The Insider’s Guide To The Best Beaches
Knowing the area, we know all the go-to places, best for…
A mere 10 minutes’ drive away, Westward Ho’s never-ending stretch of sand is perfect for both beginners and expert body boarders. And if you want to perfect your stand up surfing skills, the North Devon surf school (just behind the rocks) not only provides expert tuition and all the equipment but the adjoining café does great wood-fired pizza (top tip: check the tides – there’s often no sand at high tide!). Park on Northam Burrows at Sandymere near the life guard hut for easy access.
Head south down the coast, park at Horn’s Cross and walk a mile or so through the woodland to Peppercombe – launch yourselves from the secluded rocks or swim off a stretch of sand at low tide. It’s a bit steep coming back up so tired kids (and parents!) beware!
Drive to Abbotsham cliffs where there’s plenty of parking and follow the gentle track through the fields towards the coast… and crabs! Also the perfect spot for a bucket barbecue and for watching the sunset.
Slightly more sheltered than Westward Ho! the beach at Instow is a gentler option for building super structures. With the option of the Boathouse for a delicious fish lunch or grabbing an ice cream from the John’s seaside shack, a morning at Instow should keep everyone happy.
For convenient rock pooling, try the town (south) end of Westward Ho’s! beach – park by the slipway and head left when you’re on the beach. Particularly handy if you have babies or the less agile in your group.
For expending energy, nothing beats dune climbing and jumping at Braunton Burrows and exploring the open-sea beauty of Crow Point. For a less energetic and closer to home option, the dunes at Instow are equally stunning for smaller folk.
The beaches at Saunton Sands, Croyde and Woolacombe have deserved reputations as surfing meccas – miles of beach, great waves and generally someone pretty cool on a board to watch! Closer to home, Westward Ho! is very convenient and often as good.
A sense of the sea
If it’s not really beach weather but it’s crashing waves you want, head south to Hartland Quay where you can experience the power of the sea – full force! The pub provides welcome respite from the weather and offers fine pub grub in an impressive location or try the pop up café at Hartland Point (seasonal, so do check!).
All round fun
For a bit of body boarding, rock pooling, sandcastle building and surfing, all wrapped up in a stunning cliff setting with a great café to boot, you can’t beat Sandy Mouth beach (National Trust), 45 minutes down the coast but for a full day out it’s worth the drive. A more intimate alternative in the same direction is Welcombe beach – for the more energetic there are some glorious stretches of coastal path nearby.
A beach run
A deserted beach, views over the Atlantic to Lundy Island, crashing waves and nothing more: a run along the beach at Westward Ho! before heading back inland over the undulating Northam Burrows and the Royal North Devon golf course is guaranteed to put a spring in your step. Park behind the pebble ridge at the visitor centre, put on your trainers and off you go!
For the ultimate adventure (without paying a penny!) park at the National Trust car park at Brownsham and walk along the coastal path towards Mouth Mill. Eat your sandwiches (and ginger beer!) here overlooking the sea, before exploring the rocky delights of the natural caves and coves. Take the inland, slightly shorter, path, back to the car. Season-dependent, there’s an idyllic English garden café right next to the car park – look for signs and wend your way in.
Take to the quay at Appledore at high tide and you will find a multitude of local kids taking part in the Devon sport of quay jumping. Which is… just that! Pick your spot and join the intrepid and not so intrepid leaping into the sea (all at your own risk of course!!)