Looking for a beach getaway for the weekend or beyond? Here are the best places to visit in North Devon so you can start planning your perfect trip today.
Devon is arguably one of England’s prettiest counties with rolling green hills, dramatic cliffs running down to the sea, beautiful beaches and quaint little towns and villages. It’s in North Devon in particular where you’ll find a traditional fishing heritage mixed with modern surf culture, the most beautiful little villages, a jaw-dropping coastline and outstanding natural beauty.
If you’re thinking about visiting the North Devon area, you’ll be happy to know there are many beautiful places to visit in North Devon from cute little villages to golden, sandy beaches. There are also plenty of North Devon attractions for the whole family. Spending some time here is the perfect excuse for a UK staycation at any time of year, even though it’s when the sun is out that this part of the world truly shines.
Keep reading to find out the best fun things to do in North Devon and plan your itinerary today.
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The Best Time to Visit Devon
Devon is a wonderful place to visit, generally provided the weather holds which can be challenging- this is England after all.
In general, the best time to visit Devon is in the spring and summer months between May and September. At this time of year, you’ll see less wet weather, warmer temperatures and much longer days to explore the county. That being said it can rain in the summer too so it helps to be as flexible as possible.
The summer months of July and August see the most crowds so if you’d like to explore without the crowds make sure to time your visit for June or early July as well as September.
If you manage to get a sunny weather window in winter, visiting Devon can also work, just be prepared for cold weather, very chilly winds and much shorter days.
How Long to Spend in North Devon
We had four full days to explore the area which was perfect but we could have easily extended our stay. There is no shortage of things to do if you find that you want to extend your stay. With Cornwall just down the A39, you can easily extend your trip to also include the highlights of Northern Cornwall like Bude, Tintagel, Port Isaac, Padstow and even Newquay.
Having said that, I think four days is the minimum you’ll need to experience all the following best places to visit in North Devon without rushing.
The Best Places to Visit in North Devon
There are so many amazing places to visit in North Devon. From hidden coves, dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches and quaint towns and fishing villages, North Devon offers the visitor many things to do in a few days in this part of the United Kingdom.
Here are some of the best places to visit in North Devon you simply can’t miss when planning your trip.
Lynton and Lynmouth
Often listed together, Lynton and Lynmouth are two villages that perfectly exist side by side. Lynmouth occupies the built-up area at the bottom of the hill around the harbour, while Lynton lies at the top of the cliff.
These quaint villages are perfect for walking, exploring, eating and shopping as well as enjoying the divine sea views on a sunny day.
Start in Lynmouth and explore the beautiful harbour, main street and the incredibly quaint Rising Sun pub. From here you can then take the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, the steepest, water-powered railway in the world that’s been operating since the late 1800s. On the way up you’ll get some spectacular views of Lynmouth harbour and the bay.
If the railway isn’t quite your thing you can also follow the steep South West Coastal Path all the way up to Lynton or even drive.
Continue exploring Lynton at the top of the hill. Here you’ll find an array of lovely cafes, restaurants and local shops to pop your head into.
One of the larger towns on the North Devon coast, Ilfracombe is full of delightful things to do and you could easily spend the afternoon here wandering around and exploring.
As a typical British seaside town, you’ll be able to find everything here from local sights, fantastic beaches as well as entertainment like arcades, pubs and even a fair.
Start your time in Ilfracombe with the Tunnel Beaches, a tunnel dug by local miners at the beginning of the 1800s in order to access the beautiful beaches on the other side of the cliff without having to somehow get around the steep cliffs here. You could easily spend a few hours at the Tunnel Beaches, enjoying the sunshine, looking into the rock pools and relaxing.
Next, follow the coast around Capstone Hill towards Ilfracombe Harbour. From here you’ll get the best sea views in town and on a clear day make sure to also look out for Lundy Island which you can easily see from the shore. Finally, finish your time here at the harbour. Make sure not to miss taking some lovely pictures of Ilfracombe and the harbour from this angle as well as ‘Verity’– the giant, somewhat grotesque sculpture by British artist Damien Hirst.
Croyde Bay and Croyde Beach
Devon’s surf capital, Croyde is the perfect mix of charming English village and modern surf culture. You’ll find plenty to do here from exploring the bay to having a great coffee in town. There are many surf shops here and places to hire a surfboard or SUP if the water is flat.
Croyde beach is also another large picturesque beach in North Devon with plenty of sand space to relax and have a picnic as well as go for a swim or surf.
If you’ve never surfed before and want to try Croyde is one of the best places in the UK to learn so make sure to sign up for a lesson at one of the surf schools here and give it a go.
If you’re looking for one of the best large, sandy beaches in North Devon, Saunton Sands is definitely one of the best and probably one of the least crowded in summer. It’s easily one of the best things to do in North Devon for beach lovers.
A vast beach, particularly at low tide, there is plenty of space here to spread out, set up for the day or even just take a nice long walk. Flanked by sand dunes this beach is also a lovely space to explore the sand dunes area or even shield yourself from the wind.
Saunton Beach is also one of the best in North Devon for surfing. You can grab a lesson or rent a board here at the surf school at the entrance to the beach. If it’s flat SUP is also a great option for an afternoon on the water.
At the entrance to the beach, you’ll find a cafe and stores for all your needs, Saunton town is also a good spot to buy beach provisions.
From Santon beach, make sure to drive the coastal road to or from Croyde for the best scenic views of the whole beach from the rocky headland above.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
Located just south of Bideford, the RHS Garden Rosemoor offers the perfect slice of tranquillity on any Devon itinerary. Surrounded by lush woods on all sides, this 65-acre- garden showcases the best of British flora. From a variety of different gardens inside such as the woodland, Mediterranean garden or vegetable garden, there is no shortage of natural space to explore.
You can easily spend hours here roaming around, learning more about gardening and horticulture as well as admiring all the different individual gardens. Make sure not to miss the lovely Rose Garden, the colourful Hot Garden, The Cool Garden and the Stone Garden. There are even picnic areas, ideal if you want to bring something to eat and further enjoy these wonderful, peaceful spaces.
Make sure to check their website here before visiting to get up-to-date information about what’s going on.
One of the best and most historic fishing villages in the area, Appledore is another one of the best places to visit in North Devon. Located on the Taw and Torridge Rivers estuary, Appledore was an important settlement throughout history. Famed for being an important shipbuilding centre for centuries, you’ll find many references to fishermen and boats in this historic town.
There are quite a few things to do in Appledore. Firstly you’ll want to take a walk along The Quay and admire the expansive estuary views. Appledore is also home to the North Devon Maritime Museum where you can learn all about Appledore’s history, shipbuilding in the area and more.
Make sure not to miss walking the tiny, cobblestone streets with the town’s colourful, cottages, the former homes of local fishermen.
Next don’t miss relaxing in one of Appledore’s best pubs with sea views. The Beaver Inn and The Royal George are both great options for a drink or lunch with beautiful sea views.
If you have some time, you can also drive over to the pretty village of Instow, just over the water. From Instow, you can get some pretty lovely views and photos of Appledore.