Part #1 of our North Devon Beach Guide
Devon boasts some of the most memorable and unspoiled beaches in the UK. From shell-full shores to miles of golden sand, pebble ridges to world-class surf and amazing sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Part #1 of our beach guide covers the Woolacombe area.
There are many amazing and hidden spots along the dramatic North Devon coast, if you know where to look. This first beach guide shows off some of the spectacular beaches you will discover along the Woolacombe coastline.
Whether you’re looking for long walks, beginner water-sport lessons or expert surfing, then Woolacombe is the place to come. Adventure is waiting; surfing, windsurfing, kite-surfing, paddle-boarding, swimming and coasteering available for all experience levels. As well as making a sandcastle and doing battle with the incoming tide!
We have many postcard perfect beaches within a few minutes’ drive of Woolacombe, most very easily accessed by car. Perfect for the family or solo traveller alike, many dog-friendly.
We love North Devon. We love our beautiful coastline. And, we’d love you to enjoy it all with us. We hope you love our beach guide.
Woolacombe Beach Guide
A favourite with families, couples and thrill-seekers alike. Woolacombe beach attracts thousands of visitors to its golden sands every year – miles and miles of sand, which means there’s always a quieter stretch of beach to make your own, even in the peak of the summer holidays.
The Atlantic throws unbroken rolling waves to crash on to three miles of shoreline, making Woolacombe a surfer’s paradise. Beginners and experts come from all over the country. RNLI lifeguards ensure safe family swimming during the summer months too, with clean water and great waves.
There is plenty of parking with space for over 2,000 cars over several large car-parks (The Esplanade, Esplanade Car-park, Central and Marine Drive), all within very easy reach of the beach, and its many facilities, including beach huts.
Woolacombe beach is amazingly beautiful, with no end of activities and facilities. Rock-pools, burrows, a fun theme-park, ice-cream kiosks and eateries, are just some of the many close-by places to visit.
Dogs are welcome on the beach, all year, but some minor restrictions apply over the summer months.
Barricane Beach Guide
Folklore says that these exotic shells have been plucked from Caribbean islands and carried thousands of miles, on the gulf stream, to be dropped in North Devon, in perfect condition.
Just a quarter mile along the coastline from the main Woolacombe beach, this evening sun trap is great for rock-pooling, rock jumping and a winner for families.
Barricane beach is ideal for surfers and swimmers, with amazing water quality. But be aware of rocks at higher tides though, as there are no lifeguards.
The whole area boasts amazing coastal walks in either direction, continue along the coast and you’ll discover the quaint village of Mortehoe. Turn the other way and you’ll be in Woolacombe in minutes.
And for food connoisseurs. Barricane is well known locally for the Sri Lankan Beach Shack, serving authentic and delicious curries every evening in the summer. Grab one and watch an amazing sunset, something you won’t forget.
Roadside parking means the beach is accessible for families, and dogs are permitted, albeit on a lead over the peak summer months: May to September.
Don’t expect this beach to yourself, it’s busy every evening with guests and locals coming for the curries, but it creates a wonderful atmosphere. Get there early if you want some grub!
Combesgate Beach Guide
A tiny but extremely lovely, secluded beach, a few metres further along from Barricane Beach. Amazing for children to explore, to rock-pool and to build castles, away from the busier beaches.
This beach is harder to access though, down a long flight of steps, and not recommended at high tide. Worth a visit if you like to clamber over rocks and explore the coastline.
There are many little coves and bays in the area if you’ve got the tenacity to look! Keep an eye out of Grunta Beach and Shellsborough Cove too.
Rockham Beach Guide – Mortehoe
One of our more secret beaches, sometimes closed due to landslides and even having the steps washed away, but very much loved by locals. Small, rocky, sandy and with amazing rock-pools, this is Rockham.
Please pay attention to any warning signs.
National Trust owned, so don’t forget a little contribution, this beautiful cove is teaming with creatures waiting to be discovered in its many pools.
Towards the North end of the beach, at low tide, you’ll see the remains of the wrecked mail steamer, SS Collier, which grounded here in 1914. The crew, dog and cat were all rescued, and the kids love to hear this story while spying a propeller sticking out of the water.
Loads more info on the wreck can be found here.
It’s a good 20-minute walk to this beach, and the steps can be tiring on the way back. Very much worth it for the breathtaking scenery, wildflowers and cliffs. We recommend visiting at low tide, with deep rock pools, and wreck views.
Rockham beach is considered safe for paddling but be aware of strong currents. Dog friendly all year round, so add a visit to a long and rambling coastal walk.
Much celebrated by families, Saunton boasts over 3 miles of amazing sandy beach, backed by the impressive Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and always spectacular. Absolutely loved by locals and visitors.
The long straight stretch of beach is perfect for swimmers, and the voluntary patrol by Saunton Sands Surf Life Savers is second to none, available over the summer season. Families can feel safe between the highly visible flagged area.
This is a popular beach with surfers and other water-sport enthusiasts, especially for beginners and long-boarders. The surf being easy and mellow, it’s perfect for getting the kids on boogie boards or skim-boarding.
Saunton Sands beach is family safe and very dog-friendly, open to our four-legged friends all year round. We recommend you do supervise children while in the water though, there’s a rip against the rocks year-round.
Avoid swimming near the rocks and everybody will be fine, it’s a huge beach! You’ll see the more experienced surfers over there, the rip drags them out into the water much more easily.
There’s a range of food outlets and beach shops, along with toilets and even surf showers, all alongside the pay and display carpark. With a beach restaurant and bar to boot.
If you wander far enough along Saunton Sands beach, you’ll come across a lighthouse, a wreck (sometimes) and the beautiful Crow Point. You’ll also discover views across the Taw & Torridge estuary, as well as Westward Ho! and Instow beaches – we’ll cover these in later beach guides.
There’s also an amazing caravan that sells dog-friendly ice cream – flavours include ‘old sock’.
And if all of this isn’t enough, Saunton Sands is where Robbie Williams filmed the video for his Angels video and where Pink Floyd filmed flashback scenes for ‘The Wall’.
And, The Tom Cruise film ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ used Braunton Burrows in many scenes!
A UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve sitting right in the centre of the North Devon Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB). Braunton Burrows is a huge area of sand dunes, one of the largest in the UK – think 1,000 football pitches in size.
There is an abundance of fauna and flora, from orchids and other flowering plants to insects, butterflies, birds and 5 out of the 6 UK native reptiles. You may even spot the odd adder crossing your path.
From May to August the dunes (hillocks) and slacks (valleys) are carpeted with flowers and is spectacularly full and vibrant with wildlife. The dunes flank the 3.5 miles of Saunton Beach, through to Crow Point.
For many years, rabbits have kept the grass to manageable levels, and allowing many rare plants, including orchids, to thrive – hence the ‘burrows’ name. Numbers have declined and now you’ll often see cows grazing the scrub-land.
We always ask our dog walkers to be mindful when near to livestock, such as using leads. There is plenty of signage around the area, on gates & stiles. Also, the dedicated Braunton Burrows page.
Saunton Beach Car-park, Crow Point and Sandy Lane car-parks all allow access to the Burrows.
The Burrows were used as a training ground during World War Two by the American Army, with preparations for the D-Day landings, it was an assault training centre. You’ll often hear a local refer to the main straight road as ‘The American Road’.
Over 10,000 GI’s set up base, trained and ran across the dunes between ’43 and ’44. If you look closely, you’ll still see the odd bunker, mock craft or training wall, in pieces. The Royal Marines, and other units, use this training area still – look out for flags and signs.
An annual D-Day event is held on Saunton Beach in early June. Vehicles and period costumes are worn, and planes are landing on the beach throughout the day.
Croyde Beach Guide
Croyde Beach is one of the best surfing beaches in the whole of the UK. Surfer’s from all over the world, flock here throughout the year. In summer months it can get packed with surfers, families and holidaymakers giving the whole village and bay a lively atmosphere.
Amazing rock-pools, backed by dunes, a stream and pool dissecting the beach, limestone kilns, with facilities close to hand – it has a fantastic mix of everything. With several footpaths and car-parks at either side of the bay. Down End carpark, National Trust and in the centre of the village.
Baggy point is a locals’ favourite, the headland between Croyde and Putsborough/Woolacombe. A meandering but picturesque coastal path will lead you around some of the most spectacular scenery in Devon.
This beach is for the experienced surfer and is heavily patrolled by the RNLI during the summer months. Only swim between the flags as it’s unsafe to do so anywhere else. There are strong rip currents on both sides of the bay and it can be very easy for an inexperienced surfer to get into trouble.
The rip currents can move, depending on shifting sand banks so never leave children unattended in the water, and never play where the waves aren’t breaking – good advice to avoid the hidden currents.
Please pay attention to any warning signs.
Dogs are only allowed off season, between October and April.
On the far side of Woolacombe Beach, with a spectacular backdrop of cliffs and rocks that form Baggy Point, you’ll find the quiet Putsborough Sands.
Amazing water clarity, beautiful surf, it is a favourite of locals and walkers, and families with young children – plenty of rock-pools, of course. It’s very popular with surfers looking for a quieter wave too.
The long sweeping bay is renowned for its cleanliness and beauty, superb for swimming and bathing. And a place to beat the crowds when compared to the busier Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton.
There are steep steps down to the beach, so not recommended for those with mobility issues.
Bring the dogs October to April. Middle beach and Woolacombe allow dogs all year round.
Further Beach Guides
We’ve explored the beaches neighbouring Woolacombe in this beach guide. Keep following our blog as we explore the surrounding areas, from Lee Bay to Porlock Weir in a Northerly direction and from Instow Beach to Hartland Point in the opposite Southerly direction.