When it comes to enjoying some much-needed family time, Devon is the perfect place. Rolling fields give way to awe-inspiring cliffs which lead to stunning, sandy beaches… it's got everything you need and more to entertain the masses on your Devon family holiday. If you’re getting ready for a May half term adventure, but are unsure on the best place to be, we’re here to help.
Where are the most picturesque villages? But what is there to do on the moors? And where are the best family days out in Devon?
We've given ourselves the tough task of narrowing down the best places to go and things to do in the area so that you can make the most of your precious time with your family:
A perfect go-to as a family, come rain or shine Westward Ho! is the perfect destination. There are great play facilities on the village green, with play equipment for both toddlers and older children surrounded by a cluster of shops and restaurants. A must-eat in North Devon, you will find a couple of Hocking's ice cream vans in the area too, one of which sells flavoured ice cream – the only Hocking's van to do so (although we’re still not sure anything beats the traditional clotted cream vanilla)!
The village is set against the spectacular, dramatic expanse of the sea, and the pebble-ridged beach is one of the region's most popular and family-friendly. A footpath towards Abbotsham Cliffs is within easy reach and, although not buggy friendly, it's great if you've kids who are happy to walk or go in a backpack.
If the sun's out, enjoy go-karting or crazy golf. If it's raining, head to one of the two arcades armed with 2p coins, or seek refuge at Tea on the Green where a selection of tantalising cakes await you. Are watersports are your thing? Have a go at surfing and bodyboarding while your there, you are in Devon after all. If it's food you're after, head to the Waterfront, which has its own play area or have handmade pizza at Pig and Olive's Pizza on the Pebbles Ridge Cafe.
Check out our local’s guide to Westward Ho! to learn more about this area
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With two beautiful, green, rolling moors covering more than 500 square miles of Devon, you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to expansive sections of land to explore. Exmoor is exquisite, with its forested glens, sheer cliffs and hidden coves along the Bristol Channel coast, but what of Dartmoor?
We'll start at Spitchwick, marked as Deeper Marsh/Spitchwick Common on maps, where you'll find a picturesque bend in the River Dart with a flat, grassy area, perfect for picnics in the summer and playing in the sunshine. The river offers a wonderful swimming opportunity in the warmer months, but fair warning – it's one of the few parts of Dartmoor that does get busy in the summer months, and parking is limited, but it’s well worth a visit.
If you fancy something a little more active, there's also plenty to get involved with. CAReFREE DARTMOOR offer explorations of Dartmoor National Park on foot or on a top-quality electric bike; Tree Surfers near Tavistock has rope bridges, zip lines, walkways and death drops to challenge and excite; and Cholwell Riding provides escorted rides and riding lessons on the moor. You can also visit the last castle ever built in England – Castle Drogo – situated high above the Teign Gorge - which was constructed between 1911 and 1930.
Read more about it in our local’s guide to Dartmoor
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With walks around the coast and the popular quay, a stretch of the legs is one of many reasons to visit Ilfracombe, family in tow. The harbour, in particular, is a great spot, with plenty of fantastic shops, ice cream parlours and restaurants catering for your every want and need, while Damien Hirst's statue Verity stands proud, overlooking everything.
If it's activities you're looking for, you're well in luck. Ilfracombe has an aquarium, mini golf, and amusements, while the duck pond in Bicclescombe Park and crabbing in the many rock pools get you close-up with nature. That’s not to mention the fantastic array of water-based activities offered by Active Escapes; from paddleboarding to coasteering, older kids and adults alike will love what’s on offer. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to see the sights and explore the hidden gems of the area that cannot be accessed on foot!
The historic Tunnels Beaches are also worth spending a few hours on – walk through hand-carved tunnels, which date from the 1820s, to access one of North Devon's most beautiful stretches of coastline.
If you fancy using the town as your base, then regular boats leave for the unique Lundy island during the busier points of the year, giving you a chance to explore the tiny island and its fascinating history. While back on the mainland, there are loads of awesome family events that take place throughout the year. Birdman, which takes place in August, sees wannabe aviators launch themselves off the pier in the hope of “flying”. The beer festivals always cater for children with entertainment aplenty and the annual food fest has something to suit even the fussiest of eaters, while the Mini Rally and the Victorian Festival offer something a little different.
Check out our local’s guide to the area to find the best bits.
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The English Riviera
There's too much to talk about in the gorgeous part of South Devon to narrow it down to just one location! Take Brixham for starters – a beautiful little town set around a stunning harbour, with lots of sweet shops, fish and chip shops, and a beach that doubles up as another great place for crabbing!
From the blue of the sea to the green of the land at Cockington. Just outside of Torquay, you'll find a lovely big green area for children to run around, lots of pretty, thatched houses, little craft shops, cafés, glass blowing and horses – plenty to keep everyone occupied. It's also just half a mile from Torquay, where a total of 22 beaches are within easy reach.
There are some great Devon attractions for families in the vicinity, too. The kids can feel like they're giants at Babbacombe Model Village, and there are four acres of miniature village and railway also to be discovered on the outskirts of Torquay. Paignton is home to Splashdown, Britain's largest outdoor water park, plus a steam railway, plenty of amusements and arcades, and one of the region's top attractions: Paignton Zoo. Here you'll find thousands of animals, including giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, lions and monkeys – perfect for little ones to get up close and personal with natural wonders. Don't forget that just up the road is the Jurassic Coast where there is plenty more to explore too!
Take a look at our local’s guide to the English Riviera to learn more
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Instow and Appledore
Separated by the River Torridge, the two beautiful villages of Instow and Appledore (pictured) are magnificent places to spend time with the family, and for different reasons.
We'll start at Instow where, at low tide, the beach is the perfect place for young families with a dog, as there's a large stretch of sand to explore, although restrictions for dogs do apply to certain parts of the beach seasonally so it’s worth a check before you visit. It also overlooks the picturesque estuary, perfect for parents to simply breathe the fresh air and take in the views. Enjoy a saunter around the sand dunes before a hop, skip and jump to a nearby ice cream van for an indulgent treat, the Glorious Oyster shack for something slightly bigger, or Johns of Instow for tea and incredible cakes.
A short journey away is Appledore, North Devon's hot spot for crabbing. Cast a line over the quayside or at the top of the slipway, where you can also – in season – catch the ferry between Appledore and Instow, or meander through Irsha Street towards the Lifeboat Station and explore the rockpool at low tide. On a balmy summer’s evening, there's nothing better than devouring fish and chips from Sylvester's while sitting on a bench looking across the estuary. The Flame Factory is another wonderful family-friendly restaurant and brings wood-fired pizza, flame-grilled burgers and rare-breed Clovelly Longhorn steaks to the historic quay.
Learn more about these coastal spots in our local’s guide to Instow and Appledore
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Sold on the destination of Devon for your next family holiday? Be sure to take a look at our guide to Devon food and drink, our beach guide, and our extensive guide on things to do so that you can build your perfect family adventure! Be sure to take a look at our great range of family-friendly cottages too!