The Best Beaches to Visit in Devon

Guide to the most popular beaches when you rent a cottage in Devon

Devon is fortunate that it has some of the country’s finest beaches on both its north and south coasts, and includes 11 with the European Blue Flag for high environmental standards so if you want to rent a cottage near the beach, Devon is a great choice. (This would probably be more but for some reason East Devon Council does not participate in this scheme). There are more than 60 beaches on the 300 miles of coastline culminating in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Jurassic coast, between Exmouth and Studland in Dorset.

On the north coast is the popular resort town of Westward Ho!, which has 2 miles of sandy beach known as the Golden Bayand you can walk from here all the way to the quaint village of Clovelly. The beach ends at the mouth of the River Taw, but starts again on the north side of the estuary continuing through Braunton Burrows to Saunton Sands, and finally reaching Croyde Bay. This west facing strip, with Morte Bay on the other side of Baggy Point, is very popular with the surfing fraternity as the Atlantic rollers here offer some of the best waves in Britain. This whole stretch is manned with lifeguards, and is also wheelchair accessible by paths that pass through the dunes.

East of Woolacombe the small village of Lee lies at the end of the picturesque Fuscia Valley, where these plants grow in abundance. The beach in the village is delightful at low tide with a good strip of fine sand and a collection of rock pools for children to explore. This part of the coast changes from the dune-strewn to a more rugged appearance, and rather than miles of unending sand the cliffs are pockmarked with small isolated coves that are awkward to reach but well worth the effort once you descend to the shore.

Sandy Bay is not sandy at all, but it is a wonderful place for a picnic, while there is sand in the centre of Combe Martin the beach looks unprepossessing at high tide, but when the water goes out the sand appears. For those of you who want to take all of your clothes off then Wild Pear Bay has a beach that is a favourite with naturists. The steps that have been carved into the cliffs offer an arduous climb, but the beach, a mixture of sand and pebbles is wonderfully secluded and has a fresh water stream on its northern side. The nearest car park is the beach one in Combe Martin, but it is only a short walk along the path to Lesser Point to find the steps down.

Further east along the coast, near the small village of Lynton is Woody Bay. This is a lovely sheltered spot where the steep cliffs are covered in thick woodland and a fast-flowing stream carves its way down to the shore. Although the bay is covered in rocks, pebbles, and shingle this is a tranquil place to relax and take in the scenery, with the only drawback being the climb back up the hill at the end of the day.

The last place in this area of Devon is Lynmouth Bay. You can reach this pretty village from Lynton via a cliff-top railway, and although the beach is not too spectacular there are some excellent woodland walks up Glen Lyn Gorge and its lovely waterfalls.

The numerous estuaries that make this area such a popular place with the boating fraternity punctuate South Devon. From Plymouth in the west, to Seaton in the east the number and variety of beaches in extensive so here are a few to whet your appetite.

Close to the village of Down Thomas is Bovisand beach, a secluded sandy cove backed by some low cliffs, and well off the beaten track. The beach lies within the boundaries of the Wembury Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve that covers 4 miles of coastline, and is the natural habitat of the bloody-eyed swimming crab and the blenny, a fish that lives out of water.

Mothecombe, at the mouth of the river Erme, offers safe estuary bathing and a fine series of sandy beaches, but further east along the coast is Bigbury-on-Sea from where you can walk along the sand at low water to Burgh Island, home to the famous Art Deco Hotel and to the Pilchard Inn, a former smugglers haunt.

The coastal inlet of the Kingsbridge Estuary, with the yachting centre of Salcombe at its entrance, has three excellent beaches and many cottages to rent. South Sands, East Portlemouth and Mill Bay are all reachable by a regular ferry service from Salcombe as local car parking is limited. Leaving the estuary behind and following the southwest coast path takes you along the cliffs to Start Point, then north to Hallsands and the start of the Slapton Sands which run the length of Start Bay. The name Sands is a slight misnomer as the beach is made up of small pebbles, and this is actually a bar shielding the fresh water in Slapton Ley. At its northern end is Pilchard’s Cove, a popular area used by naturists. The last beach on this stretch is Blackpool Sands a lovely cove of soft sand, which has all the facilities you need for the family including disabled access, and a café.

Tor Bay incorporates the three largest seaside towns in Devon, Brixham, Torquay, and Paignton, and is known as the English Riviera. There are 20 beaches and coves along the 22 miles of the Riviera with those in the centre of the towns the most popular, but some of the more secluded can be reached via a cliff-top railway, much more fun than driving.

Teignmouth to the north, is another popular seaside resort and is dominated by its grand Victorian Pier. This sits at the south end of the sandy beach, which stretches from the mouth of the Teign towards Dawlish. The seafront has lots of amusements, and tours of the bay and the river estuary are also available. Dawlish and Dawlish Warren are possibly the best beaches in the area as both are quiet and relaxing, with fine soft sand and also regularly record some of the highest temperatures in the county.

The final beach in south Devon before the start of the Jurassic coast is at Exmouth where 2 miles of golden sand, excellent local amenities, and traditional seaside amusements will keep all members of the family entertained through.

Devon's top ten beaches are:

Oddicombe, Meadfoot, Broadsands, Ness Cove, Maidencombe, Elberry Cove, Torcross, Blackpool Sands, Saunton Sands, Wollacombe & Putsborough.