A local

A local's guide to Woolacombe

Ed 24 October 2018

Woolacombe is a special destination for those that love the beach. Famous for its miles of uninterrupted sands it is a dream come true for surfers, kite-surfers, paddleboarders and sea swimmers; there really is enough space for everybody. The large village is home to an excellent range of amenities, including fine dining establishments, good pubs, handy facilities that you’d expect to find in towns twice the size, and the UK’s oldest and longest continuously running nightclub, The Marisco. With good transport links into Ilfracombe, Braunton and Barnstaple, this North Devon seaside resort is closer than you think.


Skip to section:





Food and drink




About the village:

View this post on Instagram

Strong bench game

A post shared by  Caroline (@carolinelhunt) on

The centre of the village is perched at the northern end of the beach at the foot of a steep hill. As you approach the town by road you are in a long steady descent down to sea level. The majority of the shops and restaurants are clustered around two or three streets adjacent to the beach facilities (West Rd, South St, Mill Ln). Besides The Marisco club, you will also find numerous surf clothing and apparel shops, some of which hire out boards and wetsuits, including Bay Surf Shop and Shore 2. You won’t be short of places to buy buckets and spades, postcards and beach balls – there are even a few convenience stores to add to the mix. You will also find the majority of Woolacombe’s pubs and restaurants here. There are even two small cinemas in Woolacombe showing the latest films. 

The beaches:

View this post on Instagram

The sky went from orange to this as the sun set !! No filters, no photoshop, just taken on my phone 📱 🌊🏄🏼‍♂️🌅

A post shared by  Richard Andrews (@surfing_chef) on

Imagine, a 3 mile long unspoilt beach, almost as far as the eye can see. Stretching from Barricane Beach and Morte Point beyond at the most northerly point all the way south to the cliffs of Baggy Point at Putsborough, Woolacombe beach will leave you in no doubt as to why this stretch of golden sand is a consistent favourite when it comes to handing out awards for the nation’s best!

For surfers, it’s a great place for beginners and those who appreciate a steady procession of rollers. Without the serious threat from rip tides, it’s also a superb choice for those looking to sea swim and paddleboard. There are a few restrictions for those who want to share the beach experience with their dogs for the busy, warmer part of the year, but as we said, there are acres of space for everybody to do their thing. The beach is backed by one of the longest and deepest dune systems in England, providing a maze of tracks to hurtle down, it’s also a great nature reserve that needs to be preserved so stick to the trails! Adders, lizards and birds all live in amongst the windswept blowouts and scarps.


At the north end of the main beach is a wonderful rocky cove called Barricane Bay. During the late spring, summer and early autumn, the café is open and you can enjoy a curry (yes, a curry) whilst you watch the sun go down. High tide reduces the beach space dramatically here so check your timetables so that you can optimise your time at this bewitching spot secretly tucked away from the throngs that pitch up around the central beach entrance and main car park. Also head further up the beach to Combesgate Beach if you like rockpooling; an ideal spot to take the children,

The attractions:

Beyond the beach, there are quite a few local attractions in and around Woolacombe. One of the best activities is getting surf lessons at one of the local providers in the village like Woolacombe Surf Centre or Hunter Surf School.  For a family day trip, consider a fun outing to Borough Farm Sheepdog and Falconry Displays, an active hit for all animal and bird fans. Go kayaking with H2Outdoor around Mortehoe Point or go hang gliding with Fly Like a Bird. For a slightly tamer option, the mini-golf is a popular choice to while away an hour or two.

Further afield is Ilfracombe with its beaches, including the characterful Tunnels Beach, and mini golf. You can also take a trip out to sea on a tour boat, charter a fishing boat, or better yet, take a boat (all year except winter) to Lundy. Lundy is an exceptional choice for those looking for a natural escape from the hustle and bustle of mainland England; the island is, essentially, a very pretty yet dramatic nature reserve.

The accommodation:

Seasons in Woolacombe

It's easy to see why people have been taking family holidays to this spot for years. Stay in Woolacombe for convenience and you need not leave town until it’s time to go back to reality. We have some excellent places to stay in town for you to choose from for your Woolacombe holiday, or take a look at our full collection of Devon cottages and opt to stay nearby. 

If you want a beach on your doorstep and incredible views out towards Lundy Island, then one of the many great cottages in Woolacombe will be perfect. With family-friendly and dog-friendly cottages, as well as some stunning cottages with hot tubs, you can rest assured that everyone will be in for the best summer holiday yet!

The food and drink:

At the fine dining end of the ‘food and drink’ scale, Noel Corston’s NC@EX34. Open for the spring and summer months, there’s one sitting per evening for 10 lucky diners, so booking is essential. Do not miss out under any circumstances.

For lunch or dinner with a view across the ocean, try The Boardwalk Bar & Restaurant. The menu boasts a solid list of surf and turf appetite annihilators and a decent wines list. The Red Barn is a popular choice of an evening for those with a penchant for BBQ. The best-kept secret in town is the Barricane Beach Café with its legendary curries. Pick a low-tide, sunny evening and it’s an affordable paradise treat, an unforgettable choice that will keep you running back for more. 

We can’t forget the chippy and it’s the Woolacombe Fryer on Barton Road’s job to supply sunseekers and loyal locals with their dose of battered fish and chips! There’s another tiny chippy up in the neighbouring village of Mortehoe too! We’ve tried both and it’s hard to pick the best without shopping at one for fish and the other for chips.

The history:

Woolacombe has a long history as a traditional seaside resort; the tell-tale Victorian and Edwardian-era architecture of the seafront houses belies this fact. In the 1880s a local architect proposed that Woolacombe, a tiny hamlet at the time, be developed into a coastal resort. By 1905, the promenade looks much as it does today. Woolacombe stands at the edge of a huge privately-owned conservation area largely managed by the National Trust. During the Second World War, the town played host to many evacuees as it was deemed one of the safest places in the UK. Local beaches were also used as training grounds for the D-Day landings with lots of American camps set up close to the village and the wider area. There is a memorial to commemorate the Americans who were stationed here and who went on to fight in mainland Europe.

The sights:

Vying for your attention alongside one of the best ocean views in England, Woolacombe is Mortehoe Point. A distinctive rocky outcrop less than 2 miles north of Woolacombe, it is a big hit with local walkers as it has many trails that criss-cross its area. The South West Coast Path cuts around its edge and a good 6-mile circular walk out to Bull Point Lighthouse is a great way to spend a sunny day. Also close to Woolacombe is the 108-mile-long Tarka Trail that winds its way east to Ilfracombe or south via Braunton, Barnstaple, Bideford, Torrington before ending in Meeth near Okehampton. Largely level, it’s a popular location with cyclists and walkers alike. Travel to Ilfracombe for boat trips, Tunnels Beach, Verity, shops, a cinema, and eateries galore. Take your kids rock pooling at the picture-perfect haven of Lee Bay, the neighbourhood’s best-kept secret besides curry at Barricane.

Fancy a holiday in Woolacombe? We have a fantastic collection of holiday cottages in and around the village – visit our holiday homes to inspire your next break in North Devon.

Discover more of Devon:

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

Like it? Share it...

Read more like this

The UK’s best 24-hour city trips

It turns out you don’t need to head to the big cities for fun adventures - come and discover the UK's best cities that can be seen in a day!

Things to do and see in Appledore

Discover Appledore in North Devon and find out what makes it a magical holiday destination.

15 secret North Devon beaches

North Devon’s coast is home to many amazing beaches, but discover the most secret and hidden ones today.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Stay In Devon is an appointed representative of ITC Compliance Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (their registration number is 313486) and which is permitted to advise on and arrange general insurance contracts as an intermediary.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Stay In Devon | The Travel Chapter Limited is registered in England and Wales. | Registered office Travel Chapter House Gammaton Road Bideford EX39 4DF Company No. 02431506 | VAT reg: 143053210.