The best surfing beaches in Devon

Coastal, Watersports, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Emma on 10th February 2020

The South West of England is well known as a surfing paradise in the UK, and Devon in particular is home to some of the best places to learn to surf or catch some amazing waves. Whether you choose to visit North Devon or South Devon, there’s a brilliant surfing beach in almost every cove as you travel around the coastline; if you're new to the sport, make sure you read up on the top beach safety tips beforehand. 

There are miles of wide sandy beaches where the Atlantic rollers crash onto the sand, all within easy reach of our Devon cottages, which provide the perfect base to head back to after an exhausting day riding the waves. If you’re wondering where to surf in Devon, take a look at our top surf beaches and get out there!

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Surfing beaches in North Devon



For the best surfing in Devon, you need to head to the north coast – and Croyde is one of the best surfing beaches in Devon, if not the world. The waters can get incredibly crowded in the summer, so for beginners, it may be best to head out off-season. With plenty of surf schools here though, and lifeguards throughout the summer months, it’s a great location to learn to surf.

For the more advanced, the low tide creates crashing A-frame barrels which offer up a great challenge and a rewarding surf. The best conditions can be found around an hour after low tide. The tide moves quickly as the sands are fairly level - be alert to the riptide at each end of the beach in certain conditions.

  • Suitable for: Intermediate/advanced in the summer, everyone in off-peak months but choose your conditions wisely! 
  • Parking: Ample pay and display parking in the village, at campsites and at National Trust’s Baggy Point.
  • Refreshments: Several pubs and cafes in Croyde.
  • Surf schools/hire nearby: Croyde Surf Hire/The Little Pink Shop, Croyde Surf Academy, Surfing Croyde Bay.

All Croyde cottages


Saunton Sands

The wide bay of Saunton Sands beach can cope with even the crowds that the height of summer brings, and the gentle slope of the sand creates a much slower break of the waves which, in particular, makes it an ideal beach for beginners hoping to stand up for the first time, or for budding surfers who need that confidence boost of catching plenty of breaks.

The long and slow walls also make it great for longboarders – in fact, it’s probably one of the best beaches in Devon for longboard surfing. Beginners are best off in the shallow waters, where you can still enjoy a satisfying ride while learning to master the basics.

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Another large sandy beach popular with beginners and longboarders, Woolacombe beach offers top-quality beachbreak and mellow waves. As the North Devon beach stretches on for miles, there’s plenty of room for beginners worried about summer crowds. Like at Croyde, you’ll also find plenty of surf schools in Woolacombe, as well as a lifeguard service.

Because of its exposed nature, the beach can suffer from south-westerly winds, but this can work to your advantage offering punchy peaks as the tide lines bend around the coast. The reef break produces excellent waves whether it’s high or low tide, making it a top pick for surfing in Devon.

All Woolacombe cottages



Putsborough still remains a bit of a hidden gem compared to North Devon’s other beaches, and it’s an underrated surf spot too. It’s located on the same 3-mile stretch of beach as Woolacombe and is well-sheltered from the south-westerly winds thanks to Baggy Point. This means that the waves are very clean, especially when the weather is good, making it great for surfers of all abilities.

Unless you are an experienced surfer, be sure to stay clear of the water near the rocks at the south end of the beach, where a strong rip current can run out to sea. There are no lifeguards at Putsborough, so check the surfing forecast on a website such as Magic Seaweed before you go.

  • Suitable for: Everyone.
  • Parking: Pay and display car park by the beach, reached by driving down a steep slope.
  • Refreshments: Beach café next to the beach.
  • Surf schools/hire nearby: Barefoot Surf School, Active Escape.

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Surfing beaches in South Devon



Surf spots are slightly less easy to come by on the south coast of Devon, but Bantham is one of the best places to surf in the area. In fact, it’s the home of surfing on the south coast, with people riding waves there since at least the 1960s – and, due to its reputation plus its stunning location in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it does tend to get pretty crowded.

The quality and size of the wave shifts as the sandbanks do, making it a tricky spot to navigate. There are two main peaks – The Rip to the left and The Rivermouth to the right – and both are fairly fast waves. Be aware of the rip towards the left of the beach, which appears as the tide goes out. However, beginners can learn in the sandy shallows especially at low tide.

  • Suitable for: Everyone – but choose your spot wisely!
  • Parking: Pay and display car park 75 metres from the beach.
  • Refreshments: Lots of pubs, restaurants and cafes in Bantham itself.
  • Surf schools/hire nearby: Bantham Surfing Academy.

All Bantham cottages



On the other side of the River Avon from Bantham, and nestled behind Burgh Island, are the twin beaches of Bigbury-on-Sea and Challaborough. As well as having some great waves, it’s also popular with windsurfers and kite surfers.

Very much like Bantham, the waves change as the sandbanks move – however, with a sandy shore and very few hazards, it’s a great place to beginners. If you’ve got kids in tow, they’ll love the many rock pools and you can even visit Burgh Island – take the sea tractor across for an unusual day out!

  • Suitable for: Beginners.
  • Parking: Pay and display in Bigbury, or the National Trust car park at Ayrmer Cove.
  • Refreshments: A few cafes in Bigbury and a chip shop in Challaborough.
  • Surf schools/hire nearby: Discovery Surf School.

All Bigbury cottages

Devon's best surfing beaches on a map

Further inspiration

Whether you want to take to the waves or roam the cliffs, Devon has so much to offer on an unforgettable holiday. Find more ideas for your next break with our guides:

Stay with us in Devon

If you’ve been persuaded to catch a break on North Devon or South Devon’s waves, head to one of our Devon cottages for a surfing holiday to remember. Whether you're planning a romantic break or a big family holiday, get close to the surf with a stay in one of our lovely Devon coastal cottages. Simply click the button below to find your perfect base in Devon.

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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.