With lush green hills gently rolling above the tranquil cerulean sea, tiny fishing cottages giving way to towering sandstone cliffs and the constant coming and going of fishing fleets with their daily catch, the South Devon coast seems a lot more languid than its North Devon cousin – all jagged cliffs and crashing waves.
The laidback atmosphere, halcyon haze and gentle ebb and flow of the tide all lend themselves perfectly to a relaxed coastal break – but with 125 miles of South Devon coastline to choose from, it can be hard to know where to set up your deckchair.
We’ve picked six of our favourite beaches in South Devon – so whether you’re looking for a golden stretch of sand that’s perfect for building sandcastles with the kids, or a secluded cove where you can simply laze the day away, you can find your perfect holiday destination.
On the western fringes of Seaton, you’ll find this beautiful beach which is a riot of colour in spring and summer – with pink sea thrift and valerian on the clifftops contrasting with the sparkling turquoise sea below. A former smugglers' haunt, this small and picturesque cove is still a working fishing village and you’ll see little boats peppering the shingled shore.
Take a dip in the water, soak up the rays in the shelter of the limestone cliffs or watch the boats go out and come back in – this spot is perfect for long, lazy summer days. For those wanting to venture further afield, there are a few pubs and cafes in Beer itself, or you can walk along the South West Coast Path east to Seaton or west to Branscombe.
Stay nearby: Beach Side, Seaton – sleeps 4
Popular with Exeter residents who want a day by the coast, Budleigh Salterton is close where the River Otter reaches the sea and it also marks the start of Devon’s Jurassic Coast. The 1.25-mile shingle stretch is flanked with beach huts and nestled under a coppery cliff, giving it a peaceful and relaxed feel that attracts families for a fun day out.
Facilities are ample here, with cafes, a children’s play area and sea fishing to keep everyone amused, and it’s a popular sea swimming spot too. In the village, you’ll find plenty of pubs, restaurants, shops and an arts centre so it’s a great choice for making a day of it. Following the beach to the west, you’ll find a nudist beach – great if you’re not so keen on tan lines!
Stay nearby: Lew at Linhayes Farm, Lympstone – sleeps 2 + 1 dog
For those looking to escape Brixham’s summer crowds, head north-west from the town and you’ll discover the secluded and enchanting Fishcombe Cove. It’s accessed via a steep path which means it rarely gets crowded, and the surrounding tall red cliffs create a very peaceful environment. Nature lovers in particular will enjoy this spot – dogs are welcome all year round, it’s a breeding ground for seahorses and, if you jump in for a dip, you might be joined by a seal!
At the top of the cliff is a lovely café and some gardens, and Churston Woods is close by, so if you’re bringing your pup to the beach, you can tie in a longer woodland walk to stretch his legs. Brixham’s amenities – including restaurants, shops, cafes, pubs, a museum and the harbour – are only 1 mile away, and Paignton is just 4.5 miles north.
Stay nearby: The Captains Cabin, Brixham – sleeps 4
Slapton Sands might be almost identical to the image you conjure up in your mind when you think of the quintessential South Devon beach. In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this 3-mile-long curve of shingle and pebbly beach is fringed by charming houses at the village end and is overlooked by undulating green hills in the background. However, unlike most other South Devon beaches, it’s also backed by a large freshwater lake which is a habitat for many rare flora and fauna, making it a must-visit for nature lovers.
The beach has a tragic history – it was used as a training ground by allied forces in World War Two in preparation for the D-Day landings, however due to the use of live ammunition, hundreds of American servicemen died. Today, it is a much more peaceful beach with plenty of pubs and restaurants, and it’s also a great place to try windsurfing and kayaking.
Stay nearby: Cliff House, Torcross – sleeps 10 + 3 dogs
Hope Cove Beach
The tiny seaside village of Hope Cove is home to two twin sandy beaches – Inner and Outer Hope – which look like they would more likely be set on a desert island than the South Devon coast. Boasting soft sand and crystal-clear water, and surrounded by tranquil countryside, they are completely unspoilt and a world away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Once a thriving fishing village, there are only a few boats remaining in the cove. There is still plenty of marine life to be discovered – most enjoyably so in the many rock pools that dot the coastline. You can bring your pup too, as dogs are allowed all year round on Inner Hope beach. When you’re done exploring for the day, head into the village to try out one of the charming pubs.
Stay nearby: Hope Cove – sleeps 6 + 1 dog
While North Devon is better known for it’s surfing beaches, South Devon shouldn’t be overlooked – and that’s why we had to include Bantham on our list! Bantham is perhaps the most popular surfing beach in South Devon – gentle and small waves that are perfect for beginners can be found on the beach while the mouth of the River Avon has plenty to test more advanced surfers.
It’s also a beautiful beach just to visit for a day out – with a long swathe of golden sand offering plenty of space to spread out your beach towels, buckets and spades, and a shallow sea that’s perfect for paddling in. Burgh Island stands steady on the horizon, and kids will love taking the sea tractor out to visit at low tide. The village has some lovely cafes and pubs to explore when you get peckish.
Stay nearby: Fairways Retreat, Bigbury-on-Sea – sleeps 4
If you dream of drawing back the curtains every morning to discover the sparkling sea stretching out towards the horizon, then why not book a stay in one of our South Devon cottages? From quaint fishermen’s cottages crowded like sardines along narrow lanes, to large harbourside homes with front-row seats to the daily catch, our cottages offer the perfect setting for your South Devon holiday.