Love surfing? Stay in a North Devon holiday cottage close to some of the best beaches England has for surfing.
North Devon is celebrated for its superb variety of surfing beaches; for a relatively small area, the contrasts are stark and make for an interesting place to play, learn and develop your surfing skills.
Surfing is notoriously tricky to master, so it shouldn’t be surprising that board riding is more than a sport; it’s a way of life and a deep commitment is needed by those who respond to the call of the sea. As the sea answers to no man or beast, the element of danger is always present, but once you’ve learnt the basics and observed the surfer etiquette, you reduce the risk. North Devon is also a great place to learn how to surf as there are some great schools (found at or near the majority of the beaches) and breaks for wave junkies of all abilities and stamina.
If you are keen to learn how to surf, or are already a partaker of riding the waves, but it’s your first-time surfing in North Devon, here is our guide to some of the best beaches.
Croyde is the jewel in the crown. Said to be the premier break on the Atlantic Coast, the privately-owned beach is open to the public all year round. Backed by high dunes and edged by rock pools and cliffs at the northern (Baggy Point) and southern ends (Down End) of the beach, the sea sends its mighty wave forms into the round bay. A sudden drop off from deep to shallow waters causes the sea to create a succession of neat rollers when weather conditions are right and accomplished surfers head to Down End for the offshore point break. Be aware the beach gets very, very crowded at the height of summer yet it’s a surfer’s wave gold mine during the other seasons with room for everybody. This beach is among British surf champion, Andrew ‘Cotty’ Cotton’s favourites.
Great for: experienced surfers (it gets busy with beginners during summer holidays)
Need to know: WCs, changing facilities, lifeguard coverage (seasonal), showers, parking, ice cream
This 1.5 mile stretch of sandy beach is a great place to learn how to surf. At low tide the beach has a very low gradient, so you can’t go out of your depth without asserted effort. There are several surf schools at Westward Ho! and good lifeguard coverage during the spring and summer season. Due to the width of the beach, there is plenty of room for everybody. You will be hard-pressed to find a more lovely spot to bob around in the waters waiting for a turn to catch a wave. Just across the bay, 10 miles out to sea, is Lundy, which appears to change size and position according to the light. The beach has a long pebble rich hemming it to the sea’s edge for much of its length. Behind the ridge is Northam Burrows Country Park, which is home to a dune system, England’s oldest golf course, great walking trails and lots of convenient parking. The visitor centre also has handy WCs too.
Great for: beginners, intermediates, kite surfers, sea swimmers
Need to know: WCs, lifeguard coverage (seasonal), showers, parking, ice cream
Woolacombe and Putsborough share the same long beach: a wonderful, sandy expanse that runs over 3 miles between the north side of Baggy Point to Mortehoe Point. This is another beach favoured by surfers who are in this for life. The sea doesn’t get too wild here, but it occasionally conjures up a great set of sturdy rollers for accomplished surfers to gambol in. The shore breaks attract playing children close to the facilities at either end of the beach but elsewhere there is a lot of space for surfers, windsurfers, and boogie boarders to do their thing. The beach is backed with wild dunes and plenty of parking high above the beach. Woolacombe is geared towards surf culture and you can even buy a local shaped surfboard at Gulf Stream in the centre of town.
Great for: Pros, intermediates, boogie boarders, kite surfers, paddle boarding
Need to know: WCs, lifeguard coverage (seasonal), showers, changing rooms, parking, ice cream
Just around the corner from Croyde Beach is the wild Saunton Sands, backed by the seemingly endless dunes of Braunton Burrows. The sweeping views from the pull-ins off the road above the beach are very rewarding; look out for dolphins. You can also watch the ardent wave riders far below – it’s one of the best bird’s eye views of a popular beach around. It’s also handy because you can spot riptides from the cliff views too. A fine succession of rollers makes this a lovely beach to surf for easy-going pros and beginners. Like Westward Ho! Beach, the tide rises quickly because of the flat sands. Saunton is a beautiful beach and a pleasure to surf all year round. The facilities are great too with a cool café/bar and a few surf schools in the adjacent car park.
Great for: Intermediates, beginners and sea swimmers
Need to know: WCs, lifeguard coverage (seasonal), showers, parking, ice cream, café
Far be it from us to upset the local surfers who keep their prize breaks a secret... all we’ll say is that if you are a serious surfer you will already know where to go. North Devon has miles of unspoilt coast to the west of Westward Ho! stretching to Hartland Point and down to Bude. There are several beaches and coves that some of the hardiest and most skilled surfers head to. Other less dangerous breaks are kept secret purely because some surfers want somewhere off-the-radar where they can hone their skills away from the public glare. Surfing is a rewarding pursuit yet it’s also a solitary one; it takes courage, diligence and stamina. You shouldn’t be surprised to see a lone surfer along this beautiful yet remote part of the coast, as it is where the most experienced surfers of all sharpen their A-game.
When surfing, always observe surfer etiquette, you can read this surfing etiquette guide to find out more. Why not take a surfing course too? There’s nothing like having a local instructor to guide you through the basics and to give you the low down on how the sea typically behaves at your chosen beach. They would know the depth, the location of submerged rocks and other objects, the tide times, and where rip tides regularly occur.
Why not stay in a surfer-friendly holiday cottage in North Devon? We have properties close to the beach with plenty of storage space for surfboards and apparel with conveniently located showers for cleaning wet suits and hanging them out to dry. Visit our collection of North Devon holiday homes today to feel inspired.