The civil parish has an area of 9.46 square kilometres (3.7 sq. miles) and in 2001 had a population of 2732 in 1214 households. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the area of the district of Broadland.
In Roman times, Acle was a port at the head of a large estuary named Gariensis. Acle is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and in 1253 it was granted a market. The livestock and local farmers' market persisted into the 1970s, as did a nearby auction site; the latter is now a new housing estate and the former is part-occupied by a branch of Budgens, with the other part remaining a "market", although essentially for tourist purposes: no livestock is now bought or sold there. In 1382, Acle received the right for a "turbary", that is, the right to dig peat. Acle still has a boatyard and Boat Dyke, and pleasant walks along the Bure to Upton and beyond are possible.
Acle railway station, which was built in 1883, lies on the Wherry Line from Norwich to Great Yarmouth. In 1892 a foundry was constructed that specialised in building windpumps for land drainage, including the very last windpump built for the Broads, at Ash Tree Farm. The three-mile £7.1m dual-carriageway A47 bypass opened in March 1989; local campaigners are still pressing for the dualling of the Acle Straight, the portion of the A47 running from Acle to Great Yarmouth, which has a relatively high accident rate and is held by many locals to be a dangerous road. Since the turn of the century, a walkway running from the station to the Boat Dyke has been constructed by local volunteers; this walk (known as Damgate) offers an opportunity to view indigenous flora, some of which are rare. Also on the Damgate walk, there has been been repeated sightings of a kingfisher, which is said to fly under the abandoned railway bridge at around mid afternoon.
The church of St Edmund is one of 124 existing round-tower churches in Norfolk. The round stage of the tower is the oldest part of the church, thought to be Saxon in origin and of a date between 850 and 950 AD. The octagonal stage was added in the 13th century, probably when the roof was raised. The battlements are from 1472. The tower houses six bells, five of which were cast in Norwich and date back to 1623. The tower is reinforced with a metal frame to enable the bells to be rung safely.
The main body of the church, the nave, is thought on the evidence of the measurements and wall thickness to be Norman in origin. This is not immediately obvious as no Norman doorways or aches remain. In 1927, when ivy was being strapped from the outside walls, one of the buttresses collapsed revealing a find of Norman-worked stones, which were later reassembled for safekeeping in the rood stair space.
Probably all the Norman doors and archways were demolished when the floor level was raised in the 13th century (perhaps to prevent flooding). It is reasonable to assume therefore that at least the foundations of the nave are Norman.
Probably the walls were painted at one time – a very small fragment of a dragon or a serpent-like creature still exists on the wall of the old rood staircase.
A 15th century wooden screen separates the nave from the chancel. It was not made for Acle church, and may have been brought from St Benet's Abbey or the priory at Weybridge.