13/03/2013
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Top 10 Beaches Of The South Devon Coast

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We tell you our pick of the best beaches in South Devon, including one requiring a very unusual mode of transport to reach it ...


1 Dawlish
A visit to Dawlish and Dawlish Warren combines a beach day with a nature trail. Dawlish has the beach and Dawlish Warren has a nature reserve. Being part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to over 600 types of flowering plants, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with visitors and wildlife alike. Waders and wildfowl can be observed from the various hides which are accessed via the visitor centre. Children’s entertainers, evening firework displays and free open air events can be enjoyed in the summer months; there’s plenty to see and do along the one and a half mile beach, especially during carnival week, which is 10-17 August this year.


2 Teignmouth
If you’re looking for a traditional beach, complete with Victorian pier and a raft of amenities in the town of Teignmouth, this could be for you. Think of it as the dictionary definition of a beach with amusement arcades and shops selling fish and chips, buckets and spades. From here you can take a pleasure boat trip around Torbay, and a short ferry trip will take you to Dawlish.


3 Shaldon
Across the estuary of the river Teign is Shaldon. Quieter than Teignmouth, this is a sheltered beach that’s popular for sailing, fishing, swimming, canoeing and rowing. The beach is a mixture of sand and shingle, and can offer everything from sandcastle building to the start of an 18-mile walk to Dartmoor, following the old granite export route.
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4 Blackpool Sands
Just south of Dartmouth is Devon’s very own Blackpool. It’s a one-size-fits-all destination with a dog-free shingle beach and amenities including showers, toilets and a café. This Blue Flag award-winner also offers water sports galore, with kayaks, boogie boards, surf skis, wetsuits and snorkels available for hire. Framed by scented pines and even offering the security of sand pits for younger children, it’s a cracking spot for family down-time or water-based activities.
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5 Bantham Beach
Less than half a mile from Thurlestone is Bantham Beach. If you choose your beaches by way of view-value, Bantham should be on the list. There are stunning views of Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island from here. Shallow water and Life Guards during the summer months make it great for young families and, should the surfing bug bite, beginners’ waves lap the beach with bigger breakers towards the mouth of the River Avon. (This River Avon rises on Dartmoor; not to be confused with its better-known namesake that reaches the sea at Bristol.) Bantham is also a rock-pooling hotspot. You’re spoilt for choice.
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Bantham Beach

6 East Portlemouth
This beach is perfect for the get-away-from-it-all types and is one of the quieter and least-known beaches in South Devon. It’s on the south side of the Kingsbridge Estuary, over the water from Salcombe. Made up of Fisherman’s Cove, Smalls Cove and Mill Bay, it has won a Safe Bathing award for its clean and shallow water. A ferry from Fisherman’s Cove can transport you across the estuary to Salcombe. Facilities at East Portlemouth are small - just toilets and a kiosk.


7 Milton Sands
A visit to this beach on Bigbury Bay could add a new dimension to your beach holiday. Behind the beach are wetlands with a Site of Special Scientific Interest designation, home to various birds and butterflies. In front lies Thurlestone Rock which, being arch shaped, could be an insight into how Durdle Door will look in many years to come. The new dimension comes in the shape of shipwreck-spotting which can be achieved either by the modest snorkel or by more heavy-duty diving gear. If underwater exploration isn’t your thing, Milton Sands is perfect as a natural beach with a car park and a pub in nearby Thurlestone.
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8 Slapton Sands
Misnamed as this is a shingle beach, it is rich in history and can be found in this country as well as France. In 1943, the beach at Slapton was used by the allied forces to rehearse for the D-Day Landings. Sadly, the mission here ended with the deaths of over 700 American servicemen and is commemorated at Slapton Sands by a stone monument dedicated to Operation Tiger. Today, Slapton is perfect for families, with beachside cafés, and lifeguard patrols during the summer months. A flag system is also in operation, telling you where it’s safe to swim and when to stay out of the water; if you’re unsure of the meaning of the particular flags, a guide is available from the local Post Office. And, just in case this lovely long stretch of shingle is not enough to tempt you, Slapton is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a nature reserve.


9 Mothecombe
At the mouth of the River Erme is Mothecombe. If you’re looking for a tranquil beach that has seen little in the way of change over the centuries, then Mothecombe could be the one for you. It’s privately owned, but accessible from a car park that carries a small fee. As well as offering access to the beach, this car park is useful for walkers, as the coastal path is close by. Dogs are allowed on the beach providing you observe the anti-fouling laws. The water is shallow here - a real bonus for families with children. Commercialism is far, far away and facilities only stretch to a kiosk and toilets.


10 Burgh Island
In Bigbury Bay, nestling between Bigbury-on-Sea and the family and surfing beach of Bantham, lies one of the wonders of the world. Burgh Island, a tiny jewel close to the coast, has a mechanical link with the mainland that’s totally unique in the world. It’s a sea tractor, a gigantic, towering piece of engineering that lumbers its way across the sand. At low tide you can walk across the sand to Burgh island. If you need a reason, there’s a pub on the island called the Pilchard Inn, built in 1336 – perfect for lunch. Tide tables are usually essential for beach walks – but at Burgh Island, when the tide comes in and covers the sand, you need not fear being cut off. That’s when the sea tractor emerges and gives you the opportunity to ride on this leviathan that puts the magic into the Burgh Island experience...
As the tide begins to cover the sand, a low-geared, growling engine becomes audible from the mainland and the strangest of vehicles grinds out onto the beach. Basic seating is perched high up above giant wheels at its four corners. Slowly, the noisy, low-torque engine hauls the structure, that’s as high as a lorry, across the sands. Its power is transferred hydraulically from the engine to the wheels; a huge cylinder is clearly visible within the sea tractor’s rectangular superstructure. It costs just £2 each way to travel to Burgh Island on the only sea tractor of this type in the world. Well worth the experience!


For more information on South Devon visit their official tourism website, here.

Want to discover North Devon?
Read about the best beaches and coastal views, here.
See our pick of the best attractions, here.


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