There’s a lot more to a family holiday in Devon than cream teas and country cottages. This is the county for some of the world’s best surfing beaches. It’s also where you’ll find the UK’s first Marine Conservation Zone round Lundy Island. And if you were in any doubt about its seaside credentials, Devon’s home to the English Riviera too. Naturally, the cream teas are fantastic, especially after all the walking, cycling, swimming, sailing and exploring that’s all part of spending more than five minutes here. And if your heart’s set on a country cottage, you’re in one of the best areas in the south of England for characterful self-catering – try historic Lundy Lighthouse Light Keeper’s cottage for starters.
The north is Devon’s daring side. Exmoor National Park is here and beaches like Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton string along the coast: big and safe for kids and some of the best in the world for surfing. Colourful seaside towns and wide-open countryside come packed with outdoor activity. And it’s not as busy here as the south, so families have a lot more freedom and space to enjoy the adventure.
From historic market towns like Exeter to its lovely beaches, big forests and pretty countryside, all of south Devon is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. But it’s not short on action for energetic kids. The water sports here are fantastic and have schools to match. You’ll find woodland wildernesses, incredible gardens and hundreds of coastal hikes all over the area. And if you want manmade thrills, the best theme parks in Devon live in the lovely south.
Warm and West Country in the welcome, Plymouth has a bright, city atmosphere too. There’s a strong maritime influence and the legends of Sir Francis Drake, historic voyages and more recent seafaring exploits are all fun for kids to explore. And you can trade nautical fun for a grown-up wander round charming Barbican Harbour.
Torquay, Paignton and Brixton are as classically England by the sea as Victorian Pleasure Piers and beach huts. Today’s towns mix up funfairs and theme parks with seaside traditions but one thing that never changes is 35km of sandy beaches along this sunny coast.
Dartmoor covers almost 600km² in the south of Devon. It’s an unruly and rugged landscape but just tame enough to have an almost limitless supply of outdoor activities. From hiking round prehistoric sites to rock-climbing, canoeing and cycling – Dartmoor has some of Devon’s best bike trails.
Voted one of the best amusement parks in the UK, this is an all-weather, all-rounder with white knuckle rides for teens and scaled-down thrills for younger kids. Milky Way
Get up close to sea creatures from north Devon’s unique marine environment at this award-winning, zoned aquarium. Ilfracombe Aquarium
This extraordinary zoo is about as hands-on as kids can safely be with the wildest of wild animals. Exmoor Zoo
This recently refurbished little gem is one of the best small museums in the UK – fantastic kid’s event and activity programme too. Royal Albert
A WWF Amazing Day’s Out award winner, this wildlife and nature park is astonishing and great value for families. Becky Falls
Rollercoasters, dinosaurs and just as much fun for winter themes as summer. Crealy
One of south west England’s biggest indoor climbing walls at the Quay Climbing Centre. Clip ‘n’ Climb
An easy five kilometre stroll that takes kids past ‘the village that fell into the sea’. Walking Trail
Tick Devon activity boxes from north to south and pay for nothing (or very little). 50 Free Things to do in Devon
Excellent kid’s activity and events programmes all year round and home to the Teignmouth & Shaldon Museum. Teign Heritage Centre
Mix driving, cycling and walking to make the most of Devon. Good bus services connect most towns, villages and cities and there are daily trains from London Paddington to Torquay and Ilfracombe. The ferry to Lundy Island sails morning and afternoon from Ilfracombe and the crossing takes less than 2 hours.