Have a splash at these top swimming beaches in Devon
There are so many wonderful beaches in Devon, and it can often be overwhelming to know where to visit first. To help you out and to provide holiday inspiration we’ve done some hard ‘research’ (mainly, swimming in the sea whenever the sun comes out - it’s a tough job but someone has to do it).
We’ve come up with these top 10 swimming beaches in Devon that are simply a must visit when holidaying in the county.
With two coasts to pick from, holidaymakers to North or South Devon are spoilt for choice. We have hotels on both coasts, so anyone staying with us can spend time on the wonderful beaches.
Everyone has a favourite swimming beach, is yours here? Tell us how your list would look via our Facebook or Twitter, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter through our home page for further holiday inspiration.
1. Broad Sands
Between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, North Devon
A hidden and secret gem that many locals wish to keep to themselves. Broad Sands is not a big and well-known beach, but a small cove nestled in the wild coast of Exmoor. It’s not reachable by road, but by walking along the South West Coast Path, with a stepped descent down to the sand and water.
A day out to experience Broad Sands is always worth the energy. The path goes through wooded cliffs and the views are spectacular. Once there, the cove has caves to explore, and two secluded beaches offering sheltered swimming. The island is worth a climb too.
2. Woolacombe Beach
Woolacombe, North Devon
Popular with holidaymakers all year round, it’s easy to understand why Woolacombe is a multi-award winning beach, voted the UK's best two years in a row by TripAdvisor.
The long expanse of sand and sea make it brilliant for all kinds of water sports, including swimming, for all the family.
For those wanting to avoid the surfers and the crowds, enjoy a walk along the golden sands to pick a quieter swimming spot, but there are designated areas with lifeguards for swimmers so everyone can stay safe.
3. Woody Bay
Martinhoe, Lynton, North Devon
Like Broad Sands, Woody Bay is a swimming spot that’s an adventure to get too. In the middle of nowhere along the Exmoor coast, the roads along the high moors then give way to dramatic drops of 800ft, and Woody Bay opens up beneath the trees. A true photographic sight.
Below, the boulder covered beach is rugged, dramatic, untouched and almost unvisited. Visitors will need to approach on foot, as an ancient track winds down past a limekiln, a waterfall and an old pier. Look beyond the waterfall for a semi-natural rock pool, offering a secret place to plunge and swim. Picnics and the refreshing dips make the journey worthwhile and provide energy for the trip back.
4. Tunnels Beaches
Ilfracombe, North Devon
A classic Victorian bathing bath, to access the beach and pool requires walking through the hand-carved tunnels that cut through the cliff and out to the sea. The beach is shingle and natural, with a ringed rock formation separating the swimming pool from the sea. This creates a calm place for the whole family to swim. The tidal seawater swimming pool is perfect for young children and those comfortable in shallow water.
Awarded both Blue Flag beach status and the Quality Coast Award, Tunnels Beaches is an ideal spot to take a dip. There is also a lifeguard on duty, the tunnels are cleaned daily and it’s also been listed as the safest beach in North Devon.
5. Saunton Sands
Braunton, North Devon
An epic stretch of three and a half mile golden sands, blue waters, and a dramatic backdrop of sand dunes. Saunton offers some of the best surf in the country whilst kite surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding are also key activities at the beach. Plus, with so much space, it’s easy to find a quieter spot for a swim too.
Facilities include a café, a beach shop and great parking that make Saunton a full day out for the whole family.
Don’t fancy straying too far from the beach? Saunton Sands Hotel overlooks the sands. It’s a luxury hotel in which to enjoy fine dining, a spa, children play areas and family facilities.
6. Westward Ho! Beach
Westward Ho!, North Devon
In the village of Westward Ho! the sandy beach backs onto a pebble ridge, with excellent swimming in Blue Flagged waters. For the children, there’s arcades and fun games alongside shops, toilets and food outlets. Westward Ho! is the traditional beachside holiday location.
Even better is the long stretch of beach which has a great mix of rock pools, open sand and the sea that swimmers love.
Our own Royal Hotel is in Bideford, not far from Westward Ho!
7. Barricane Beach
Woolacombe, North Devon
Barricane beach is half a mile from Woolacombe, hidden away on the coast. It’s a small picturesque location tucked between the rocks, well known for rock shells and its high tide.
With Caribbean origins, Barricane Beach is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. There is a lack of lifeguards but the water quality is Marine Conservation Society recommended.
The beach itself is not accessible at high tide when it transforms into a natural pool - perfect for wadding right in.
8. Jacob's Ladder Beach
Sidmouth, South Devon
On the shores of Sidmouth there are two excellent places to have a swim. Jacob’s Ladder Beach, in particular, is a popular beach, and as the sea retreats the red sand is revealed, with red cliffs making a stunning backdrop.
Sidmouth usually has calm seas, with little surf during good weather, thanks to groynes along the shoreline. Therefore a swim here is gentle and relaxing, with no big waves or surfers.
There are two Brend hotels in Sidmouth, both opposite the main beach and with sea views. The Belmont Hotel and The Victoria Hotel are ideal venues to relax in and enjoy indulgent food in between sessions on the beaches.
9. Hollicombe Beach
Between Paignton and Torquay, South Devon
Nested between the popular tourist hotspots of Paignton and Torquay, Hollicombe Beach is a stretch of beautiful, red sand coastline. Found in a secluded spot, Hollicombe is a great location for swimmers and sunbathers alike because of the warm waters and English Riviera vibes.
The beach is a fair walk from the car park in Paignton, but this really is a worthwhile location to visit, not least because of its beautiful views on display whilst strolling to the beach and the stunning setting upon arrival.
10. Blackpool Sands
Near Dartmouth, South Devon
Blackpool Sands is a beautiful pebble beach that’s popular with families. It’s a Blue Flag award-winning beach, backed by evergreens and pines with a Mediterranean feel. Managed to a very high standard, Blackpool Sands is one of the most popular family beaches in the region.
There are fantastic facilities with easy access to the beach from the car park. A café, shop and toilets are placed near the entrance to the beach, plus lifeguards are on duty in the summer months.
Being a Blue Flag beach, water quality here is to the highest of standards. For those looking for slightly more than a standard swim, hire a snorkel or wetsuit through the shop, to truly emerge yourself under the clear waves.