We decided to take on the challenge of choosing our ten favourite beaches in South Devon – not an easy task with over 50 to choose from, on over 120 miles of coastline!
Incidentally, did you know that Devon is the only county in England with two separate coastlines? Everyone has their own idea of what makes the best beach, whether it’s a quiet, secluded cove with rock pools to explore or a large sandy playground for all the family to enjoy, or one that provides watersports – the list goes on and on.
So here are our favourites, starting with (obviously!) and all within a reasonable distance of – Dawlish Warren.
Dawlish Warren truly has something for everyone with a mile and a half long, sandy beach which has received the Blue Flag award for the past 22 consecutive years and has lifeguards on duty during the summer season. There are sheltered, sandy dunes, a national nature reserve, family amusements, shops, and restaurants. There is also a golf course open to all and a superb cycle trail around the Exe estuary.
Sandy Bay, Exmouth is another long, sandy, award-winning beach with lifeguards on duty in the summer and is easily reached either by road via Exeter or by train from Dawlish Warren. For a really memorable day out, however, we would recommend you catch the ferry from Starcross which is just a few minutes from Dawlish Warren, you might even be lucky and see one of the many seals who bask on the sandbanks in the estuary!
Fishcombe Cove is a picturesque, secluded cove not far from Brixham, with a shingle beach surrounded by red cliffs which are covered in woodland. Perfect for swimming, kayaking, snorkelling and exploring rock pools, though access could be a challenge for some, with a steep footpath from the car park. There is a café on the beach which is described as a “hidden gem”.
Slapton Sands is, in fact, mainly shingle. With calm waters, this is a safe, family-friendly beach and a great spot to try watersports such as surfing and windsurfing. This is a very pretty and popular area, and it is no surprise that it has been designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. The beach is backed by a large, freshwater lake which is part of a Nature Reserve. The 14th century Start Bay Inn is famous for its seafood and fish and chips.
Blackpool Sands is near Dartmouth on the south-west Coast Path, which is 630 miles long, stretching from Minehead in Somerset, around the Devon and Cornwall coastline to Poole in Dorset. A stunning area with a coarse sandy, crescent-shaped beach backed by pine trees and the rolling hills of South Hams, it is ideal for swimming and watersports. Another award-winning beach with lifeguards on duty. The popular Venus Café is right on the beach and is also a licensed venue for weddings.
Beer is also on the South-West coast path and is close to Seaton on the Jurassic Coast. The beach is shingle and surrounded by white chalk cliffs, from which you can enjoy the most amazing views. It was once famous for smuggling but these days it is best known for the colourful fishing boats which bring in their daily catches, most famously mackerel and crab. The village of Beer is small but very pretty with a good selection of artisan shops, tea rooms, pubs, and restaurants.
Teignmouth sits at the mouth of the River Teign which runs down from Dartmoor. Just five miles from Dawlish Warren it has two beaches, the long, red sandy Blue Flag awarded Main Beach and the characterful River or Back Beach which is bustling with fishing boats, watersports, bars, and restaurants offering fresh seafood. It is a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fantastic views of the estuary and the fabulous sunsets. The main beach has lifeguards on duty in the summer and there is usually plenty going on at The Den, a large grassy area just behind the famous Victorian Pier – with funfairs, donkey rides, craft stalls, etc. There are plenty of boat trips available from the River Beach, across the estuary to Shaldon, mackerel fishing trips, and coastal and river trips amongst them. You can even go on a Sea Safari where you might be lucky enough to spot one of the many seals and dolphins often seen in the area.
Oddicombe has a lovely sandy beach, nestled at the foot of the red sandstone cliffs below Babbacombe, near Torquay. From the beach, you can hire deckchairs, sunbeds, pedalos, and kayaks. There is also a well-stocked beach shop and a lovely café. Best of all is the cliff railway which takes you the easy way down the 73 meters to the beach!
Goodrington Sands is fabulous for a family day out. Another award-winning sandy beach, where the water is fairly shallow which makes it ideal for toddlers and young children to have a paddle. It is also a great place to explore rock pools at low tide. There is plenty to do at Goodrington, with pedalos, sunbeds and deckchairs available to hire and there are water skiing and ring rides on offer! Not far from the beach is Goodrington Park which has a boating lake, go-karts, crazy golf, and a Seashore Centre. For a real adventure, why not jump aboard the steam train which regularly passes through on its way to Dartmouth during the summer season?
Hope Cove is near Salcombe, about an hour’s drive from Dawlish Warren, along a very scenic route around the south-eastern edge of Dartmoor. It is well worth the journey if you like the idea of a beautiful, secluded cove with two sandy bays – the Inner and the Outer Hope, with rocks and rock pools and a small harbour backed by a village with chocolate-box thatched cottages – the whole area is a little gem.