Devon’s a classic summer holiday destination for families from across the UK, with dozens of beach locations to pick from across the country.
So, how do you really know which are best for families with young children? And which are just, well, boring old beaches?
In this guide to Devon’s best family beaches, we’ll show you the top kid-friendly spots in North and South Devon (you can skip to the area you want to explore by clicking the relevant link):
For each beach, we’ll explain everything you need to know about each of our top choices: its activities and facilities, what makes it special, whether or not it’s dog-friendly, which hotels and holiday rental homes are nearby, and most importantly, what parents REALLY think of it.
Check out our guide to the best beaches in Devon for families…
1. Woolacombe Beach
This well-kept, vast beach has a split personality: one side is busy and a little seaside-town-tacky (but doesn’t feel too overcrowded) with a few ice-cream vans floating around, while further up is a bit quieter and more relaxed, with gorgeous sand dunes.
Woolacombe’s also the perfect place for families to get involved in water and outfoor activities. Woolacombe has its own surf centre, a surf school, kayaking, kitesurfing, and numerous walking trails to explore.
Dog friendly? Nope, not the friendliest beach for dogs, unfortunately.
Is there car parking? Yep, near the beach, but expect to spend around £7 – 8 for a day of parking, something parents have previously found prohibitive.
Keep in mind, though, that the car park fees go towards keeping the beach clean and family-friendly, so a price worth paying in our eyes!
Where to stay? 5, Sandleigh Apartment is a luxury flat which is just 1 min away from the beach on foot.
Got plenty of budget? Families also love Watersmeet Hotel, 1 min from the beach and highly-rated by holidaymakers with children.
2. Tunnels Beach, Ilfracombe
Tunnels Beach is slightly different to others in the area, in that there’s a £2.50 charge per person to enter, because it’s an historical site. (That’s a tenner for a family of 4 – “worth it, but no more than that” says one mum who’s been.)
Of course, rest assured that gets you guaranteed access to the beach and facilities like toilets, etc, for the duration of your visit. No rushin’ for a toilet. Phew!
Walk through the tunnels, built in the 1820s, to arrive to the beach, which is sandy with a few pebbles knocking about, and some amazing tidal pools.
So, something a bit different for a family adventure, for kids who like to explore. Take your sandals for the pebbly bits, and treat yourself to an ice lolly from the nearby stand.
Keep an eye out for dates though: the main beach is sometimes closed due to weddings.
Dog friendly? No dogs allowed.
Is there car parking? The nearest car park is Bath House car park, and there’s about 30 on-street spaces right by the beach.
3. Saunton Sands
Picture a quiet, idyllic beach near the village of Saunton, with soft sand (not pebbles, yay) and grassy sand dunes, perfect for mini climbers and explorers.
Indoor and outdoor eateries are available nearby, depending on your preference. Comes recommended from one of our MFM dads, too ?
Dog friendly? Yep, good for dogs all year round. There is one bit of the beach they can’t go on, though, so keep this in mind!
Is there car parking? Yep, £4 for 3 hours and there’s a daily cap of £7
4. Westward Ho! Beach
Arguably the best-named beach in the county, nay the country, Westward Ho! is a 2-mile long sandy beach with plenty to offer families.
There are rock pools galore (in front of the Horizon View Apartments) and also lots of lovely little streams, perfect for that heavy, wet sand type of sandcastle – or making mud pies.
Top tip: there’s also a ‘seabound swimming pool’ which is hidden in the rocks and disappears at high tide.
Generally, you’ll find (accessible) toilets, showers, and a few shops. There’s a ramp down on to the beach for those who need it.
And if you’re worried about safety, the main section usually has lifeguards on duty between May and September.
Dog friendly? One part of the beach allows dogs. Make sure you check which section once you arrive.
Is there car parking? There are several car parks in the vicinity.
5. Putsborough Beach, Woolacombe
Woolacombe Beach is well-known to holidaymakers in Devon, but Putsborough Beach close by is a real hidden gem.
It gets rave reviews from families who are already in on the secret, saying that despite its quiet nature (compared to some other famed Devon beaches), it’ s got all the facilities you could need (toilets, café, snacks, etc).
“Our family has been visiting this glorious beach for many years. It never fails as a great day out. The scenery, surf, safe bathing, rock pools, facilities and cleanliness all combine to make this our number one choice for a beach in the UK. We love it,” one fam recently gushed. Sold!
Dog friendly? Dogs are only allowed on certain parts of the beach.
Is there car parking? Parking’s quite pricey, according to some parents, who say they paid £8.50 despite only wanting to visit for an hour or 2.
Top tip: one recent visitor says there’s a car park near the sand dunes, that only costs about £6 for the day.
Where to stay? Croyde Bay Hotel is 9 mins in the car from the beach (but also has an indoor pool, and is 3 mins walk from Croyde Bay Beach).
While Parminter B&B get s a lot of love for being super child-friendly, and is 7 mins drive in the car.
6. Croyde Bay, near Woolacombe
A beautiful location, and a very family-friendly, flat-sand beach. Not too touristy, and it’s surrounded by sand dunes and National Trust headland. It’s great for surfing and surf lessons, too.
There are a few pubs and cafes around if you want to stop for a snack, and it’s in between Saunton Sands and Woolacombe Beach, if you’re looking to visit multiple beaches throughout the day. Check out those low tide sandy pools, too!
Toilets are near the car park. You’ll probably need ‘em – because they’ve recently installed a freshwater tap to help you fill up your bottles.
Dog friendly? Not during the summer, no. It is between October and April.
Is there car parking? Yep, on the east, centre and west of the beach. “We parked at the west side,” says one mum. “£5 all day for parking (pay on exit. Coin only). The car park in the middle is Pay & Go.”
7. Combe Martin Beach
Not too far from Exmouth National Park, Combe Martin Beach will probably be pretty familiar to fans of holiday parks and camps.
It’s a pretty rocky/pebbly shingle beach that’s quite steep, so is probably best for older children.
It’s one to visit at low tide, we reckon, if you’re after expanses of sand and even little sandy coves and rock pools -ideal for kids.
It’s got character, this beach, especially at low tide, but it does also have your essentials: places to eat, toilets, etc. It also leads onto a smaller beach called Newberry Beach.
Combe Martin as a village is also well worth a walk around, with a Nature & Wildlife Park, and the holiday parks in the area come highly recommended by families.
Dog friendly? Not during May – September, unfortunately.
Is there car parking? Yep, there’s a main beach car park and a couple smaller ones on either end of the beach.
8. Blackpool Sands, Dartmouth
This beautiful beach is about 3 miles away from Dartmouth, and though it is a shingle beach, there are a few sandpits, paddle-boarding, water sports and more – which make it ideal for families with slightly older kids.
There are toilets, showers and somewhere to eat on site – and lifeguards are on patrol between the summer months of July ’til the beginning of September.
Dog friendly? Nope, no dogs allowed.
Is there car parking? There’s lots of parking available but it’s around £6 – 8.
9. Torre Abbey Sands, Torquay
Torre Abbey Sands is a soft, sandy beach that slopes down towards the water. It’s flat enough for sandcastles and for kicking a ball about, though.
Great for paddling, and if you feel like it, you can usually rent pedalos too to take your children further out into the water.
As for facilities? There are nearby toilets, a shop and cafes/stands with drinks, ice creams and snacks for when your kids get hungry. There’s also a site suitable for family picnics. Lovely.
Torre Sands is in a fab location, too, as there’s lots of family-friendly stuff to do in Torquay. One family particular recommends Abbey Park, nearby:
“On the way back into Torquay we crossed the road to go towards Torre Abbey and found yet another beautiful spot with a lovely duck pond to wander around…
“We then visited the Torre Abbey tea rooms and then walked through the meadows into abbey park which had quite beautiful gardens and a very nice water feature with viewing platform.
“This park also features crazy golf and cafe. One of the highlights of our trip.”
Dog friendly? Dogs are banned from May to September.
Is there car parking? Yes, expect to pay for parking.
10. Paignton Sands Beach, Paignton
Brilliant and accessibly for families, Paignton Beach has everything you need for a sorted day out: toilets, £5-a-day deck chairs, snack shop, chippy, ice cream and a pier with amusements!
There’s also a grassy area with a little park nearby.
The beach itself is large, clean, and as one parent called it “so safe for little ones”, shallow enough for paddling. P.S. Watch out for the seagulls!
Dog friendly? Dogs are banned on the beach from 1 May – 30 September.
Is there car parking? Not the closest – the nearest car park is called Victoria and is about £4 for 3 hours.
Where to stay? Devon Hills Orchard Park is a family-friendly holiday home in Paignton (yup, there’s a swimming pool, too), which is 10 mins away by car.
11. Broadsands Beach, Paignton
In between Paington and Brixham is Broadsands, part sandy beach, part grassy park. It’s known for great sandwiches (and ice cream) from the brand new cafe, ice cream stands, beach huts and kayak hire. Lovely for walks along the promenade.
Probably not the most modern beach on our list, and you can expect the odd pebbly bit on the sand.
There are toilets and accessible facilities, though! Keep an eye, too: the tide apparently comes right up to the promenade wall.
Dog friendly? Banned during summer.
Is there car parking? Yep, the car park leads straight on to the promenade, but pricey at £10 per day.
12. Exmouth Beach, Exmouth
There’s an ice cream stand and usable toilets, but little else in the way of obvious family activities.
We’ve included this one for families who like to bring their own activities: picnic, ball games, sandcastle kits, the works, even pets ? It’s also very sandy, ideal for little feet.
Dog friendly? Dogs are allowed on certain parts of the beach all year round. Woo!
Is there car parking? Yes, right by the beach. Cost £1.10 per hour, though jumps up to £6.60 once you’ve hit 4 hours, according to one recent visitor.
Where to stay? The Devoncourt Resort, with its indoor pool, is top-rated for those with kids. It’s just 5 mins from the beach.
Exmouth Holiday Home is extremely highly-rated (9.9 out of 10) for kids too, on Booking.com. 8 mins in the car from the beach.
13. Churston Cove, Brixham
This is a stunning, secluded sand and shingle beach, with great little rock pools, which you can access via a slightly steep footpath.
Leave your buggy in the car and get your sandals out, ‘cos it’s a real hidden gem in the seaside town of Brixham (harbour pictured).
The downside? There aren’t many facilities, and there are no toilets. So, maybe it’s somewhere to come for a little swim and a bite to eat with older kids, as it’s a perfect picnic spot, rather than an all-day hang out.
It is good if you’ve got a pet with you on holiday that needs walking, too…
Dog friendly? Dogs are allowed all year round.
Is there car parking? Freshwater is the nearest car park, which costs around £4 for 3 hours
Where to stay? The Weary Ploughman Inn is situated in Churston Ferrers, and is just 7 mins in the car from Churston Cove, and 12 mins walk from the nearest beach.
We also like The Broadsands Paignton, a holiday home which fits 5 and is 12 mins walk from the nearest beach, and 15 mins from the Cove in the car.
14. Preston Sands, Paignton
Soft sand, with rock pools! The perfect combo. There’s toilets, a shop, first aid room, cafés, crazy golf and more amenities.
Deckchairs are available for rent. We’d say it’s pretty accessible, too, so good for buggies. The beach isn’t too big, which is ideal when you’ve got little ones to keep an eye on, and it’s perfect for family photos: what with all the colourful beach huts (for hire) just behind it.
There’s also a grassy park (Preston Green) in the vicinity if you fancy a picnic or a game of football. Not too far from a water park or The Boathouse Pub, which comes highly recommended.
Dog friendly? Dogs are banned from the beach.
Is there car parking? A little bit of on-street parking, and a proper car park on Colin Road.
Where to stay? Preston Sands Hotel does a well-priced family room and is located right on the seafront. Barely 1 min walking distance to the beach!
If you’d rather stay in a rental, Rose Cottage is about 2.5 miles away from the beach and boasts a lovely garden and a BBQ.
15. Bantham Beach
Gorgeous beach (apparently voted one of the prettiest in the UK) in the Kingsbridge area. It’s got killer views, but it’s got lots going on for families.
There’s lots of shallow water for tots just getting used to paddling, especially when the tide’s out. It’s a really wide beach, so plenty of room for everyone.
Lifeguards patrol on weekends, and there’s water sport activities available if you fancy a bit of light paddle-boarding with older kids.
Some families have mentioned the café’s a little pricey, so take a packed lunch and snacks if you’re saving money. That said, the toilets are right up by the car park, and are totally free.
Dog friendly? Dogs are allowed on a separate part of the beach (not near the main bit).
Is there car parking? Yep, £6 to park
Where to stay? The closest hotel, Thurlestone Hotel, is rather pricey. But the location’s stellar for families and it’s such luxury there’s even a spa on site.
Brook Cottage is gorge and probably a bit more purse-friendly, and close to Bantham Beach.
16. Dawlish Warren Beach
A proper family holiday beach – which comes highly recommended from our MFM mums – with clean, shallow water and excellent facilities.
Expect a delicious creamery, pasties, lots of shops and takeaways nearby, and plenty of places to play and build sandcastles.
There are lifeguards on patrol during high season, and top tip: if you get there late enough you might even catch a demonstration!
Dawlish Warren itself is only 5 mins away, too…
Dog friendly? Yes, you can take dogs between the 4th and 9th groynes (wooden walkways) on the beach all year.
Is there car parking? Yep, there’s on-site parking available.
Where to stay? Dawlish Warren Holidays chalets come highly recommended for families with children, and is just 10 mins on foot from the beach.
Enjoy family fun in nature too, by staying at Manor Farm, a little further out at 20 mins walk to the beach. So much for kids to do and explore.
17. Slapton Sands, Torcross
A pebbly beach known for calm, safe seaside fun. There’s a beachside café, toilets, and there’s access for those with disabilities or for anyone lugging a buggy.
There’s an added bonus to visiting this beach: the close-by Nature Reserve, the lake Slapton Ley, which is home to lots of interesting wildlife and animals for your child to explore.
Dog friendly? Dogs are allowed throughout the year.
Is there car parking? On-site parking is available, but the main carpark between the beach and the nature reserve is the Torcross Car Park on Slapton Line, which is £6.50 for an all-day ticket.
18. Goodrington Sands, Paignton
A sandy beach sitting just on the outskirts of Paignton in the seaside village of Goodrington, that despite its popularity, doesn’t feel too cramped.
During low tide, rock pools are visible and perfect for children to explore. It’s got crazy golf, but also water sports and water-based activities, including a boating lake, pedalo hire and kayak hire.
That’s not all, says mum Kate O. “It was a lovely beach with steam trains going right past every hour! It was a huge hit!”
There are shops along the promenade with a good selection of snacks, and 3 lots of toilets: by the North, middle and South parts of the beach. All 3 are open during peak season (May – September).
Goodrington’s not too far from the family-friendly Quaywest Water Park either, so you could double up on your water-based fun.
Dog friendly? Not on the South Beach during May – September, but they can be on the promenade on leads, and can be exercised on the North Beach whenever.
Is there car parking? Yep, though not so near the beach if you’re on the southside.
We’d suggest parking on the north end if you can, as it’s closer to the beach. Torbay Council recommends either Quay West or Youngs Park multistories.
19. East Portlemouth Beach, near Salcombe
A sandy beach made up of smaller coves (Fishermans Cove, Smalls Cove and Mill Bay), which is just a short ferry ride away from Salcombe. So, there’s a win: take your little ones on a ferry to amp up their excitement.
The beach itself has lots of shallow water and is safe for paddling, though it can get quite busy. There’s everything you need in the vicinity: toilets (just off the beach), drinks, ice creams, and the Venus café.
It’s very accessible too. Just make sure you time your visit to coincide with the tide, check the café is definitely open, and keep in mind the ferry runs from 8am – 6pm.
Dog friendly? Yep, dogs are welcome.
Is there car parking? On-site parking’s available, though it seems most families visit from Salcombe on the ferry.
20. Bigbury On Sea
A lovely beach that’s well known for its Sea Tractor rides to Burgh Island, and for being popular for families with little ones in tow.
Don’t let us just tell you, though. As one family put it: “The beach was busy but there was still no shortage of space. “The sand was soft and great for building sandcastles. The sea was nice and was shallow and gradually got deeper as you walked out (no sudden drops).
“Remember to make note of the high tide time though as when the tide comes in it covers a large quantity of the beach and will make you have to pack up and head for dryer ground.”
Lifeguards are on duty, and there’s toilets and a food stall – it gets mixed reviews on whether it’s value for money. But you are on holiday: treat yourself!
Dog friendly? Not everywhere, but there is one small area where dogs are allowed.
Is there car parking? Parking is available, yep.
21. Oddicombe Beach, Torquay
Ideal for families, given that it’s got bustling shops, plenty to eat close by, and beach huts available to rent. It’s good for paddling, but also another one great for water sports. Many who’ve been describe it as: relaxing.
However, it’s probably not the easiest to get to, with access via a steep road or the exciting Babbacombe Cliff Railway (pictured). There is disabled access, though probs not the easiest place ever to be manoeuvring buggies.
Fun fact: Oddicombe Beach is apparently the highest promenade in the country, an amazing 300 feet above sea level.
Dog friendly? Not during the summer, unfortunately.
Is there car parking? Not in the immediate vicinity, as far as we can tell, no. This one’s definitely on foot or, like we mentioned, via the railway (probably the easiest way to be honest).
You can easily get there via public transport. Buses no 22 and 122 from Torquay and Paignton all go past the beach.
More family attractions in North Devon…