19 best things to do in Woolacombe, Devon in 2024

If you’re looking for things to do in Woolacombe, you’ve come to the right place!

North Devon’s award-winning beach town, Woolacombe has found recent fame with staycationers – although it’s been well-known on the surfing circuits for years. 

You’ll find countless attractions and activities in Woolacombe, from watersports to hiking to museums – but of course, nobody will blame you if you choose to just sprawl on the beach, West Country cider in hand! 

One of the best beach destinations in not only North Devon but the whole country, Woolacombe Beach is an expansive two-mile stretch of sand that’s very popular in the summer months.

This means that the town is ideal for a beach day, but it’s also loved by surfers and nature lovers.

A variety of attractions in North Devon means that Woolacombe is also well placed for day trips, with water parks, nature spots and charismatic towns in the area.

If it’s raining when you’re in Woolacombe, I have some suggestions as well.

From museums to spa days, there are a few things to enjoy in this town away from its award-winning beach!

I live in South Devon, but head up to the north coast frequently and have visited Woolacombe a number of times.

So, here’s my full list of the best things to do in Woolacombe! 

Things to do in Woolacombe town

The best things to do in Woolacombe include:

  • surfing and sunbathing on the stunning beach
  • exploring the town’s charming shops, restaurants, and pubs
  • strolling along the South West Coast Path to Ilfracombe or Croyde
  • exploring the Mortehoe Museums
  • or just kicking back and soaking in a spa!

1. Enjoy Woolacombe’s beautiful beaches

Woolacombe is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK (and all of Europe).

Sitting in the heart of a sweeping golden coast, punctuated by jagged cliffs and crashing waves, Woolacombe’s beaches are certain to impress. 

Take look at my beaches in Woolacombe post to read about all of them, or here’s a summary below!

Woolacombe Beach

View of large woolacombe beach

Hold on to your sunhats, because Woolacombe Beach is not just any old beach.

It’s been crowned the BEST beach in the UK, the 5th best in Europe, and the 13th best in the entire world!

So it’s no surprise that tourists make a beeline to this beach as soon as they touch down in Woolacombe.

Woolacombe Beach is split into various areas. The first area, right by the entrance, is perfect for tourists and families, with a safe swimming spot patrolled by RNLI lifeguards.

It’s also conveniently located near Woolacombe’s shops and restaurants.

Looking for something more exhilarating?

Head a little further down to the surfing area, where the waves are sure to give you a wild ride!

Just make sure you’re experienced enough to be surfing in this wave-happy area – if you aren’t, it’s best to do a lesson with a surf school (more on that in a minute).

And if you want some peace and quiet, there’s a rocky area further down the beach that’s usually calmer. 

Beach huts are available to rent, and there’s a nearby car park, making it super easy to access this slice of paradise. 

Barricane Beach

Sun set and rocks at Woolacombe

Once you’ve explored Woolacombe’s main beach, head to Barricane

This hidden gem is small but mighty, boasting golden sands, crystal-clear rock pools, and jaw-dropping sunsets.

And the best part? It’s conveniently located right in the heart of Woolacombe, making it a must-see attraction during your visit.

Don’t let its size fool you; Barricane packs a punch when it comes to beauty and relaxation!

Grunta Beach

Grunta Beach is a small beach near Woolacombe, with rock pools and a bit of sand to enjoy.

If you’re lucky enough to have it all to yourself, it’ll feel like a private beach! 

Combesgate Beach

This stunning beach, located north of Woolacombe Sands, is a little challenging to get to as there are some steep steps down to the beach.

But once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with crystal-clear rock pools and beautiful sea views. 

2. Learn about shipwrecks at the Mortehoe Museum

Check out Mortehoe Museum, just a short 20-minute walk or five minute drive from Woolacombe.

This speciality museum is largely dedicated to the shipwrecks that have occurred in the area (there’s been a few – but fortunately boat and coastal safety procedures mean that they’re a lot less common nowadays)!

Delve into the history and stories behind these tragic events, as well as other fascinating exhibits about Mortehoe and Woolacombe’s past.

3. Catch an epic sunset

Sunset view of Woolacombe Beach

Get ready to witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles!

Woolacombe is THE spot for catching some of North Devon’s most breathtaking sunsets.

Thanks to its west-facing location, you’ll be treated to a showstopping display of vibrant reds, oranges, and pinks as the sun dips below the horizon.

So grab a picnic, bring a camera, and prepare to be mesmerised by the sheer beauty of Woolacombe’s stunning sunsets.

4. Go surfing

Croyde, England, UK - July 2, 2011: A man surfing at Croyde Bay in North Devon. Croyde Bay in Devon is part of the Heritage Coastline in North Devon and is a popular destination for surfers.

Thanks to its Atlantic-facing position as the North Devon coastline turns away from the Bristol channel and faces the open ocean, Woolacombe is an idyll for those looking to catch some gnarly waves.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the sport, there are plenty of options for you.

For those looking to dip their toes into the surf scene, Hunter Surf School is located right on the main beach and offers a range of lessons – from taster sessions to private tuition. 

If you’re experienced with a board there are plenty of awesome surf spots in Woolacombe Bay and beyond.

Ride the waves at Woolacombe Beach, Saunton Sands, Croyde Bay or venture a little further to Westward Ho!

I’d only recommend taking to the waves independently if you are a confident surfer – the waves around North Devon can be tumultuous! Check out my guide to surfing in Devon for more information.

5. Enjoy other water sports!

Once you’ve finished surfing, dive into the adventure-packed waters around Woolacombe and try out a range of other thrilling water sports!

Along with traditional activities like windsurfing, jet skiing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding, there’s also the exciting option of coasteering with Hunter Surf School – an adrenaline-fueled combo of climbing, jumping, and exploring along the rugged coastline.

6. Head to the Alchemist for a spa treatment

Fancy some pampering on a rainy day? Head to the Alchemist Spa!

The Woolacombe Bay Hotel houses this gem, which features a heated pool, hot tub, thermal rooms, copper tub, and numerous treatment rooms to keep you relaxed and rejuvenated despite the weather outside.

7. Enjoy the delicious food scene of Woolacombe

Get ready to tantalize your taste buds in Woolacombe – this coastal town has a food scene that you’ll be dreaming about long after your holiday!

I love the diverse menu at Bar Electric, and Brundle’s Bar serves up scrumptious sandwiches – there’s something for everyone here.

For drinks, don’t forget to check out The Jube – a must-visit pub!

8. Visit Morte Point

Jagged cliffs of rocks by Morte Point

A dramatic headland that marks the start of Woolacombe’s coastline, Morte Point is known for its jagged rocks.

From here, you can experience some of the best raw, rugged beauty of North Devon – but the headland has a treacherous past. 

Its name, Morte Point, comes from the French word for “death”, alluding to the danger of the coastline and the sheer amount of wrecks that have met a grizzly fate here. 

But nowadays, it’s peaceful – and remains one of the best things to see in Woolacombe! 

To make it a circular walk, you can turn right down one of the paths to the village of Mortehoe and then walk down the road from Mortehoe to Woolacombe.

The entire hike will take you about an hour and a half – and you can also stop at the pub in Mortehoe (The Ship Aground or The Chichester Arms) to refuel! 

9. Explore Bull Point Lighthouse

Bull Point Lighthouse near Mortehoe

Bull Point Lighthouse, perched on the rugged coastline around 3km beyond Morte Point, is a fascinating slice of naval history. 

It dates back to 1879, when it was built to provide ships with a safe passage into this part of the coastline.

In 1972, fissures opened in the cliffs below and it partly collapsed into the sea, leaving the engine and fog signal in a dangerous condition. 

Luckily, it was repaired and rebuilt. 1975, it was automated, and nowadays still operates as a lighthouse. 

From Bull Point Lighthouse, you can turn inland back to Mortehoe and again, follow the road back to Woolacombe. 

10. Hike to Ilfracombe

Coastal path with a sign, alongside Woolacombe beach in Devon, England.

One of the North Devon coastline’s most epic hikes, the Woolacombe to Ilfracombe walk traverses rugged cliffs and drops down into sandy beaches.

Starting in Woolacombe, you’ll follow the South West Coast Path past Morte Point and Bull Point Lighthouse, then along cliff edges before arriving in the picturesque seaside town of Ilfracombe.

It’s a fairly challenging hike, although it isn’t too long and is doable for anyone with a decent fitness level. 

11. Explore Baggy Point

Woolacombe sands at dusk with Baggy Point in Background

Embark on an epic hike around the National Trust-owned headland of Baggy Point from Woolacombe and enjoy breathtaking views of both Woolacombe Sands and Croyde Bay! 

Baggy point is a long headland that juts out into the sea; ensure that you keep turning back to see Woolacombe, and once you’ve rounded the headland, you’ll take in the glorious Croyde Bay, where the 4km trek terminates. 

I completed this hike on one of my family North Devon trips when I was about eight years old, so can confirm that it’s suitable for adults and children alike! 

12. Hike or cycle the Tarka Trail

Beautiful Devon meadows over the River Taw

The Tarka Trail is a must-do for nature enthusiasts visiting Woolacombe and the surrounding areas!

Named after the route that Tarka the Otter took in the 1927 novel of the same name, this 180-mile stretch draws from some of the best hiking and cycling trails in North Devon.

The hiking section takes in the South West Coast Path around Woolacombe, whereas the cycling segment runs from nearby Braunton, around the Torridge and Taw estuary and passes by quaint riverside villages like Appledore and Instow

The Tarka Trail ultimately leads all the way down to Okehampton, brushing the edge of Dartmoor National Park, before circling back on hiking trails towards the northern coastline. 

You probably won’t be able to cycle to Okehampton and back in a day, but the segment around the Torridge and Taw estuaries easily allures cyclists. 

13. Visit Croyde and bask on its beach!

15 minute drive from Woolacombe

This picturesque, clean beach, located on the other side of Baggy Point, is a paradise for surfers and watersports enthusiasts.

It gets crowded during the summer season, but it’s still worth hanging out here to enjoy the surf vibe – and maybe even catch some waves yourself. 

14. Head to the nearby Saunton Sands

Large beach at Saunton Sands

20 minute drive from Woolacombe

A three-mile-long stretch of sand to the west of Woolacombe, Saunton Sands is a little out the way – but locals and well-versed tourists know that it’s one of the best coastal spots in this part of Devon!

Whether you’re a seasoned surfer, a sandcastle-building pro, or simply looking to soak up some sun, Saunton Sands has you covered.

If that’s not enough to entice you, take a stroll through the breathtaking Braunton Burrows, home to the most extensive network of sand dunes in the country.

15. Go on a side trip to Ilfracombe

Boats in Ilfracombe

10 minute drive from Woolacombe (or 20 minutes on the number 31 bus)

My favourite town in North Devon is Ilfracombe.

Ilfracombe is just a 10-minute drive from Woolacombe (or well-connected by bus routes) and is a perfect day trip destination.

You could also hike the South West Coast Path from Woolacombe to Ilfracombe and take the bus back!

Explore this historic town with easy access to nature and plenty of things to do. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Ilfracombe Sea Safari: embark on a boat trip with Ilfracombe sea safari, travelling to Exmoor and Lynmouth Beach by boat, looking out for seals along the way. Or go the other way and chase waterfalls! You can see all of Ilfracombe Sea Safari’s trips on their website.
  • Tunnels Beach: There are lots of beaches in Ilfracombe, but Tunnels Beach is the most historically significant. They were created to connect previously inaccessible beaches and subsequently, they opened the town up to tourism. The beach is privately owned and there is a cost to enter. 
  • Ilfracombe Aquarium: a great place to learn about the huge variety of marine life you will find around Woolacombe, including coastal, estuary, river and island sea animals.

16. Day trip to Lundy Island

Lundy Island off the coast of North Devon

10 minute drive and two hour boat from Woolacombe

The breathtaking destination of Lundy Island is a must-visit while you’re in Woolacombe.

Drive of take a bus to nearby Ilfracombe, where you’ll transfer to the MS Oldenburg, a vessel that transports tourists from the mainland to Lundy Island each day.

Once you arrive, you’ll be surrounded by stunning marine life and fascinating history.

Keep an eye out for the playful seal colony, explore the island on a boat trip, or join a ranger-led hike

It’s possible to do a Lundy Island day trip – read my full post here – but you can also stay on the island. 

17. Visit Watermouth Castle Theme Park

Watermouth Castle

20 minute drive from Woolacombe

Despite the name, Watermouth Castle isn’t a National Trust property or other historic mansion – it’s a fun-packed theme park situated between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe!

Once the home of the Bassett Family, this Victorian castle is now one of the best family attractions in North Devon. 

It’s an indoor/outdoor entertainment venue that you won’t want to miss, especially if you’re visiting with a family. 

Here, you’ll find a wide variety of rides and attractions for all ages, making it a perfect day out with the kids.

18. Visit Exmoor National Park

Beautiful spot in Exmoor

20+ minute drive from Woolacombe

Ready for an adventure? Head out on a road trip to Exmoor National Park – the western edge of which is a 20 minute drive from Woolacombe. 

With stunning hikes and nature trails (take a look at my Minehead to Porlock Weir and Porlock Weir to Lynmouth guide), you’ll adore exploring the rugged cliff paths that tumble down to tranquil beaches. 

Head to Lynton and Lynmouth for one of the UK’s most beautiful villages – it’s often known as the “Switzerland of the UK” (despite Switzerland being landlocked!).

Here, you can ascend the cliff railway, kick back on Lynmouth Beach, head to the cafe at Watersmeet or visit the flood memorial hall, which tells the story of the tragic 1952 flood.

Exmoor National Park expands into Somerset, where you can visit places like the charming village of Porlock or Dunkery Beacon, the highest summit in the area. 

19. Day trip to Clovelly

Boats in Clovelly, in North Devon

1 hour drive from Woolacombe

Discover the magic of Clovelly, an ancient coastal village that never fails to charm visitors.

With its beautiful cobbled streets and 17th century cottages, it’s one of the most quintessentially Devonian fishing villages in the country.

Take in stunning views of the harbour from the top, and teeter down the cobble streets, stopping off at museums on the way, before you reach the water’s edge. 

Because it’s been preserved (and very few people live there) there is a charge to enter – you’ll go through the visitor’s centre where you’ll need to buy a ticket.

Saying that, one time we visited, we were hiking through on the South West Coast Path and never went through the visitor’s centre, so we saw the village for free!

The walled gardens at the top of Clovelly are lovely to stroll through as well! 

What to do in Woolacombe…

Plan your ultimate trip to Woolacombe with these must-do activities!

With its stunning beaches, amazing scenery, and endless activities, Woolacombe is one of the best destinations to visit in North Devon. 

Don’t forget to check out my Devon archives for more information about visiting my home county, and feel free to drop me a message on Instagram if you have any questions! 

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