Two coastlines and over 100 beaches give you plenty of choice when it comes to choosing your favourite among the best beaches in Devon. South Devon beaches tend to get most of the attention – and the crowds, so do give the north coast a chance. Brilliant for watersports and wildlife fans, the beaches along this coast do feel a little more rugged in places. Though, there are award-winning coastal gems hidden in the rough.
For wild orchids and estuary birds
Don’t be put off by the barrage of fairground rides, giant inflatables and amusement arcades when you first sweep into Dawlish Warren. Yes, first and foremost this is a caravan-speckled spot that attracts summer staycationers in big numbers. BUT and it’s a big one, the Warren itself is a sand bar to reckon with. Stretching out ever closer to Exmouth, the dunes, meadows, ponds and salt flats are home to rare sand crocus, southern marsh orchids, curlews and bar-tailed godwits.
Orbzii tip: You might see signs saying there are ponies on the warren. Do keep your eyes peeled, but many visitors come and go without every spotting so much as an ear.
To surf the best of the North Devon coast
The best beaches in North Devon come with surf-able breakers for all abilities. Beginners, have a chat with Surf Saunton to get to grips with the waves on this vast and sweeping stretch of North Devon coastline. Advanced surfers – Saunton Sands gives you the space to surf uninterrupted – no matter how busy the beach gets. But the real test comes from the point break at Lynton. When the right conditions combine – it’s one of the best surfing spots in the Westcountry.
For unbeatable rockpooling
Just getting to the Ness Cove in Shaldon feels like a mini adventure. The only way to get to the rockpools? By wandering through the cliffs through a smuggler’s tunnel. Once through the passageway, you’re on a cliff-flanked, shingle beach where the colour palette has been tweaked. The red cliffs are topped with emerald green grasses that tone nicely with the slippery seaweed you’ll encounter. The pink-hued shingle is a great place to look for smooth-as-silk sea glass, but it’s the rock pools you’re really here for. Expect to see slimy anemones waiting for the tide to come back, crabs, sea snails, fish and – possibly – a sea potato. Eyes peeled too for a Mermaid’s Purse. These look just like seaweed – but are actually shark, ray or skate egg cases.
To experience old world seaside vibes
If you fancy the feeling of being teleported into a period drama, skip along to Beer. A quaint little flshing village perched high on the coast that delivers maritime charm by the boatload. Working fishermen still set sail from the pebble beach every morning, while the tiny shops above sell knickknacks you can’t resist buying. As a working beach, Beer lends itself more to a mooch around, than a spot to claim for a day’s sunbathing. That said, the cliffs create the ideal sun trap and provide sheltered waters for swimming.
Orbzii tip: Beer has its very own bat cave. You’ll not find any caped crusaders on the quarry cave tour, but 17 species of bat hibernate in the 2,000 year old man made caves. Worth a look if you fancy some cool respite from the Devon summer sun.
For a bacon bap right on the beach
Blackpool Sands has a lot more going for it than the perfectly placed cafe, but being able to pair one of the best restaurants in Devon with one of its best beaches elevates it even further. Eating a bacon roll on the shingle sand here is one of life’s simple pleasures. And, for the most part, tranquility rules at this Blue Flag beach. Jet skis and boats are barred from the swimming area – so for watersports, your kicks are SUP, kayaks and windsurfing. At £5, a mooch around the restored Blackpool Gardens is a pricey amble through semi-tropical planting you might want to swerve. It’s worth noting too that there’s a dog ban in place from May to October. But there are plenty more dog friendly beaches in Devon for four-legged adventures.
To see Devon’s wild and rugged side
People expect a lot from the best beaches in Devon and holiday facilities are usually at the top of the list. But, often, you simply want to stroll along a stretch of coast and get away from reminders of the daily grind. THE place to do that in Devon? Heddon’s Mouth. To get to the 400 million year old cliffs, you’re looking at an amble through ancient woodland. Otters frolic in the Heddon Valley and rare butterfly species flutter through the grasses and wildflowers. You can see it all by parking up at the National Trust car park (around a mile inland) and following the River Heddon to the coast. Bliss.
To escape the crowds
When the sun shines, south Devon’s beaches see crowds queuing to find their place on the sands. North Devon beaches have a slightly easier time of things, but there’s one that’s barely registering on most people’s radar. Crow Point is a cracking peninsula on the Taw and Torridge estuary. Sand dunes, little egrets, swans and miles of dog friendly beach that just begs to be explored. In the autumn and winter it’s as quiet as can be and, although summer sees numbers pick up, it never reaches anything approaching overcrowded. Maybe it’s the £2 toll road that puts people off? But that’s far cheaper than most beach car parking in Devon.
Maybe it’s mile after mile of coast that makes it feel more roomy? Nothing should be keeping you from a stroll here. Peer over at Appledore and be thankful you’ve escaped the summer rush.
The all-rounder - North Devon
We can’t talk about the best beaches in Devon and leave out Woolacombe. Regularly voted as one of the best beaches in the UK, it’s also popped into the worldwide beach charts. That alone isn’t enough to get you here? Let’s talk sand. Three miles of swim-safe coastline that mingles rockpooling, sandcastles, swimming and seal spotting. Pretty stellar so far. Add in the picture-postcard Devon village of Woolacombe and a glorious stretch of the South West coastal path and it’s easy to understand why this beach’s trophy cabinet is getting a little full.
Perhaps the best icing on the cake for this sand-dune strewn beauty? There’s an accessible option for wheelchair users. The tourism information office in the village has a tramper for hire. An off-road motorised vehicle more than capable of tacking the sands and dunes.
The all-rounder - South Devon
Two-miles of golden sand should be reason enough to come to Exmouth. One of the best beaches in South Devon – on shorescape alone, it comes with enough facilities and amenities to please even the pickiest beachgoer. Watersports span the spectrum from sedate SUP paddles to wakeboarding, water skiing and inflatable rides. The coastal tours from Stuart Line Cruises are one of the best things to do in Devon and the newly developed promenade provides off-beach action for more seaside fun. Expect the usual crazy golf and seaside amusements – alongside an entertainment complex with bowling, games arcade and restaurants.
A dinosaur trail through the town gives families chance to explore while keeping little ones happy too. It’s fair to say parts of the town away from the beach look a little unloved, but on the coast, Exmouth is hard to beat.