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South Devon’s best surf spots holiday cottages

South Devon’s best surf spots

Ruth 26 February 2020

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.

If you’re a keen surfer heading to Devon on a wave-seeking trip, you may have heard that North Devon is the only place where you can find some high-quality waves. And while it’s true that Devon’s north coast receives a more abundant swell from the Atlantic, if you ignore the south coast’s waves then you’re missing out on epic, uncrowded surf among some of the county’s most stunning scenery.

From gentle beach breaks suitable for beginners learning to surf, to fast and hollow waves in river mouths that are best left to the experts, South Devon should certainly be a contender for your next surf trip. And if the sea goes flat, you’ve still got charming villages, historic sites and mouth-watering eateries to explore before the swell picks back up again.

Here’s our guide to the best places to surf in South Devon – and a few great holiday cottages that are perfect for some post-surf relaxation.  

Mothecombe

Mothecombe
Mothecombe credit: Instagram @hlhawyard

 

At the mouth of the River Erme as it reaches the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find Mothecombe Beach, a lovely sandy beach on a privately-owned estate, with plenty of public parking, a restaurant and other facilities. There’s around a 15-minute walk from the car park to the beach, which is worth factoring in when your arms get tired towards the end of the surf session!

As this surf break is one of the closest to Plymouth, it does tend to get crowded at the weekends, but it’s a great spot for all abilities due to its gentle waves. The only hazards are a few occasional rip tides and a few feisty locals – but be respectful in the sea and you should get along fine!

Wave report:

Wave type: Beach break
Wave direction: Left and right
Wave size: 🌊
Wave quality: 🌊
Works best at: Low tide, big swells
Skill level: πŸ„‍

Stay nearby:

Swift Cottage, Noss Mayo | sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Challaborough

Challaborough
Challaborough credit: Instagram @kmcd586

 


One of South Devon’s most well-known surf spots, Challaborough sits alongside its twin beach, Bigbury-on-Sea, to the west of Burgh Island which can be accessed by foot at low tide or by the quirky sea tractor when the tide’s in! It’s a really picturesque spot with low-tide rock pools that the little ones will love, plus there are plenty of village facilities including public parking – try the Aymer Cove car park which is a little walk from the beach but free for National Trust members.

There’s a reason Challaborough is a popular South Devon surf break – the quality and size of the waves are among the most consistent on the coast, with a decent southerly swell producing fast and hollow waves to please intermediate surfers. Just be aware of a few rocks on the beach bottom, and a few rip currents on the right of the bay towards the rocks.

Wave report:

Wave type: Beach break
Wave direction: Left and right
Wave size: 🌊🌊
Wave quality: 🌊🌊🌊
Works best at: Rising and falling tides, north-easterly wind
Skill level: πŸ„οΈπŸ„

Stay nearby:

Rock Cottage, Salcombe | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Bantham

Bantham
Bantham credit: Instagram @compassquay


This is the South Devon surf spot – and is actually two sets of breaks on Bantham Beach, just across the River Avon from Challaborough. The beach offers a beginner-friendly beach break, with the waves produced by shifting sand bars (these can create rips, so always pay attention to the lifeguards). The other break is in the mouth of the River Avon which is only surfable at low tide and best left to the pros – the fast-flowing river water produces some speedy rip currents which can be used to your advantage to carry you out to the line-up, but only if you know what you’re doing!

Due to its year-round popularity, Bantham has lots of choice for a post-surf pick-me-up, and there are also facilities like toilets and a public car park. Another side effect of its popularity is that it can get crowded, so be respectful in the waves.

Wave report:

Wave type: Sand bar
Wave direction: Left and right
Wave size: 🌊🌊
Wave quality: 🌊🌊
Works best at: Low and mid tide, north-easterly wind
Skill level:
πŸ„

Stay nearby:

Fairways Retreat, Bigbury-on-Sea | sleeps 4

Want to learn to surf? Check out our guide to the best beginners' beaches in Devon.

Thurlestone

Thurlestone
Thurlestone credit: Instagram @ver0ver


The next village across from Bantham also has a great surf break but, unlike Bantham, this one is for intermediate to expert surfers. The sandy beach has a few submerged rocks and the shifting sand bars produce some fast, right-hand waves which are among some of the best on the entire coastline in the right conditions.

As it’s slightly trickier than neighbouring Bantham, Thurlestone is often a lot quieter, but still has some decent facilities like a pub and a village shop. There’s a public car park near the golf course, and as you walk towards the sea you should see some nicely peeling waves in front of you when the conditions are good.

Wave report:

Wave type: Sand bar
Wave direction: Right
Wave size: 🌊🌊🌊
Wave quality: 🌊🌊
Works best at: Low and mid-tide, north/north-west/north-east winds
Skill level:πŸ„οΈπŸ„πŸ„

Stay nearby:

Warren House, Thurlestone | sleeps 10

North Sands, Salcombe

North Sands
North Sands credit: Instagram @noahpetersons


Where the Kingsbridge Estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find one of the ficklest waves in South Devon – but it’s worth checking out when there’s a storm. Large south-westerly swells bring waves up the estuary and to North Sands, where the beach is sheltered from a headland and produces some sizeable peaks.

In the right weather, you can take your pick from either the left or right-hand peak which form best at mid-tide. When you’re all surfed out, you have Salcombe’s many cafes, pubs and restaurants at your disposal – plus there’s ample parking available in North Sands car park.

Wave report:

Wave type: Rivermouth
Wave direction: Left and right
Wave size: 🌊🌊🌊
Wave quality: 🌊🌊🌊
Works best at: Mid-tide, large south-west swells, south-westerly winds
Skill level: πŸ„πŸ„οΈπŸ„

Stay nearby:

No.8 Belle Vue, Kingsbridge | sleeps 5

Paignton

Paignton
Paignton credit: Instagram @_mark_mason


Facing east and sheltered by Berry Head, Paignton doesn’t receive a lot of the swell from the Atlantic – but when it does, it’s well worth a visit. The popular resort is well set up for visitors, with ample parking right by the beach plus plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafes to sample after you’ve been in the sea.

When the swell turns south-easterly or easterly, you can find some fun waves suitable for all abilities, and with the beach bottom being completely sandy and the town being in a sheltered bay, there are rarely any hazards – making it a great spot for everyone to enjoy!

Wave report:

Wave type: Beach break
Wave direction: Left and right
Wave size: 🌊
Wave quality: 🌊
Works best at: Mid and high tide, south-easterly or easterly winds
Skill level: πŸ„

Stay nearby:

Sandy Toes Paignton | sleeps 4

Exmouth

Exmouth
Exmouth credit: Instagram @adz_zephyr


This East Devon reef break is often known as the Bone Yard, but don’t let that put you off. Apart from a few rocky hazards, it’s a fun wave suitable for most abilities (beginners, maybe sit this one out). The best waves come at high tide, when you can paddle out to the line-up from the left end of Sandy Bay Beach.

The wave can be quite fickle, but even if the conditions aren’t great, Exmouth is still worth a visit. With ample parking and public facilities, it’s easy to get to and easy to enjoy – plus there are some great cliff walks along the South West Coast Path and plenty of things to see and do in the town centre.

Wave report:

Wave type: Reef
Wave direction: Right
Wave size: 🌊🌊
Wave quality: 🌊
Works best at: Mid and high tide, northerly wind
Skill level: πŸ„οΈπŸ„

Stay nearby:

Lew at Linhayes Farm, Lympstone | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Beer Point

Beer Point
Beer Point credit: Instagram @mrjoe

 

Situated between Branscombe and Beer, this point break is really easy to get to and offers long, chilled-out waves suitable for most abilities on a south-westerly swell. In the middle of the point there is an A-frame wave that’s a little faster, and some right-hand and left-hand breaks either side – making it a fun and challenging surf spot.

It’s a bit of a walk from the nearest car park, meaning that it’s often an uncrowded place to surf. Plus, you have your pick of both Beer and Branscombe’s facilities when you’re all surfed out.

Wave report:

Wave type: Point break
Wave direction: Left and right
Wave size: 🌊🌊
Wave quality: 🌊🌊
Works best at: Rising and falling tides, south-westerly winds
Skill level: πŸ„οΈπŸ„

Stay nearby:

Beach Side, Seaton | sleeps 4

With an abundance of surf breaks to suit every ability, surely you think it’s time to pack your surfboard and wetsuit and head to South Devon? But if you’re still convinced North Devon is the best place to surf, here’s our guide to North Devon’s best surfing beaches. Or take a look at our full collection of South Devon coastal cottages to be even closer to the action.

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