Are you looking for things to do in North Devon? Read on, because I have plenty!
I live in Exmouth in Devon, which means I’m just a short drive form the most wonderful North Devon attractions, beaches and villages!
This means that I’ve visited these spots countless times and can offer you the best local tips for visiting the top places in North Devon.
Although there are hundreds of things to do in North Devon, I’ve whittled this list down to 30 – which is more than enough for a holiday in the beautiful part of the county!
North Devon is the perfect place for a family holiday, with a wide range of kid-friendly attractions and world-class beaches.
However, it’s also perfect for hiking trips (the rugged North Devon coast path is incredible and there are tonnes of isolated spots), plus there are plenty of romantic hideaways!
Let’s dig straight in and take a look at the best North Devon attractions and activities, with some extra local tips for visiting North Devon below!
Best things to do in North Devon
From hiking along the jagged coastline to enjoying local produce in one of the county’s best pubs, here are all of the best things to do in North Devon!
Take in the formations of the Valley of the Rocks (and meet the local goats!)
Wonderful views await you at the Valley of the Rocks, which are a series of rocks situated in a dry valley which is thought to be formed by a tributary of the East Lyn River and dates back to the last Ice Age.
The rocks overlook the cliffs and make up some of the best vistas of the entire national park.
This area is home to feral goats – while that sounds scary, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them!
But do be careful close to the edge of the rocks, as they are quite perilous.
Go on the Lynton to Lynmouth Cliff Railway
Another must-visit attraction in Exmoor National Park is the Lynton to Lynmouth Cliff Railway.
Dating back to 1890, it’s the highest and steepest solely-water powered funicular in the world – and the only of its kind in the UK!
Leaving from the quaint village of Lynmouth, you’ll catch a glorious view of the beach before arriving in the town of Lynton, which is situated just above.
Take a boat to Lundy Island
From Ilfracombe Harbour, you can take a two hour ferry to see the beautiful Lundy Island.
A great place to enjoy epic nature, Lundy Island boasts incredible flora and fauna, with seals and puffins calling it home.
It’s pint-sized, at just 4.45 km², and is home to a tiny population of people who work in tourism on the island. There’s a pub, a gift shop and a post office, but the only other signs of human life are the island’s two lighthouses.
It sits at the meeting point between the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, creating a unique environment where various local animals and plants thrive. In fact, it’s been dubbed “Britain’s Own Galapagos“!
Have a beach day in Woolacombe
North Devon really does have it all. Woolacombe is an award-winning beach – it was rated one of the world’s best by TripAdvisor in 2015.
The three mile sandy stretch was rated the best in the UK, the fourth best in Europe and the 13th best globally.
While the beach can be packed on a busy summer’s day, you’ll quickly see what all the fuss is about.
Long walks span the distance of the beach (head away from the town, and you’ll find a quieter spot!), while surfable waves lap the shore.
In the background, enjoy vistas of Baggy Point, which seperates Croyde and Woolacombe, and Morte Point in the other direction.
You could easily spend a day just hanging out on the beach, but there are a few other things to do in Woolacombe too.
Walk from Ilfracombe to Woolacombe
The Ilfracombe to Woolacombe walk is a fairly easy route (for North Devon South West Coast Path standards, that is!).
Spanning between the two towns, it takes in some of the best coastal views, including clifftop panoramas and hidden beaches with very few tourists.
I love Lee Beach, which is tucked away just past Ilfracombe!
It’s also worth checking out Mortehoe Village, a small settlement standing on the clifftops above Woolacombe.
Hike from Porlock to Lynmouth in Exmoor National Park
The rugged coastline of North Devon was made for hiking, and although Porlock is just in the border in Somerset, when you do this hike you’ll be hiking to Devon – which is a great way to enter a county!
Just let me warn you before attempting this hike, it’s a toughie.
My partner and I hiked half of the South West Coast Path in 2021. The Porlock to Lynmouth hike was our second day on the trail, and we severely overestimated its difficulty!
It took us 12 hours, and we limped into Lynmouth a shell of ourselves. Not joking.
However, we were under-trained, we had heavy backpacks and we were unprepared for what the coast path had in store.
We do actually want to go back and do it again (with lighter packs!) because the nature is phenomenal – think towering cliffs with views into the bright blue sea and mystical woodland to hike through, eventually leading the way to postcard-perfect scenes of Lynmouth.
So, this is one to do if you’re an experienced hiker and want a challenge!
If you don’t fancy this walk, you can check out the other best things to do in Exmoor (some of which are over the border in Somerset!) here.
Learn about North Devon life in Barnstaple
The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for attractions in Devon in the rain.
With exhibitions about local life and culture and history further afield, it’s a fantastic starting point to learn all about the history of the region.
You can check out my guide to the best things to do in Barnstaple too!
Do a seal spotting tour from Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe sea safari offers boat tours from the town, some of which go all the way up to Lynmouth.
We took a seal spotting boat trip once, and ended up witnessing a sea burial just outside of Lynmouth – as well as tonnes of gorgeous seals, of course!
If it’s raining, head to Ilfracombe aquarium to see some marine life – or check out my things to do in Ilfracombe guide for more information.
Find hidden beaches by Ilfracombe
There are so many beautiful beaches around Ilfracombe, and one of my favourite North Devon activities is taking a walk along the coastal path to a few of them.
Most famous is perhaps Tunnels Beaches, which are close to the town but hidden well away.
They were created to allow access to one of the steeper beaches in the area in Victorian times.
I’m also a big fan of Lee Bay Beach.
Located two miles west of Ilfracombe, you’ll have to hike over a headland to reach it – but once you’re there, it’s a lot less busy than other beaches in Devon and is a picturesque cove that’s great for swimming!
Stroll around Clovelly village
Visiting Clovelly is definitely one of the top things to do in Devon, although there are a few things to bear in mind before visiting!
The picturesque village consists of adorable fishing cottages tumbling down cobbled streets on a hillside, eventually leading the way to a pint-sized harbour.
Take in some gorgeous views of the coastline from the viewpoint, visit a traditional pub and see one of the fishing cottages that has been revamped to become a museum, representing historical village life.
It’s a steep walk down to the harbour, but you’ll have the chance to take some beautiful photos en route.
Along with the ancient fishing village, there are some beautiful walled gardens just outside that are well worth seeing!
Take the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway
If you’re a fan of scenic train rides, take a spin on the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway!
Connecting the two towns, this railway is a unique way to see beautiful North Devon countryside.
If you’re into history, it’s also a perfect activity, as you’ll travel in Victorian railway carriages dating back to the 1890s.
There are some special events throughout the year, and the trains leave frequently in the summer months.
Take a spin on the rides at The Milky Way adventure park
Located outside of Clovelly, the Milky Way Adventure Park is fun for the whole family!
Here, you can enjoy a multitude of rides like the slides of Gravity Rider and the rollercoaster Cosmic Typhoon.
The rides are both inside and outside, so it’s great for a rainy day in Devon, and rides are suitable for kids of all ages.
Explore North Devon’s orchards and vineyards
This orchard and vineyard tour takes you through some of the best local spots in North Devon.
First, you’ll visit a cider orchard, where you’ll taste some fresh drinks made from local apples.
Then, you’ll learn all about English wine by exploring a vineyard!
Take a surf lesson at Croyde
Croyde Bay is a beautiful cove that’s a surfing paradise in the summer months.
There are a few surf schools in the area, but Surfing Croyde Bay offers warm showers, a licensed bar and even on-site accommodation if you’d like to stay and surf for a while!
Lessons start from £28 for a 2.5 hour class.
Get involved with The Big Sheep
The Big Sheep is a family theme park with exhilarating rides for young and old visitors!
There’s an outside and indoor area at The Big Sheep – the inside area is called EWEtopia, with soft play, and the outside has some fun rides.
It’s located in Abbotsham near Bideford.
Ilfracombe Harbour History & Ghost Walking Tour
One of the more unique things to do in North Devon is exploring Ilfracombe’s history on a guided walking tour.
This tour not only goes into the past behind this town, but also details some of the creepiest ghost stories.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
The beautiful gardens of RHS Rosemoor are a wonderful place for a nature walk in North Devon, located in Torrington, not too far from Bideford.
The 65 acre gardens change with the season, with an enchanting winter garden, cherry blossom, autumn colours and the famous hot garden in the summer!
Chill out on Saunton Sands
Saunton Sands spans over three miles along the beautiful coastline.
It’s ideal for stretching out on, as it’s so expansive but it’s never as busy with tourists as places like Woolacombe Beach.
Thanks to its exposed position, it’s also one of the best places for surfing in the country.
Walk around the Braunton Burrows
The biggest complex of sand dunes in the country, Braunton Burrows is definitely one to not miss while you’re exploring North Devon!
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Braunton Burrows is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve that’s home to 470 different types of flowering plant, 33 types of butterflies and five out of the six species of reptiles that exist in the UK.
Situated just behind Saunton Sands, this is a perfect place for a nature stroll.
Get creative at Tarka Pottery
Tarka Pottery is the ideal place to unleash your creativity!
It’s a studio that focuses on ceramic pottery, with workshops for both adults and children.
Make your own souvenir, and Tarka Pottery will fire the piece for you and then post it back home.
You can find out more about Tarka Pottery’s classes and courses by clicking here.
Explore gorgeous Appledore
Appledore is one of my favourite places in all of Devon.
With gorgeous multicoloured houses lining the street and a few incredible country pubs – I love The Beaver Inn – this is a small but charming village, sitting on the banks of the River Torridge.
The North Devon Maritime Museum is also in Appledore
Enjoy a coffee by the river in Instow
The glorious village of Instow sits opposite Appledore, on the other side of the River Torridge.
Sip a coffee as you look out over the water, and
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens
Broomhill Sculpture Gardens has more than 200 contemporary sculptures and acts as an outdoor art exhibition – it’s the largest of its kind in South West England.
Exmoor Zoo is definitely one of the best things to do in North Devon with kids.
It’s home to the largest collection of black leopards in the country, along with birds like macaws and storks.
I’m not personally the biggest fan of zoos, but I can definitely see reasons why they’re educational establishments.
Experience history at Arlington Court
Arlington Court is a stately home that’s a great spot to learn about history!
It’s a regency-era building, dating from 1823, with gorgeous stately features.
Sitting on the edge of Exmoor, this National Trust property is also home to a fascinating carriage museum, with one of the most impressive collection of carriages in the country!
Have some old-fashioned family seaside fun at Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! is one of only two places in the world with an exclamation point in its name.
While this curious quirk has definitely inspired me to visit in the past, there’s an epic beach spanning long the Northern coastline.
The surf’s up here, with ample schools and rental shops.
The beach is pebbly and sandy, with plenty of space to stretch out.
At one end of the beach, there’s an adventure golf course and go-karting track.
Plus, there are plenty of ice cream stalls and fish and chip restaurants!
Walk around the jagged Morte Point
This is one of the easier North Devon walks, but it’s a hidden gem near Woolacombe that’s definitely not to be missed.
This is part of the coast path that runs to the east of Woolacombe, and you can do a short walk from Woolacombe, around the point and up to Morte Hoe.
It’s a jagged headland that’s been the site of many shipwrecks throughout the years.
Nowadays, it’s peaceful, but the craggy rocks are totally awe-inspiring!
Cycle the Tarka Trail
The Tarka Trail is a 180 mile figure of eight loop that covers some of the best spots in North Devon.
It’s a hiking and cycling trail, and runs from Lynton all the way to Okehampton on the edge of Dartmoor.
Some of the best cycle-friendly sections are from Braunton to Barnstaple, along the River Taw, and from Barnstaple to Instow and then Bideford.
If you don’t have your own bike, you could consider renting or even doing this e-bike tour that runs from Braunton along the path.
Go back in time at Hartland Abbey
Hartland Abbey is a private country home that dates back to the 12th century.
It was the oldest surviving monastery in the country, and was gifted to the keeper of Henry VIII’s wine cellar in 1539 – the descendents of who still live here today!
Enjoy the interior with period decorations and stroll around the 18th century gardens.
Learn about North Devon’s maritime history at Hartland Quay
The dramatic Hartland Quay and Museum is an excellent place to visit if you like dramatic coastal scenery and shipwreck history.
Hartland Quay is a rocky promontory that looks like it’s the end of the world. It was home of a 16th century quay, which was destroyed in the late 19th century.
It’s uncommon to see many other tourists there, but nowadays there’s a Shipwreck Museum, where you can learn all about the boats that met thier untimely death on the dramatic North Devon coastline.
You can even stay in this wild and foreboding terrain. The historic Hartland Quay Hotel set where the old Customs House used to be.
There’s a short walk that you can do from Hartland Quay along the South West Coast Path to Speke’s Mill Mouth Waterfall, one of the best in Devon.
Try local food
Away from the sandy beaches of North Devon, don’t miss sampling some of the country’s best local food!
One of the best culinary experiences in Devon is definitely sampling a traditional cream tea. Don’t forget to put the cream on first – this is how you eat it in Devon!
If you’re over the River Tamar in Cornwall, then you’ll put the jam on first!
Another Devon specialty is Homity Pie. Made from cheese, potatoes and pastry, this hearty pie is sumptuous and delicious.
Be a beekeeper for a day at Quince Farm
One of the most unique experiences in North Devon is being a beekeeper for a day in Quince Farm.
This experience involves a talk about beekeeping, lunch and some proper supervised beekeeping.
These experiences book up very high in advance and it costs about £135 for a day’s session.
Go paddleboarding at Combe Martin
Combe Martin is a proper little hidden gem.
Sit at the Dolphin Inn and enjoy stunning views across the beach, home to vibrant rock pools and plenty of space to build sand castles.
It’s the ideal place if you like outdoor activities, as there’s a great water sports rental office where you can take out stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.
Walk into Cornwall on the South West Coast Path
You can walk into and out of Devon on the coastal path, with the Hartland Quay to Bude route leaving the rocky and foreboding Hartland Heritage Coast and ascending into and out of coves before ultimately reaching Welcombe, the appropriately named last/ first town in Devon!
From here, it’s an 11 mile/ 17 km walk into Bude – or you can stay at Morwenstow, the first village in North East Cornwall!
Make the short trip to Dartmoor
This one’s cheating a bit, because Dartmoor isn’t technically in the area of North Devon.
However, it’s your holiday – you aren’t tied to a particular region – and Dartmoor is a bucket-list place that you can’t miss.
Okehampton, which sits on the northern edge of Dartmoor, is about an hour’s drive from Barnstaple.
From there, it’s a further drive into the moor – but road-tripping in Dartmoor is very fun, and doesn’t feel like an arduous commute at all!
Here are some things to check out in Dartmoor:
- the clapper bridge of Postbridge
- the enigmatic Wistman’s Wood
- walking around Burrator Reservoir and Meldon Reservoir
- hiking up one of the tors
- looking out for gorgeous Dartmoor ponies
- exploring towns like Moretonhampstead and Chagford
North Devon FAQs
Is North or South Devon nicer?
It’s impossible to choose!
North Devon has incredible wild landscapes and is very rural, although its popularity as a tourist destination means that the beach towns have good infrastructure and there are plenty of family attractions.
There’s a lot to do in both areas – North Devon is a little more spread out and I’d say the scenery is a tad more epic, but South Devon has plenty of gorgeous beaches, beautiful walks and towns with plenty to do, even when it’s raining.
What is the prettiest village in Devon?
It’s very subjective! Clovelly is often deemed to be, and while I agree to an extent, it is very touristy due to this. Personally, I have a soft spot for Appledore.
Is the sea warmer in North or South Devon?
North Devon usually gets more dramatic weather thanks to being exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, while the south has a milder climate.
As someone who swims in Exmouth for a few months each year, I’m pretty sure that the English Channel is warmer!
What is the best part of Devon to stay in?
It depends on your style, needs and budget! There are loads of nice places of Devon to stay in. If you’re looking at North Devon only, here are a few suggestions:
- Woolacombe: for an award-winning beach
- Ilfracombe: for a traditional seaside town and trips to Lundy Island
- Westward Ho!: for plenty of family fun
- Appledore: for a charming village with great pubs
- Lynmouth: for access to Exmoor National Park and challenging hikes
- Barnstaple: for a larger town with a range of restaurants and amenities
You can see my guide on where to stay in Devon for more information.
Is North Devon worth visiting?
A million times yes! North Devon has so much to offer.
Think gentle rolling fields giving way to rugged cliffs on the dramatic coastlines, plenty of fresh and seasonal produce, day trips to epic places like Lundy Island, historic towns and attractions for all the family.
When you’re planning a trip to South West England, don’t miss North Devon!