A Guide to North Devon's Beaches from Surf Bay Holiday Park

Surf Bay Holiday Park is in an ideal location if you are looking for a holiday park in North Devon near the beach. With its own private access to the Northam Burrows Country Park, Westward Ho! beach is just a short walk away. This is just one of a large number of beaches in North Devon, each has its own unique features and character and we are happy to provide a guide for you to help you choose the best beach in North Devon for your family holiday.


Westward Ho!

As the beach is just a short walk away, it is always going to be our favourite and the main reason that many families come and stay at Surf Bay Holiday Park. The beach is backed by a naturally forming pebble ridge and is covered by the sea at high tide so knowing the tide times is a good idea when planning your visit. There is plenty of parking and direct access to the beach via the slipway in the centre of Westward Ho!  There is also parking behind the pebble ridge and at Sandymere where you will also find the Northam Burrows Centre.


Westward Ho! beach


Westward Ho! beach is a Blue Flag beach so the water quality is high and there are a large number of signs providing visitors with relevant information. The beach is patrolled by RNLI Lifeguards from May to September and is considered to be relatively safe as the beach is gently sloping. However, you should still exercise caution and understand rip currents, especially if there is good sized surf. On this subject, there is a surf school that has its own café and several other surf schools operate at the beach. There is a 200m section at Sandymere where dogs are allowed all year round and the rest of the beach has dog restrictions from May to September.

Why is Westward Ho! beach great?


  • Easy parking with several car parks nearby.
  • Easy access, no sand dunes or hills to climb.
  • Great surf and also safe for swimming.
  • Clean water, Westward Ho! beach is a Blue Flag beach.
  • Great rock pooling when the tide is out.
  • Easy access to the village centre, shops and places to eat.


Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands is split from Westward Ho! by the Taw and Torridge estuary. This is a 3 mile long beach that is dog friendly all year round and is popular with families. The beach is accessed via Braunton and is busy during the summer months but is very long so you can always find your own space. There are no lifeguards at Saunton Sands, like Westward Ho! it is gently sloping and is also relatively safe. The beach is also very popular with surfers, especially long boarders who love the long rides!


Saunton Sands beach


Saunton Sands has a large car park and you pay on an hourly basis which can often work out cheaper than other day ticket car parks. However, the beach is very popular, on a hot summers day, the car park can be full by mid morning and there are sometimes long queues to get in, especially on the very busiest and hottest days! Generally though, access is easy and it is a simple walk to the beach from your car. There is a good sized shop, café and takeaway at the entrance to the beach as well as a surf shop with board and wet suit hire and a very good restaurant above. There are also toilet and shower facilities near the beach. Saunton Sands is a great beach, it is becoming more and more popular every year, there is plenty of space and the surf can be great, parking can be tough on really hot days!

Why do we love Saunton Sands beach?

  • Great value parking if you only want to stay for a couple of hours.
  • Dog friendly all year round.
  • Easy access to surf hire, food and hot drinks.
  • Lots of space on the beach, even on the busiest of days.
  • Huge expanse of sand dunes to explore, great for some peace and quiet.
  • Great and safe surf, loved by long boarders.
  • Easy access, especially if you don’t like walking far!



Croyde Bay is just around the corner from Saunton Sands and is known as a mecca for surfing. It is claimed to be one of the finest beach breaks for surfers in the country, especially at low tide where the beach undulates with banks that form shouldering waves with a steep slopes. Whilst this does create amazing surf, Croyde does get very strong rip currents. If you are visiting Croyde, always swim in the lifeguarded areas, the beach is patrolled by RNLI Lifeguards from May to September. Croyde Beach also has several information boards at entrances so that you know where it is safe to swim, surf and bodyboard.


Croyde beach


There is a large car park at Down End, the main entrance to Croyde from Braunton and it is reasonably priced.  There is a short walk over the rocks although, it is fairly easy as the path has been very well worn away over the years, quite safe, even for young children. At the opposite ‘Ruda’ end of the beach, there is also another car park which provides easier access to the beach but is often busier. There is a shop at the entrances at both ends of the beach with surf hire. Croyde is also a very clean beach, it is rare to find any litter!  The water quality is also usually excellent but the main attraction is the surf. If you enjoy playing in the waves and enjoy bodyboarding, this is the beach for you!

Why is Croyde Beach so popular?

  • The surf is great, fantastic fun playing in the waves for all the family!
  • The surf is great (again), perfect for surfers who want a challenge.
  • Very clean beach with a stream down the middle and rock pools at either end.
  • Incredibly picturesque, as is the village of Croyde!
  • Does not get overly crowded, you can generally find some space.
  • Great restaurants and pubs in the village for an after beach drink, Blue Groove, Billy Budds and The Thatch.
  • Cool and uber trendy!


Woolacombe and Putsborough

Woolacombe Beach is an award-winning beach that is 3 miles long with Woolacombe at the northern end and Putsborough at the southern end. Woolacombe is one of the UK’s best known beaches, it has won numerous awards over many years and is incredibly popular, especially with tourists. The sand is beautiful, fine and great for building sand castles. The sea is often crystal clear and the surf can be fantastic. There are lots of parking facilities around Woolacombe with some very large car parks, it is rare (but can happen), that the car parks fill up. The village of Woolacombe is a very short walk, here there is everything that you will need from a bank to beach equipment.


Woolacombe beach


Woolacombe is great to visit all year around. On a sunny day in the middle of summer, the beach attracts thousands, it does get busy but you can always find some space. There are also refreshment and ice cream trailers on the beach! The beach is also patrolled by RNLI Lifeguards during the summer months with two separate swimming areas often in use. In the winter, it’s great for a walk, really fun and the breeze certainly blows the cobwebs away. You can walk to Putsborough and enjoy a cup of coffee in the café. The beach is backed by a sand dune system with some great dunes to slide down, there was even a golf club here before the second world.

Woolacombe enjoys its reputation as one of the best beaches in the UK because:

  • Exceptionally clean and fine sand, perfect for building sand castles.
  • Easy access to the beach from the main car parks.
  • Lots of shops and places to get food, ice cream, buckets and spades and more!
  • Really good water quality and a lot of marine life.
  • Great surf, surf school and well patrolled.
  • Stunning and scenic location.


Other Beaches in the Area

There are lots of smaller beaches around the coastline of North Devon. To the north of Woolacombe is the small Barricane beach, sandy with areas of shells that have travelled from the Caribbean.  Combesgate is the next beach on, quiet and it does get covered at high tide, but this beach is the ultimate for rock pooling and exploring, it also has great surf as well. Grunta is virtually always deserted, a tiny beach only accessible from the coastal path, perfect if you are looking for somewhere peaceful.

Lee Bay is a pretty little Devon village, the beach is mainly pebbles but there are great places for rock pooling and climbing up the large stones. Ilfracombe has a few beaches, Tunnels is great and very safe with the tunnels built by Welsh miners in the Victorian age. Wilder Beach is by the Ilfracombe theatre, made from a dark stone, sand and shingle, it is very accessible and great for sunbathing. Ilfracombe harbour has a beach that is becoming more popular, sandy at the top edges and close to all of the shops so you can stop here for a bite to eat.

Combe Martin beach is also seeing a lot of popularity, a small beach that is sandy and has lots of rock pools. Great for swimming and seeing the underwater wildlife on a calm and sunny day at high tide if you enjoy snorkelling. Broadsands Beach at Berrynarbour and Hele Bay are similar, they are protected to a certain extent from the Atlantic swells and are generally quite safe for families with young children.

To the south of Barnstaple and along with Westward Ho!, Instow beach is popular, especially with dogs as some of the beach has no dog restrictions all year round. It is also easily accessed and has fine quality sands, the beach is really within the Taw and Torridge estuary though so it is not so popular for swimming.


instow beach looking to appledore


There are some other great beaches and coves around North Devon, many of these are really out of the tourist traps and are really quite unspoilt. Speke’s Mill near Hartland is a little gem although you have to park at Hartland Quay and use the coastal path, still worth it for the peace and quiet. Bucks Mills near Clovelly is similar, a decent walk but the results are worth it and you will never see crowds here. Crow Point is accessed via Braunton Burrows, it is very popular with dog walkers and families as a beach for a walk. There are sandy areas and there is a vast amount of space around, the wildlife in this area really is superb as well.

We hope that you have enjoyed our guide to our local beaches. At Surf Bay Holiday Park and Beachside Holiday Park in North Devon, we always try to provide our customers with the most useful information about our local area. If there is anything that you would like to add here, please let us know so that we can all help others in the future.