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 cliff steps 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 with some rocks inviting exploration revealed at low tide. Being accessed by steps means it is generally quiet even in the height of the summer.
Where to stay: Mill Wheel in Combe Martin
The Secret Beach: Rockham Bay
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 shipwrecks 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: Old Maids Cottage in Lee Bay. Sleeps 6
Best Undiscovered Beach: Bucks Mills
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 (think Clovelly without the crowds). Park in the car park at the top of the village and enjoy the scenic walk down to the beach past its many thatched ex-fishermens' cottages. Rocky at high tide with a sandy stretch appearing as the tide ebbs. The road through the village runs alongside a gushing stream which, in times of heavy rain, cascades spectacularly down to the beach.
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.
The Dairy is a romantic cottage for couples with a private hot tub near Bideford, North Devon enjoys beautiful views and a sea breeze. Sleeps 2.
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. Don't worry if surfing isn't for you - there is plenty of space for swimming and paddling while during the summer there's a large number of beach volleyball courts for those who want something other than beach cricket for sport.
Best Sand Dunes
Saunton is a huge beach with loads of space to catch a few waves, even in the middle of summer. The peeling right-handers 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. For most visitors to Saunton however, it's not just the glorious beach that is the main attraction. but its sand dunes - stretching for three miles and inland of up to a mile, this is a fascinating SSSI nature reserve, full of wildflowers in summer -in which it is easy to lose your bearings.
Where to stay: Braunton Farmhouse
Best Beaches in North Devon for Building Sandcastles and Everything Beachy
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
The Last Big Sandy Beach Before Cornwall.
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. Take time to visit nearby Appledore, a cute fishing village.
Where to Stay: Beachside Waterfront Apartment in 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 ice cream 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 the fact that a Hockings ice cream van stands on the Promenade. Hockings is quite simply, the best ice cream in the world. Ever. You'll know why when you taste one. (Calorie spoiler!!!).
**Where to stay:Thatchers Cottage in Fremington near Barnstaple
The Locals' Favourite Beach
We've put this last to try and keep it a secret. The beach at the far end of Woolacombe nestling in the lee of Baggy Point. A big sprawling beach shack overlooks 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! The beach sandy itself is a safe haven for swimming and bodyboarding - even surfing when there's a swell. It's popular because there is car parking in the field above the beach. However, there's plenty of space to be enjoyed, even on a sunny weekend in the height of summer. Not for nothing do the locals head here on busy beach days.
**Where to Stay: Top Meadow in Georgham, Sleeps 2
Top Meadow is a luxuriously presented dog-friendly holiday lodge in the North Devon countryside. JIt's a delightfully scenic stroll down to Putsboroughf Beach, although if you are loaded with beach gear, then it's a. 5-minute drive. It's also within easy of spectacular North Devon beaches including Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton, This luxury eco-lodge is spacious, bright, and stylish with a large covered deck and private hot tub. Enjoy wonderful rural views in a truly relaxing setting.
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