Back in the time of Elizabeth I, Wells-next-the-Sea was the leading port in North Norfolk with, in 1580, nineteen ship of over sixteen tons. Coal came in, grain went out and fishing boats ranged as far as Iceland.
That started to change with the coming of the railway, but it was still commercial port up until the 1980s. The large Granary, now turned into luxury flats, is witness to these once prosperous times.
The last commercial contract expired in 1996. This was with the Albatros, a Dutch North Sea Klipper, which was the last sailing boat to trade to and from the UK. She is now moored on Wells Quay (the only stone quay on the North Norfolk coast), used as a restaurant (dispensing Dutch Pancakes amongst other delicacies), and available for charter by corporate and private groups.
The town now survives on leisure craft and the tourist trade, and is popular with second-home owners.
Donʼt miss the Buttlands, at the top of Staithe Street, a quiet green lined with lime trees and elegant Georgian and Victorian houses, reminiscent of a cathedral close. Originally this area was used for archery practice, hence the name.