Tourists Guide to Woolacombe - North Devon

Woolacombe is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK and this is mainly due to it's award winning beach, voted Best Beach in Britain on Trip Advisor in 2015 and has won quality awards every year. With the increase in popularity of surfing the village has grown accordingly and now boasts great pubs like The Red Barn and plenty of good quality restaurants and the oldest night club in the country at Marisco's. Woolacombe is a great place to holiday with family and friends and the area has loads of excellent holiday cottages around the town and in the outlying area, ideal for large groups to go away together and relax in a home from home.

What Makes Woolacombe Special:

  • Award  winning beach voted the best in Britain on Trip Advisor in 2015 amongst many other awards.
  • 3 miles of golden soft sand, perfect for families and great for sandcastle construction!
  • Great surf and very popular for water sports, surfing and swimming.
  • Easy access to the main beach with plenty of car parking spaces, great for those that need easy access.
  • Very high standards of water quality make it ideal for young families.
  • RNLI Lifeguards patrol the beach during the main holiday season with clear designated swimming areas.
  • Just a very short walk to the welcoming village centre.
  • Ample car parking with good sized car parks providing easy access to the beach.
  • A number of shops, pubs, chemist and surf hire within easy reach of the beach.
  • Toilet facilities by the beach and shops by the main entrances.


What Can We Do in Woolacombe:

  • The beach is the main focal point of the village, most of the activities are centred around the beach.
  • Surfing is the most popular water sport, Woolacombe has a great reputation for its quality surf.
  • Take a surfing lesson, there are numerous surf schools based in the village that use the beach.
  • Relax after a day at the beach, there are many restaurants, pubs and cafes near the beach that cater for all tastes, the Red Barn offering one of the best locations with a laid-bak surfy feel.
  • Funder Island in the centre of the village has an 18 hole pirate adventure golf course and other attractions.
  • Pitch and putt golf course at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel.
  • Walk the length of the beach to Putsborough and you can walk back along the path that leads to Marine Drive.
  • Great nightlife, the famous Marisco is the longest running nightclub in the country and there are regular bands playing at the pubs.
  • Take a fantastic walk from the beach to the stunning village of Mortehoe and explore Morte Point.
  • Walk along the ‘Donkey Path’ at the side of Twitchen Valley to the holiday park and then walk down alongside the stream, a beautiful walk.

Where Can We Stay in Woolacombe:

  • Numerous large holiday parks including Woolacombe Bay, Golden Coast, Twitchen, Easewell and Woolacombe Sands.
  • Independent holiday parks such as Europa, North Morte Farm and lots of camp sites, Little Roadway, Damage Barton and more.
  • Quality holiday cottages in Woolacombe and luxury apartments managed by My Favourite Cottages.
  • A great selection of hotels and bed and breakfasts in Woolacombe and Mortehoe, many with superb sea views.
  • A range of other self-catering cottages, apartments and holiday lodges in the area.


All about Woolacombe

Woolacombe is one of the countries top family beach holiday destinations, if you haven’t been before, you will almost certainly know someone who has. It is a large village that primarily sits to the north of a 3 mile stretch of the finest quality sandy beach. Incredibly popular with families, there is usually good surf, very good water quality and a clean beach with sand dunes to explore. 

Woolacombe is incredibly popular as several factors combine to make everything just right. Access to the beach is easy, no rock climbing or mile long treks, the beach is right by the main car parks. There are plenty of facilities by the beach so there isn’t a panic if you get caught short.  There are numerous shops within easy reach of the beach selling everything that you need from buckets and spades to surf board and wetsuit hire.  Woolacombe really has everything making it perfect for families that love sandy beaches and having fun in the sea.

The village has a strong community, often centred around the surf scene but also around the families and characters that have been in the village for many years. A lot of the shops, restaurants, holiday accommodation and pubs remain run by the same families that have owned them for years so there is often a welcoming and recognisable face at the shop counter, hotel reception or behind the bar and this strong community has helped protect Woolacombe and retain its strong character.

Woolacombe has very strong links with the village of Mortehoe to the north, in fact it is difficult to know where one starts and the other ends, possibly the stream at Combesgate Valley? Mortehoe is definitely worth a visit, the village has a fantastic history and even if you are not a fan of walking, Morte Point is an absolute must. There is a car park in the centre of the village and the heritage centre is great where you can learn all about the shipwrecks, the wreckers and smugglers and how this parish was once deemed the ‘roughest’ in the country, even the excise men avoided it.


Woolacombe History

The history of Mortehoe and Woolacombe is often entwined, rich and very entertaining. In fact, the history of Mortehoe probably more so. Woolacombe was little more than a hamlet, quite un-notable until the opening of the Ilfracombe branch line in 1889 where the need for development became apparent. The village grew at a slow pace, even during the Victorian era where Ilfracombe thrived and grew far more rapidly. Several notable buildings were constructed during this period including the Woolacombe Bay Hotel that still dominates and the Grade 11 listed Castle Hotel with fantastic sea views and gothic elements in the stone work.

Woolacombe grew far faster at the turn of the 20th century when beach holidays suddenly became more popular and accessible for the middle classes. There was actually a golf course, some of the tee and green structures can be made out in the dunes to the south of the village and this was opened in 1894. The second world war had a major impact on the village and the golf course leading, to its demise. The Americans used the beach to practise for the Omaha landings along with Saunton and Croyde due to the significantly similar geographic natures of the beach systems with those in Normandy.

Mortehoe has a fantastic history and there are plenty of old wives’ tales as well. Ensure that you visit the Heritage centre to learn more, find out why Grunta Beach got its name and how the wreckers lured the ships onto the reefs for their destruction, the gruesome deaths of the sailors and the profiteering of the village itself!


How Do You Get to Woolacombe?

If this is your first time, try not to fight the Sat Nav and just stay on the major roads. Ignore the signs on the link road advising that you avoid Barnstaple and take the short cut, it is often busy, not much shorter and very twisty. Just head for Barnstaple and take all signs for Ilfracombe and Braunton. Note that the main peak season busy times cause significant congestion, the new bridge across the River Taw has successfully managed to move the traffic jams from Barnstaple to Braunton.

Again, stick to the main road in Braunton and ignore the short cuts, especially if you are towing! The easiest route is to head through Braunton and stay on the A361 to Mullacott Cross and take the first exit at the roundabout. Woolacombe is a further 3 miles on and if you are staying at Mortehoe, take the exit on the right after about 2 miles. There are shortcuts that reduce the travel time at the Spreacombe turn off right about a mile after Knowle and a further right about half a mile after Foxhunters, do not take either of these if you are towing!

Alternatively, if you have plenty of time and it isn’t too busy. Take the turning right at the main traffic lights in Braunton and follow the coastal road, enjoy beautiful views of Saunton Sands and Croyde Beach. The road takes you through Georgeham (2 great food pubs here) and you can take the left after Little Roadway Farm with a stunning drop down to Woolacombe and a spectacular view, it is hard on the breaks though, use a low gear!