Tunnels Beaches – Review for families

A family-friendly beach or a wedding venue best to avoid? Check out our advice for this Ilfracombe, North Devon attraction

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What is it?

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It’s a Victorian bathing beach with a popular tourist area in Bath Place, Ilfracombe, North Devon. The Sat Nav postcode is EX34 8AN.

Best for:

Toddlers & Preschool / 5 – 8

Cost

£  – There is a small free, around £8.50 for a family of 4, but the ticket lasts the whole day. This fee is because Tunnels Beaches is privately owned and doesn’t receive any funding.

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What’s on offer

Get down to Tunnels Beaches and enjoy a unique beach experience. It’s sand-free, so you won’t be shaking the stuff out of you shoes as you search the rock pools for sea life, swim in the old tidal pool and walk through the unusual Tunnels. The beaches are sheltered, surrounded by magical coves and other places of mystery and wonder.

You could try kayaking in the open water or if you prefer, have a picnic whilst enjoying the stunning views of the North Devon coastline.

Children are catered for with the sot-play-haven Play Hut, which costs £1 an hour for children covered by a Tunnels Beaches ticket. It’s located at the entrance of the beaches and is ideal for children up to 10 years old, though the younger the better.

Café blue (which offers free entry to Play Hut on Fridays 3 – 5pm with a kids meal), so if you want to make a full day of it or don’t fancy a picnic, plan your trip accordingly. There’s also a lovely beach shop selling goggles, children’s toys and other swim/surf essentials.

Tunnels Beaches is pushchair accessible as the ground through the tunnels is either paved or made of concrete. There are also baby-changing facilities on site and deck chairs to hire for £2 a piece. There’s parking (pay and display) nearby.

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Highlights

Children will really enjoy the mystery of entering the beach through the magnificent tunnels, which the beach takes its name from. You won’t be playing in the sand, though, rather enjoying the incredible views on this remarkably clean and well-preserved area of the coast.

The beach feels family-friendly, safe and secluded, almost like a hidden gem, as if no other tourists had been to Tunnels Beaches before you. The rock-pooling opportunities, most prevalent with the tide is out, are one of the most popular activities to take part in here for young children. Adults and older children will love to get out into the open sea for a kayaking adventure.

Everyone (except maybe the littlest of little ones) will enjoy strolling the coves, skimming stones across the water and learning the history behind the beach.  Finally, youngsters will love the excellent play area.  Another bonus is the lovely food at the Blue Cafe – it’s freshly cooked and was rated highly by TripAdvisor users.

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What to watch out for

– The beach is not golden sand! The beach is shale/shingle, so don’t expect to be making sandcastles in the sun or sunbathing on a towel.

– Part of the beach is often closed for weddings during the summer months and therefore, there won’t be a lot of beach left for families to enjoy as a result. You’ll still be charged full price even if you can’t see everything due to a wedding. Perhaps call ahead to see what the situation is on your chosen day if you have concerns.

– There are lots of seagulls flying about and be warned – some of them can get nasty! Be careful they don’t peck a sandwich or two out of your child’s hands.

– Check the website to see if kayak hire is still available, especially if you’re going during peak period. You’re always welcome to bring your own kayak.

– You can’t kayak in the tidal pool. Use common sense and only kayak in suitable weather conditions.

– Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach itself, but are allowed elsewhere on site if they are wearing a lead.

– If you eat at the café, don’t forget that food won’t arrive immediately

MFM tips:

– Why not visit another popular Ilfracombe attraction, Watermouth Castle?

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What the owners say

“Steeped in history, Tunnels Beaches makes a fascinating visit for all ages…

Hand carved in the 1820’s, the four tunnels provide a truly unique experience. Read extensive history information throughout the site – including hilarious guides to Victorian etiquette for boys, girls and for when boating with ladies!

Learn how local entrepreneurs developed the tunnels and pools, and transformed Ilfracombe from a small fishing village into a popular seaside tourist resort.”

Visit the official Tunnels Beaches website

Want to get the most out of your holiday? More family attractions in North Devon…

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The BIG Sheep
Milky Way Adventure Park
Buckland Abbey
Quince Honey Farm
Clovelly Village
Haldon Forest Park
Exmoor Zoo

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