There are so many things to do in Westward Ho!. This North Devon tourist town is a wonderful place to enjoy the dramatic coast of the county and take in the huge range of local attractions. It’s a buzzing, family-friendly place, and it’s also in prime position to visit other spots in North Devon and even over the border in Cornwall.
If you’re wondering what to do in Westward Ho!, read on – this blog post will help!
About Westward Ho!
I’m not just really excited about Westward Ho! The North Devon town has an exclamation mark after its official name – it is one of only two places in the world with this curious titular quirk (the other is Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! in Quebec). Westward Ho! was named after Charles Kingsley’s novel of the same name. This novel was created in 1855, and because of it, there was a sudden influx of tourists to North Devon.
Therefore, Westward Ho! was established near the parish of Northam – a town created purely for tourist purposes.
It still retains a lot of that touristy element today. You can bask on the beach, go hiking, and do all sorts of activities like go-karting and mini-golf. And, of course, you’re never far from a good fish and chip shop or a place to grab a pasty.
Things to do in Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! Beach
It’s no surprise that one of the best things to do in Westward Ho! is to head to the beautiful beach – the town was built up around it, after all! Westward Ho! manages to be a pebbly and sandy beach (technically, there is a pebble ridge above the sand), and it is really long – so you’re guaranteed to find a spot even on the sunniest of days!
There are seaside shops, food outlets, and toilets just a short walk from the sands at Westward Ho! The range of amenities makes it perfect for a family beach day.
From one end, you can reach Northam Burrows Country Park and the other peters out on the South West Coast Path, heading towards Clovelly village. You can go rock pooling or enjoy the miles of sand and sea. It’s a popular beach with windsurfers, sea swimmers and surfers.
There is an RNLI lifeguard service from May to September.
It is a dog-friendly beach from October to April (all year round around Northam Burrows).
There is plenty of car parking around the beach, including a free car park on the southern end.
Northam Burrows Country Park is situated behind and to the north of Westward Ho! A great spot for dog walking, Northam Burrows is a grassland and marsh area with a backdrop of the sea. It’s on the South West Coast Path, so you can follow a walking trail around the entire area. There is also a golf club on site.
Rock Sea Pool
If sea swimming isn’t your thing (the waves can be choppy at Westward Ho!), then check out the Rock Sea Pool. Created in the town’s Victorian heyday, this tidal pool is without a doubt one of the best Westward Ho! points of interest. It holds water from the sea, and it provides a safe swimming haven for people who don’t want to deal with the waves. Rock Sea Pool is free to enter, and you can also check out some beautiful rock pools while you’re there!
Pebble Ridge Treasure Island
This is a must-do for families, but also might be popular even if you aren’t visiting Westward Ho! with kids! Pebble Ridge is home to an 18 hole adventure golf course which they market for everybody – kids and big kids all welcome. They also have a go-karting circuit, with single and double family-friendly go-karts. Pebble Ridge is a great place to visit after a day at the beach!
Around Pebble Ridge, there is a wide range of food stalls selling pasties, fish & chips, ice cream, and much more. It’s a really fun attraction in the town.
Westward Ho! is one of North Devon’s most popular surf spots, so if you fancy trying it out, it’s a great opportunity! If you already know how to surf, you can take to the waves yourself – but be warned; it can be very choppy here. Only surf without supervision if you are confident in similar water.
If you aren’t that confident on the waves, no fear! There are plenty of surf lessons available. North Devon Surf School is based at Westward Ho! and have been doing so since 1988. They are a family business with incredible reviews, and they offer two hour lessons for just 36 – which is an absolute bargain!
If you are a surfer but don’t have your own board, you can also hire a surfboard from them.
Walk Past Colourful Beach Huts
Make sure that you walk to the southern end of the beach when you’re in Westward Ho!, as there are some lovely colourful beach huts to admire. These have all been painted in different colours and styles, so you won’t know what you’ll find until you get there!
Things to do around Westward Ho!
Instow is a North Devon hidden gem; a beautiful riverside village on the Taw Estuary. Home to Instow Beach, it’s a place to enjoy scenic views across the water and explore the surrounding nature. Westward Ho! to Instow is just a 10 minute drive, and the 21 bus connects the two.
You can even walk from Westward Ho! to Instow on the coastal path (although this part is mostly inland), check out my Instow to Westward Ho! hiking guide here.
Appledore is a charming village near Westward Ho! – it’s only 3 miles away. Sitting on both the River Torridge and River Taw, Appledore is a quaint spot with lovely riverside views. Also, visit Irsha Street, famous for its colourful pastel houses lined up in a terrace.
I would definitely recommend visiting Appledore one evening for dinner – it has an entirely different atmosphere to Westward Ho!. I’ve tried and tested both The Beaver Inn and the Seagate pubs and can report that they do excellent dinner and drinks!
Walk to Clovelly Village
The South West Coast Path starts in Minehead, the other side of Exmoor National Park, and crosses through Westward Ho! (and curls around Cornwall, traverses through South Devon, and eventually ends in Poole in Dorset!).
You can hike a section of the path near Westward Ho!. The Westward Ho! to Clovelly walk is about 12 miles, and can be challenging in places – but it is rugged and wild, and you’ll get some fantastic coast views. So if you’re a keen hiker, it is well worth it!
Clovelly Village Tourist Attractions
Once you have made it to Clovelly (either by hiking or a 20 minute drive), there are many tourist attractions to enjoy! Clovelly is a privately owned village (you do need to pay to enter) maintaining its 17th century charm. Walking down the cobbled streets, you’ll be able to enter fishermen’s cottages that resemble the 1800s and discover the old harbour. Above the village are the beautiful Clovelly court gardens, which are also worth visiting. See all of the best things to do in Clovelly here.
Tarka Trail from Bideford
The Tarka Trail is a 180 mile cycle and hiking path that takes in the best of North Devon. It doesn’t technically stretch to Westward Ho!, but you can join it at Bideford and cycle down toward Instow and then along the Taw Estuary to Barnstaple and out towards Braunton. If you fancy a longer ride, you can even cycle along the expanse of sand that is the beautiful Woolacombe Beach!
If you want to check out some more beaches near Westward Ho!, Saunton Sands is an excellent option. This beach is home to a huge stretch of sand – around 3 miles – so there’s a spot for everyone here! Take some time just enjoying the golden sands or walk inland to Braunton Burrows, the country’s largest dune system.
There aren’t as many facilities at Saunton Sands as there are in Westward Ho!, although you’ll find an equipment hire van, surf school, cafe and toilets at the northern end. Other than that, it’s uninterrupted sandy bliss!
For somewhere a little dramatic, head to Hartland Quay. Located near the border of Devon and Cornwall, Hartland Quay is one of the best Westward Ho! attractions – a historic port with some incredibly dramatic scenery on the surrounding stretch of the coast.
You can walk from Hartland Quay to Hartland Point and take in the stunning views, or adventurous souls can walk to Clovelly. There is also a shipwreck museum at Hartland Quay. While you’re in the area, Hartland Abbey is located just inland and is worth a visit.
The Big Sheep
The Big Sheep is one of the best day trips from Westward Ho! It is a popular theme park with a wide range of rides and amusements. Priding themselves as the best family day out in North Devon, they’ve got everything here from a soft play centre for toddlers to rides for adventurous kids and adults!
How to get to Westward Ho!
Most tourists drive to Westward Ho!, but it’s quite accessible by public transport too. First, you’ll want to get to Exeter St David’s station (trains arrive here from London Waterloo, London Paddington, Bristol and other cities). Then, change for a train to Barnstaple Railway Station.
Once you arrive at Barnstaple, it’s a half-hour bus journey on the 21 to Westward Ho!. The bus stops from right outside.
If you are driving, take the M5 and then the A361 to North Devon, eventually joining the A39 and turning off at Westward Ho! These roads can get packed in the summer season, so I would recommend leaving very early.
Where to park in Westward Ho!
There is ample car parking available in the town near to the best Westward Ho! attractions. Most of the car parks have reasonable parking rates – and a car park at the south end of the beach is even free! I would recommend using Parkopedia to find a spot.
Where to stay in Westward Ho!
To enjoy all of the best things to do in Westward Ho!, you’re going to need accommodation. You could either stay in the town itself, in Northam, or in Appledore, which is just a short drive or bus drive, or around an hours’ walk away. I would personally choose to stay in Appledore because it is the loveliest village, but if you have kids or want to be in the action, you might find that Westward Ho! is better for you.
If you fancy camping, I recommend Skern Lodge campsite near Appledore. This is a basic pop up campsite, but there are warm showers and beautiful views over the river. Plus, it’s very cheap!
Culloden House is a great little B&B in Westward Ho! situated inside a Victorian mansion. It’s a friendly place, with cosy rooms and epic views. Click here for more information.
Another great place to stay is Ocean Star. This guesthouse has views of the water and is cleaned to high standards, with a friendly reception. Click here to read more.
If you’re looking for luxury, I would recommend The Seagate in Appledore. This is a pub with lovely luxury rooms decorated in boutique-style and en-suite bathrooms – some of which have roll-top baths. The staff are exceptionally friendly, and they serve a top-notch breakfast every day. Click here for more information.
Accommodation around this area can get booked up early, especially in the summer months. Therefore, I would recommend booking as far in advance as possible!
Westward Ho!’s best attractions
Westward Ho! is a North Devon gem, especially popular with families but loved by people of all ages. There’s an exciting range of things to do not just in the town, but also in the wider area. If you follow this list of things to do in Westward Ho!, I’m sure you’ll be completely charmed by the beachside town!