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Devon’s Best Beaches

Written by Discovery Holiday Homes Team on

It’s no secret that Devon is home to some seriously beautiful beaches, but what’s heaven for one holidaymaker can be hell for another. While some people yearn for a hidden stretch to doze on, others pine after exhilarating waves. Some love the feeling of sand beneath their toes, others prefer sand-free shingle. Some want an easy paddle in safe waters, others want to investigate the local wildlife. Everyone’s idea of a perfect beach is different, which is why we’ve created a comprehensive list to suit all tastes. Whether you want surf or silence, solitude or quality family time, we’ve got the beach for you.

Best for families…

While many adults will be happy to simply lounge around on the sands and leaf through a book they’ve been meaning to read, kids usually crave a little more excitement. Luckily, Devon has many beaches with safe swimming conditions, water sports facilities and family-friendly amenities, ensuring parents and children can enjoy some time by the sea together. If you and your family are staying in a holiday home in North Devon, Woolacombe Beach is a top choice, with pristine sands, lifeguards on duty during the summer months and those oh-so-important toilet facilities. What’s more, Woolacombe is as pretty as a postcard – it was recently voted the best beach in the UK and the fourth best in the UK by Trip Advisor.

Another North Devon family hotspot is Tunnels Beaches near Ilfracombe. Kids will love running through the tunnels here, which were originally dug for miners in the 1820s. The tunnels lead through the cliffs to secluded coves and a Victorian bathing pool at the other end. If you’re renting a holiday home near Dartmouth in South Devon, Blackpool Sands is hard to beat. This sheltered bay is known for its calm, swim-friendly waters and has a Blue Flag award for its cleanliness and facilities. A lifeguard watches over bathers in summer while sand pits (May to October) and a bathing raft (July and August) help keep little ones entertained. Should your kids have more excess energy to burn, you can rent boogie boards, kayaks and snorkelling gear here too.

Best for surfing…

Devon attracts its fair share of board-toting wave riders keen to enjoy the swell. The north Atlantic coast is particularly popular among surfers. The three-mile-long Saunton Sands near Braunton serves up everything from manageable little waves to daunting seven-footers. Boarders are also keen on nearby Croyde Beach, the site of regular surfing competitions. In Croyde, the incoming Atlantic swells usually make for good surfing conditions no matter what the weather. Though the north coast is windier and wilder, South Devon is far from a no-go surf zone. In fact, there are lots of surfing beaches here too, including Bantham near Kingsbridge. This beach, part of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has a bevy of honours, including Blue Flag status and awards from the Marine Conservation Society. Plus, it’s a great place for intermediate surfers to catch a wave.

Best for dogs…

If you’ve brought a dog on holiday, chances are you want to spend quality time with your four-legged family member. Alas, not all beaches in Devon welcome dogs; you’ll have to seek out the ones that do. Watcombe Beach near Torquay in South Devon, for instance, is open to dogs year-round. With its soft sands, cliffs and wooded hillside surroundings, the two-legged members of the family will love it too. Other furry-friendly options for a beach day out include Fairy Cove, a red sand and shingle stretch, and Elberry Cove – both near Paignton. In North Devon, Saunton Sands (which – as we mentioned before – is also great for surfing) welcomes dogs without leads south of the red dog bin in Zone C. Elsewhere in North Devon, Wild Pear Beach, a naturist beach east of Combe Martin and Hele Bay near Ilfracombe is a common stop-off for pooches who want a paddle or a game of fetch in the surf. Both Saunton Sands and Wild Pear are open to dogs year-round.

Best for rock pooling…

When the tide is low and the waters have retreated on Devon’s rocky shoreline, the shallow pools that remain can offer a fascinating glimpse into life below the surface. Bring the family along to explore Devon’s beaches. Look for shrimp bobbing, small fish swimming or even a spiny starfish sprawled out on the rock pool floor. Try a guided rock pool ramble around the wildlife-packed Wembury Beach near Plymouth or poke around the pools in Goodrington Sands in Paignton, where a marine ranger from the nearby Seashore Centre is on hand to answer your rock pool creature queries during school holidays. Another prime rock pooling spot is Shoalstone Beach near Brixham where different types of crabs can often be seen scuttling around the pools’ edges. Whichever beach you go to, be sure to bring along a bucket. That way, you can let marine creatures swim in and get a closer look at them – just don’t forget to release them back into the wild afterwards.

Best for beachcombing…

When you’ve had your fill of sunbathing, swimming and sandcastle building, never fear – there’s plenty more to do on Devon’s coast. The beaches are a surprising repository for treasures, with everything from precious gemstones and unusual shells to rare fossils and historical artefacts hiding amid the sand and shingle. If you’re staying in North Devon, start your search on Barricane Beach (also known as Shell Beach) near Woolacombe. Barricane is pounded with Atlantic waves that carry a wealth of objects with them. Keep your eyes peeled for glossy stones and bright patterned shells, many of which have swept in from as far away as the Caribbean. Elsewhere, all kinds of wonders wash up on the shores of Westward Ho! near Bideford in North Devon – the booty could include anything from driftwood and unusual stones to objects from shipping containers and shipwrecks. Combe Martin Beach, also in North Devon, is another good place to scour the sands for far-flung finds.

Discovery Holiday Homes Team

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Discover your Devon adventure