The 20 best family beaches in Devon

The 20 best family beaches in Devon

The south-west of England has some of the best beaches in the world, which are often said to rival the beaches of Australia and even the Caribbean, despite the UK’s cooler climate. So, why travel across the world when you have such an impressive selection of beaches on your doorstep? There is no need to board a plane when you can simply load up your car and go!

Devon boasts some of the UK’s best beaches on both the north coast and south coast of the county. In addition to beaches, Devon is also home to two national parks, Exmoor National Park to the north of the county and Dartmoor National Park in the south.

With all this to offer, in addition to its legendary cream teas and other regional specialities such as Cornish pasties and fudge, it’s little wonder that the county is among the UK’s most popular holiday destinations.

With some of the best family beaches in Devon, both the south and north coast of the county are the perfect destination for everyone. A couple may be looking for a romantic and peaceful beach, while shallow water and shelter will be appealing to a young family. A family with older children may want a livelier and more adventurous beach with water sports, while a dog lover could be tempted by a coastal location with a variety of walks.

Beach users wanting to prioritise safety when visiting the coast can do so by visiting a lifeguarded beach. Lifeboat charity the RNLI runs a summer beach lifeguard service on many beaches across the country, including some of Devon’s most popular beaches. You can find out details about exactly which beaches they patrol at the RNLI website.

1. Woolacombe Beach

This is a large beach in North Devon, with enough space for all types of beach users.  It’s a gorgeous stretch of sand backed by the small and well catered town and cliffs as you head South towards Putsborough.  The beach is popular with surfers and kitesurfers due to its consistent waves and breaks (plus its home to a variety of surf schools and shops). If staying dry is more your thing, the beach also boasts a number of walking trails.  The beach is long enough to find your own space and with ample sand at low and high tide you can spend all day enjoying fun in the sun.

woolacombe virtual tour

Car parking is available close to the beach, ideal for families with buggies and picnics and for surfers bringing their own equipment to the beach.  There is also a more hidden carpark as you head out towards Putsborough.  This car park hugs the cliffs along the beach and enables you to get away from the crowds – it’s a great find but not suitable for those with loads of gear to carry or very young children (unless they “love” climbing large dunes! The lifeguards of the UK charity the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) patrol Woolacombe Beach from Easter through to September, making it a safe and sensible choice for water sports enthusiasts as well as adventurous older children. If you haven’t brought a picnic, there is a selection of places to eat for all tastes and budgets.

Lifeguards & supervision: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) patrol Woolacombe Beach from Easter through to September, making it a safe and sensible choice for water sports enthusiasts as well as adventurous older children

Accessibility: There is good access to the beach with ramps and the flat sand is ideal for buggies near the town end.

Car parking: There is parking available along the beach and the “top road” is a hidden secret – head out towards Putsborough and this car park hugs the cliff line – a great way to find your own spot of sand.

Dogs: The beaches are very dog friendly but dogs aren’t allowed in between the north end of the beach and the small stream from 1st April until the first Monday of November.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach Facilities:  There are toilets and showers right on the beach, its mains water though so will be refreshing!

2. Croyde Bay

Croyde Bay, which neighbours Woolacombe Beach, is a good spot for surfing. There is ample parking at each end of the beach and in the middle, together with a number of cafes and pubs. A new toilet block also contains a freshwater tap, which is a handy addition for active and thirsty children! For car parking, check out the car park located as you enter Croyde from the Saunton (south) side – it’s reasonably priced and has toilets and showers to clean up after a fun day at the beach. The surf here is excellent for all on a calm day but does require a little more experience in larger swells. Croyde Bay has sandy pools during low tide and there are still plenty available to explore on higher tides. Bring your nets and buckets as there is plenty to catch and entertain the little one. Dogs are allowed on the beach during low season.

“Bantham Virtual Tour

Lifeguards & supervision: Lifeguards are on parol during the busy summer months.

Lifeguards & supervision: There is an RNLI Lifeguard service available from May to September, throughout Easter weekend, all October weekends and October half term.

Accessibility: There is good access to the beach with ramps and the flat sand are ideal for buggies towards the North side of the beach.

Car parking: There is a small car park located towards the North edge of the beach. There is good access to the beach with ramps and the flat sand is ideal for buggies near the town end.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the beach but only between the months of October to April.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach Facilities: Activities such as swimming, surfing, fishing and surfboard/canoe hire are all available. There is also a range of food outlets, toilets and shops making Croyde a is the perfect holiday destination.

3. Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands is an ideal destination for adventurous little children who can explore the sand dunes. The beach is also dog-friendly, so an ideal destination for the whole family. Saunton Sands is one of the best beaches in the region for learning to surf – there is a long, shallow shelf with gentle whitewater for those finding their surfing skills. There is an excellent café/restaurant at the beach + free showers to rinse down after a day on the sand.  The beach back on to Braunton Burrows and is one of the most beautiful in the region.

Saunton virtual tour
Lifeguards & supervision: Lifeguards are on parol during the busy summer months.

Accessibility: Saunton is currently the only beach in North Devon to have a Landeez all-terrain wheelchair. This wheelchair allows those who are less abled or disabled to have full enjoyment of the beach as it is able to traverse all areas and to be used in the shallows of the sea.

Car parking: Parking charges and hours operation for Saunton Beach Car Park vary throughout the year. Charges start at £1 for the first hour but it’s always good to check prices beforehand.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the beach all year.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach facilities: Saunton Sands has lots of facilities ranging from beachside accommodation and girll joints to deckchair hire and surf lessons.

4. Barricane Beach

If hidden coves and protected bays are your thing then Barricane beach might be the one for you. Located around 400 metres north of the main Woolacombe beach it’s separated between the rocks to create its own picturesque cove.  The beach is dotted with exotic shells (well exotic by English standards!) which local legend claims have traveled from the shores of a carribean island to land intact on our shores – if nothing else it’s a great story to entertain the little ones on their treasure hunts.    If you are looking for a more relaxing North Devon beach trip, Barricane Beach is a good choice, thanks to some quiet corners where you can relax and watch the surfers with whom this beach is also popular. You can view interesting rock formations, explore rock pools and try to spot seashells from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

barricane virtual tour by Terry Bean

Lifeguards & supervision: No lifeguards on this beachAccessibility: The beach suffers from a huge range of tides and you can only access this beach safely during mid-low tide. Please check tide times before coming.

Car parking: It’s only a short walk south to reach Sandy Burrows car park. It’s an even shorter walk for a charging point for electric cars.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the beach but must be kept on a lead during the months of May through September.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach Facilities: Most facilities can be found 400 metres away at Woolacombe beach.

5. Westward Ho!

One of North Devon’s best-known beaches, Westward Ho! has great facilities, including toilets, showers and some shops, while a ramp leading down to the beach is handy if you have a pushchair or a wheelchair.
It’s a long sandy beach framed by the pebbles of the Northam Burrows.  This beach is popular with surfers, but with a tendency for higher winds, it’s more suited to those keen on trying a bit of kitesurfing.  The combination of pebbles and sand results in a plethora of areas for little ones to explore.  There are also excellent fishing options here and plenty of places nearby to grab your gear and bait.

Westward Ho! virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: RNLI Lifeguard service is available from May to September.

Accessibility: There is a disabled ramp down to the beach on the south side of the beach

Car parking: There is ample car parking and disabled parking close to the beach.

Dogs: Dogs are permitted from October to April on the whole beach and all year round at the Northam Burrows end.

Blue flag beach: Yes

Facilities: Equipment for bathing surfing and angling is readily available from local outlets.

6. Combe Martin Beach

Designated as an area of outstanding beauty this stunning beach is one of our favourite in North Devon.  Flanked by some of the highest cliffs in England, the beach benefits from plenty of natural shelter, making it ideal for a paddle with very little in the way of currents and tides.  There is a little sand as the tide goes out, but it is mainly a pebble beach so not as easy for little ones to toddle around.  However, for children with tougher toes they will have plenty to do exploring the coves and pools but be aware there are no lifeguard services available at this beach.
For access, it’s a long walk from the Combe Martin, particularly if you’re laden with lilos, beach gear and more! There is a car park by the beach which also has toilets and if that is full you can park at the neighbouring Newberry beach.

Combe Martin virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: No lifeguards.

Accessibility: There is restricted access to this beach due to it’s rocky nature.

Car parking: There is a small car park towards the east side of the beach.

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on the beach during the peak May to September period.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach Facilities: Facilities include available food shops car parks within the town and a nearby campsite.

7. Blackpool Sands

This is one of the most photographed beaches in the UK and with good reasons – its turquoise waters and stunning backdrop will have you thinking more of the South Adriatic than South Devon! Although the images make it look like sand (and the name seems to hint at that!) Blackpool Sands is actually a shingle beach located three miles from Dartmouth.
This blue flag beach is surrounded by woodland and the waters are some of the clearest found around the southwest. It’s a privately managed beach and fortunately managed extremely well with the provision of excellent accessibility and facilities.  For older children (and parents), it’s a perfect spot to try your hand at kayaking, paddleboarding or a spot of sea swimming.  It’s also an excellent place to pack the snorkels – though don’t expect the marine life to match the tropics!  Nature lovers will also appreciate the picturesque setting of the beach, which is surrounded by woodland.

Blackpool Sands Virtual Tour

Lifeguards & supervision: Lifeguards patrol the beach throughout the summer, making it a safe location for adventurous children.

Accessibility: Unfortunately, there is no disabled access for this beach.

Car parking: There is limited parking available surrounding the beachfront.

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed.

Blue flag beach: Yes

Beach Facilities: There are very few facilities for this beach that include a cafe and some toilets.

8. Beer Beach

South Devon’s Beer Beach is a sheltered spot, thanks to the nearby cliffs that surround it. This landscape makes it an ideal location on a windy day rather than Devon’s more exposed beaches and we would certainly label is as “family friendly”.  The town itself is extremely picturesque and well worth a day out with a collection of galleries, pubs and more – many have described it as the St Ives of Devon.  The region is rich in history as a haven for smugglers.  Its seafaring traditions continue and it’s home to numerous active fishing boats – you can also hire your own for a spot of mackerel fishing – a great experience for all the family and if you time it right surprisingly easy – just make sure you have someone to take them off the hook!  There is limited parking next to the beach and also plenty in town.  You will find a play area next to the coast if your little ones need to burn some excess energy after those ice creams!

Beer Beach Virtual Tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There are no lifeguards present at this beach.

Accessibility: There is a smooth decline to the beach, providing easy access to all.

Car parking: There is a small car park adjacent to the beach and larger ones in the centre of the village and at Beer Head (about 15 minutes walk from the beach).

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on this beach.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach Facilities: Facilities include a selection of shops, cafes and a pub as well as public toilets.

9. Fishcombe Cove

This hidden gem takes a little effort to get to but is well worth the effort.  Located just outside of Brixham, it is framed by cliffs and wooded hillsides to create a picture perfect cove.  Its sheltered nature and location on the “English Riviera” give the maximum chance of good weather and calm waters.  The area is known for resident seals and occasionally dolphins, so make sure to take your swimming gear and keep your eyes peeled.

Fishcombe cove virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: No lifeguards are present at this beach.

Accessibility: Restricted access via very steep path from the car park or via the steps from Battery Gardens.

Car parking: There is very limited parking available nearby.

Dogs: Dogs are welcome all year round.

Blue flag beach: No

Beach Facilities: There is an onsite cafe (open during summer months only) with a nearby picnic site.

10. Paignton Sands Beach

Paignton Sands Beach is a tourist’s delight and the archetypal British beach.  It’s a long stretch of lovely golden sand with rock pools dotted at either end.  There are plenty of attractions along the beach and in the area with the iconic pier, heaps of attractions and park areas dotted along the length of the beach.  Like most beaches along this stretch of the coast, the seas are calm and ideal for children to paddle and play.

Paignton sands virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: No lifeguard service

Accessibility: Easy level access to the promenades and the harbour. A beach wheelchair is available. Two ramps provide easier access from the promenade onto the beach for the disabled.

Parking: Car parking is available though not directly on the beach.  There is paid parking along the beach roads and a variety of car parks throughout the town.

Beach Facilities: There are beachside kiosk and cafe’s available most of the year, with toilets and showers readily available. Paignton is also home to a pier that is filled with rides, amusements and food.

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on the beach during the summer months.

Blue flag beach: No

11. Exmouth Beach

Exmouth is one of the countries longest established resorts for beach holidays and with good reason. The town and seafront and perfectly designed to cater for holiday makers and following significant regeneration over recent times. Its new marina and facilities are a big step up from the “kiss me quick” style breaks of the past.  The beach is one of the finest in the region, with beautiful long sand dunes, stunning views and a spectacular walk around the headlands at low tide (try and catch it if you can).

Exmouth virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There are lifeguards in the summer season and the regional lifeboats are based here.

Accessibility: Plenty of easy access areas along the beach and no problem draggin your buggies down.

Car parking: Heaps of parking along the seafront with dedicated spaces and car parks

Dogs: This is one of the most dog friendly beaches in Devon with dog allowed year round (restricted to certain spots and times during summer monts

Blue flag beach: No

Facilities:  There is a wide promenade lined with shops, restaurants and pubs. All manner of watersports are available, including zones for jet skis.

12. Churston Cove

Set in the picturesque town of Brixham, Churston Cove is a sand and shingle beach. The lack of facilities makes Churston Cove a good stop off point rather than a complete day-out destination. Churston Cove is one of the many excellent beaches to be found along South Devon’s beautiful bay. A secluded cove accessed via a long, steep path, this is a real sanctuary of peace and calm. The beach is a mixture of sand and shingle and is a safe place for the kids to paddle and play.

Churlston virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There is no lifeguard patrol at this beach.

Accessibility: Due to the steep singular path, access to this beach is fairly difficult.

Car parking: There is limited parking nearby and although only a ten minute walk away, the path is very steep.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on this beach all year round.

Blue flag beach: No

Facilities: There are currently no facilities at this beach.

13. Bantham Beach

With one of the most iconic views in Devon, looking out Burgh Island, this beach is understandably a favourite with families year round.   Bantham is at the east side of this long stretch of golden sand with an inlet diving it from the equally appealing Bigbury beach.  There’s a large tide but a huge expanse of sand to match.  Mix this with giant rocks for climbing, rock pools, beachside parking and green rolling pastures all around. You can see why it’s a family favourite.  There is a strong rip here to be aware of, but there are plenty of shallow water areas for younger children to play.  There are surf schools and water sports operators along the beach and it’s an excellent spot to try surfing, kitesurfing or paddle boarding – depending on the conditions.

Bantham beach virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There are lifeguards during summer months and at weekends during shoulder season.

Accessibility: Beachside parking makes it easy to get down but it’s a long beach so those with wheelchairs may struggle and would be better to head to the Bigbury end of the beach where there are paved areas.

Car parking: There is plenty of beachside parking along the nearby road

Dogs: While dogs are not allowed on the beach between May and September they are allowed on the Estuary all year round, which you can get to at low tide.

Blue flag beach: Yes

Facilities: There are disabled toilets available on site along with various cafes’ nearby. There is also an established surfing academy located on the beach.

14. Preston Sands

This Paignton beach will keep families amused all day. Children can play on the sand and in the rock pools at the beach, which is easily accessible for pushchairs. Alternatively, there is a nearby park where they can play. On this safe, clean beach you can sunbathe, swim or make castles in the sand, or why not grab a fishing net and explore the rock pools at low tide? In amongst the seaweed, you’ll find sea slugs, shrimps and periwinkles. This is also a great place to go for a swim, as Preston Sands has both Seaside Award.

Preston sands beach virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There is no lifeguard service present.

Accessibility: The area is quite flat and has excellent access for disabled people and wheelchairs. A beach wheelchair is available.

Car parking: There is nearby paid parking which is only a short way from the beachfront.

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on the beach during the summer season

Blue flag beach: No

Facilities: The beach features toilets, a shop, cafes and deck chair rental.

15. Slapton Sands

This Torcross-based beach is ideal for families with young children or for people with disabilities thanks to good accessibility. The nearby Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve adds to the area’s popularity, enabling children to explore the wildlife as well as the beach. The beach is also a point of historical interest as it was used in 1943 before the D-Day Landings to rehearse ahead of the attack. These days, Slapton Sands is known for being a family-friendly beach with calm waters and plenty of space.

Slapton virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There is no lifeguard service available.

Accessibility: The beach has easy access for everyone, with smooth slopes that merge into the sands.

Car parking: Parking is available at the main car park, which is situated between the beach and the nature reserve. On-site parking is also available at the beach.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on Slapton Sands beach all year.

Blue flag beach: No

Facilities: You will find a beach cafe here that sells refreshments as well as toilets and disabled access.

16. Goodrington Sands

Positioned just outside of Paignton, this large beach is a good choice for young families. The sandy beach and rock pools during low tide provide hours of fun for children, while older and more active children have water sports, crazy golf and a boating lake to make use of. During the summer season, the local steam train can be seen running along the back of south sands beach. Activity options at Goodrington Sands are almost endless. Visitors can choose from a variety of watersports, including pedalos for hire, paddle boats and windsurfing. The UK’s largest waterpark, Quaywest Waterpark, is also located virtually on the beach.

Goodrington beach virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There is no lifeguard service at this beach.

Accessibility: There is easy access as the landscape is fairly level throughout.

Car parking: There are three main aid parking locations surrounding the beach, all within ten-minute walk from the seafront.

Dogs: Banned from beach 1 May to 30 September on South Beach. Dogs on the promenade must be on leads at all times. Dogs may be exercised on North Sands beach all year.

Blue flag beach: Yes

Facilities: Goodrington Sands also offers a beach restaurant and cafe as well as sun loungers, beach huts and deck chairs for hire.

17. East Portlemouth Beach

Accessible from Salcombe via ferry, East Portlemouth Beach is an ideal day trip for families staying in the Salcombe area. As well as enjoying the experience of taking a ferry, children will love paddling in the beach’s shallow waters and cooling off with an ice cream from nearby amenities. The beach is comprised of Fisherman’s Cove, Smalls Cove and Mill Bay and is suitable for families requiring accessibility, although visitors should ensure they check tide times before their visit. East Portlemouth Beach is also dog-friendly.

East Portlemouth virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There are no lifeguard patrols available.

Accessibility: There is various access to the beaches via the riverside road.

Car parking: There is onsite parking to most of the beaches that make up East Portlemouth.

Dogs: You can bring your dog, as your furry friend is welcome on East Portlemouth beach at any time of year.

Blue flag beach: No

Facilities: The beaches that make up East Portlemouth have got all the facilities you’ll need to make your holiday stress free including disabled access to the beach and disabled toilets.

18. Oddicombe Beach

This Torquay beach has an array of amenities, including shops, eateries and beach hut rentals, making it an ideal choice for families holidaying in the local area. The beach is ideal for water sports but also a good choice for paddling or just sitting back and taking in the view.

Oddicombe virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: There is a lifeguard service during peak times.

Accessibility: The beach has disabled access although it is situated off a steep road.

Car parking:  There are no parking facilities in the immediate area, so Oddicombe Beach may not be the ideal choice for picnicking families with a lot of baggage.

Dogs: No dogs are allowed on the beach during the summer months.

Blue flag beach: No

Facilities: Oddicombe has beach huts to rent, a well-stocked beach shop and a super newly refurbished café.

19. Bigbury on Sea Beach

This family-friendly beach has shallow waters and soft sand, but this area is very tide dependent. The short and pristine sands between the beach and burgh island disappear on high tide but make for perfect beach fun on low tide.  It’s a popular spot with kite surfers and paddle boarders (depending on the winds), and there are a few surf schools in the area. Bigbury-on-Sea offers the visitor a good stretch of clean, golden sand, safe, shallow waters perfect for paddling in, interesting rockpools to explore and a good range of on-site facilities.

bigbury virtual tour

Accessibility: Its fine for little ones or those with buggies but would be a struggle for wheelchairs due to the rocky terrain.

Car parking: The car park is located right by the beach, offering quick access to the beachfront.

Dogs: Dogs are banned from the beach itself, dog bins are provided off beach.

Blue flag beach: Yes

Facilities: Other facilities on the beach include a beach shop, toilets, a first aid station and a popular café.

20. Sidmouth Beach

This regency town has transformed over the last few years to now have one of the best family beaches in Devon – on the right tide!  The beach is lined by an esplanade, dotted with deck chairs and lined by a range of hotel and bed and breakfasts. As the tide draws out this beach transforms to reveal golden sands, extremely safe bathing and great rock pools.  The large manmade groins provide natural protection from rips and currents, so you will find a full range of kayaks, paddle boards, inflatables and more on a summers day.  Take time to head up to the café at Jacobs ladder for the best and biggest cakes you have ever seen!

sidmouth virtual tour

Lifeguards & supervision: Yes during summer months and at weekends around the shoulder season

Accessibility: There is easy access at the Jacobs ladder end of the beach

Car parking: Car parking is available along the coast

Dogs: Dogs are welcome all year on a small area at the east end of the beach. Dogs are not permitted on the main beach between the 1st May and the 30th September.

Blue flag beach: Yes

Facilities: There are toilets you can use in the cafes and hotels along the beachfront.


Now all you must do is decide upon how many beaches you can visit during your holiday!

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