It’s no surprise that people flock to North Devon for the beaches – not only does the majority of the coast fall within the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but is also home to the UK’s first ever surf reserve because of the quality of the surfing conditions.
As there are so many beaches in the area and some of them are overlooked for the more famous ones, here is an almost A-Z of North Devon’s beaches.
Blackpool Mill (also known as Abbey River Beach)
Blackpool Mill is a secluded little cover near Hartland Quay and Bude. It’s full of high cliffs and rocks, which makes it very dramatic and is dog friendly throughout the year.
Park at Hartland Quay.
Blegberry Beach (also known as Berry Beach)
Part of the Hartland area of coastline, this beach sits at the foot of Berry Cliff and is often one of the quieter of the beaches in this area. The nearest parking is at Hartland Quay which is around a half hour way away, it is dog friendly but swimming is not advised and only the more experienced of surfers should attempt the waves here.
Braunton Burrows is one of the largest sand dune systems in Britain and is in the centre of the North Devon AONB. Though not a beach itself, it does border a beach and is a fascinating place to visit.
Located close to Ilfracombe, this beach is dog friendly but unlike the name might suggest is not broad or sandy. It is one of the best swimming beaches in the region but doesn’t have a lifeguard so be aware. It is also one of the more difficult beaches to access, as there are steep steps down to the beach.
This beach joins up with Peppercombe Beach and sits between Westward Ho! and Clovelly. Like many of the smaller beaches around here, Bucks Mill was known for being a site of shipwrecks and the nearby village was said to have been founded by survivors of such a wreck. The biggest draw for visitors here is the waterfall which flows from the cliffs.
The village of Clovelly is a tourist attraction in its own right and visitors often venture down to the small beach for a spot of sunbathing during warm weather. The bay is home to a diverse array of wildlife and the area is famous for snorkelling and connects to the South West Coast Path. Being car free however, it is a bit of a walk from the car park at the top of the village down to the beach, but a land rover service does take visitors down to the beach.
As one of the more popular tourist resorts, Combe Martin is a popular destination for those coming to the beach, there are a range of facilities and amenities close by, including disabled access. Dogs are not allowed on the beach at certain times of the year, so do check local signage.
Perhaps the most famous of North Devon’s surfing beaches, Croyde Bay is a haven for a range of watersports enthusiasts and is good for kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, swimming and fishing. There is a large carpark serving the beach, including disabled parking and is accessible.
Found below the cliffs at Morthoe, Grunta is a fairly difficult beach to access but it's worth it for the rockpools. The name is said to come from a shipwreck in which a cargo of pigs managed to survive and escape. The beach is dog friendly, but isn’t for the faint hearted.
One of the most dramatic views in North Devon can be found here in Hartland Quay. It’s a good spot for watersports and swimming but doesn’t have a lifeguard service. The South West Coast Path passes the beach and there is also easy access to Hartland Point.
Heddons Mouth Beach
This cove sits on the mouth of the River Heddon between Combe Martin and Lynton and is of historic importance as it was a favourite for smugglers and pirates. The beach area is dog friendly and is often frequented by walkers.
Found near Ilfracombe, this sandy and shingle cove is within the North Devon AONB and is right next to the Hillsborough Nature Reserve. There is parking nearby and is a good option for watersports, dog walks and rockpooling.
As it is fairly small, this beach can get busy during the summer months but is a pretty, sandy beach and offers some calmer waters than other areas in North Devon. It isn’t advised to swim but kayakers are known to use the beach while making their ways along the Taw and Torridge Rivers.
This beach can be found within the Lee Bay Estate and has a car park close by at the abbey. It’s a fairly small shingle beach but is a nice option for a quieter day out.
This more secluded option between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe is best seen at low tide. It is home to a number of rock pools and caves which are excellent for exploring and its sheltered nature makes it a good choice for paddleboarders and surfers. The currents can get strong though, so be aware if you’re not an experienced surfer, it is also a little out of the way, so isn’t the easiest of beaches to get to.
Just below the village of Lynmouth you’ll find a small single beach and the opening of the River Lyn. The beach is surrounded by cliffs and woodlands and is one of the most picturesque in the region. It’s a good spot for fishing and has a plenty of parking, it’s also close to the famous cliff railway, which is a must for visitors.
This is another of those small beaches along the coast, it’s only accessible via the South West Coast Path which can be quite steep in places. This is an interesting beach to visit because it marks the border between Devon and Cornwall.
Full of interesting rock formations, this beach near Hartland Point is another with a history of shipwrecks. The most notable feature is Blackchurch Rock, a natural landmark that brings photographers from all over.
Near Combe Martin, this dog friendly, pebble beach is picturesque and really lovely to explore in good weather.
Right next to Westward Ho! is this rocky beach. Often quieter than its neighbour, this beach sits at the bottom of a secluded wooded valley which is managed by the National Trust and is only accessible on foot. You can often see seals, dolphins and porpoises in the summer.
Forming the southern part of Woolacombe beach, this is one of the best loved beaches for watersports, family holidays and just about everything else in between. Putsborough is a good choice for those who are new to surfing and similar activities because it is sheltered from the winds.
Sat between Ilfracombe and a series of high cliffs, this is a cute and sheltered little cove which is challenging to reach, because of this though, it is peaceful. A trip here will need to be carefully planned because as the tide comes in, the beach completely disappears.
Because of its proximity to Morethoe, this is also known as Mortehoe Beach and is a lovely secluded spot with fascinating rockpools. Access is only by foot, so it won’t be a suitable destination for everyone but the surrounding cliffs are home to wildflowers so it is worth the walk for the stunning view.
Another one with a slightly erroneous name – it's not the sandiest of beaches, but in comparison to its neighbour, Lee Bay, it is more sand than shingle. Like many of the region’s coves, it was once a smuggler’s haven but today is popular with sunbathers. That being said, there are no lifeguards and the current can be strong, so swimming isn’t advisable.
Popular with surfers, Sandymere makes up the southern end of the beach at Westward Ho! Like most of the larger beaches in the area, there are restrictions on dogs but you can find a dog exercise area on the beach and lifeguards are stationed at certain times.
One of Britain’s best beaches, Saunton Sands has over 3 miles of golden sands backed by the UK’s largest sand dune system. It is one of the UK’s premier surfing beaches and as such, can get quite busy in the summer, but there are several facilities right on the seafront, including a luxury hotel.
Looking like something out of the Lord of the Rings, Shipload Bay is surrounded by cliffs and is off limits to visitors, though you can still take in the view by following the cliff top trails.
Due to weather, this beach is inaccessible but at one point was a popular nudist beach.
On the Cornish/Devon border near Hartland Point, this is a picturesque beach with plenty of cliffs and rocks to explore. The atmosphere here is foreboding because of the number of shipwrecks that have taken place here throughout history. It’s a beach popular with walkers, photographers and surfers because of the dramatic views and powerful waves.
Perhaps one of the most famous of North Devon’s beaches now that it has become a wedding venue and attraction in its own right, Tunnels Beaches is a fascinating place to visit. The beach is accessible via a series of hand carved tunnels build during the Victorian era to separate male and female bathers. The tunnels lead through to a selection of beaches and a Victorian tidal pool.
Close to the border, Welcombe Mouth is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has an awe-inspiring waterfall to find. The whole beach is made up of coastal paths and is perfect for walks with the whole family, including dogs. There are several narrow lanes to drive down to get there and a little walk to the beach itself, but it is worth it.
A popular family beach, Westward Ho! is one of the region’s best loved seaside resorts and is both dog friendly and has accessible facilities. The beach is surrounded by amenities and hotels including restaurants and attractions, with even more to do during the summer months.
Wild Pear Beach
You won’t find any pears here but you will find some lovely views from the cliffs. Walkers can easily access this quiet beach via the coast path from Combe Martin. The trail down to the beach is quite steep so make sure to have appropriate shoes.
Wildersmouth Beach (also known as Capstone)
Located near Ilfracombe, this beach, which is also sometimes known as Ilfracombe beach or Capstone beach is in a sheltered cove and has lovely views across to Ilfracombe. It can only be accessed at low tide, the South West Coast Path crosses the beach, so make sure to check tide times before heading out to explore. It’s dog friendly and the nearby town has a host of facilities
Found along the Exmoor coast, Woody Bay would have been a holiday resort to rival Lynton and Lynmouth if it wasn’t for the weather and the cost. The original owner had been trying to develop the area, even adding a golf course and a pier, which was damaged by storms. Today, it is a quiet cove with wooded cliffs around it, you can explore the woods on the way down to the beach via the path.
Voted Britain’s best beach several years in a row, Woolacombe has three miles of sand and is popular with surfers, families and locals alike. Because of its popularity, there are a host of facilities available all year around, offers some amazing waves for the watersports enthusiasts out there and has incredible views over to Lundy Island.
To visit this little cove, park at the Valley of Rocks and follow a path down to the beach itself. The path can be blocked by rock falls, so it isn’t always accessible but you can enjoy the view from the top of the cliff. The whole area is scenic and worth the visit.