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Best family-friendly beaches in Devon

From epic surf spots to sheltered coves, there are so many beautiful beaches in Devon to visit with your family. We round up the best beaches for your next trip, as tried and tested by Mumsnetters. 

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Sep 23, 2022

Best Family Friendly Beaches in Devon

Devon is a great choice for a family holiday. With miles of pretty countryside, child-friendly attractions, cream teas and a string of beautiful beaches, Devon keeps the crowds coming back year after year. 

With so many beaches to choose from, it can be tricky to decide which ones to add to your wish list. To help plan your itinerary, we’ve trawled the Mumsnet travel forums for recommendations on the best family-friendly beaches in Devon

Whether it’s a Blue Flag beach, a beach with brilliant rock pools or a beach for family surfing lessons, here are the best beaches in Devon to visit with kids

EDITOR'S PICKS: BEST FAMILY HOTELS IN DEVON

£0
Soar Mill Cove
Soar Mill Cove, Salcombe

Family rooms with stunning sea views
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Bovey Castle
Bovey Castle, Dartmoor

Luxury retreat in Dartmoor National Park
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Devon Cliffs
Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, Exmouth

Fun-packed park with easy beach access
Haven

Book now

1. Woolacombe Beach, Woolacombe

Woolacombe Beach, Woolacombe

"Woolacombe and also any beach around it basically” - rated by Mumsnetter,  BarbieJellyBabyBrain

“Woolacombe in North Devon is fabulous” - recommended by Mumsnet user, Lynnthesearesexnotgenderpeople

On Devon’s north coast, this award-winning, family-owned beach offers an impressive three miles of sand to enjoy everything from sunbathing and sandcastles to swimming and surfing with your family. If you’ve never surfed before, the well-established Woolacombe Surf Centre is a great place to start, providing equipment hire and beginner’s lessons for the whole family. 

With high swells and strong breezes, Woolacombe is popular for kayaking and kitesurfing and with a peak season lifeguard service, it's a great place to take a dip in the sea too. 

Woolacombe Beach offers stunning views of Lundy Island, while the northern end of the beach offers a wide range of cafes, restaurants and shops to enjoy. 

There are three large car parks at Woolacombe, and while parking isn't cheap, you can easily spend a day there to ensure you get your money's worth.

Nearest train station: Barnstaple (13 miles) 

EDITOR'S PICKS: WHERE TO STAY NEAR WOOLACOMBE BAY

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Watersmeet Hotel, Woolacombe, Devon
Watersmeet Hotel

Family rooms and private steps to a sandy beach
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Byron Eleven Apartments
Byron Eleven Apartments

Apartments with an indoor pool and a bar
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Fortescue Arms
Fortescue Arms

Pub with rooms and a kids' playground
Booking.com

Book now

2. Croyde Bay, Braunton

Croyde Bay, Braunton

"Croyde Bay North Devon, beautiful rock pools for children, sand dunes to roll down, waves for surfing, oh I want to go there now! Not many facilities, however, basic toilets, cafe, equipment hire, lifeguards, no amusements" - recommended by Mumsnet user, storynanny

“Croyde Bay is a gorgeous beach with a lovely little village” - rated by Mumsnet user, TwittleBee

Croyde Bay is one of north Devon’s most popular beaches and it’s easy to see why. 

An accessible beach set between two headlands, Croyde is perfect for kids who love fresh air and embracing the great outdoors. Covered in soft golden sand, it’s surrounded by rolling sand dunes which are ideal for rolling or racing down with siblings or friends.

Dog-free during the summer months, Croyde is popular with surfers and provides safe swimming conditions with an RNLI lifeguard service during the summer, Easter and October holiday seasons. Take your bucket along too - there are some fantastic rock pools to explore, where you may even spot a crab or two. 

If you want to see the impressive views across the bay, the Baggy point National Trust trail is certainly worth the steady incline. Take your camera, as a family selfie at the top is a moment you’ll definitely want to capture on film. 

Nearest train station: Barnstaple (11 miles)

EDITOR'S PICKS: WHERE TO STAY NEAR CROYDE

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Croyde Bay resort
Croyde Bay Resort

Family-friendly beach resort with tons of activities
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Perrymans Cottage, Croyde
Perrymans Cottage

Quaint thatched cottage between Croyde and Woolacombe
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Seascape Croyde
Seascape

Four-bed beachfront house with a hot tub
Booking.com

Book now

3. Bigbury Beach, Bigbury on Sea

Bigbury Beach, Bigbury on Sea

"Bigbury on Sea has a fab beach and a great view of Burgh Island" - recommended by Mumsnet user, LakieLady 

In south Devon in an area of outstanding beauty, Bigbury on Sea is a golden sandy beach that’s really popular with families thanks to its shallow waters, high-season lifeguard cover and plentiful rock pools. If your child likes to clamber around in sea shoes, explore their surroundings and seek out hidden marine life, they will be in their element here.  

For those who struggle to sit still, the high-quality swells at Bigbury make an ideal location for testing out some watersports like windsurfing and kitesurfing, with hire facilities conveniently located right on the beach. 

You can relax and tuck into some organic local food from the beach cafe or if you fancy a stroll, venture over to the stunningly beautiful Burgh Island, accessible via a causeway during low tide. 

Nearest train station: Totnes (20 miles)

EDITOR'S PICKS: WHERE TO STAY NEAR BIGBURY ON SEA

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Burgh Island Causeway Apartment
Burgh Island Causeway

Two-bed holiday home with a large terrace
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Tarifa Bigbury on Sea
6 Tarifa

Three-bed house with sea views
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Alpine Cottage, Bigbury on Sea
Alpine Cottage

Spacious four-bed house with fab views
Booking.com

Book now

4. Salcombe Beaches

Salcombe Beaches

"Salcombe is lovely. Beautiful part of the world" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Motherofgirl

"Salcombe is beautiful" - rated by Mumsnet user, roxisolerenshaw 

Salcombe offers not one, not two, but five unique beaches to choose from. While they are all beautiful and welcoming, North Sands tends to be the most popular with families, thanks to its safe shallow waters that are perfect for paddling and swimming. 

Around a 15-minute easy walk from the centre, this dog-friendly beach offers stunning views of the Fort Charles castle ruins, Kingsbridge Estuary and Wolf Rock jutting out from the sea in the distance. 

While relatively small in size, there’s plenty of parking at North Sands, and the beach cafe and shop are handy if you need a snack or forget your bucket and spade. A point worth noting, however, is that when the tide comes in, it comes in really fast, making the beach virtually non-existent so it’s advisable to check the tide times before you visit.  

Nearest train station: Totnes (20 miles)

EDITOR'S PICKS: WHERE TO STAY NEAR SALCOMBE

£0
Harbour beach club Salcombe
Harbour Beach Club & Hotel

Stylish retreat overlooking South Sands beach
Booking.com

Book now
£0
South Sands Hotel Salcombe
South Sands Hotel

Beachfront boutique with rooms and apartments
Booking.com

Book now
£0
Merchants House Salcombe
Merchants House

Stunning four-bed house with a large garden
Booking.com

Book now

5. Westward Ho!, Bideford

Westward Ho!, Bideford

"Westward Ho beach is lovely, Clovelly is nearby and absolutely beautiful too. Honestly can't recommend that area enough" - rated by Mumsnet user, ILoveFlumps 

“Went to Westward Ho! beach last week. Bloody stunning whatever time of year” - recommended by Mumsnet user, swampytiggaa

A popular beach for surfers and swimmers, Westward Ho! not only has a brilliant name but falls within a North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

A long sandy beach with a pebble ridge positioned behind, you can expect to see plenty of kite surfers and bodyboarders here, and anglers too thanks to the wild sea bass that can be found in the water. 

With an RNLI lifeguard service from May to September (and a designated dog-friendly area), children will love padding in the shallow waters or hunting for shrimp and crabs in the plentiful rock pool formations. 

You’ll be spoiled for choice for entertainment too, with an amusement arcade, go-karts, bowling and mini golf on offer, as well as reasonably priced cafes and tearooms. 

Nearest train station: Barnstaple (11 miles) 

6. Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth

Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth

"I love Blackpool Sands. It’s lovely to swim and paddle board in and never gets overcrowded as it’s big. Lovely owners - you can sit right by the edge of the sea. It’s clean, beautiful and has a lovely atmosphere. It’s pebbly but has a lovely cafe and is lovely to swim in, you can hire kayaks and in the summer it has a pontoon" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Fa1rhaven

“We like Wembury and Blackpool Sands, both in S Devon” - rated by Mumsnet user, Tonightstheteriyakichicken

Not to be confused with Blackpool Pleasure Beach up north, Blackpool Sands is a Blue Flag beach a 15-minute drive from Dartmouth. It’s surrounded by evergreens and scented pines and is a beautiful place to spend the day with your family.

It's covered in a fine shingle and not sand, so while it’ll do wonders for your dry feet, you may want to bring along some beach shoes for younger children who may find it a little uncomfortable to walk on. 

For children who love a sandcastle, there are small sand pits on offer, while older children can hire out kayaks, paddle boards and wetsuits from the shop on the beach.

While there are lifeguards on duty during peak season, it's worth noting that the beach shelf incline is quite steep into the sea. For this reason, Blackpool Sands is less suited to toddlers and preschoolers. 

Nearest train station: Kingswear (5 miles) 

7. Saunton Sands, Braunton

Saunton Sands, Braunton

"Braunton (fantastic beach called Saunton Sands)" - recommended by Mumsnet user, MissyB1

"Woolacombe is beautiful. We stayed in a little town called Braunton which was great and had lots of great beaches in easy reach" - rated by Mumsnet user, Badger1970

In North Devon, this long, soft sandy beach is home to the famous Braunton Burrows sand dunes which featured as the backdrop in Robbie Williams’ Angels video back in the late 1990s. 

Dog-friendly all year round, Saunton Sands is popular with families thanks to its stunning surroundings that are crying out to be explored. The walk to Crow Point is a great way to capture some really impressive views of the Devon coastline. 

You can easily spend the day at Saunton with the beach shop offering all your essentials as well as deckchairs available to hire. At the end of the day, the Beachside Grill provides locally sourced dishes with a great vantage point to watch the sun slowly go down across the horizon. 

Nearest train station: Barnstaple (8 miles) 

8. Hope Cove, near Salcombe

Hope Cove, near Salcombe

"Hope Cove. Most beautiful place in the world. You’ll love it & return every year" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Happyhippy99

There’s a choice of two sheltered sandy beaches at Hope Cove; Inner and Outer Hope, with well-behaved dogs welcome on the larger of the two. 

The wide and compacted sand at low tide is ideal for sandcastle building, while the rock pools are perfect for kids to explore. If dam building is more their forte, they’ll love attempting to block off the water that trails down to the shore.

The Cove Cafe Bar on the beach is popular with tourists and locals and provides a great location to watch the sunset at the end of a fun-filled day. 

Nearest train station: Totnes (19 miles) 

9. Putsborough Beach, Braunton

Putsborough Beach, Braunton

"We had stunning views from the car park in May half term last year, late afternoon looking towards Woolacombe - beautiful beach" - rated by Mumsnet user, APurpleSquirrel

Stretching three miles across to Woolacombe, Putsborough Beach is a real hidden gem that’s renowned for being one of the cleanest beaches in the South West and is well worth navigating the very narrow lanes to get there. It’s even won awards for its toilets!

Despite its great location and varied facilities, Putsborough tends to be a little quieter than the more well-known Woolacombe beach, and provides a great space to relax and unwind, surrounded by an area of natural beauty. 

The broad bay is welcoming for paddleboarders or those who wish to take to the sea, while the large car park, shop and cafe provide access to refreshments and some welcome amenities too. 

Nearest train station: Barnstaple (12 miles)

10. Wembury Bay Beach, Plymouth

Wembury Bay Beach, Plymouth

"Wembury has a nice beach with lots of rock pools" - rated by Mumsnet user, bluebump

"The beautiful little estuary that leads to Wembury Bay. With Noss Mayo one side and Newton Ferris the other.. (gorgeous little fishing villages) .. you can walk across on stepping stones when the tide is out.. been going there for 30 years and still find new stuff to see and do" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Fontofnoknowledge 

Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wembury Bay beach has a stunning backdrop of rolling hills, with impressive views of the picturesque Wembury Church and triangular-shaped Mewstone Island. 

Renowned for its rock pooling, children will be excited to find sea anemones, crabs and even starfish among the many formations that appear when the tide goes out. Don’t forget to put them back and watch where you walk! 

The shallow waters are great for padding, snorkelling and diving with plenty of wildlife to witness under the waves. But with swells of up to three metres out to sea, it’s an obvious choice for surfing and kayaking too. It’s worth noting that there is no lifeguard stationed at Wembury, so you’ll need to take extra caution around the water and not go out too far. 

Nearest train station: Plymouth (10 miles) 

Are beaches better in north or south Devon?

Ultimately, It depends on the kind of holiday you’re after. 

For family-friendly beaches that are secluded, have shallow shores and calm weather conditions, beaches in south Devon like Blackpool Sands are well equipped for families and younger visitors. 

For older children or teens, north Devon beaches, like Putsborough and Croyde, offer more exposed coastlines that are ideal for surfing and watersports. 

Which part of Devon is best for a family holiday?

You can’t go too wrong in this part of the world. North Devon is great for adrenaline junkies and has a huge number of coastal walks with stunning views; whereas south Devon is ideal for relaxing and enjoying the luxury of exploring rockpools and building sandcastles on sandy beaches.

Do you need to hire a car to travel around Devon?

While it’s more convenient to drive around Devon, particularly if you're wanting to explore both the north and south coasts, it’s entirely possible to travel around Devon without a car. Devon has a fairly extensive train and bus travel network, so if you choose your base location wisely, it’s entirely possible to enjoy Devon without the additional expense of hiring a car.

What’s the best beach in Devon for families?

Woolacombe is a really popular choice for family holidays - it has the perfect combination of high-energy watersports and relaxing surroundings with sandy beaches and stunning coastlines. That said, all the options on our list have a great deal to offer for families - it’s pretty hard to go wrong in this part of the UK. 

If you have young children and want a traditional seaside escape, Westwood Ho! is a great spot, with entertainment for guests of all ages. 

How we chose our recommendations 

We spent several hours sifting through Mumsnet's forums for recommendations from users on the best beaches in Devon, including the ones they visit regularly or rate most highly. 

We consulted recommendations from travel experts and made sure we included beaches in Devon that were award-winning, blue flag, regularly appeared in ‘best’ lists or were the most highly rated by guests on TripAdvisor and review sites, ensuring that previous visitors were satisfied with their stay. We looked out for beaches that offered good facilities, safe swimming and were suitable for families with young children, to bring you our final list of the best family-friendly beaches in Devon. 

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

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