North Devon is well-known for its beautiful coastline, with much of it located within the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With striking scenery and towering cliffs, there is so much to explore in this area of the coast. Barnstaple, itself, is not located on the coast, but there are lots of beaches super close, making a trip to the beach the ideal day out. Many of the beaches are near enough that you can leave the car and take public transport to the beach. For recommendations for the best beaches to visit around Barnstaple, check out our list below!
Combe Martin Beach is located just below the small village resort which gives it its name. The beach is a good walk from the centre of Combe Martin but there is a large car park above the beach, which has a public toilet and stairs allowing direct access. There is another small car park by the adjacent Newberry Beach. Around the beach there are various shops and cafes. The beach is flanked by some of the highest sea cliffs in England providing shelter from strong winds, waves, and currents, making it the perfect swimming location. There are no lifeguards present on this beach throughout the year, however, so please swim with caution. The beach itself is a mixture of mostly shingle and pebbles, but it becomes sandier as you reach the shore. It is a great place to come with children because there are lots of rockpools to explore on either end of the beach. Dogs are not allowed on the beach between the 1st of May and 30th of September but are allowed during the winter months.
Hele Bay is a sand and shingle cove located east of Ilfracombe. At low tide, there are rockpools on both sides of the beach, making it the ideal spot for young children to explore. However, there are no lifeguards present on the beach at any point throughout the year, so be sure to keep a close eye. Parking and facilities are available within walking distance, with access to the beach via a slipway. Dogs are allowed on the beach throughout the year, making it the perfect destination for a pooch day out.
Instow is a pretty, sandy beach located on the edge of the Torridge Estuary. Protected by the sandbanks of the Taw, it is one of the best beaches to visit around Barnstaple for families. It is the closest beach to Barnstaple. If you do plan on visiting Instow beach, please bear in mind that you are advised not to go swimming on account of the poor water quality. However, it is the ideal base for sunbathing, playing in the sand or kayaking. Dogs are allowed on the beach.
A sand and shingle beach backing onto the charming village of Lee. The bay is wonderfully secluded and flanked by rocky coastline. The beach is quiet and unspoiled making it popular with families for picnicking, swimming, rock pooling and canoeing. Dogs are welcome on the beach all year round. It is best to visit Lee Bay beach at low tide, otherwise you will not find much sand; however, there is always lots of rockpools, caves and formations to explore no matter the tide! There are no lifeguards present at this beach.
Three miles of golden sands stretching north towards Woolacombe and Morte Point. It forms the southside of Woolacombe beach. It is popular for surfers, especially longboarders, due to the nature of the beach. It is the only beach in the area to have some protection from south and south-westerly winds thanks to a headland known as Baggy Point. Lifeguards are not present at this beach at any point throughout the year, and dogs are only allowed on parts of it. If you are a surfer, this is definitely a spot to check out on Your Devon Escape.
One of the best beaches to visit around Barnstaple is Tunnels Beaches. Located in Ilfracombe, it is a large network of hand-carved tunnels leading to unique sheltered beaches and tidal Victorian bathing pools. Sit back and admire the lovely, rugged scenery while the kids play safely in the tidal pool. Sadly, no dogs are allowed on the beaches, and there are no lifeguards present. Steeped in history, this beach is perfect for all ages and interests!
If you are a surfer, swimmer, kayaker, or paddle boarder, this is one of the best beaches to visit around Barnstaple. Westward Ho! is a long sandy stretch of beach with dogs allowed all year round. There are designated surfing areas, and slipways over the pebbles at the RNLI points. Lifeguards are present on the beach throughout the summer, making it the perfect spot for swimming and adventure activities. There are numerous amusement arcades, cafes, restaurants, and tearooms at prices to suit a range of budgets, and plenty of parking. Pack up the car for a fun-filled day at the beach on Your Devon Escape.
For more ideas for what to do on Your Devon Escape, why not check out our journal for recommendations. Or make us all jealous on Your Devon Escape by sharing your adventures with #yourdevonescape or tag us on Facebook @YourDevonEscape, on Instagram @your_devon_escape or TikTok @yourdevonescapeltd.