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Home | FAQs and Guides | North Devon’s Best Secret Beaches

North Devon is infamous for being home to some of the UK’s most prestigious beaches.

With the likes of the award-winning Woolacombe Bay, Croyde Bay and Saunton Sands notorious for their expanses of golden sands, surfable waves and unbeatable sunsets, and with this stretch of coastline receiving recent World Surfing Reserve status, it is sure to say that this unique destination will remain protected despite its popularity for the foreseeable future.  

But, did you know that hidden along this breath-taking area of outstanding natural beauty, interspersed between the famous surfing beaches and holiday hotspots you will also find a multitude of stunning coves and secret beaches that even some of the most beach savvy locals are yet to visit, all within easy travelling distance from our Byron self-catering apartments!

Read our selection of the best North Devon secret beaches to beat the crowds!

1 – Broadsands Beach  

Voted “Britain’s Happiest View” in 2018 and described locally as ‘Mini Thailand’ if you make it to this stunning cove near Combe Martin you will certainly feel like you have been transported miles away from the shores of North Devon!

Broadsands is not an easily accessible cove requiring a sheer 240 steps decent (and climb) to reach the beach, alternatively, kayak or paddleboard hire from Combe Martin village beach provides that extra sense of adventure and seclusion to your tropical paradise visit! Fringed with greenery along the sheer cliffs this luscious beach is beautiful all year, looks out for the local nesting Peregrine Falcons, a very rare and memorable sight.

Don’t forget you can claim your Byron Guest discount on Kayak hire, follow the link – Combe Martin Outdoor Shop and Kayak Hire – Byron Partners Page discount!

2- Rockham Bay 

Found just a short walk down the Southwest coastal path from Mortehoe village near Woolacombe, Rockham is a beautiful, secluded bay offering the perfect serene retreat from the crowds of the busier beaches that literally melt away in the distance you watch the waves lap onto the shingles of this peaceful shoreline.

Rockham is restricted at high tide so make sure you check tide times before visiting!

From Rockham you can walk over to the headland at Morte Point.  Due to the jaggered rocks and treacherous currents along this part of the coast numerous shipwrecks lie strewn across the seabed – hence the name, i.e. ‘Death Point’.  In one year no less than 5 ships were sunk!

In the summer months, the heritage centre in Mortehoe village has displays about local shipwrecks, as well as interesting facts about the marine wildlife. You can also walk around the graves of shipwrecked sailors in St Mary’s church.

3 – Heddon’s Mouth

Set along the rugged North Devon coast between Combe Martin and Lynton this rocky cove sits at the mouth of the River Heddon. Carved deep into this stunning valley expect to clamber over giant-sized pebbles to reach the shingled shoreline. Heddon’s freshwater river runs through the middle of the beach and is a pleasant sight for thirsty dogs!

Expect to meet a few other ramblers on the shore as you will find the most exquisite National Trust walks around this stretch of coastline including your access to this beach. Look out for a host of protected butterfly species along your route including the UKS rarest High Brown Fritillary in the warmer months!

4 – Woody Bay

With the remains of a Victorian sea pool still largely intact, at low tide, Woody bay is locally known as a wild swimmer’s hidden gem! And you may not be enjoying your swimming spot alone, sat at the bottom of the striking red cliff faces covered in luscious woodlands it is not uncommon to see the heads of seals and porpoises spring up around you, this is truly a one-of-a-kind swimming location!

Ow and if it didn’t sound dreamy enough, there is a freshwater waterfall cascading on the beach to wash off the salty seawater post-swim, that’s the eco-shower sorted then!

5 – Grunta, Beach -Mortehoe

Only accessible at low tide, this sandy cove near Woolacombe towards the Mortehoe is said to be named after a ship carrying pigs that crashed into the beach, much to their astonishment locals were awoken to the sound of squeals and grunts!

Another great beach to escape the crowds of Woolacombe’s main beach in the busier months, and a fantastic place to explore rock pools which are easily exposed on low tide and often full of shellfish!

The bay sits at the bottom of a steep set of uneven stairs so mind your step and only pack what you can easily carry!

6 – Barricane

Nestled away between large rocks Barricane beach is a sheltered beach is tucked along the outskirts of Woolacombe towards Mortehoe Village. It is a great spot for rock pooling with some amazing exotic shells to explore which are said to have been carried thousands of miles across the ocean from the Caribbean.

At high tide, you may come across brave locals and coasteering groups jumping off the rocky sides into the deeper waters below, but beware only this coastline is rocky and thus dangerous so only follow a professional. 

It is a local’s retreat in the busier summer months and if you have not tried the famous Sri Lankan ‘Curry on the beach whilst watching the sunset then you must, and bring your own bottle too, you are on holiday after all!

7 – Black Church Rock/Mouthmill Beach

If you have never heard of Black Church Rock then bring your camera as this really is a must-see for those with a penchant for discovery on your trip to North Devon.

The dramatic stretch of coastline this jutting rock formation is sat upon is a marvel in itself and has been home to many a film location due to its untouched wild nature, I wonder if you will recognize any of its more famous features on your trip?

In spring you will follow woodland paths full of ancient bluebells to reach this secret beach, this is ultra-rural North Devon at its finest.

Black Church Rock itself is a natural arch formation of Shale containing goniatite fossils with two windows separated from cliff by sea erosion, it can easily be mistaken as an art sculpture strutting out towards the Atlantic waters.

This beach is more for exploration than lounging but that is why it is a favourite for those in the know at any time of year, you will find something new to fall in love with upon each visit.

8 – Lee bay / Sandy Cove

In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Lee Bay is surrounded by rolling Devon countryside, dramatic cliffs, and rocky caves so you really feel like you have been transported to the land of yesteryear. Lee itself is known as ‘Fuchsia Valley’ due to its plethora of bright red flowers found throughout the village in many of the colourful cottage gardens throughout the warmer months.

At low tide look out for the steps cut through the slate cliff rocks known as the old smuggler’s path to reach another secret cove ‘Sandy Cove’ which is like walking through to a different world.

Sandy Cove is a small, shingled beach known locally as ‘bathing beach’ and a fantastic wild swimmer’s spot due to its sheltered waters, you are very likely to see resident seals share this beautiful spot. Access to Sandy Cove can also be found from the coastal path via some steep steps so you don’t have to be quite so reliant on the tide to get back through the Lees main beach.

Check out our 9 best dog walks in North Devon for our best walk to Lee bay

Also if you have not, do try the Grampus Inn! A great pub in the village of Lee you can read more about our Best Pubs and Restaurants in North Devon here!

9 – Bucks Mill

With a stunning waterfall, uninterrupted sea views and the rugged Devon countryside cascading over the cliff edges fringing this serene beach it is not hard to see why locals claim this to the most beautiful beach in the world.

A charming National Trust Cabin sits at the top of the beach, which was once home to two painters, the building has remained untouched since the 197Os and has since been listed by Historic England.

This beach remains an ideal location for artists, photographers, and families to explore its unspoilt serenity and charm.

The beach is a cram with lobster pots and marine life, with plenty of rock pools to explore. We recommend taking a walk up to the village itself which is haven to just two homes and two holiday homes but is steeped in history and allows beautiful views across to the prominent red cliffs of Peppercombe beach one side and Clovelly the other with Lundy Island visible in the distance on a clear day.

10 – Tunnels Beach

Tunnels beach Illfracombe was hand-carved in the 1820’s, a series of four tunnels through the Illfracombe rock face leading to a tidal Victorian bathing pool which is an experience like no other!

Here you can enjoy a touch of wild swimming safely with all the family as the waters are not too deep and are sheltered from tidal currents. Tunnels beach has also been rated the 3rd best beach for rock pooling in the UK by BBC Wildlife Magazine!

Originally split into Gentleman and Ladies beaches, remnants of our Victorian history remain intact much to our amusement! The tidal pool can be accessed three hours before and after high tide so check tide times before visiting.

This is a private beach, so venue charges do apply!

11 – Lee Bay abbey

This is a little know beach just below the Valley of the Rocks outside of Lynton. Found within the grounds of Lee Abbey Estate and often confused with the better known ‘Lee Bay’ this is a private beach but with public access when the car park is open.

The beach is rocky at high tide but at low tide, the cove opens up to expose a large stretch of open fine sand and allows a beautiful amount of space for swimming along this often-empty beach.

Expect to find a huge amount of varied marine life in the secluded spot, a definite secret gem to explore!

12 – Wild Pear

This hidden beach just outside Combe Martin is not easy to find or access! It involves a long walk along the coast path followed by a steep descent down and back up (sometimes by rope) to get to this quiet spot so if you are thinking about bringing the picnic hamper maybe think again. Of course, you could choose a rather civilized kayak or paddleboard around from neighbouring Combe Martin Village whilst watching the local nesting oystercatchers.  

But be warned, as suggested in the name, you may see a ‘pair’ or two as this is a designated naturist beach, so swimsuits are optional at this wild swimming location! We suggest you pack the sun cream as this spot is rather sheltered so great for sunbathing – those white bits burn easily!

You can hire kayaks from Combe Martin Outdoor Shop and Kayak Hire – Byron Partners Page discount!

If you are looking for accommodation for your next North Devon beach-side holiday, make sure you check in to Byron’s luxury self-catering apartments!

Byron Woolacombe Holidays, launched in July 2019, is an independent holiday letting agency designed specifically for Byron Woolacombe Holiday Apartments.

We aim to provide the highest standard of luxury self-catering accommodation and facilities in Woolacombe.

The apartments all have access to exclusive communal leisure facilities, such as indoor pool, sauna and games room.

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