Where are the best beaches in South Devon?
This beach guide is just a short round-up of the amazing variety of beautiful beaches here in South Devon. You’ll find much more detailed information at Anchor Cottage in our guidebook and there are plenty of maps too.
Whether you want to sail around the coast to cherry-pick your own deserted cove or fancy surf lessons and ice-creams, South Devon really does have it all.
We have dog-friendly beaches, kid-friendly beaches, sandy coves, skimming heavens and even a pub on an island that you can get to by sea tractor!
And it’s waiting for your arrival.
What are the top 10 South Devon Beaches?
Beach Guide: Listing the Top 10 Beaches in South Devon is a difficult task! Everyone wants something different from a beach, be it peace and quiet, water sports or family fun.
Some of them are quiet retreats whereas others are busier with a range of attractions nearby. We hope that this list, composed by feedback from visitors to South Devon, helps you to decide which will be your ideal South Devon beach.
This beach is long and sandy with water shallow enough for children to swim safely, and lively enough for water sports enthusiasts further out.
Bigbury on Sea*
A large open beach, suitable for surfing, with stunning views of Burgh Island and the South Hams coastline. At low tide the causeway is exposed to allow access to Burgh Island, catch the sea tractor back at high tide.
Blue Flag beach, and one of the most stunning in the whole region. A large shingle, beach surrounded by evergreen trees.
Perfect for people wanting to enjoy a day of peace and quiet this sandy beach is situated on the estuary opposite Salcombe.
Hope Cove Beach
A sheltered, sandy cove in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which is popular with families. The beach is backed by rocky cliffs and the village of Hope. Hope Cove was also used for filming by the BBC for The Coroner.
Beach Guide to beaches a little further afield
Dawlish Warren is great for wildlife enthusiasts and families looking for a large beach and who want to join in with local events and festivals. There are also traditional amusement arcades and refreshments at this beach.
Sandy Bay in Exmouth
A beautiful half-mile long privately owned sandy beach set in a secluded bay. A great beach for families, with rockpools ideal for searching and crabbing in.
Slapton Sands and Torcross
A long sandy beach providing lots of room for beach games and walks. Ideal for families and nature lovers with Slapton Ley Nature Reserve found right next to the beach.
A long, family friendly beach overlooked by the impressive Victorian pier, with large children’s play area, skate park and crazy golf nearby.
A stunning shingle beach surrounded by limestone cliffs. Once a smuggler’s haven it’s a wonderful spot to watch skilled fishermen bringing in their catch.
What is the best beach day in the South Hams?
This could be as simple as a walk to Stoke Beach with a picnic, lots of great coves to wander around during low tide and perfect for swimming. Or the more active could paddle board or kayak to Celler Beach which will be quieter as the path is currently closed. But if you fancy a big beach day then I think there are a couple of options:
Bigbury on Sea
Just under 40 minutes’ drive from the cottage (just type Holiday Cottages Noss Mayo into your location & Google maps will pick up the correct starting point), this is a wonderful kid-friendly beach with life guards for safe swimming, streams for paddling, loos, paddle board & kayak hire and the fantastic Venus Café.
At low tide (tide times from tideschart) you can walk across to the famous Burgh Island with its art deco hotel, built in 1929 guests include Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and Agatha Christie. There’s a lovely walk around the tiny isle and If you head to the top there is an old WWII bunker that is fun for the kids to explore. The island only takes about half an hour to walk around but if you bring your swimmers you can have a dip in the natural swimming pool, Mermaid Pool.
Do watch the tides though as it can be a wet dash when it comes in & it’s much faster than you think! If you do get stranded don’t panic, there’s always the Hotel’s sea tractor, the only one of it’s kind in the world, that will take you back for £2 each.
If you haven’t packed a picnic don’t worry the Venus Café is on hand, they do a selection of burgers, wraps, toasties & tacos as well as fish & chips.
The Pilchard Inn on Burgh Island is an ancient pub (1336) that is brilliant at any time of the year, cosy in the winter and fabulous views in the summer. Takeaway is available and you can book by calling 01548 810514.
Didn’t realise you could surf in Devon? Bigbury on Sea is a great surfing destination, it’s not Hawaii by any means, the long beach and rolling waves make it a great place to learn or improve. Try Discovery Surf (01548 810535) for board and kayak hire as well as lessons.
|Parking||Council owned £1.50 per hour at the beach or in high season an economy one opens for £3ish for the day|
|Lifeguards||May – September|
|Dog Friendly||Not between end of May & October on the main beach but all year on the smaller beach to the west of the causeway.|
|Toilets||Very clean with disabled access|
|Accessibility||On site parking close to the beach with disabled access.|
Located on the other side of the river Bantham is another wonderful kid-friendly beach with life guards for safe swimming, streams for paddling, loos, paddle board & kayak hire.
With it’s wonderful dunes and long sandy beach Bantham is a great choice for the day, voted one of the top 10 beaches in Europe in 2015 by Lonely Planet. If the tide is out the river and the rock pools are perfect for little ones and when it’s in you can swim or surf. If the waves are good the pros surf at the back with novices on the inside middle sandbar. It’s also great for paddle boarding and kayaking, you can do a river float up or downstream depending on the tide.
There’s a nice 3.5 mile round walk to Thurlestone and Hope Cove along the South West Coast Path, if you take in South Milton Sands there’s a fabulous beachside café serving fresh seafood and fizz. If you’re National Trust Members there’s a car park here that you can use instead of the one at Bantham.
There is the wonderful Gastrobus in the car park at Bantham, great beach food from burgers & dogs to breakfast brioches. The coffee is pretty good too. They’ve also started a Gastropizza but I’ve yet to try it, seems like a good idea.
The Sloop Inn is another old pub (14th century) a short hike up road from the beach. Does a great Sunday Roast too and is very kid friendly Takeaway is available and you can book by calling 01548 560489.
Bantham Village Stores has a café as well as a terrace with amazing views. They have a great breakfast & lunch menu as well as takeaway sandwiches and pasties, you can even get a cold glass of white to sip whilst the kids tuck into an ice-cream.
Bantham is a good surfing destination, probably South Devon’s finest, the long shallow beach is perfect for beginners. Try Bantham Surfing Academy (01548 853803) for board and kayak hire as well as lessons or you can hire your kit from Tri Ocean Surf (01548 854676).
|Parking||£8.50 for the day in high season|
|Lifeguards||May – September|
|Dog Friendly||Not allowed 1st May to 1st December on the main beach but all year on the River Beach beside the estuary.|
|Toilets||In the car park, not brilliant.|
|Accessibility||On site parking with a mostly level walk to the beach.|
Where are the Dog-Friendly Beaches in South Devon?
Soar Mill Cove, near Salcombe
Nestled on a picturesque stretch of coastline between Salcombe and Thurlestone you’ll find Soar Mill Cove. The beach is accessible from the South West Coast Path, or down a hill and across a field from the car park, so it’s a great place to stretch your legs with your dog, taking in the sea air and spectacular views en route to the beach. Once at sea level, the beach itself is sandy, with caves and rock pools at low tide, and a crystal clear stream running into the sea. Soar Mill Cove is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset streaking the western horizon. If you stay late, don’t forget a torch to find your way back!
South Milton Sands, Thurlestone
A large sandy beach popular with dog walkers all year round. Backed by grassy dunes and a nature reserve, with the iconic Thurlestone Rock just off shore and views across Bigbury Bay. Low tide exposes rocks for climbing and fascinating rock pools to investigate. At high tide there is still enough beach to walk along, and also a wooden bridge and footpath over the nature reserve. There’s a popular beach café and toilets at the same end of the beach as the National Trust car park.
Beesands, near Kingsbridge
The small fishing village of Beesands enjoys a wide shingle beach with scenic sea views over Start Bay and toward Start Bay Lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. There’s a huge sea wall protecting the popular village pub, former fishermen’s cottages, and Britannia beach shack fish restaurant, whilst the more exposed northern end of the beach was recently eroded during easterly winter storms when the sea took away some of the road and land behind, extending the depth of the beach. This beach is popular among anglers, and dogs love running up and down the pebbles sniffing out any leftover bait. There’s plenty of free parking and toilets and it’s possible to walk to the lighthouse and back within a couple of hours from here, and enjoy refreshments in the dog-friendly pub afterwards.
North Sands, Salcombe
Small, very picturesque sandy beach, with stunning views of the Salcombe Estuary, Sunny Cove on the East Portlemouth side and out to sea past Wolf Rock. North Sands is an easy, level walk of just 15 minutes on foot from Salcombe town along Cliff Road, or there’s plenty of parking behind the beach. Alternatively you can access the beach via boat, paddleboard or kayak from one of the other beaches or Salcombe itself. The beach welcomes dogs all year round and is also popular with families due to the safe bay, soft sand perfect for sandcastles and many rockpools to explore at low tide. There’s a popular dog-friendly beach café and restaurant behind the beach, as well as toilet facilities. You can also further exercise your dog by walking up and over the hill along to the next beach, South Sands, for a different aspect of this pretty estuary.
Wonwell Sands, near Modbury
A beautiful sandy beach set on the east bank of the river Erme. The beach is best at low tide when a huge expanse of sand is exposed for your dog to race across, and the beach joins up with Meadowsfoot (Mothecombe). However, you need to be aware of tides as they come in fast here and there’s a risk of getting cut off at high tide.
Parking near the beach is very limited and there are no facilities. There’s parking for about 15-20 cars in the lane above the river’s edge. From the road there is a pretty woodland walk (signposted as a public footpath) to Wonwell Beach, which takes about 10 minutes. There’s also a slipway from the road to the shore of the Erme river and at low tide it’s possible to walk along the river’s edge to Wonwell Beach. Dogs are welcome all year round here, and if you can find a place to park it makes for the most enjoyable and picturesque mix of woodland and coastal walk.
Just don’t forget your bucket and spade!