Best beaches in Devon
The words ‘Devon’ and ‘beach’ go together like clotted cream and jam inside a scone (but don’t ask us which goes in first). With two extensive coastlines, Devon is home to a wide variety of beaches that cater to any purpose.
These days more and more of Devon’s beaches are being recognised with awards for their cleanliness and safety, so you can rely on their quality as well as their diversity. If you're an avid surfer, there are any number of beach paradises awaiting you on the north coast of Devon, while the beaches on the English Riviera on the south are fringed with clear-as-can-be water, fine shingle Blue Flag stretches and off the beaten track coves that stay quiet even on the UK’s balmiest afternoons. While there is a lot of choice, we’ve managed to narrow this list down to five of the best beaches in Devon to give you an idea of where to head when the sun is shining on your caravan holiday.
Seaton Beach, Seaton
Seaton Beach is a true Devonian gem overlooking Lyme Bay and surrounded by rural scenery. One of the quieter and more tranquil beaches on this list, it’s gently sloping and an ideal spot for swimming.
Seaton is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site so you can start your day by relaxing at the beach before moving on to explore the Jurassic Coast Visitor Centre afterwards where you can learn all about this fascinating prehistoric area. The esplanade, a flat walking area, runs alongside the beach with the town at one end, and a cafe at the other. However, there are no shops on the strip, so we recommend taking a picnic if you are visiting.
Exmouth Beach, Exmouth
This is a beach with something for everyone - from the sheltered estuary which is a haven for migrating birds and the ideal spot for windsurfers, kite surfers and paddleboarders, to the beautiful marina with its hidden cove, excellent restaurants, and boat trips. The two-mile-long flat promenade has old favourites such as swing boats and crazy golf and from here you can also join the South West Coast Path which provides magical walks in the surrounding countryside. Exmouth is famed as the gateway to the UNESCO Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and its cliffs are teeming with fossilised treasures to be discovered.
Exmouth Beach is also much celebrated for its two miles of golden sand which is a valuable thing on the predominantly pebble and chalk South Devon coast. The waters are a great place to try your hand at water sports - be it kite surfing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding or windsurfing – there’s no shortage of options here.
Sandy Bay Beach, Exmouth
True to its name, Sandy Bay does indeed provide a lot of sand! In fact, the beach is half a mile long and set in a secluded bay that is backed by high cliffs. At low tide, however, the beach becomes a continuous stretch of sand that reaches two miles west, all the way to Exmouth. This means that along the shore there are plenty of rockpools ideal for combing and crabbing in as well as ample space to make sandcastles and dig holes with the kids.
The beach is great for swimming and water sports, and lifeguards keep watch over the beach during the summer months to give you peace of mind. Our Devon Cliffs Holiday Park perches on the cliffs above the beach meaning that this, one of the best beaches in Devon, is within walking distance of your accommodation.
Bantham Beach, Bantham
Bantham is a mainstay for surfers hunting for Devon’s largest waves, but there’s more to love about this beach than just the crystal-clear waters and breakers that crash into the mouth of the River Avon. This lovely Blue Flag spot also offers plenty of entertainment at low tide with rockpools that warm up quickly in the sun and are ideal for both paddling and crab hunting. There are lifeguards on duty from May to September, so swimming is also on the cards.
The beach is also part of the designated South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as evidenced by the scenic views of Burgh Island, a tidal islet with Art Deco hotels that can be reached by crossing a narrow strip of sand. The beach is equipped with its own facilities, including a beach shop where you can buy any essentials you forgot or didn’t have room for.
Woolacombe Beach, Devon
If the UK was looking for the best beach to represent it at an awards ceremony, it’s fair to say that Woolacombe in the West Country would be very close to the top of the conversation. The famous North Devon coast plays home to this serene stretch of sand, with its Atlantic-facing coastline providing a paradise for surfers. With excellent amenities like daily cleaning and beach hut rentals, the hideaway is also a haven for families seeking a traditional day out at the seaside.
The view from the beach is stunning, with the Bristol Channel truly becoming part of the ocean on the horizon. The alluring Lundy Island adds land to the view around you, with the three-mile-long lush paradise owned by the National Trust and home to scores of different species. You can travel here via ferry from Bideford or Ilfracombe. The Woolacombe area is another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to our parks. And it's also another with an intriguing history, training the US Army for one of the most crucial battles of the Second World War- the Normandy landings.
Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth
Despite its name, this beach is actually located four miles outside of Dartmouth, in a stunning location backed by pine trees. The beach is a crescent sweep of tiny pebbles with remarkably clear, turquoise water that have earned it Blue Flag credentials. The bay has a gradual sloping seafloor making it an ideal destination for swimming and any number of water sports.
There’s even a little pontoon for diving off when the sun is shining.
With summer lifeguards on patrol, toilet and showers, ample parking, a beach shop and the excellent Venus café, Blackpool Sands has all the amenities and facilities you could ever need on a day out at the beach. This is one of the best beaches in Devon and a favourite of this writer.
Croyde Beach, Croyde Bay
Rated amongst those in surfing circles as one of the best beaches in Devon (and indeed, the UK) for catching waves, Croyde Beach is also very popular with swimmers and sunbathers. There is an RNLI Lifeguard service on hand from May to September, throughout Easter weekend, all weekends in October (including half term), meaning that activities such as swimming, surfing and canoeing are made all the safer.
There are fascinating rock pools at either end of the beach and several public footpaths around the village including the walk to Baggy Point which offers spectacular views, so there really is something for all ages to enjoy. A range of amenities are also available including food outlets, toilets, shops, a slipway and beach car park with disabled parking, all of which make Croyde Beach the perfect coastal destination.
Sidmouth Beach/ Jacob's Ladder Beach, Sidmouth
This glorious expanse of sand and shingle is surrounded by stunning red cliffs that give the beach a concealed, almost exclusive feel. Sidmouth is known as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, but its beach is another reason that the town is a household name. Clean and easily accessible, the beach also features disabled facilities, great local cafes and gourmet restaurants nearby.
The town of Sidmouth is instantly recognisable thanks to its Regency buildings; these add a touch of distinction and elegance to the esplanade which runs alongside the beach. Furthermore, Jacob's Ladder, the western end of Sidmouth's town beach, boasts a series of wooden steps that lead from the beach up to Connaught Gardens. From there you can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the coastline below. At a 25-minute drive away, this is the furthest beach on this list from our Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, but we promise you won’t regret making the trip.
Budleigh Salterton Beach
Budleigh Salterton is a tranquil and historic seaside town between Exmouth and Sidmouth, its pebbly beach is comprised of 2.5 miles of beautiful Jurassic Coast. Swimming and bathing are safe in the clear waters and families can relax with an array of facilities such as beach huts, beach-side cafes, a children’s play area, a seafront with level walking, ample car parking and toilets for the disabled.
Budleigh Salterton Beach nestles beneath some of the Jurassic Coast’s most spectacular Triassic red sandstone cliffs and at the eastern end lies Otterton Point, a dramatic combination of geology and ecology. From here you can see a small but beautiful headland made from the distinctive red sandstone of the East Devon coast. Budleigh Salterton town itself is situated in the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and therefore offers fantastic nearby walking opportunities to complement its fascinating Fairlynch Museum and the internationally renowned Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival.
Dawlish Warren Beach, Dawlish
Dawlish Warren Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand that extends out of the Exe Estuary for mile after mile. Its size makes it a great choice for a family walk and it is backed by the Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve, a 500-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest. Blue Flag status means that the water is highly swimmable, and a range of water sports are on offer for adrenaline junkies. Don’t just be content with a day at the beach though, as there are activities and attractions to keep the whole family amused well into the evening. You’ll find an array of amusements in Dawlish Warren such as mini-golf, children’s rides, a shopping area, refreshments, and plenty more.
There’s a handy water taxi between Exmouth and Dawlish Warren operating between April and September that will save you three miles driving. The ferry runs from Exmouth regularly, so getting to Dawlish Warren should be no hassle and take it from us, it’s well worth the trip to discover one of the finer beaches in Devon.