10 of the Best Beaches in Devon
Perched on England’s stunning southwest coast, the county of Devon is home to the prehistorical Jurassic Coast, the windswept and romantic Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, and elegant English Riviera locations like Brixham, Torquay and Paignton. This beautiful part of the world attracts hordes of visitors from the rest of Britain and beyond.
But if your main priorities when picking a road trip destination are golden sands, blue horizons and crystal-clear waters, this county definitely delivers too. With that in mind, we’ve collated this handy list of the 10 best beaches in Devon ̶ let the sunshine in!
Devon’s Celtic culture, diverse wildlife, warm hospitality, unique light quality and wide open skies have inspired Devonian creatives like Coldplay’s Chris Martin, comedian Jennifer Saunders, artist Damien Hirst, Muse vocalist Matt Bellamy, novelist Agatha Christie, and satirist Peter Cook.
Which are the top 10 beaches in Devon?
In an area blessed by an embarrassment of excellent beaches, it’s tough to single out ten and honourable mentions go to Saunton Sands, Beer Beach, Anstey’s Cove, and Crow Point.
Devon’s beaches offer something special for every type of holidaymaker and in terms of natural beauty, amenities, cleanliness, accessibility, water clarity and surf quality, they can justifiably compare with the best in the world.
Hire a car from Enjoy and this charming county is the ideal place for a week-long family staycation with your kids, a romantic break with your significant other or a getaway with a large group of friends.
Hit the road, settle into the laid-back rhythm of life and you’ll soon fall in love with heavenly Devon.
1. Barricane Beach
North Devon’s Barricane Beach is a beautiful cove sheltered from the elements by surrounding rocks and a famous spot for finding exotic seashells like cowries. Its otherworldly mix of silk-soft sands, rugged borders and bright blue waters lend it an otherworldly quality, and indeed, local legend has it that the shells here have travelled right across the Atlantic from the shores of a mystical Caribbean island!
Surfing and rock pooling in North Devon
Located just 400 metres north of the main beach at Woolacombe (more of which later), this is a super spot for surfers and excellent for rock pooling, with a high level of water quality and amenities like shops and cafes within walking distance.
2. Exmouth Beach
Famous for its two mile stretch of gorgeous golden sands and unusual rock pools, Exmouth Beach is a haven for holidaymakers of all ages. If you’re feeling active you can try kayaking, standup paddleboarding, windsurfing or kite surfing here and it’s also the gateway to the UNESCO Jurassic Coast World Heritage site, so as well as being ideal for long countryside walks, its cliffs are a dramatic canvas for millions of years of geological history.
Exmouth is also blessed by a traditional promenade that stretches along its entire length and you can easily while away a few hours people watching or having fun on the swing boats or crazy golf course.
There’s a paddling pool for kids who aren’t ready to brave the sea quite yet, colourful beach huts for stowing your bags while you swim, and numerous restaurants and cafes to relax with mouth-watering fish and chips (a Brit seaside staple) and a ‘99’ ice cream cone (a terrific traditional ice cream cone complemented by a chocolate flake confection).
The mouth of the River Exe
Exmouth town centre is pretty and has the traditional "south west" holiday yet English feel about it, with a pedestrianised area and plenty of cafe's, coffee shops and quirky restaurants. To the west of the sea front is Exmouth Marina, sailing club and Shelly Beach. Around the marina there are plenty of swanky eateries such as The Point Bar & Grill, and Rockfish.
3. Sidmouth Town Beach
A sublime shingle and sand beach which is also on the Jurassic Coast, Sidmouth Town Beach is a sweeping, serene spot backed by scenic cliffs and it’s extremely clean and accessible.
Jacob’s Ladder might be the most famous feature here ̶ it’s a long flight of wooden steps which take you up from the beach to Connaught Gardens, where you’re rewarded with awesome views of the coast below. This is the most westerly end of Sidmouth Town Beach and it’s the most suitable for young children as it’s the sandiest stretch and has lots of rock pools for them to explore at low tide. The esplanade runs the entire length of the beach and Sidmouth’s noble Regency buildings add an elegant air.
4. Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay
The main beach for Torquay, Torre Abbey Sands is a sunny stretch of beach with blissful views. Very popular with tourists and locals alike, it has a magnetic attraction for younger visitors and families who like to take advantage of the leisure opportunities in the lush Torre Abbey Meadows nearby ̶ where you can picnic on the grass, play crazy golf or tennis and stroll around the inspirational Italian gardens.
Facilities and accessibility are first-rate, with beach wheelchairs available to hire by the day, deckchairs, disabled access in all areas, a first aid room, shops and ample regular and disabled toilets. If you want a super spot for a family excursion a stone’s throw from Torquay town, this is it!
5. Gara Rock
A secret Devonshire beauty spot, known only to a few! Shhh!
Also known as Seacombe Sands, Gara Rock Beach is a stunning natural cove on Devon’s south coast between the mouth of the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary and Prawle Point. This is one of Devon’s best kept secrets and only locals tend to know about it, which only adds to its allure.
There are no lifeguards or supervised activities at Gara Rock, so you need to be careful monitoring young children, but it’s popular for paddling and swimming, surfing, beachcombing, surfing and picnics in the many ambient crevices and corners in the area. When you get bored of sunbathing and splashing around you can investigate the many miniature caves, rockpools and tunnels.
6. Bovisand beach
Situated in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Bovisand Beach is a lovely yellow sandy bay sheltered by cliffs on each side and when the tide is out its sweeping expanse of flat sand is an amazing natural arena for ball games, snorkelling and swimming.
If you want to stretch your legs here, Bovisand is also on the South West Coast Path, with Plymouth only five miles northwards, while the picturesque bays of Wembury and Heybrook are a few miles further to the southeast.
7. Bantham Beach
With a wide expanse of sand and Blue Flag status for safety and cleanliness, Bantham Beach is brilliant for a Great British family day beside the seaside ̶ the beach is sandy, the waters are shallow, and there are lifeguards working from May through to September, so it’s perfect for young kids.
For an extra excursion, you can take the sea tractor out to Burgh Island and if you’re a keen surfer, this is an ideal spot for all levels of aptitude. The local pub serves sumptuous home cooked meals and if you’d like to stay for a few nights there are some highly-rated B&Bs in the village. As is typical of most Devon beaches, dogs are not permitted during the summer season, but you can access the estuary at low tides and you’re permitted to perambulate your pooch in this section.
8. Woolacombe Beach
One of the best beached in the West Country, Woolacombe’s beautiful biscuit-coloured sands and awesome Atlantic breakers are the stuff of legend. The vast expanse of the beach means that even on a busy day you can usually find a comfortable spot to chill out and splash around, plus the 2000 space car park is very convenient indeed.
Take time to explore Woolcaombe village and neighbouring Mortehoe too, where you’ll find friendly pubs, quality restaurants and a range of places to stay, while the verdant surrounding countryside is an absolute pleasure to roll through and you won’t struggle to find a pretty village pitstop where you can take afternoon tea with scones.
9. Blackpool Sands
While this isn’t Britain’s best-known Blackpool (all hail Lancashire’s seaside capital), Blackpool Sands in south Devon is breath-takingly beautiful ̶ gaze at its curvaceous sweep of coarse golden sands, azure waters and fragrant pines on a sunny day and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in California.
Another Blue Flag beach, Blackpool Sands offers a wide range of activities including kayaking and paddleboarding, with equipment and wetsuits for hire right on the beach. Furthermore, don’t panic if you think you’ve forgotten to pack any essentials because there’s a handy beach shop selling buckets, spades, sunhats and many more sun, sea and sand related buys. Finally, facilities are fantastic, with disabled access to the beach, easy access from main roads, onsite showers and tasty food at the Venus Café.
10. Croyde Bay Beach
Located in Braunton in north Devon between Saunton Sands and Woolcombe beach, Croyde Bay Beach comprises a large sandy bay backed by aesthetically pleasing sand dunes. It’s rated as one of the world’s best surfing beaches but also popular with sunbathers and swimmers, while the rock pools that bookend it are a terrific territory to investigate.
The sand near the shore is solid and compacted, which means it has a cracking consistency for building sandcastles, and Croyde village is a brilliant blend of old-style family-friendly hospitality and hip surfing culture.
Some common questions about Devon's beaches
Frequently asked questions about Devon
How do I get to Devon?
Devon is a county in the south west of England, the main motorway is the M5 which takes you all the way to Exeter. From Exeter you take the A38 towards Plymouth, the A30 for North Devon, and the A376 to Exmouth, Sidmouth and the south coastline.
How far is Devon from London?
London to Exeter is 173 miles via the M3 and along the coastal roads, you can expect roughly and 3 and a half hour drive. You can also take the M4 and M5 which is further in distance but a gamble on whether it will be quicker in time.
Which cities are in Devon?
Exeter and Plymouth are both cities in Devon.
Which airport is closest to Devon?
Exeter airport is a small airport on the outskirts of Exeter, Bristol airport is bigger, international and roughly an hour drive from Exeter. You can fly into Bristol and hire a car from a range of mainstream car hire brands.
How much is the cheapest hire car from Exeter airport?
If you book well in advance, you'll likely find a small car from the airport, in the terminal for less than £20 a day.