As the lockdown period eased, we took advantage of the time to visit our local best beaches in East Devon. We are a family of four, with one four year old and one baby. Each beach has something to appeal to each of us. In general, quiet sandy beaches appeal most to the adults. The baby appears to have a preference for pebbly beaches. Or at least he enjoys trying to eat the pebbles. The four year old seems to like all beaches. She loves running in and out of the sea at sandy beaches. But equally loves searching for interesting pebbles or throwing them in the sea. Although her aim isn’t perfect yet; the odd one goes awry, so watch out if you see us there!
Sandy beaches in East Devon
Exmouth has two miles of flat, sandy beach, overlooking the estuary of the River Exe. We had previously only visited this beach in the winter. When it is nice and quiet.
However, it appears it is very popular in the summer. This is partly due to the easy access – there is parking all along the sea front and a number of car parks. It is very accessible for families, as there is a flat path the whole way along the beach. There is a parkrun held here on Saturdays (currently on hold due to Covid-19 July 2020) and it could be a good course for a pb if it’s not windy.
Its popularity is also due to the extensive facilities available in the town. Including restaurants, boat trips, adventure playground, soft play and other family-friendly facilities (some reopening from 4th July 2020).
Take care to observe the swimming zones. There are dangerous currents in the estuary.
Our opinion: fabulous sandy beach but too busy in the summer for us.
Sandy Bay is a pretty half-mile sheltered, sandy cove. It is possible to walk here from Exmouth. It is about 2.7km along the South West Coast path from the far end of Exmouth beach to Sandy Bay. There are some undulations, but our 4 year old was fine with the walk and carrying the baby was fine too. It is also possible to walk along the beach at low tide. You can also park in Littleham and use the public footpath through the caravan park site.
The sea here is gentle and shallow, so perfect for kids. And there are rock pools to explore too at low tide.
However, a big drawback is the huge caravan park at the top of the cliff. In winter and whilst the park has been closed due to travel restrictions, the beach has been beautifully quiet. We will visit again when the park is open to see how busy the beach is and report back. When the park is open, visitors can park there (fee applies) and use the restaurant facilities and playground.
Our opinion: would be a perfect sandy family beach if it were not for the caravan park. High up there on the list of best beaches in East Devon.
Pebbly beaches in East Devon
Budleigh Salterton Beach
Budleigh Salterton beach is a two-mile-long bay. The beach has large pebbles and is flanked by picturesque red sandstone cliffs. It tends to be quieter and less crowded than the sandy beaches. Also, it appears to be popular with swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders and so on. Although the sea shelves quite steeply for small children (as is the case with all the pebbly beaches along this coast).
It is easily accessible with parking at Lime Kiln car park at the eastern end of the promenade, which runs the length of the beach. And there are facilities such as restaurants in the nice looking town.
Our opinion: picturesque and quiet for a town beach.
This is a small cove with a pebbly beach. There are pretty rock stacks off the shore. Although even though the holiday park was closed, it was still fairly busy as the beach is not large at high tide.
However, once again access is through a large caravan park. There is parking available for day visitors (fee payable) and all the facilities you would expect, such as shop, places to eat and watersports.
Our opinion: although pretty, we suspect it would be very busy when the holiday park is open as the beach is quite small. There are better pebbly beach options.
Jacob’s Ladder Beach
This bay is around one mile long, with a backdrop of red sandstone cliffs. It is a pebbly beach, but the seabed is sandy. At low tide some of this sand is exposed, along with a few rock pools. However, its proximity to Sidmouth means that it can get busy.
It is easily accessed along a walkway from Sidmouth town. There is on street parking and a car park (fee payable) at this end of the town too. There is a café on the clifftop. And of course all the facilities of Sidmouth are within walking distance.
Our opinion: the appeal of Sidmouth makes this beach too busy for us.
Sidmouth Town Beach
Just along from Jacob’s Ladder beach, the town beach is around a mile long, backed by a promenade. Again, a pebbly beach, but less sand under the sea than at Jacob’s Ladder. It is closer to the varied attractions of Sidmouth, including hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops and so on. But of course also correspondingly busy.
Our opinion: as with Jacob’s Ladder beach, this is too busy for us.
This is a pebbly beach accessed through National Trust land. It is very quiet as I think the mile or so walk puts people off. You can walk to the beach from the village of Salcombe Regis. It is possible to park at the church for a donation. There are no facilities at all, either at the beach or in the village, so come prepared.
The walk is quite steep, with a number of steep steps to get down to the beach itself. Our four year old was fine with it, but she enjoys walking and steps! Carrying the baby back up was hard work!
Our opinion: beautifully quiet pebbly beach, but with a fairly strenuous walk.
I would describe this beach as more gravelly than pebbly, which I find a little easier to walk on. This is a pretty, quiet beach as again it is accessed via a walk through National Trust land. There is a car park in the village of Weston, with a well-marked path down to the beach (less than a mile). The walk does involve another steep downhill. And back uphill. But I would say it is slightly easier than Salcombe Mouth – it is less far and the steps down to the beach are less steep. Again, there are no facilities at all, either at the beach or in the village, so come prepared.
Our opinion: this beach is great. It would be even better if the sea shelved less steeply – it is intimidating for little ones. This is certainly a contender for being one of the best beaches in East Devon.
Branscombe beach is owned by the National Trust. It is about two miles of pebble beach. We find it surprisingly uncrowded, given that you can park right at the beach (fee payable). There is also a café right at the beach (not open 2nd July 2020).
A favourite day out for us is to include Branscombe beach on a circular walk from Beer (see below). This is very challenging along the South West Cost path for a four year old, so be prepared for lots of breaks.
Our opinion: good beach for a picnic lunch on a long walk from Beer.
Beer beach is a sheltered pebble cove backed by limestone cliffs. It is an interesting beach, as fishermen still work here. The water is beautifully clear. For some reason, I find the pebbles at this beach quite hard to walk on. There are boardwalks between the fishing boats some of the way to make things a little easier.
I was surprised that is was quiet when we visited. I need to return when all the attractions in Beer are open – playground, pubs, restaurants, shops, Beer Quarry caves, Pecorama – to see how much busier it gets. However, there isn’t that much parking around the village, so that may help. There is a car park on the cliff at Beer Head (fee payable).
Our opinion: a good balance of pretty beach but easy access to facilities
Seaton Hole and Seaton
These two pebbly beaches merge into one at low tide. This means there is lots of space available, particularly at the Seaton Hole end. To access this end of the beach, you can walk along the beach from Seaton at low tide. Or find somewhere to park on the road at the top of the cliff and walk down the steps. It is also possible to walk here along the South West coast path from Beer.
There is little at the Seaton Hole end of the beach. Apart from a little kiosk at the top of the cliff (closed 2nd July 2020).
At the Seaton end, there is a promenade along the beach. And another parkrun location (currently on hold due to covid-19). Although not a pb course as some of it is run on the pebbly beach! You of course have access to the facilities of the town, including attractions such as Seaton Jurassic, Seaton Wetlands and Seaton Tramway.
Our opinion: not as scenic as some of the other options
If you are thinking about a break to check out some of these beaches, have a look at my post about a family weekend in East Devon.
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