10 beaches you wouldn't believe are in Devon

Beaches, Coastal, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Kate W on 20th September 2021

Putsborough beach in North Devon

Get ready to discover some truly unforgettable holiday locations in this guide to 10 beaches you wouldn't believe are in Devon and begin planning your next retreat to the South West. 

Ancient rock formations reach out of crystal-clear waters, fresh burgers sizzle in quirky beach cafes, and soft sand provides the perfect location for family picnics and beach games all along Devon's two coastlines

Take your pick between the wild and impressive beaches of the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the serene, palm-tree-laden sands down on the southern coastline. There are plenty of traditional beaches backed by characterful towns and many secret coves waiting to be stumbled upon as you explore during your Devon beach break. 

Take a look at these spectacular Devon beaches and you may be surprised by what you see. Pack up your bucket and spade, beach towels, and swimming cossie, and grab the whole family for a beach getaway to one of our holiday cottages on the Devon coast.

Coastal cottages in Devon

Woolacombe beach in North Devon


There’s no missing this North Devon beach, one of Britain’s best, as this five-star 3-mile long beach is the ultimate destination for a UK beach holiday. Woolacombe beach lies between Baggy Point and Morte Point, to the north of Putsborough Sands, and the town itself has a laid back atmosphere and is wonderfully family friendly. 

Surfers love the unbroken Atlantic breakers that roll in here, while there's plenty of space for paddleboarders and swimmers to enjoy this fantastic beach too. A wide, flat expanse of sand is just the place for beach games, running, or lying back and watching the clouds drift by. This is a holiday destination that will be on your list of places to keep coming back to.

Dogs: Zonal restrictions between 1st April and the first Monday in November. South of Mill Rock dogs are welcome all year round. From the stream to Mill Rock dogs must be kept on a lead. Dogs are banned from the rocks (on the right as you look out to sea) to the stream.

Lifeguard: During the holiday season, see the RNLI website for dates.

Local information: There is a large pay-and-display car park by the beach, with public toilets just off the beach as well as over the road from the car park. You're never far from a hearty meal in Woolacombe, with several pubs and restaurants to choose from. 

Stay nearby: Morte View, Woolacombe (sleeps 2 and 2 dogs)

For more gorgeous places to stay, discover our collection of cottages in Woolacombe.

Woolacombe cottages

Babbacombe Beach in South Devon

Babbacombe Beach

There are several secluded coves in Devon and a long time ago, this made it the ideal coastline for smuggling. Once known for piracy, murder, and a long fishing tradition, Babbacombe Beach is now renowned purely for its wonderful fishing and sandy shores - it's just the place for sandcastles! This intriguing cove sits in the northern part of Torquay, ensuring there are plenty of welcoming pubs, cafes and shops within reach, yet it is a great alternative if you are looking for something different from the main tourist hot spots.

Backed by high cliffs covered in dense forest, it has to be one of the prettiest beaches in Torquay too. It's an idyllic spot for sea fishing if that's your thing, while divers are often drawn here to the clear waters and easy sea bed. The Babbacombe Cliff Railway is the true star of the show and if you want to avoid the steep cliff climbs, it will carry you down the 300-ft cliffs to the beach. 

Dogs: Allowed all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: There is roadside parking up on the Babbacombe Downs and limited pay and display spaces down a very steep hill next to The Cary Arms restaurant, which incidentally is one of our top recommendations for places to enjoy a drink or meal and the stunning views. 

Stay nearby: The Cliffs At Babbacombe Torquay, Torquay (sleeps 4) 

For more properties near to the spectacular Babbacombe Beach, have a look at our cottages in Torquay.

Torquay cottages

Saunton Sands in North Devon

Saunton Sands

A never-ending sandy beach and dunes (actually it’s 3.5 miles long), beautiful in all weather, which plays host to impressive waves and draws water sports enthusiasts all year whether for surfing, paddleboarding or sea swimming.

This remarkable beach welcomes dogs all year round so your four-pawed pal can join you to explore this breathtaking stretch of sand and there are grassy cliffs too for one of the best coastal walks in Devon. Saunton Sands, on the north coast of Devon near Croyde, provides a great day out and you could no doubt spend hours exploring the dune system. There are local beach shops, showers, hire of boards and beach buggies, and a restaurant that serves a very satisfying cream tea, Devon style of course.

Dogs: Welcome all year on certain parts of the beach.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: There is a pay and display beach car park, which is free outside of chargeable hours. There are a handful of free parking spaces along the road past the Saunton Sands Hotel, but access to the beach is a bit tricky through the field and along the busy road. 

Stay nearby: Ocean Point, Saunton (sleeps 4)

For more properties near this beautiful beach, have a peek of our collection of Saunton Sands cottages.

Saunton Sands cottages

Great British Coast

Ladram Bay beach in East Devon

Ladram Bay

Fancy a swim on Mars? Surrounded by red rock cliffs and rock formations protruding from the sea, you will feel like you are somewhere very special at Ladram Bay beach, found in East Devon, near Sidmouth. Thankfully, this beach is a little closer to home and you only have to travel to South Devon. Close by is Otterton village, with lanes lined with traditional thatched cottages, this quaint traditional village has been a settlement since the Stone Age.

Take a stroll along the grassy clifftops to Ladram Bay Viewpoint to soak up the sea-spray-filled air and exquisite coastal panorama, and feel the wind whip past you before retreating to huddle up in Pebbles cafe for a steaming mug of cocoa. When warm sunshine is beating down on the pebble beach, it's a great place to lay out a beach towel or blanket for a picnic, sunbathing or to read a good book. 

Dogs: Banned all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Pebbles Restaurant and Seaview Shack overlook the beach, the next nearest eatery is the Kings Arms in Otterton, which serves a varied, locally-sourced menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sidmouth (4.4 miles) is bursting with cafés, restaurants, pubs and shops.

Stay nearby: The Old Reservoir, Sidmouth (sleeps 4)

For more properties around Ladram Bay, have a look at our collection of cottages in Sidmouth.

Sidmouth cottages

Salcombe beaches in South Devon


With its blue lagoon-like water, it must be the Mediterranean right? Yet it is far closer and no planes are involved in the travel; beautiful Salcombe in South Devon is just the place for a relaxing family break, and is one of the best places to stay in the whole of Devon. Not only does it boast one of the best beaches in Devon, the town itself also has some lovely local shops, butchers, and restaurants where you can shade from the midday sun while eating local delicacies.

Escape down the coast to the subtropical gardens of Overbeck's, an Edwardian House and Garden where you can glimpse the sparkling sea between elegant planting. Or get close to Salcombe's clear waters with a swim or by chartering a boat to explore this tranquil coastline. 

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on South Sands beach from October to April. They are welcome all year round on North Sands beach. 

Lifeguard: No, on neither of Salcombe's beaches.

Access: North Sands is a short stroll from the centre of Salcombe where there is plenty of pay and display parking, it also has a car park of its own if you want to save some energy for your day at the beach. Limited parking at South Sands means that the best way to get there is by seasonal ferry from Whitestrand Quay in Salcombe. 

Stay nearby: Ferndale Orchard View, South Allington (sleeps 3 and 2 dogs)

For more properties near Salcombe Beach, have a look at our collection of cottages in Salcombe.

Salcombe cottages

Soar Mill Cove beach in South Devon

Soar Mill Cove

You will (most likely) have this South Devon beach to yourself so lay back and let your legs get some sun. One of the best Devon beaches for solitude, Soar Mill Cove Beach is accessible only by walking along the South West Coast Path or hopping in a kayak and paddling your way around. An ideal spot for adventure seekers ready to get to know the wild, unspoilt, lesser-known Devon beaches that line this stretch of coast. 

Enjoy the serenity that comes with a trip to this hidden beach in South Devon with rocks to clamber over and expanses of sand for beach games or building a sandcastle complete with a moat that reaches down to the waves. As it is close to Salcombe town, you can stock up on snacks before hitting this secret gem. And, as dogs are allowed all year round, it's one of Devon's best dog-friendly beaches to explore with your pup. 

Dogs: Allowed all year round. 

Lifeguard: No 

Local information: The closest parking is available at the National Trust's East Soar Car Park which is about a mile away - the walk is steep in places. Head into Salcombe for a wide choice of eateries. The Winking Prawn at North Sands is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

Stay nearby: Hope Cove, Hope Cove (sleeps 6 and 1 dog)

For more properties near Soar Mill Cove, have a look through our cottages in Hope Cove.

Hope Cove cottages

Gara Rock Beach in South Devon

Gara Rock Beach

If it's the best sandy beaches in Devon you're looking for, go traditional and pack some cucumber sarnies for a walk along the South West Coast Path to Gara Rock Beach. There are three other nice beaches nestled close by - East Portlemouth, Mill Bay, and Elender Cove - so you can plan a route and enjoy all that Devon's South Hams has to offer you.

It can be tricky to get down to the shorefront as the terrain is steep and uneven, but once you are down on the sand you'll discover a wealth of rock pools, tunnels and miniature caves to explore. It's a quiet place for swimmers and surfers to escape more popular beaches, although there is no lifeguard service so only head into the water for a dip if you're a strong swimmer. There's a second, smaller beach over to the eastern end of Gara Rock Beach which is also a delightful spot to relax but often gets cut off by the sea, so if you venture this far ensure you keep an eye on the incoming tides.  

Dogs: Allowed all year round. 

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Gara Rock Beach can also be reached by passenger ferry, or by parking at Mill Bay or close to the Gara Rock Hotel and Café and walking. East Portlemouth is reached by all-year-round ferry. Mill Bay has a car park or you can reach it by ferry from Salcombe.

Stay nearby: Ferndale Treetops View, South Allington (sleeps 4 and 2 dogs) - second-floor apartment

If you are looking for a bigger selection of properties near Gara Rock, check out our collection of cottages in the South Hams.

South Hams cottages

Westward Ho beach in North Devon

Westward Ho!

Pebble ridge + miles of sandy beach + lifeguards + surfers + ice cream = perfect beach experience. Westward Ho! is a treasure on the North Devon Coast and has plenty of things to do for families, couples or groups on a getaway. You can learn to ride the waves at the surf school, walk the dog along the seafront, try your luck with the arcade games, explore the neighbouring Northam Burrows Country Park where you may meet the ponies that often graze there, or just treat yourself to a delicious local ice cream on the promenade.

It's a traditional beach day out with something for everyone. Miles of sand is backed by a huge pebble ridge, the perfect place to bank up the stones to create a windbreak and enjoy a BBQ by the sea.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the whole beach from 1 October - 30 April. The rest of the year, dogs are banned on the section from the town end to the pebble ridge bridge half way along the beach. They are welcome all year round on the end of the beach north of the pebble ridge bridge.

Lifeguard: Daily from May to September. See the RNLI website for exact dates.

Local information: There are several pay and display car parks to choose from in Westward Ho! and some free roadside parking which is a short walk from the seaside green. Off-peak free parking is available behind the pebble ridge on Northam Burrows, daily rates apply during the summer season. Public toilets are available in the car park just next to the slipway and by the bus stop at the top of the green, close to the Co-op.

Stay nearby: Cloud 9, Westward Ho! (sleeps 4) 

We have a huge selection of properties near this vast expanse of beach - take a look at our cottages in Westward Ho! to see the full collection.

Westward Ho! cottages

Putsborough in North Devon


A quieter beach than its neighbours Croyde and Woolacombe, Putsborough is a lovely North Devon beach perfect for families, with scattered rocks hiding rock pools to explore and a long stretch of sand to play on. The rolling waves of the Atlantic also make Putsborough one of the best surfing beaches in Devon, attracting surfers from all over to this water sports hotspot. With plenty of parking, a café and toilets, Putsborough offers a brilliant day out, with far-reaching views out to sea and the surrounding clifftops.

Take a dip in the water, head out on a paddleboard, or venture up for a walk atop the surrounding cliffs. You could spend the whole day lounging or exploring before evening finally arrives and you can watch the spectacular sunset from this north-facing beach. 

Dogs: Banned on the beach below the shop from April to October. North of the shop, dogs are allowed all year.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Parking in the beach car park is £9 in high season (at the time of writing). There is no alternative parking without a walk. Have a bite to eat in the beach café while watching the crashing waves, or head for nearby Croyde where there are several pubs and eateries to choose from. 

Stay nearby: Dunes at West Croyde, Croyde (sleeps 8 and 2 dogs) 

Nearby Croyde not only has more gorgeous sands but also many more cottages to stay in. Take a look at all of our cottages in Croyde.

Croyde cottages

Slapton Sands in South Devon

Slapton Sands

You may be excused for mistaking this exquisite beauty spot for something far away - the Caribbean perhaps? White huts line the unique beach which appears to cut right through the sea. Not so, however, it is actually backed by a large freshwater lake and nature reserve called Slapton Ley, which is a fantastic place to explore during your trip to this seaside spot. 

Walk the length and paddle through the waves as you make your way along this beautiful South Devon beach. Slapton Sands is in the South Hams, a short distance from Dartmouth, and really feels like a tropical beach when the sun is shining down. This is a great choice for families in the summer; there are lifeguards, flags showing the safest swimming areas, plenty of space, beach cafes and ice cream vans.

Dogs: Allowed all year round. 

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Slapton Sands is the site of the famous Operation Tiger, a training mission during which 750 American Soldiers lost their lives. There are several pay-and-display car parks situated along the beach - Torcross Car Park, Slapton Sands Memorial Car Park, Strete Gate Car Park and some parking bays on the road through Torcross. 

Stay nearby: Curlew At Cotmore, Kingsbridge (5mls SE) (sleeps 6 and 2 dogs)

Slapton Sands is also home to many more holiday homes for you to discover, have a look at our collection of Slapton cottages.

Slapton Sands cottages

Map of Devon beaches

Beach holidays in Devon

If you're looking to enjoy a beach holiday in the UK this year, we hope we've proved to you that Devon is the ultimate destination for one. Stay on the doorstep of one of these gorgeous sandy beaches with our selection of coastal cottages in Devon - start planning your perfect break today.

Coastal cottages in Devon

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.