Croyde Bay Beach
Nestled between Woolacombe and Saunton Sands, this is one of Devon's most-loved beaches. A beautiful bay, it offers some of the best surf on the south west coast, with tourists flocking there throughout the year to make use of the impressive swell. It’s backed by rolling sand dunes, and is lifeguarded between May and September, as well as at Easter and during October half-term. Children will love exploring the rock pools found at either end of the beach, while adults and teens can embark on one of the many wildlife walks in the area: the trail to Baggy Point offers the most spectacular views.
This picturesque rocky cove is a hidden gem. Known for its host of exotic shells, which folklore says travelled all the way from the Caribbean, you’ll find it at the very northern end of Woolacombe. Approximately half a mile away from the central beach, Barricane is secluded and private – a great option for those looking to avoid crowds – and with warm water ideal for swimming. Dogs on leads are allowed in high season but can also roam freely during the rest of the year. It’s worth noting that during high tide, the whole beach becomes one large, natural pool, making it unreachable.
Located in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hope Cove is made up of two bays: Inner and Outer Hope. Outer Hope, otherwise known as Mouthwell Sands, can be found just north of the Hope Cove car park, while the larger Inner Hope – Harbour Beach – is just to the south. The water at both beaches is clear and clean, and shallow enough for children to paddle in. Harbour Beach, meanwhile, is more sheltered thanks to its sandstone cliff backdrop, making it a great spot for picnics. It’s also dog-friendly year round.
Perched on the mouth of the River Avon, this beach offers panoramic views of both Bigbury and Burgh Island. Backed by golden sand dunes, it’s popular with families thanks to its wide expanse of soft sand, rock pools, and a beach-side food truck. Bantham is also loved by surfers of all abilities, and is home to the Bantham Surfing Academy, which runs surfing and paddleboarding lessons for adults and children. Part of the designated South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a previous winner of the Marine Conservation Society and Blue Flag award, this safe and clean beach is suitable for all ages.
In the heart of Salcombe lies South Sands, an unspoilt beach that feeds directly into the mouth of the estuary. Boasting soft sand, clear water, and with a car park close by, there are plenty of water sports to give a go, including canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, and scuba diving. Boating and sailing courses are also available for those keen to learn. Otherwise, South Sands’ central location means you’re never far from a beach bar or café where you can pick up a cream tea, sandwich or ice cream. There’s also a passenger ferry that shuttles visitors between South Sands and Whitestrand Quay, where you can hire a boat or go on an estuary cruise.
Woolacombe is a three-mile long stretch of sand considered one of the best family-friendly beaches in the county. Lifeguards ensure swimmers and surfers are kept safe during the summer, with visitors travelling long distance to catch some waves and enjoy the water. If you’re looking to get the adrenaline pumping, Woolacombe is the perfect spot to try your hand at water sports – think kayaking, canoeing, jet skiing and windsurfing. The car park here has over 2000 spaces, too, so you can rest easy knowing you’re almost guaranteed a spot.
With a name like Sunny Cove, it’s no wonder this beach is a popular spot from May through to September. Situated across the estuary from some of Salcombe’s other sandy stretches, this is a pretty and picturesque beach that’s great for swimming and snorkelling. Banked by grassy rocks, and offering plenty of shade and respite from the wind, Sunny Cove is just a ten-minute walk from the nearby car park at Mill Bay. If you’ve rented a boat, drop your anchor here to enjoy a refreshing dip.
Saunton Sands in North Devon is a magnificent beach backing onto Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Comprising three and a half miles-worth of golden sand, this magical beach is a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon, offering a bit more peace and quiet than the busier nearby Croyde Bay. After a morning swim, walk to Crow Point, a nature reserve where children can go wildlife spotting and adults can enjoy the stunning vistas. This beach is also frequented by surfers of all abilities.
This peaceful, shingle beach can be found between Torquay and Babbacombe. Shielded by limestone cliffs and set among wooded hills, it's ideal for rock pooling, fishing and sunset watching, with views across Lyme Bay and the rest of the Dorset coast. Popular with rock climbers, there are plenty of routes and interesting rock formations to explore before cooling off with a dip in the sea. Said to have been a favoured spot of author Agatha Christie, access to the cove can be tricky – and there’s no lifeguard service – so it’s best for adults-only or those visiting with older children.
Ladram Bay is a pebble and sand beach popular with swimming enthusiasts, as well as those looking to try their hand at water sports. Majestic red sandstone cliffs loom in the background, and it’s also home to two iconic towering sea stacks. A part of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ladram Bay has the added benefit of being right on the edge of the picturesque South West Coastal Path, on the iconic Jurassic Coast. A secluded spot, get there at the right time and you’ll feel like you have it all to yourself.
Another hidden gem, this dog-friendly beach can be found on the outskirts of Brixham. A shingle beach surrounded by woodlands and home to dramatic red cliffs, it provides idyllic respite from the summer crowds, and is a great spot for both sunbathing and swimming. Bring your picnic here, along with some goggles for a pre-dinner swim, and you’re almost guaranteed a private al fresco meal. There’s also a striped beach hut selling refreshments. If you’re trying your hand at boating, moor up at Fishcombe Cove to enjoy a shoreside sundowner.
Journey to the western end of the Jurassic Coast to reach Budleigh Salterton. Made up of 2km of pebbles, this beach is loved by locals and tourists alike, both of whom can be spotted swimming in the calmer water. Pick up some supplies at one of the three nearby beach cafés or hire one of the picturesque beach huts to enjoy your own seaside picnic. The eastern end of the beach is home to the Otter Estuary Nature Reserve, which children will love exploring.
Set below the pretty fishing village of Beer, this shingle beach –which was once a smuggler’s cove –is sheltered by the chalky cliffs of Beer Head. After a swim, visitors can relax on a pinstripe deckchair or embark on one of the many local walks which follow the South West Coastal Path. There’s limited parking at the beach, but plenty in the centre of the village, which is only a 15 minute walk away. Dogs are welcome here, but only in the low season.