Alongside Cornwall, Devon consistently ranks as the most popular county with domestic tourists for English summer holidays. Thanks largely to its warm summer weather and plentiful supply of wonderful beaches.
Whether sunbathing or surfing is more your thing, there are ample opportunities for you in the county. From popular beaches such as those in Exmouth and Woolacombe to hidden gems including Soar Mill Cove, here are 10 of the best beaches to visit during your stay in Devon.
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1. Croyde Bay Beach
Consistently ranked by locals and visitors alike as one of the most beautiful beaches in Devon, you simply have to pay a visit to Croyde Bay Beach during your trip. Nestled in between Woolacombe and Saunton Sands, Croyde Bay is a sandy beach with a reliable surf, perfect for sunseekers and surfers alike.
Enjoy a day trip in Devon to Croyde Beach and kids can spend their time hunting for crabs in the rock pools or building sandcastles, while the nearby walking trails up to Baggy Point are popular with ramblers. Baggy’s Surf Café is the perfect place to stop for a refreshment and admire the view over the bay, while The Thatch is a great pub just off the beach, serving a great variety of food and drink for visitors to enjoy.
2. Exmouth Beach
Exmouth is one of the larger towns in Devon, with a population of around 35,000. The traditional seaside town is a popular destination for visitors to the county, and a lot of this charm lies in its two-mile-long sandy beach.
This size means that even on a warm summer’s day, the beach rarely feels crowded and there are plenty of nearby amenities if you make the short walk into town. Dogs are welcome too and the exposed beach is great for kite flying, though you may wish to pack a sweatshirt if the wind is really picking up. The beach is located at the mouth of the River Exe and you can enjoy great views of the estuary and its wildlife from Rockfish Seafood Restaurant.
3. Crow Point
One of Devon’s best-kept secrets, Crow Point is the perfect beach for those who prefer to avoid the crowds. There are beautiful sand dunes and plenty of wildlife – Crow Point forms part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is located at a point where two rivers meet the sea. These estuaries are always good for wildlife, and alongside England’s largest sand dune ecosystem, there are all sorts of rare plant and animal species to spot. Once you’re done exploring the beach, there are plenty of walking trails through the biosphere reserve. You’ll wander through some of Devon’s finest scenery, a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
4. Woolacombe Beach
Woolacombe has long been one of North Devon’s most popular holiday haunts and its stunning three-mile-long sandy beach is certainly one of the main drawcards. This beach can get busy in summer, but it’s a firm family favorite, patrolled by RNLI lifeguards and perfect for first-time surf lessons, with several surf schools located along the length of the beach.
It also has plenty of facilities including beach huts, outdoor showers, and public toilets. In the quieter months during winter, you can bring the dogs onto the beach for a walk and make the most of the smaller crowds. Woolacombe itself offers plenty to see and do, with a range of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and coastal walks to keep everyone entertained during your stay.
5. Soar Mill Cove
The first thing to note about Soar Mill Cove is that there aren’t any amenities, so you’ll have to bring everything you need for the day with you. The flip side to this is that Soar Mill Cove is a little quieter than some of the other Devon Beaches on the list.
Hidden beneath the steep cliffs of Bolt Head, Soar Mill Cove is an idyllic beach, accessed by a hidden coastal path. Rock pools yield all sorts of marine life for kids to look at, and the sunsets here are some of the best in the whole of Devon.
Water in the cove is shallow and crystal clear, so it’s a great place to have a splash around with the kids – just be mindful that there are no lifeguards, so keep a close eye on youngsters. And as there are no amenities, this means no rubbish bins. So please take your litter away with you.
6. Beer Beach
The Devon village of Beer is one of the prettiest places to visit in England, having made it as a finalist in Channel 4’s Village of the Year competition. The village beach is a huge factor in these accolades. The shingle beach is surrounded by gorgeous white limestone cliffs and the charming collection of traditional fishing boats only adds to this allure.
The cliffs protect the beach from the wind, making it several degrees warmer than surrounding beaches, perfect for a day of sunbathing. There are numerous pubs and restaurants to visit in the village too. The Anchor Inn is probably the pick of the bunch, it serves a range of traditional home-cooked meals and drinks, with a large beer garden overlooking the beach itself.
7. Blackpool Sands
The award for most disingenuous beach name in Devon probably goes to Blackpool Sands. Neither is it in Blackpool, and nor is it sandy, but this south Devon shingle beach is a true idyll. Native woodland runs right up to the edge of the beach, creating a natural look that is rare in a country where beaches are usually capitalized on with human settlement. But this rural look doesn’t mean the beach is inaccessible, it is located just a 15-minute drive from Dartmouth.
The clear sea is best explored by kayak or paddleboard, both of which can be hired at the beach’s watersports equipment hire shop and the Venus Café serves refreshments to visitors on the beach itself.
8. Fishcombe Cove
Another of Devon’s quieter, more secluded beaches, Fishcombe Cove is tiny, tucked away beneath towering red cliffs. It’s a shingle beach, protected from the elements by the surrounding rock faces. Known primarily as a swimmer’s beach, there are no amenities on the beach itself and it’s a steep climb down some steps cut into the rock face. The climb is worth it for the amazing views and the privacy awarded to anyone who makes it down though.
If you’re lucky then you may even spot a curious seal or two, they’re known to inhabit the quiet waters and it isn’t unheard of to catch one sunning itself on the rocks. Just be careful not to disturb these gentle giants. Back up on the clifftop, the Fishcombe Cove Café serves a range of food and drink, which you’ll be absolutely desperate for by the time you’ve made the climb back up the stairs.
9. Barricane Beach
A lesser-known and less popular neighbor to Woolacombe Beach, Barricane offers a nice alternative to those looking to avoid the huge summer crowds. Barricane Beach is significantly smaller than Woolacombe, housed in a pretty cove and sheltered from the wind by surrounding cliffs. This combination is popular with both swimmers and cliff jumpers, and you’re sure to see a few adrenaline junkies trying their luck off the steep cliff faces.
Barricane Beach also provides one of Devon’s most beautiful and romantic sunsets, whilst the Barricane Beach Café is renowned for its Sri Lankan curries, a great way to round out the day.
10. Bantham Beach
Popular with surfers, Bantham Beach stretches along the coastline of Bigbury Bay and is easily accessible from the larger towns and villages in South Devon. The beach is located at the mouth of the River Avon and is managed with a hands-off approach towards nature, meaning there’s always plenty of wildlife to see. This approach also makes the beach incredibly appealing to look at – in fact it was the only English entry on Lonely Planet’s guide to the 10 Best Beaches in Europe during 2015.
If you feel yourself getting peckish then you’ll want to head to the Gastrobus. The converted bus is located permanently at the beach, and serves an array of drinks, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, brownies, cookies, and more, with picnic benches offering a scenic place to sit and enjoy your food.
11. Dawlish Warren
Dawlish Warren is known as the Devon beach with the traditional amusement arcades. This seaside resort is built on a spit from the mainland among the Exe Estuary. The beautiful Blue Flag family beach resort is near Exeter and Dawlish and is known for its surrounding wildlife as it has a National Nature Reserve over 500 acres big and a golf course classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest too.
There are a lot of camping and caravanning parks in Dawlish Warren, so it’s a great place to spend a few days or even a week. Dawlish Warren Beach hosts various carnivals and festivals all year long making it a perfect Devon attraction.
12. Hope Cove Beach
The sheltered Hope Cove Beach is a lovely sandy cove that showcases an outstandingly beautiful natural habitat in South Devon. Wander through the rocky cliffs from the ever perfect village of Hope, down to the beach for a relaxing sun session. Or, being England, maybe a chilly walk in the rain.
Hope Cove Village is well known as one of the prettiest villages in England and would make for a great place to stay if you want to explore Devon’s beaches. The thatched houses here make for some great photos, stand in front with a melting ice cream in hand for the true British seaside experience!
13. Moor Sands Beach
And finally, for this article on the best beaches in Devon, let’s finish with one of Devon’s naturist beaches, Moor Sands.
Moor Sands is also known as Venerick’s Cove, so if you see either term, you know the area that’s meant. This Devon beach is a rugged headland, more private than the others – hence the free living nudity.
Despite the name, Moor Sands Beach is neither sandy nor shingle, but quartz rock. When the beach catches the sun just right, it looks magical. This is one of the more difficult beaches in Devon to get to, ensuring it’s also one of the most peaceful. If you want some quiet privacy away from children and crowds, then this is the beach for you.
Beaches in Devon
If you’re planning a trip to Devon then the chances are you’ll be spending quite a lot of time at the beach. Devon’s beaches are incredibly diverse. There are sandy beaches and shingle beaches, small beaches and large beaches, secluded beaches, and beaches that back onto some of the county’s largest and most popular towns and villages. Whatever your ideal beach day looks like, you are sure to find the perfect spot. Whether it’s sunbathing, surfing, wildlife watching, or sipping on a cool pint overlooking a sumptuous view, Devon has some great beaches to explore.