The North Devon coastline is packed with beautiful beaches. And it’s also a fine spot for surfing, with many great surfing destinations in this area. Some of the best beaches in North Devon are some of the greatest places to learn to surf in the UK, with choices of surf schools and lessons available. Alongside the surfing opportunities, these are destinations with varied nightlife and plenty else to do during the day. So grab your board, a sense of adventure and your best balance, and let’s investigate.
Best Beaches In North Devon For Surfing
If you’re looking for great surfing spots on the North Devon coast, we’ve got choices for all levels of ability here. Croyde is legendary for surfing, but you should also consider exploring neighbouring Saunton Sands, Northam Burrows to Westward Ho! and further north to Putsborough Sands and Woolacombe. All are fine destinations in their own right, so if you’ve yet to try surfing, you can rest assured there will be plenty to do when you’re not wriggling into a suit and grabbing your board. But if you’ve been seduced by the continuing search for the perfect wave, this is a coast that will give you great opportunities to find it.
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Surfing In North Devon: What To Expect
Surfing season across most of the UK is at its best between September and November. There’s no doubt that you’ll need to be suited throughout the year, with sea temperatures running from a chilly 9 degrees C in January and February to a peak of 16 degrees in July and August. The best surf season has temperatures typically ranging between 11 and 14 degrees.
Westward Ho!: Shops and Cafes to Surf Spots
Alongside being the only place in England with an exclamation point at the end of its name, Westward Ho! has some good opportunities to catch the surf. The left hand side of the beach is closest to shops and cafes, and as such is more busy. But head to the right, and you can find more space to explore. I saw plenty of people just enjoying sitting in the surf to be pounded by the waves. This is one of the best places for beginner surfers, with lifeguards in summer and slow waves.
Westward Ho! itself is a popular tourist spot. This means that there are lots of shops, cafes and amusement arcades just a few steps from the beach. So if you’d like a day when you can wander between beach and town, this would be a great option.
Northam Burrows: Wild And Unexpected
Not particularly well known by visitors, Northam Burrows is next along the coast from the wilder end of Westward Ho! You’ll take the road down that leads through a golf course beautifully populated by sheep in a mutually beneficial arrangement. They keep the greens mown, and everyone’s happy. You’ll know you’ve reached the Burrows when you can see a big mound of pebbles and the lifeguard post.
Get here in the early evening, and you’ll find an arriving crowd ready to enjoy the surf. By day, this is what I’d describe as a dedicated swimmers’ beach, with sturdily suited people pulling on hats and making purposeful paths through the waves. It’s also a popular spot for dog walkers.
Saunton Sands:Beach Huts and Dunes
I make no apologies for my less than secret love of Saunton. It’s a wide expanse of golden sand, backed by dunes to the left where it meets Braunton Burrows. It was here that the D-Day landings were practiced, and if you’re familiar with Normandy beaches, you’ll know what to expect here. Saunton is very family friendly, with a run of beach huts for hire, and a beachfront cafe and shops. It’s beloved of dog walkers in the evenings.
It’s also a place where a lot of children learn to bodyboard. There’s a lot of room to try things out, even when the beach is at its most crowded. The craggier side of the bay to the right has rock pools at low tide, and better surfing conditions. That’s as you would expect, with Croyde just around the headland. You might have to paddle out a long way to catch a wave here, but it’s a great place to manage to stand on your board for the first time.
Croyde: Low Tide Barrels
Croyde is the surfers’ surf beach. By that I mean it’s visited not just by locals, but by visitors from far and wide. It has some great hollow barrels created by the shape of the bay. This can mean that it becomes rather crowded, in part because of the great surfing infrastructure found ashore too. If you’re driving through Croyde on a busy day, it’s an experience getting past the crowds on foot.
If you’re early in your surfing education, this is not somewhere to try out during the big bad days, unless you want your nasal cavities explored by a lot of salt water. But it’s a fine opportunity to learn by watching the experts. Bring your binoculars and drink it all in.
Woolacombe: UK’s Best Beach
Let the long run of accommodation choices stretching along the road into Woolacombe give you a hint that this is a destination voted the UK’s best beach. Its three miles of sandy splendor means that it’s a repeat destination for many visitors. Baggy Point to the south leads round to Croyde Bay, and Woolacombe gets gentler conditions, making it a great spot for learners and novices alike. All that sand means there’s room for everyone.
There are lifeguards here in summer. This is arguably one of the best beaches for beginners, along with Westward Ho! It’s also great for people who have learned the basics, and a good spot for longboarders. Combesgate, just around the corner, is a much more challenging location with rocks and a strong rip.
Putsborough Sands: Sheltered Spot
Another contender for my favourite Devon beach, Putsborough is a fine combination of big sandy beach and surf. There are many craggy and sizeable rock formations at low tide, meaning that you can effectively set up camp in a sheltered spot. You’ll probably need to move back up the beach during the day to avoid the returning tide.
I knew this was going to be a big beach for surf fans when the family next to me purposefully suited up and started waxing their boards. In the car park, cars were draped with drying suits. This is one of the North Devon coast’s more sheltered spots, meaning that when the wind is up, Putsborough is a safer haven from big waves. But you need to be aware of a rip current at the southern end near the cliffs, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
This is somewhere to gain your water confidence, and to help children gain theirs. It’s a very family friendly spot with a cafe and shop. Be warned, it’s a narrow lane for much of your journey via Croyde, and a steep slithery path or steps down to the beach. It’s also the first place I’ve found award winning loos at the coast!
Resources for Great Surfing Spots On The North Devon Coast
To learn more about the typical and conditions for each beach, and to check out their webcams, look no further than the knowledgeable Magic Seaweed. You’ll also find daily updates there.
For more information on visiting Devon, check out Visit Devon‘s site.
Best Beaches? We’ve Got Them!
If you’ve enjoyed this surf around North Devon, then check out our account of Sea Fever on the coast. We’ve also compiled our guides to:
If you’re looking for other beach destinations, we wholeheartedly recommend the charms of Brighton, packed full of things to do and with an incredible pier.
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