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The best beaches in Devon with kids

From the gentle golden sands of south Devon to the surf of the Atlantic in north Devon, one thing’s for sure: you won’t be short of choice when you’re looking for the best beaches in Devon with kids.

Bright beach huts at Saunton Sands in Devon against dunes and a blue sky - the beach beaches in Devon with kids
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Whether you’re looking for gentle waves for toddlers to paddle in, heading off the beaten path to avoid the crowds, fancy a chance to get active by the sea, or even beaches hidden at the end of a tunnel, there are some great stretches of sand for families.

Depending what time of year you visit, you can also find dog-friendly beaches on the Devon coast, or find places to stop if you’re walking part of the South West Coast Path with my pick of the best beaches in Devon with kids.

Best beaches in north Devon

The north Devon beaches are sometimes wilder, but you’ll still find plenty of beaches to suit toddlers, with great spots to go paddling and make a few sandcastles, as well as surf beaches for older kids, and everything in between.

For my beach essentials with kids, check out my top picks for fun on the sand

Woolacombe beach

You can’t talk about north Devon beaches without mentioning Woolacombe Beach – regularly ranked among the top beaches to visit in the UK and Europe, there three miles of sand to play on.

View from the cliffs onto the golden sands of Woolacombe Bay with dozens of people on the sand and in the surf - one of the most popular beaches in Devon with kids

If you’re looking for surf you’ll find it here, along with a lifeguard station manned in the summer, facilities including cafes and toilets nearby, and the South West Coast Path runs nearby.

It’s dog-friendly outside the summer months, although dogs on leads are welcome in one area from May to October – there is also one dog-free zone.

Putsborough Beach

Not far from Woolacombe, Putsborough beach is less well-known but it’s got the bonus of being quieter as a result, and is another popular one for families (and surfers).

You’ll find essentials like toilets and cafe here, plus you can paddle in the shallows or clamber on some of the rocks sticking out from the sand.

Dogs are allowed year-round on the section of beach north of the shop, but are banned on the stretch below the beach shop from April 1/Easter to October 31.

Saunton Sands

With its classic beach huts and dunes, Saunton Sands combine a great taste of the seaside with masses of space to spread out.

Vast stretch of sandy beach at Saunton Sands in north Devon - one of the best beaches in Devon with kids

Stretching for 3.5 miles, Saunton Sands is also a dog-friendly beach if you’re travelling with pets (on condition you take any waste away).

Facilities are limited, although there is a shop, so best to bring everything you need for a day at the beach.

Combe Martin beach

This pebbly beach has won a Seaside award (previously called the Quality Coast Award), with some sand at low tide – sheltered by the high cliffs, it’s also a good spot for swimming (though there’s no lifeguard).

There are also nature trails nearby to discover, and toilets, parking and cafes here too.

Dogs are allowed from October to April but not the rest of the year.

Croyde Beach 

Another great choice if you’re looking for sand and surf, Croyde beach is also award-winning and has its own lifeguard station.

With sand dunes behind, and two headlands protecting it from some of the wind off the ocean, it’s got some fine golden sand that’s perfect for sandcastles – and make for great conditions for surfers as well.

View across the dunes to the waves at Croyde Bay in Devon - one of the best beaches in Devon with kids

Paddling is fine but there are some strong currents if you’re visiting with younger kids. No dogs allowed from May 1 to September 30.

Tunnels beach at Ilfracombe

For one of the most unusual beaches in north Devon with kids, it’s hard to beat Tunnels beach – as the name suggests, you walk through hand carved tunnels in the rock to reach Tunnels at Ilfracombe.

There is a charge for this beach but it’s worth the small fee to explore this cove with its Victorian tidal pool.

You can also find out more information about the beach’s history, since it opened in 1823, plus smugglers’ caves, rock pools and a family-restaurant and play hut. Even the toilets have won awards!

For more ideas on beach activities for kids, check out this post

Broad Sands beach

If you’re willing to put in the effort to have one corner of Devon’s coast almost to yourself, Broad Sands is worth it – although not one for toddlers.

There are 200 steps down to this wild pebble beach, with caves and an island to explore. Head down at low tide, and older kids will love exploring one of the top 10 wild swimming beaches in the UK.

Not to be confused with Broadsands beach near Paignton! Dog-friendly, as long as your pooch is happy with the steps!

Best beaches in south Devon

South Devon’s beaches are deservedly famous, with a string of Blue Flag beaches, including several which make my list of the beach beaches in Devon with kids.

There are few places to surf, apart from Bantham Beach, but if you’re looking for gorgeous sweeps of golden sand, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

You can even mix city and beach if you’re staying in Exeter – both Exmouth beach (which nearly made this list) and Dawlish Warren are close enough for some time on the sand.

For my beach essentials with kids, check out my top picks for fun on the sand

Blackpool Sands

One of the south coast’s Blue Flag beaches, Blackpool Sands has some gorgeously clear water – although despite the name, it’s actually a shingle beach rather than sandy (although there are some sandy areas)

Very popular with families, it’s also a great one for watersports, with wetsuits to rent if you fancy trying your hand at paddleboarding or kayaking. You’ll also find facilities including toilets.

A view of Blackpool Sands beach in Devon, one of my top picks of places to visit for families in my ultimate guide to Devon with kids

If you’re visiting with younger kids in summer, do bring your own shade though, and be aware the seabed shelves quite steeply, so stick to paddling near the shore. No dogs allowed from March to the end of October.

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren is another great Blue Flag beach which often hosts open-air events during the summer, plus there are sand dunes and space for sandcastles, as well as clear shallow water.

Stretching for a mile and a half, it gets busy in summer, but get there early (or visit out of season) and it’s great for racing around with a kite or constructing an intricate sand fortress.

There are plenty of facilities too, including places to get food, lifeguard service, plus a nature reserve with sand dunes nearby. This particular stretch of coast has dog-friendly areas year-round too – check here for the details of where your pet is allowed when.

Salcombe North Sands

For another sandy spot, pretty Salcombe North Sands has tree-lined cliffs around the cove sheltering it from some of the sea breezes.

At low tide, there are rockpools to explore, and there’s far more sandy beach to explore, so it’s worth timing your visit around the waves.

Another dog-friendly beach, they’re allowed year-round. There are also toilets in walking distance, and the Winking Prawn which runs barbecues on summer evenings, as well as family-friendly food throughout the day.

Bantham Beach

Younger kids will love Bantham Beach near Kingsbridge which has shallow waters for paddling, sand and dunes, as well as a seasonal lifeguard service – you can also find rockpools, so all in all, it’s perfect for families.

View across the mouth of the River Avon from Bantham to Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island in South Devon - two of the best beaches in Devon with kids

It also looks out to Burgh Island, and there’s somewhere to get snacks near the parking (both need cash). No dogs allowed from May 1 to September 30.

There’s a lovely walk from South Milton Sands to Bantham Beach (or vice versa!) along the clifftops here too.

Bigbury on Sea beach

You can watch the sea tractor head over to Burgh Island from nearby Bigbury on Sea beach too, although with shallow shelving water and perfect sand for sandcastles, you won’t want to leave yourself!

At low tide, you can see the causeway out to the island and there are rockpools to explore. If you are looking for a dog-free beach, they’re banned here.

Slapton Sands

For another dog-friendly option with calm waters and watersports, Slapton Sands also has lifeguards in the summer, along with a beach cafe and toilets.

The shingle beach of Slapton Sands in south Devon - one of the beach beaches in Devon with kids

If you do fancy a change from the sand as well, you’ve also got the nature reserve and wildlife of Slapton Ley nearby.

The beach also has its own unusual history: in 1943 it was used to rehearse the D-Day Landings – keep an eye out for the Sherman tank, which acts as a memorial to those killed during Exercise Tiger, when German boats turned one practice attack into tragic reality.

Torre Abbey Sands

If you’re looking for the best beaches in Torquay with kids, the soft sandy beach of Torre Abbey Sands should be high on the list – this is the sort of stretch of sand which gave the English Riviera its name.

Another Blue Flag beach, it’s the main Torquay beach and if you want to do more than paddle, you can rent pedalos – plus there are toilets, a shop and cafes or snack stalls for the obligatory ice creams.

Dogs are banned from May to September, but it’s dog-friendly out of bathing season.

For more ideas on beach activities for kids, check out this post

Goodrington Sands

On the outskirts of Paignton, Seaside Award-winning Goodrington Sands is also sandy (as the name suggests!) but with plenty of activities from crazy golf to water sports, including pedalo and kayak hire, and facilities galore.

You can even spot steam trains from the beach, as the Dartmouth Steam Railway route runs nearby, and dogs are allowed on North Sands year-round (though not South Sands).

Head to the nearby Seashore Centre as well to learn more about local marine life, before checking out some of the rockpools at low tide.

Preston Sands

For another option near Paignton, this time on the north side of town, Preston Sands has more soft sand and rock pools to tempt families.

You’ll also find a cafe, toilets and crazy golf, as well as deckchairs to rent and colourful beach huts ranged along the back.

It’s also a Blue Flag beach, with a promenade at the back if you fancy a stroll between sandcastles – dogs must be on leads here, and can’t go on the beach from May to end of September, although they’re welcome on the green behind the beach itself.

Ness Cove, Shaldon

There’s no need to miss out on a quirky tunnel approach if you’re looking for the best south Devon beachs with kids.

Head through the smugglers’ tunnel to Ness Cove at Shaldon, and emerging from the dark passageway onto the shingle and reddish sand is half the fun: there are great rockpools once you arrive as well.

Dog-friendly year-round, the beach all but vanishes at high tide, so time your visit for when the tide’s out. There are toilets, shops and cafes at the clifftop end of the tunnel but no facilities on the beach.

Shaldon Zoo is right next door to the beach as well, as an added bonus.

Discover what we thought during our day out in Shaldon and Teignmouth

The best Devon beaches for rockpooling

If you’re looking for some of the best beaches to go rockpooling in Devon, you’ll find plenty of choice on both coasts.

As well as some of my picks for the best beaches in Devon with kids above, such as Goodrington Sands near Paignton, Bantham Beach and Ness Cove in the south plus Combe Martin in the north, there are plenty of other spots to try your hand at rockpooling.

For tips on how to get the most out of rockpooling with kids and staying safe, click here…

Shoalstone Beach

We loved Shoalstone beach near Brixham, where you can clamber over the rocks to discover marine creatures galore including crabs and tiny sea snails – there’s also a big sea water pool for swimming.

Check out my review of a morning clambering among the rock pools with a toddler.

Girl sitting on the rocks at Shoalstone Beach in Devon, one of the best places beaches in Devon for rockpooling with kids

Wembury Bay

Wembury Bay is a National Trust site which also has its own education centre as well as some of the country’s best rockpooling.

Not too far from Plymouth, it’s a good one to have on your list if you’re staying in south Devon.

Maer Rocks

Further along the south coast in east Devon, check out Maer Rocks near Exmouth beach for another rockpooling spot.

Easy to reach if you’re staying in Exeter, it’s easy to combine with some time on the sand: head down towards the lifeboat station (but time your visit for low tide).

Hartland Quay

On the north coast, Hartland Quay is a great place to go rockpooling in north Devon – if you’re lucky, you might even see falcons nesting on the dramatic cliffs above this rocky beach.

A great place to stop off on a walk along the South West Coast Path (assuming you’re happy to drag your nets along with you!), the little museum also has some exhibits on smuggling.

People reflected in the shallow water of a rockpool at Shoalstone beach in Devon - the best beaches in Devon with kids for rockpooling

Combesgate Beach

Not far from popular Woolacombe beach, Combesgate Beach has lots of family-friendly rockpools – during the summer months, they sometimes have rockpool rambles with the beach rangers too.

There are steps down and it does vanish at high tide, if you were planning to hang around all day. The beach links up with Barricane beach (in reality, you might struggle to see where one starts and the other ends).

Barricane beach

Nearby Barricane beach is famous for exotic seashells which get washed up from the Caribbean – so local legend has it – and also for the Sri Lankan beach shack serving curry in summer.

Even if you don’t find either of those on your visit, there are some lovely rock pools between the wide expanses of sand here too.

For more family-friendly ideas, check out my top things to do in Devon with kids, Devon in the rain with kids, free things to do in Devon and my ultimate guide to Devon with kids

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission. All opinions on the best beaches in Devon with kids are my own (and my daughter’s)

Ness beach/Shoalstone Beach images copyright MummyTravels, all other images courtesy of Depositphotos/AdobeStock

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