The North Devon Coast is widely recognised as one of the most attractive coastlines in the UK. Spectacular sunsets, Atlantic storms and a history of shipwrecks and smuggling make the North Devon coast a special place. Wonderful for lazy days in summer - and bracing walks along deserted shorelines in winter.
In North Devon between Exmoor to the Cornish border, you will find vast, sandy bays and secret, rocky coves where you can surf, take the dog for a long, peaceful stroll or while away an afternoon building sandcastles in the sun. In fact, there are so many beaches within reach of North Devon's finest holiday cottages that you could visit one for each day of a fortnight's holiday, and still not see them all. The North Devon coast lies within an Area of Outstanding Beauty, with towering cliffs (the tallest in Europe), unique geology and the chance to spot seals and dolphins from the Southwest Coast Path. We have a variety of coastal cottages in North Devon, none of which are far from the ocean. Here are a few of our favourite beaches, which we highly recommend visiting during your break by the sea - together with some of our favourite holiday cottages nearby.
Best Secret Beaches in North Devon
It’s a fairly steep hike down to this dramatic cove just east of Combe Martin, but well worth the effort. Low tide is perfect for an invigorating swim in the Atlantic, with calm waters and a gently sloping, sandy shore.
**Where to stay: The Granary at Wheel Farm**
This secluded, rocky beach (sandy at low tide) lies on a rugged stretch of coast between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe. It still bears evidence of past ship wrecks if you look closely enough. To get to Rockham, park in the village of Mortehoe and follow the path to the coast. Alternatively, drive out to the caravan park and campsite where you can pay to park the car leaving you only a shortish walk through green fields and wildflower filled hedgerows down to the beach. It's a delightfully peaceful spot as the lack of parking and facilities keeps crowds to a minimum, even in summer.
Where to stay: Warcombe Farmhouse in nearby Lee Bay
If you want to avoid the crowds at Clovelly, then a couple of miles further east is the little one-time fishing village of Bucks Mills. Park in the car park at the top of the village and enjoy the scenic walk down to the beach past its many thatched cottages. Rocky at high tide with a sandy stretch appearing as the tide ebbs.
Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in North Devon
Dogs and their owners love this stretch of golden sand, backed by a distinctive pebble ridge. If you fancy a longer walk, continue north, into the wild dunes of Northam Burrows Country Park. And if you work up an appetite, you will find great places to eat in the village, right by the beach.
Steep, cobbled lanes descend to an idyllic harbour and long, rocky beach in the fishing village of Clovelly. If your dog doesn’t cope well with the rocky terrain, take a stroll on the Southwest Coast Path instead, with views across the Atlantic, towards Lundy Island. To the east of Clovelly, a waterfall comes crashing down the cliffs, but leaving just enough room to squeeze behind the torrents without getting wet.
Where to stay: Cornborough Coombe (Equally handy for Westward Ho! too).
Best Surfing Beaches in North Devon
Croyde is one of the UK’s premier surf spots, with excellent waves for surfers of all abilities. Beginners may want to book a lesson with one of the village’s reputable schools, while low tide offers hollow waves on a solid swell for experienced surfers.
Saunton is a huge beach with loads of space to catch a few waves, even in the middle of summer. The peeling righthanders at the northern end of the bay are particularly popular among longboarders, and there’s board hire right on the beach during the summer months if you need it. For after-surf refreshment - the swanky cafe in the car park takes some beating.
Where to stay: Luxury: Saunton Chalet
Best Beaches in North Devon for Building Sandcastles
The award-winning beach Woolacombe Sands stretches for three uninterrupted miles from the village of Woolacombe to Putsborough. Park on Marine Drive, wander through the dunes and pick a spot on the sand. It's a good surfing beach with boards and wet suits for hire in the village and oodles of space for beach cricket.
Where to stay: Devon Beach Court - Woolacombe
This wild expanse of sand wraps around the coast, into the estuaries of the Taw and Torridge rivers. It’s a lovely spot for building sandcastles, and it’s well worth exploring the dunes, grassland and salt marshes behind the beach, too. Northam Burrows is also a good beach for surfing, body-boarding and, out of season, dog walking.
Where to Stay: Beachside Waterfront Apartment in Westward Ho!
Where to Stay: Smiley Apartment, Westward Ho!
Best Beaches with a Beach Cafe
Instow lies at the head of the Torridge Estuary just before it flows into the Atlantic. It has a sandy beach which, outside peak season is a popular dog walking area. It's also on the Tarka Trail and a good place to stop for an icecream if you're cycling or walking by. The Beach Cafe is called The Glorious Oyster - a blue painted shack at the entrance to the car park and cricket club at the top end of the beach. All food is locally sourced (including seafood) and most of it organic. Oh - and from Easter to the end of October, can we also throw in that fact that a Hockings icecream van stands on the Promenade. Hockings are quite simply, the best icecream in the world. Ever. You'll know why when you taste one. (Calorie spoiler!!!).
**Where to stay: Courtyard Cottage at Combebrew Farm Cottages near Barnstaple**
The beach at the far end of Woolacombe that nestles in the lee of Baggy Point. A big sprawling beach shack overlooking the sands with glorious views down to Woolacombe and out into the Atlantic. Part souvenir shop - part beach cafe, it is popular, but there's a reason for that and not just because it has a captive audience relaxing on the beach below!
**Where to Stay: The Old Chapel at Pickwell Manor Cottages in Georgham **