North Devon, is a premier surfing destination in the UK! With its stunning beaches and variety of waves, it’s perfect for surfers of all skill levels.
We asked local expert James from Sandy SUP & Surf in Westward Ho! for some advice, Being a lifeguard for the RNLI and a paddle board & surfing instructor, he had already written about this and was able to advise us.
Here is a simple guide to help you understand the differences between the beaches and to find the best conditions for each for surfing.
As all these beaches are really quite close to each other (one of the amazing things about this area), even with the best planning, “beach hopping” might be needed to get the best conditions as the day develops.
I’ve also included tips on where to park and facilities for these beaches to help you too.
|Beach Name||Best For||Surfing Conditions|
|Woolacombe & Putsborough Beaches||All Levels||West and Southwest Swells with Easterly Winds|
|Croyde Beach||Advanced and Professional Surfers||Northwest to Southwest Swells with Easterly Winds|
|Saunton Sands||Longboarders||Gentle Surf, Perfect for Cruising and Learning|
|Westward Ho!||Learners||Soft Waves, Spacious Beach|
Woolacombe & Putsborough Beaches
These two beaches stretch for two miles and offer something for everyone.
Putsborough is great during big storms, as it’s protected by a headland, while Woolacombe is perfect for the calmer summer months (I’ve personally body-boarded here with the kids many times, it’s fantastic!). For the best surfing experience, visit when there are west and southwest swells with easterly winds.
Caution: Woolacombe has a rocky shoreline to the North, be wary of a breeze that pushes you over inadvertently towards them. If lifeguards are on duty there, they’ll normally set up away from these and I have seen them first-hand advise people to move down the beach for exactly this reason.
Woolacombe Beach Parking & Facilities
There is inexpensive on-road parking at Woolacombe, plus several carparks too. Marine Dr, Woolacombe EX34 7BG is up the hill and gives the best views, albeit the longest walk to the beach. “Sandy Burrows Car Park” (EX34 7BG) is huge and “The Esplanade Car Park” (EX34 7DJ) is almost sat on the beach.
The Beachcomber Cafe is a must-visit for this beach (the pancakes are “dreamy”).
There are two sets of public toilets, one set up some steps at the North end of the beach, and the second set at the T junction (EX34 7DF). Those however are normally pretty bad (and have been for the past two years), to the point, I’d suggest the Red Barn Pub opposite instead.
Woolacombe is dog friendly all year round. See the signs at the beach for more details.
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Croyde Beach is a challenging spot with powerful waves and strong rip currents making it ideal for advanced and professional surfers.
Try surfing during low tide for the most exciting waves or high tide for a friendlier experience. The beach works best with northwest to southwest swells and easterly winds.
Tip: Here are the tide times for Croye Beach: https://www.devonguide.com/weather/croyde-tide-times.htm
Croyde Beach Parking & Facilities
There are two main carparks in Croyde, the “Baggy Point National Trust Car Park” (EX33 1PA) and the “Down End Car Park” (EX33 1QE). Public toilets are right next to the beach (EX33 1NU).
Tip: As the owner of an XLWB van, only go to the National Trust carpark if you’re driving a car or small van (“tight” is an understatement).
Croyde Beach is not dog friendly all year round. From October 1st to April 30th, dogs are allowed on Croyde Beach. During other times, they can be taken for a walk on the Dunes, located above the beach.
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Saunton Sands is a longboarder’s paradise!
Its gentle surf and flat beach makes it perfect for cruising and learning to surf. The northern headland protects surfers from northerly winds, making Saunton Sands a must-visit destination.
Saunton Sands Parking & Facilities
Saunton Sands Car Park is at EX33 1LG. It’s huge but does get busy during the summer months. There is a shop, cafe and restaurant on site, along with toilets too.
Sauton Sandsbeach is dog friendly all year round.
Westward Ho is the ultimate spot for learners and home to the famous Sandy SUP & Surf School (where James is from).
With soft waves and a spaciously long beach, you’ll enjoy surfing here all year round.
The south end is sheltered during southerly winds, while the north end (Sandymere Beach) attracts waves even when other beaches are flat.
Westward Ho! Parking & Facilities
There is lots of parking behind the beach in “Northam Burrows car park” (EX39 1HN). You can park in the Tesco carpark but be warned there is a short time limit here. There are two small carparks behind Tescos too (EX39 1LL) which offer pay and display.
There is adventure golf, amusements, shops and two cafes at the south end of Westward Ho! beach and Westward Ho! beach is dog friendly between 1st October and 30 April, during the summer months dogs are allowed on the North end of the beach (the pebble bridge and upwards).
You’re totally spoilt for choices here in North Devon for places to enjoy the surf.
There is a diverse range of beaches on our doorstep, all a stone’s throw away from Bideford. There are even more in Devon, see out the latest blog post “The Best Surfing Beaches in Devon“.
Woolacombe is a good “allrounder”, and definitely good fun for all ranges of skills in the summer, Croyde is better suited to more experienced surfers but can be tamed by using low and high tides. Saunton Sands, the home of gentle surf and perfect for long-boarders and finally Westward Ho, a huge long beach, surfable most of the year.
Hat Tip to James
Thanks to James for helping out with the details on each of the beaches, you can find more about James at Sandy SUP & Surf School (in Westward Ho!).
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