The North Devon coastline is stunning. Blessed with magnificent stretches of golden sand to secret secluded coves, this designated area of outstanding natural beauty is a fabulous place to explore as a family. We're lucky to call this beautiful coastline our home and with us fresh off the ferry from our Winter season in the Alps, we are definitely staying local this half term.
Here are our top seven family beaches for you to discover this half term.
1. Saunton Sands
GOOD FOR: young families | beginner surfers | dog walkers | beach huts | longboarding | beach fires
With 3.5 miles of glorious sand, Saunton Sands is a fabulous beach for families. Our girls love charging around the dunes, the iconic art deco Saunton Sands Hotel (which they insist is the Queen's residence) standing majestically on the cliff top and the colourful beach huts (a snip at £15 a day). The surf is wonderfully mellow so a perfect spot to get the kids in surfing, boogie boarding or skim boarding. Watch the long boarders with their stylish classic moves. A super sonic dog friendly beach 12 months of the year so popular with dog walkers. Robbie Williams filmed "Angel's' video here and some say the house being built on the Down End Point is Dyson's of hoover fame.
WATCH OUT FOR:
This beach is not RNLI patrolled so whilst it is regarded as a relatively safe beach, do supervise your children. There is a voluntary patrol by Saunton Sands Surf Life Saving during the Summer months. There's a fixed, year round rip against the rocks so families avoid this area. Remember where the waves aren't breaking there's a rip, so even though it looks safe, it isn't. So choose the rest of the entire beach to pitch up for the day, just not right next to the rocks! (You'll see the surfers using the rip like a conveyor belt to get out back quickly)
Facilities: pay & display car park, café, restaurant, surf school, showers, toilets.
2. Broad Sands
GOOD FOR: kids who love exploring | wild swimming | camp fires
A favourite of mine, Broad Sands (or the Greek beach as we call it) is well off the beaten track and stunningly beautiful. Thank zero signs and 200 steps to its lack of tourists (despite it repeatedly being quoted in the top 10 wild swimming beaches in the UK). This double beach is pirate heaven - plenty of caves and an island to explore, - kids love it! Plus it's a super safe beach to swim at - a perfect dipping spot. There are tunnels & caves to swim into, just check the tide before doing so. Broad Sands faces the Bristol Channel so like all other beaches on this stretch, is pebble.
Located between Watermouth and Combe Martin, from the A399 take the immediate small left en route to Combe Martin after The Sawmill Inn pub. There's a single track lane up to Napps caravan park. Parking is tricky - if you're not bothered about scratches on your car, drive the overgrown track straight on where the road bears round to the caravan park (it does get wider and there are a few spaces to park further on) or chance it in the Caravan park, or park in the pub and walk up.
WATCH OUT FOR:
It's worth checking the tides before arriving as high tide will only leave a fraction of the beach to explore. Stag doos occasionally arrive coasteering but generally build a fire, toast marshmallows and leave again. The steps back up can be punishing so only take what you can realistically carry down with you & get the kids to count the steps on the way back up (not the way down!)
Facilities - none! no toilets, no showers, no café, just raw wild beauty! Enjoy.
3. Putsborough Sands
Putsborough Sands seen here from Baggy Point footpath
GOOD FOR: hot chocolate | 1 hour round walk | intermediate surfers | dog walkers | beach horse riding
Putsborough and Woolacombe Sands merge into a 3 mile sweep of beautiful beach between Morte Point and Baggy Point. Putsborough is the one to head for to escape the crowds. With Baggy Point sheltering the Southern point, Putsborough is a beach basking in pure natural beauty. A perfect spot to spend the day relaxing on the beach & lolling in the shallows. Rocks protrude from the sand which are great for mini rock climbers! A fantastic beach for a wild blowy walk finished by a hot choccy in the wooden shack cafe perched on the cliff. Popular with surfers, dog walkers (another all year round dog beach - yay!), and horse riders (book the 2hr beach ride with Royston Stables, Croyde, exp riders only). Parking is pricey at the car park, particularly if you just want to pop to the café. We love the 1 hour walk along the top (don't turn down to the car park but park at the top, & take the footpath straight ahead behind the houses. Enjoy the spectacular views and when you hit Marine Drive (the road/car park that stretches along the top from Woolacombe) follow the footpath down to the beach. Walk back along the beach to the café. Not suitable for prams but easy enough for young children to do & varied enough to keep them amused. Restrictions – Good dogs welcome all year round south of the red dog bin in Zone C.
WATCH OUT FOR: Putsborough is an intermediate surfing beach with no RNLI life guards so watch your children and don't let them play where the waves aren't breaking.
Facilities: café, toilets, car park
4. Wild Pear Beach
Wild Peach Beach
GOOD FOR: adventure for older kids | peace & quiet | wild swimming | beach fires | great to kayak to | naturalist
Another off the beaten track beach, more suited to families with older kids that will enjoy the adventure of getting there. A bit of a trek to get to and currently only accessed by rope due to a landslide on the last 20 metres of path, but still accessible enough & quick enough to walk to (30 mins) before it becomes a slog. An idyllic, protected cove surrounded by high cliffs this is a gem of a spot - perfect for families wanting to immerse themselves in nature. Safe swimming.
Park in the Kiln pay & display car park in Combe Martin and walk the coastal path for 20-25 mins. After the 5 bar gate you'll spot a sign post down to Wild Pear beach. A decent path continues for 5-10 mins until you hit the landslide. Ease yourself down on the rope.
WATCH OUT FOR: don't bite off more than you can chew - this beach isn't for young kids, they won't have the stamina to get there & you will enter moan central.. Wild Pear beach is noted as a naturalist beach due to it's complete privacy (although I've never spotted any nakedness here) but bear it in mind if your family is prudish. There's only swimming & exploring here so if your kids get bored easily, take them to a beach where there's more to do & see.
5. Barricane Beach
GOOD FOR: rock pooling | rock jumping | shell collecting | curries (Summer only)
Barricane beach is a tiny cove with one big fat Summer draw - the Sri Lankan beach shack that serves fantastic curries every evening during the Summer. Now though (Oct half term) that's no good to you as the shack has been removed for Winter - sorry. Nevertheless it still graces our Top Beaches list as it's a little known great spot for rock jumping and rock pooling. The beach is famous for perfect cowrie shells which turn up all the way from the Caribbean (hence the name Barricane). Only minutes from Woolacombe, this cove is on the road out to Mortehoe and is opposite the big ole ramshackle french colonial house (wouldn't I just love to snap that place up!). Super accessible for young families as road side parking is available less than 25 metres away - bonus.
WATCH OUT FOR: don't expect the beach to yourself in the Summer, it's rammed every evening with curry fever but wonderful atmosphere. Get there early before they run out of curry. No lifeguards here so pay attention with kids.
Facilities: car parking along the top, fabulous curries during Summer months
GOOD FOR: advanced surfers | rock pooling | sand dunes | playground | stream frolicking | tea rooms | dog walkers (only in winter months)
Croyde is a world class surf beach so surfers flock here. In the Summer months it can be packed with herds of families staying at the vast Ruda Holiday Park who own the beach, but out of season it's amazing. It has a great mix of everything - the dunes backing the beach are a haven for happy kids, it has facilities close to hand, fabulous rock pooling and kids love playing in the stream which dissects the beach in half. Young children will love Ruda's hidden away playground a stone's throw away behind the dunes ( follow the stream up to the stone bridge, follow the path around to the left and cross the wooden bridge to your left). There's also the old limestone kilns on the northern rocks. If you scramble across these rocks you get to the old slipway and a huge stone wall. Sitting here is a wonderful sun trap and a great place to watch the kids rock pool. Plus there's the lovely National Trust cafe, Sandleigh Tea Rooms at the top of the slip. Pricey but great food & worth the money for the tranquil setting in old wall gardens. Dogs only allowed from Sept - May.
The Southern end of the beach is less busy. To access this side park at Down End Pay & Display Car Park (the first car park on the right when driving round Down End (the point between Saunton & Croyde). It takes only a couple of minutes to reach the beach from the path. You'll find a small pebbly cove here which plenty of rocky inlets to the South (great for shell collecting and BBQs on windy days). To access the main beach cross the 50m cove to the North & pick up a secret cemented path over the rocks to enter the Southern side of Croyde Beach. Down End car park has a lovely take away café, The Drop In.
If you want facilities to hand & don't want to have to walk far with young kids to access them, drive through Croyde & take the left turn to Baggy Point, then park on the road near the beach entrance opposite Ruda or carry on a few minutes & park in the National Trust Baggy Point car park. You can then access the beach either along the old slip & across the rocks, or walk past the Tea Rooms & along the path to the main beach entrance.
WATCH OUT FOR: A heavily guarded RNLI beach this beach is not safe so be sure to swim between the flags and know that Oct half term is the last week the RNLI patrol here. If you visit during the Winter months, know that Croyde has rips on the North and South sides all year round where the water rushes back out against the rocks. Avoid this area. Rips can also occur in other spots depending on the shifting sand banks so never leave your kids unattended in the water and never play where the waves aren't breaking.
Facilities: Tea rooms, Playground, Shop, Car parking, Toilets, Showers
7. Rockham Bay Beach
GOOD FOR: camping | rock pooling | wreck exploring | dog walkers
Rockham Bay is a secret spot, generally only known by locals or campers who stay in the magnificently positioned North Morte Farm campsite slap bang on the coastal fields, only 50m from the beach. Owned by the National Trust, Rockham is a secluded rocky sandy beach fabulous for rock pooling but sandy enough for kids. Explore the remains of the wrecked mail steamer SS Collier which ran aground in 1914. The steamer's propeller, boiler and donkey engine can be seen at low tide. (The steamer was one of the first mail ships to carry mail to Australia. The crew were rescued, along with the ship's dog and cat.). The wreck is toward the north of the beach. It's a 20 min walk to the beach unless you're staying at the campsite. Park in the pay & display in Morthoe and follow the signs to Rockham Bay. There are steps down to the beach but easy enough. The bay does have strong currents but the beach is considered safe for paddling and dipping. The beach has only just re-opened after the steps were washed away in the Valentine's Day storms of 2014. The beach is dog friendly all year.
WATCH OUT FOR: If you want to explore the wreck, go at low tide. The steps/climb back up can be tiring.
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far