you have hours to enjoy it. In Australia you literally have minutes. Once the sun goes below the horizon in Snettisham it remains light for hours after - often aided by a beautiful moon rising from the East.
Snettisham Beach is both natural and unspoilt and is located some two and a half miles from the village itself. Its very location makes it virtually deserted in winter with nothing to disturb the tranquility of the area other than perhaps the sounds of the curlew, wader and swarms of geese. During the course of the year, Snettisham Beach is visited by local residents, members of the local Sailing Club, birdwatchers, ramblers and holidaymakers who want to enjoy the peace you find here. Fishermen may also be seen off Snettisham Beach.
Before you arrive at Snettisham Beach itself you pass Shepherd's Port where Kings Lynn Angling Association own and maintain their own fishing lakes. You will also come across Snettisham Beach Sailing Club who are positioned between Snettisham Beach and the lakes which form part of Shepherd's Port. This fortunate position allows the Sailing Club to teach sailing to very young children right through to adults as lessons can start at the lake before moving on to the sea. Snettisham RSPB reserve is also part of Shepherd's Port and includes bird lagoons and hides, including a rotary hide. The Snettisham coast around the RSPB reserve is often said to be "where Norfolk stares at Lincolnshire.
Many parts of Norfolk have historical royal connections and Snettisham Beach is no exception ... Queen Alexandra had an attractive bungalow on Snettisham Beach which was constructed of the local Carrstone prior to the Great War. The bungalow was frequently used by Queen Alexandra and other members of the Royal Family when visiting Sandringham. Following the death of Queen Alexandra the bungalow was demolished.
Over the years, Snettisham Beach shingle, in the order of thousands of tonnes, created and maintained a flourishing seaborne trade. Much of this was transported as far afield as The Humber by barge. Snettisham Beach was also once a haven for smuggling. The diligence of the local Excise men increased the risk of importing cargoes of liquor into the favoured smugglers' port of King's Lynn. Thus Snettisham Beach, with its deep water and good beach, was chosen as an alternative port. One night in February 1822, a boat with 80 tubs of gin landed at Snettisham only to be seized by the Excise men. However, the smugglers were aided by perhaps a hundred armed persons and were able to regain possession of their boat and contraband. The liquor was safely transported by horse inland in the dead of night along deserted lanes and byways. Local legend has it that when a suspected premises were under search by an Excise officer he was thwarted in this search by the lady of the house sitting on a cask of spirits as she spread her voluminous skirts over it!
Erosion by the sea necessitated considerable sea defence work in the area. Some years ago, timber groynes were erected, projecting at an angle from the shore, thereby trapping the shingle borne by the tide. This seems to stablise the natural defence the beach offers to the waves. More recently gabions (large stone boulders encased in wire mesh) have been introduced and appear to also achieve good results.
The disastrous east coast storm of 1953 devastated this stretch of Norfolk coast, causing no less than 25 residents in the Snettisham Beach area to drown. There was a second such disaster in 1978 which caused considerable damage and loss of life. To prevent a repetition of 1953 and 1978, in 1990, thousands of tonnes of sand and shingle have been brought by barge and pumped ashore along Snettisham Beach through to Heacham.