Devon Beaches, England

Woolacombe Sands, beach, Devon, England. Photo Becks

Woolacombe Sands, north Devon, the county’s most famous surf beach. Photo Becks.

Best Beaches in North Devon

Woolacombe

Woolacombe Bay in North Devon is a spectacular and lengthy (2. 5 miles/4kms) stretch of sand with many awards for cleanliness – including the coveted Blue Flag – and a reputation for great surfing, particularly when the tide is in, but also plenty of family assets such as loads of sand, rock pools trapping interesting marine life and some quiet areas of water for toddler splashing.
Woolacombe village hosts all the essentials – surf shops, kit rental, cafés and a good selection of accommodation ranging from camping and B & Bs to holiday apartments and hotels.
When tourists are tired of beaches the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the place to go walking; the South-West Coast Path runs along the shore. In addition, north of Woolacombe are a cluster of pretty coves if somehow Woolacombe doesn’t suit. Get there on the A361, 6 miles southwest of Ilfracombe.

On England’s south coast, west of Dorset and east of Cornwall is Devon, a mostly quiet, rural county embracing about 60 beaches; on both north (generally less protected, windier and with more surf) and south (quieter, calmer but still some surfing done) coasts. Here are a few favourites:

Tunnels Beach

Ilfracombe in north Devon offers the peculiar The Tunnels Beaches, a Victorian development where four hand-carved tunnels lead to private sheltered beaches with an adjacent large tidal, rock pool that is very popular with kids and supervised by a lifeguard.
There are plenty of other smaller rock pools too, as well as facilities such as shop, bar, play hut, café and sea kayak hire. Open 10am – 6pm April-June, Sept-Oct and 9am – 9pm July and August. Recently entry costs £1. 95 per adult, £1. 50 per child, free for kids under 3; family deals available.

Westward Ho! hosts a great all-round beach environment with two miles of soft beige sand, beach huts, café, toilets and lifeguards. Part of the beach is good for surfing or windsurfing, watersports kit is readily available and, as usual, the gorgeous South-West Coast Path is a great draw for hikers. Get there from Bideford via the A29 – A386 – B3236.

South Devon

Salcombe Beaches

South Sands beach, Salcombe, Devon, England. Photo Nilfanion

 South Sands beach seen across the Kingsbridge Estuary, Salcombe, south Devon. Photo Nilfanion

Salcombe is an olde-world, friendly little town dropping steeply to the yachtie harbour and scattered with both interesting little sea food restaurants and small clean, sandy beaches (tho not of the white powder sand variety, fine but muddy colour). North Sands and South Sands beaches lurk near the town but South Sands does not permit dogs May-September. Another beach option is to head for East Portlemouth across the estuary by ferry.
Salcombe is an active place – we suppose because you would be fit walking up and down that slope day in, day out – and offers sporting types sailing, scuba, sea kayak, surfing and powerboat classes and rentals.
Up the estuary a little are a handful more beaches: Sunny Cove, large Mill Bay, Cable Cove, Small’s Cove and Fisherman’s Cove.

From East Portlemouth you can get onto to the Southwest Coast Path and do a circular walk to Gara Rock.

Bantham Beaches

Bantham beaches, Devon, England. Photo by Bantham Estates.

Bantham beaches, south Devon. Photo courtesy of  Bantham Estates.

Bantham is an attractive old town with an inviting bay 4 miles west of Kingsbridge (off the A379), offering a privately owned Blue Flag beach – designated as an Area of Outstanding Beauty – with a few facilities in the summertime, including a lifeguard, though toilets and eating places are in the village a few hundred yards away.
The bay provides modest surf, many kid-friendly rock pools and adult-friendly coastal walks.

Blackpool Sands Beach

Blackpool Sands beach, Devon, England. Photo Richard Knights

Blackpool Sands beach, Devon. Photo Richard Knights.

Blackpool Sands – ironically a shingle beach (Sands is an historic name) – is known for its space, sheltered family ambience and lush natural backdrop. It’s a  privately managed ‘Blue Flag’ family beach with sand pits, a bathing raft, kayaks and paddle boards for hire, a café and a beach shop.
Lifeguards monitor the beach and no dogs are allowed during the summer season.
Facilities include toilets, showers, wet suit hire.

Blackpool Sands is 3 miles west of Dartmouth on the South Devon coast in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Paignton Sands in the town of Paignton offers actual sand, a deep red sand beach washed by placid, shallow waters rated as 5* quality, excellent. It  hosts the usual facilities: disabled, toilets, shops, café/restaurant and is scattered with child-friendly activities including kayak hire and boat trips from the interesting little harbour. There are no lifeguards, nor are dogs permitted on the beach.

Nudism

It is not illegal to strip off and do the beach thing in the nude anywhere in Britain. The problem is if someone complains. . . However, there are some fine beaches in Devon where the nude life is either unofficially commonplace or officially permitted.

UK Water Quality

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has published a Good Beach Guide. Britain has less recommended beaches this year, probably due to contamination as a result of heavy rains washing pollutants into the sea. MCS suggests that you avoid ALL beaches within 24 hours of heavy storms. Conveniently you can download a free, best-beach listing sat-nav plug-in.

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