Best Beaches in Ilfracombe for nature & surfing in 2024

If you’re looking for beaches in Ilfracombe, this blog post is here to help!

Ilfracombe is a chilled-out North Devon town that is popular with tourists in the summer months.

It’s also famous for its Tunnels Beaches (made during Victorian times when the town saw a tourism boom!) and being the launching pad for day trips to Lundy Island

However, it’s also an excellent beachside holiday destination.

This blog post will describe the best Ilfracombe beaches that you can walk to from the town and some of the best surf spots and beach towns a short drive or bus journey away. 

Wonderful Beaches in Ilfracombe

All of these beautiful Ilfracombe beaches are either in the town itself or easy to access from it. 

Ilfracombe Harbour and Beach

Boats in Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe Habour and Beach is the most popular beach in the town.

It’s not really a bathing spot – there are too many boats in the water – but there’s still enough sand here to relax on, or you could go for a paddle.

There’s an impressive range of restaurants and other eateries right by the beach, and it’s interesting to look at all of the boats and walk over to Ilfracombe’s controversial statue, Verity

Wildersmouth Beach

Wildersmouth Beach is within Ilfracombe and is very easy to walk to from the town centre – it’s one of the best things to do in Ilfracombe!

It’s in the ideal spot for Ilfracombe’s conveniences, but it also feels far enough from the town that you’ll feel like you’re on a beach holiday! 

Tunnels Beaches

Tunnels in Ilfracombe

The tunnels beaches are some of the most unique beaches in Ilfracombe – they are a network of secluded beaches that are connected by Victorian tunnels.

These tunnels were carved out in the 1820s to give tourists access to the beach, as before this they had to clamber over the rocks!

The beaches are still open to the public, but you must pay a small fee to enter.

Once you’re there, you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful beaches with swimming opportunities, and you’ll get to learn a little about the tunnel’s history too! 

Cheyne Beach

Cheyne Beach is tiny, but it’s a beautiful spot if you can get there when nobody else is!

It’s more like a patch of sand than a beach itself, but there are some beautiful rocks to admire, and it can feel very secluded. 

Rapparee Cove

Rapparee Cove is today a famous beauty spot, but a tragedy happened here.

In 1796, the Transport London boat was shipwrecked at the cove, killing African slaves who had been stolen from their homeland and transported to work on plantations in what is now the USA and the Caribbean. 

While Raparee Cove feels like a secret beach and is a wonderful spot, it’s essential to be aware of what happened here and pay respects while visiting. 

White Pebble Beach

White Pebble is a rocky beach and one of the most popular bathing water sites, and very close to the town.

Three warnings here:

  • first, it’s challenging to reach as it’s quite a climb down
  • second, know the tide times as it can get cut off
  • third, it is an unofficial naturist beach – so if you aren’t into that, be aware!  

Hele Beach

Hele Beach near Ilfracombe

As long as you don’t mind climbing over a couple of hills, Hele Beach is still within walking distance from Ilfracombe!

It is a famous beach, but its geographical positioning does almost resemble a secluded cove. 

Lee Bay Beach

Lee Beach between Mortehoe and Ilfracombe

Lee Bay is just west of Ilfracombe – it is a bit of a hike to get there, but it’s still considered to be one of the best beaches in Ilfracombe.

It is the perfect spot for chilling out and enjoying a peaceful cove.

It’s not too popular with tourists, meaning that you’ll be able to find some lovely solitude when visiting!

There are also lots of attractive rock pools and rocks to explore.

However, do be aware of the tide times when exploring Lee Beach, as some parts of the bay get cut off. 

Beaches near Ilfracombe

If you have a car or don’t mind taking the buses, there are some excellent beaches near Ilfracombe as well! 

Combe Martin Beach

Shadowy view over Combe Martin Beach

Combe Martin sits at the edge of Exmoor National Park, one of the most beautiful places to visit in North Devon.

It’s only a short drive from Ilfracombe, or you could hike there on the South West Coast Path – click here for my full directions.

This is one of my favourite hikes on the South West Coast Path, with fabulous sea views everywhere you look! 

Combe Martin beach is a chilled-out area and ideal for rock pooling or enjoying the sunshine – there are two popular pubs right by the bay. 

Headland near Ilfracombe

As well as the main Combe Martin beach, there’s also Broadsands Beach which is right by the Watermeet Holiday Park.

This is a more secluded spot, with stunning views over bright blue waters – I felt like I was in Railay Beach in Thailand when I walked around here! 

How to get to Combe Martin from Ilfracombe: the 301 bus connects the two towns and takes around half an hour. If you are driving, it will take approximately 15 minutes.

Woolacombe Beach

Sun setting over rocks at Woolacombe

Woolacombe is home to one of the most popular family beaches in the country.

The broad sands of Woolacombe Beach have been voted not just best in the country, but the fifth best in Europe and the 13th best in the world!

These glorious sands catch the glinting golden sun, and the entire town comes alive during the summer.

Although the waves can be choppy and a great location for beginner surfers, it’s also one of Devon’s most popular swimming beaches – there are safe swimming areas that have lifeguards.

Going to the beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Woolacombe.

There is also Barricane Beach, which is a much smaller bay within the town and the dramatic Morte Point, which is an easy hike from Woolacombe Sands.

You can also hike the other way and catch amazing views of the bay from Baggy Point.

View of Woolacombe beach with morte point in background

It’s the perfect spot for surfing, sunbathing, or enjoying a relaxed dining and drinking scene. 

See my post on things to do in Woolacombe for more information about this North Devon town! 

How to get to Woolacombe Sands from Ilfracombe: it’s a 15 minute drive, or the 31 bus connects the two towns. The beach car park can get very busy during the summer months. 

Croyde Beach

Walking across a field to Croyde

Croyde has one of the most popular surfing beaches in North Devon.

It’s a small bay, with Baggy Point at one end, and it’s also close to Saunton Sands.

I would mainly recommend going to Croyde if you are a surfer, as the waves can be excellent, but otherwise, it can get very crowded.

If large, expansive beaches are more your thing, I’d recommend Saunton Sands or Woolacombe instead.

Croyde Bay Beach with sea in the background

How to get to Croyde from Ilfracombe: you will need to take the 21 bus to SQ restaurant, and then change to the 21C, which stops at Croyde. Otherwise, it is a 24 minute drive – with some beautiful views on the way! 

Saunton Beach

Large beach at Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands is one of my favourite beaches near Ilfracombe. It is a vast North Devon surfing beach, with an expanse of broad sands and The Saunton Sands Hotel sitting at the top.

It’s popular with all sorts of tourists, but it’s also a great sandy beach to visit if the rest of North Devon seems too busy – the golden sands with a backdrop of dunes sprawl on forever, so you’ll definitely find somewhere to spend the day!

For me, this is the most underrated North Devon beach. 

You can also drive to the Braunton Burrows Car Park and explore the sand dunes here – it is the most extensive sand dune system in the country.

I would also recommend climbing up to the cliffs near Saunton Sands Hotel to enjoy the fabulous sea views of the beach and the waves rolling in. 

How to get to Saunton Sands from Ilfracombe: you will need a car – drive time is around 25 minutes.

Westward Ho!

Busy beach at Westward Ho

Westward Ho! is a bit of a drive from Ilfracombe (you will need to go around the Taw and Torridge Estuaries), but it’s one of the most popular surf spots in North Devon and is especially popular with advanced surfers.

Westward Ho! also has a natural pool for calm water swimming, a mini-golf course and bumper cars.

With its broad sands and lots of amenities, Westward Ho! is popular with tourists and people who want lots of attractions and relaxed dining opportunities nearby. 

See all of the things to do in Westward Ho! here.

How to get to Westward Ho! from Ilfracombe: the 21 bus connects the two towns, although it does take two hours! If you drive, it will take about 40 minutes.

Dreamy Ilfracombe beaches…

This selection of Ilfracombe beaches, both close to the town and elsewhere in North Devon, will help you have an incredible holiday in the county.

So whether you want to find the most famous surfing beaches in the area or a secret cove, this blog post should help! 

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