Family holidays can sometimes be an expensive affair, with entrance to pricey attractions, daily meals out and souvenirs to take home all helping to empty your pockets. Fortunately, a family holiday in Devon needn't cost you the earth, with many top days out and tourist attractions great for any budget – some can even be enjoyed for free.
If you're looking for cheap ways to keep the kids entertained during your stay in Devon, look no further than our great list of things to do that won't break the bank.
Head to the beach
One of the things Devon is most famous for is its glorious sandy beaches, perfect for building sandcastles. Many beaches, especially during the summer, are lifeguard-patrolled, making it safe for you and your children to go swimming in the sea. With so many activities to enjoy both on the sand and in the water, the beach is a go-to day out whether you have babies, toddlers, older children or teenagers.
On the northern coast, head to Woolacombe or Croyde for a fun seaside day out, while on the southern coast, Blackpool Sands and Dawlish Warren are both great places to visit. Parking charges aside, this is a low-cost way to enjoy the outdoors – pack a picnic, some towels, and a bucket and spade, and you and the kids will have a fantastic time.
Meet some friendly donkeys
If you're looking to meet some cuddly creatures on your visit to Devon, the Donkey Sanctuary is an attraction which is great for families and, best of all, is completely free (donations are welcomed). More than 500 donkeys rescued by the charity live on this working farm near Sidmouth in South Devon, and you are welcome to walk along the trails and meet the donkeys grazing in the yards. Little ones can also let off some steam in the play area and maze.
Discover Dartmoor National Park
Spanning almost a thousand square kilometres, Dartmoor National Park has so much natural beauty to discover from towering granite tors to wooded valleys. Kids and adults alike will love finding the stunning waterfalls in particular – watch the water cascade over the rocks at beauty spots such as Becky Falls and Lydford Gorge.
A great way to explore Dartmoor is by letterboxing, a pastime which has been around for over 150 years. Follow the clues to find letterboxes scattered across the National Park, where inside you'll find a rubber stamp to mark in your scrapbook that you've found that spot. How many can you find?
Learn something new at a museum
Stuck for ideas of what to do on a rainy day? Devon has some excellent museums where you're sure to go away having learnt something new. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum is one of the best places to visit in Exeter, offering an insight not only into local history but of cultures from around the world. Discover treasures found inside Egyptian tombs, objects used in ancient Greece and much more at this fantastic free indoor attraction.
For something really different try the House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey, where you can watch glass being made, see marbles whizzing around marble runs, and take a step back in time through more than 400 years of toys and games. Entrance to this quirky attraction is completely free.
Explore Exmoor National Park
To the north of the county and straddling the border with Somerset lies Exmoor National Park, where there are a host of natural beauty spots waiting to be found. One of the most spectacular is the Valley of the Rocks, where you'll marvel at the towering rocks and gaping cliffs. Nearby are the delightful villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, where you can travel between the two on the charming cliff railway.
Heddon Valley is also well worth exploring, where you can take a gentle stroll along the river through the shaded woods to the mouth of the River Heddon. With routes suitable for all abilities, even little legs will be able to enjoy a walk through the beautiful scenery on offer.
Travel back in time
Get a glimpse of what Devon life was like centuries ago with a visit to some of the area's top historic attractions. Buckfast Abbey, near Buckfastleigh, is a working monastery dating back to the 12th century, where you can marvel at the incredible architecture and the spiritual haven of the Abbey Church. The surrounding gardens are also free to explore, with a lavender garden, a physic garden and a sensory garden to enjoy a stroll around.
If tales of medieval battles are more your thing, visit the grounds of Lydford Castle, where there is a 13th century tower, a Norman earthwork castle and Saxon town defences. The nearby ruins of Okehampton Castle are the largest in Devon, while at Tiverton Castle you can take a tour of the castle interiors and even try on some civil war armour.
Take a town tour
Another great way to explore what Devon has to offer without spending a lot is to have a wander around some of its many charming towns. Kids and adults alike will love solving the clues and discovering the interesting stories and things to see in 46 towns and places across Devon on a Treasure Trail.
Access to one of the Treasure Trail maps is £6.99 and offers hours of fun as well as the chance to win real treasure; try a classic treasure hunt, crack the clues on a spy mission or find out whodunnit on a murder mystery trail through locations such as Torquay, Exeter (above), Tiverton, Barnstaple and Plymouth.
Frolic in a forest
Beneath a canopy of towering trees lies a range of fantastic activities for you and your family to enjoy in Devon's forests. Haldon Forest Park near Exeter is the largest, where you can follow the clues on the Gruffalo trail, enjoy gentle woodland walks and even navigate the woods by bike, mountain bike or horseback. Bellever, Stoke Woods, Eggesford and Cann Woods are other great spots across Devon where you can enjoy a forest adventure and get closer to nature.
Have fun on a farm
If you're looking for something to do where the kids can get really hands-on with their day out, a visit to a local farm park is one of the best day trips you can take. Occombe Farm, near Paignton, is free to visit and offers beautiful farmland views as well as friendly animals to meet including alpacas, ducks, lambs and chickens. As well as offering its own maize maze, animal corner and pick your own, Darts Farm in Topsham is home to an award-winning farm shop and shopping complex.
Get active by bike or on foot
With hundreds of miles of coastline and open countryside to explore, Devon is a great destination for anyone looking to stretch their legs. It's home to some of the best long-distance routes and trails in the country, which you and the family can explore on foot or by bike. Soak up the scenic coastal views on the South West Coast Path, which runs along both the north and south coasts, or enjoy the impressive scenery of Dartmoor on the Granite Way.
For something a little gentler, try the Tarka Trail, a largely flat trail following in the footsteps of Tarka the Otter, or try the Exe Estuary Trail which follows the course of the river between Exeter and Dawlish.
Find everything mentioned in our fun activity suggestions in the handy map below:
A few of our best family-friendly cottages...
West Nymph Holly Hock Cottage, Okehampton
A large open garden surrounds the house with plenty of space for the kids to run and around and enjoy, this cottage is the ideal home for a family-friendly getaway, particularly if you have younger children. Sleeping up to 6 people in three comfortable bedrooms, this house has a spacious kitchen great views out to a lake in the distance. Arguably the best feature is the hot tub, so you can relax and unwind once the kids have gone to bed!
Book your next stay in West Nymph Holly Hock Cottage.
South Lobb Hutchings Barn, Saunton
Part of a complex of three great properties, this cottages has everything you need to enjoy a fantastic stay in North Devon. Close proximity to three of the best beaches in the county, the cottage sleeps up to four people and comes with ample inside space, as well as access to a shared heated swimming pool, patio and a large garden and children'splaying area.
Book your next stay in South Lobb Hutchings Barn.
Cliff House, Tawcross
A simply incredible property, Cliff House has everything you could need to enjoy a luxurious family getaway. Found on a cliff with amazing views out over the coast, it can accommodate up to ten people who will be able to enjoy a wood-fired hot tub, game room with games consoles, pool table and table football, as well as plenty of space through the cottage.
Book your next stay in Cliff House.
For more inspiration…
If you've been inspired to spend your next time away with the family in this varied and beautiful county, take a look at our collection of Devon family-friendly cottages. Our great range of cottages has something for every family, whether you're after lots of space, a games room or a nice peaceful location to spend some quality time together.
Looking for more days out ideas? Head to our Handbook for some of the best things to do in Devon, as well as destination guides and plenty of holiday ideas!