Out of all the places in the world, Devon is the place I’ve been back to the most. I grew up taking caravan holidays to this area of the UK and it holds a special little place in my heart. I’m going to share with you some of the best beaches in North Devon and cute coastal towns. Including how to find the ‘secret’ Broadsands Beach and the amazing caves located at Watermouth Cove! Something to note is that the North Devon coastline isn’t really sandy, it’s very rocky and rugged!
The Best North Devon Beaches
I love the location of Watermouth Cove Holiday Park purely for the access it has to 3 amazing features along this North Devon coastline. One side of the park has a gate leading to Watermouth Harbour which is a fun place to watch the boats at high tide. But it looks equally as nice as low tide, especially at sunset!
Watermouth Cove also has its own private beach area (header image). It’s more of a shingle beach and it is a popular entry point for kayakers but the part that I find the coolest are the caves and rock pools. The caves are affected by the tides, so during high tides they do become inaccessible. But at low tide it’s fun to wander through and to poke around in the rock pools.
Watermouth Cove caves & rock pools
I once had a horrendous crabbing ‘incident’, where I caught an eel on my crabbing line in Cornwall and it put me well and truly off any sort of fishing and it took me years to pluck up the courage to go crabbing again. I can thankfully say that only crabs ended up on my line when I tried again at Watermouth Cove (but I did slip over in a rock pool…maybe it’s telling me I should just stop…)! Aside from me being clumsy, there are a lot of areas that would be safe for little kids to paddle around in.
Too Cold For The Beach?
Just down the road is Watermouth Castle ‘theme park’. The castle was built back in 1825 by Arthur Davie Basset. Arthur’s grandson, Walter, was an engineer and actually built the giant ferris wheel that is located in Prater Park in Vienna, Austria!
I’ve been to Watermouth Castle twice, the second time visiting as a group of 4 adults and we had a great time there! There’s a water and light show (imagine a VERY small scale Bellagio Water Fountain Show in Vegas) that I remembered from when I was a kid, a castle tour, old arcade game slot machines, a toboggan run, a shadow barrel camera (which is SO COOL), mini golf, a gnome land, a lazy river tub ride, along with a whole heap of other attractions!
Tickets are $14.50.
I LOVE the look of Broadsands Beach from above! This beach is however a little ‘off the beaten path’. I’m not even too sure where the nearest car park would be. But then in a way it makes it that little bit more special because it’s never going to be over crowded!
So how do you get to Broadsands Beach I hear you ask! They best way would be to pick up SW Coast Path that kinda starts between the two entrances for Watermouth Cove Holiday Park and Watermouth Valley Camping Park. There is a bus stop literally right opposite it.
The coast path goes around the perimeter of the camping park, just after the view you’ll see below, the path turns into a more woodland area. A little into this section, there’ll be a staircase on the left hand side that leads down to the beach. It’s 230 steps to the bottom (imagine carrying all your beach gear down…and then back up…all those steps!).
Broadsands Beach is another cove that is affected by the tides, during high tide the beach almost completely disappears apart from one small section near the rocks.
The beach is more like a grey sand, but I will mention this…because it’s reached by 230 steps, some visitors aren’t responsible and there was a little bit of rubbish in places that had been left, which is a shame. There are also no toilets, so I wouldn’t wander too far into rock crevices incase you get something nasty squished between your toes. Either way, Broadsands Beach is one of my favourite finds in the UK.
Woolacombe Beach is a large 3 mile long sandy beach which is great for surfing, swimming, building sand castles and all the other typical beachy things! There are plenty of places to hire surfboards or a stand up paddle board (I speak from experience, I did hire a surf board and then carried it on my head all the way to the beach) or there are loads of surf schools in the area.
One part of the beach has tall sand dunes that kids were clambering up and then sliding down on body/boogie boards or even just pieces of cardboard! If you use a body board, I would suggest not doing it with a rental, you can pick up cheap ones in the seaside gift shops.
There’s Funder Island crazy golf course (I can’t resist a crazy golf course!) on the seafront, plenty of places to eat (including fish and chip shops!) and a heap of gift shops and surf shops. I love shopping in surf shops, no they don’t just sell surfboards and wetsuits, they may be a little more expensive as they stock brands like Animal, Billabong, Vans etc but the quality of clothes they sell is brilliant. They are always available in such bright and funky colours too! These shops are great for backpacks, hoodies, t-shirts, that type of thing.
Parking is available right on the seafront.
5 miles down the road is Croyde Beach. It’s said to be the best surfing beach in North Devon. It’s a lot smaller than Woolacombe Beach and the village isn’t as big or has as many facilities but it’s worth mentioning!
Ilfracombe doesn’t really have much of a beach but it is a cute little coastal harbour town. The best bet for a beach is to visit the Tunnels Beach. I didn’t visit as it was a little too cold during my stay, but I wish I had as it’s a really unique spot (my Mum thinks I may have visited as a kid…)!
Back in 1823, they hand carved tunnels through the rock faces to access some previously hidden beaches. The beach is very rocky and has shingle rather than sand but when the tide goes out, it creates a safe ‘bathing pool’. There is an entrance fee of £2.50 for an adult and £1.95 for a child (discounted family tickets are available). A fee has been in place since the 1820s.
The Tunnels Beach is open between March and October…just thinking about going in the British sea in March is giving me goosebumps!
Ilfracombe Harbour is a cute little village to sit and people watch. Marshfield Farm Ice Cream shop serve a 7 whippy ice cream (well I hope they still do as it’s amazing) for my fellow ice cream addicts. The Ilfracombe Aquarium has displays all about the local marine life. I had taken a picture of a ‘fin’ I had seen in the water at Watermouth Cove and asked one of the staff what it might be. He was 99% sure it was an Ocean Sunfish, they have a fin to fin length on average of 2.5 METRES and can indeed be seen off the Devonshire coast!
There’s also a boat that goes between Ilfracombe and Lundy Island, if you feel like escaping the mainland.
Too Cold For The Beach?
Keypitts Farm offer some really fun ATV/Quad Biking tours where you get to ‘floor it’ across the moors! Or for the less adventurous, you can take a tour of Chambercombe Manor, which dates back to the 11th century and then have a yummy Cream Tea in the tearooms! (Remember, jam on top in Devon)
Again, another awesome beach for rock pooling! Combe Martin Beach has a purpose built path along the rock face to give easy access to a whole range of rock pools. There were loads of kids crabbing during our visit! At low tide, the sea goes out far enough to ‘get past’ some of the large rocks that would be hidden during high tide, which makes paddling and swimming in the sea a little more easier on the feet!
We were intrigued by what looked like a cave that was a little climb up one of the rock faces…we started walking into it but chickened out because it was a little too dark (and it was a time before any of us had iPhones with torches on)!
Too Cold For The Beach?
The Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park. Is home to a collection of animatronic dinosaurs in ‘enclosures’, it looks like something out of Jurassic Park! The wildlife section of the park has a small range of animals such as: primates, meerkats and lions. You can even swim with the sea lions as part of their enrichment. Adult tickets are £14.50 and children admission is £13.50.
Lynmouth does have a small stoney beach area and there are other areas where experienced surfers will surf when the swell is good. This small village suffered from a large flood back in 1952 and there is a free flood memorial exhibit opposite the harbour, which shows pictures before and after the flood and as well as a pre-flood scale model of the village.
You’ll often see Lynmouth paired together with Lynton. Lynton village is on top of the cliff, where Lynmouth village sits at the bottom. The two villages are connected together by a cliff railway (you can read about another funicular railway here). The railway is 862 foot in length, and travels up a height of 500 feet.
Too Cold For The Beach?
How about a walk along Glen Lyn Gorge? There’s no excuse, we did this in the pouring rain! The first part has a small museum type area which talks about renewable energy and how the river through the gorge powers hydroelectric turbines. We mainly visited for the woodland walk as you pass lots of small waterfalls on the way to ‘Moses’ Pool’. There’s a fallen log at one point which has been covered with coins that people have pushed into it…it’s pretty cool!
Clovelly Beach is a pebble beach next to a small harbour, but the biggest draw to the area, is the village and the route DOWN to the beach. The village is pedestrianised so visitors have to park at the top and walk down. The path down to the harbour is a winding cobbled street with a 20% gradient, so is steep and can get a little slippery!
Clovelly is over 800 years old and was famous for the donkeys that were an important part of fishing and harbour life here. The donkeys were used to carry things up and down the hill. However the donkeys are retired now but can still be seen at the stables at the top of the village and during summer children can ride them.
There are several independent craft and gift shops, a tea room, a couple of hotels, a lifeboat station and lots of cute little cottages. Clovelly is a privately owned village and there is an entrance fee which includes parking at the visitor centre, entrance to two museums and the Clovelly Court Gardens and a 20 minute film about the history of the village.
Adults are £7.50, Children £4.50 and a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) costs £20. The Land Rover shuttle from the harbour back to the top does cost extra and being a popular tourist attraction, expect to wait. The entrance fee goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the village.
Have you visited any of these North Devon beaches?