Why North Devon Beats South Devon | Woolacombe Bay


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Why North Devon beats South Devon

The North vs South divide in England is a topic of debate that continually carves up opinions. It’s a tale as old as time and isn’t limited to England as a whole. North and South Devon has its own friendly rivalry that has each of its inhabitants debating which one is better. While both regions boast their unique charm and attractions - and whilst we may be somewhat biassed - there are many reasons why we think North Devon ultimately pips South Devon at the post.

From breathtaking rugged coastlines and unspoiled beaches to legendary towns and historical landmarks, here’s why we think North Devon has South Devon beat.

North Devon beaches are world-renowned

The north coast of Devon offers some of the best beaches in Europe. Saunton Sands, Westward Ho! and Croyde Bay are known for their sparkling sea, rolling waves and golden sands which attract thousands of visitors every year.  From the doggy heaven of Instow Beach to the luscious blue waters of Newberry Beach at Combe Martin, the beaches in North Devon offer something for every family member.

In terms of family beaches, North Devon is hard to top. But South Devon gives it a good go! And whilst Dawlish and Exmouth in South Devon have breathtaking beaches and are rightly very popular amongst tourists and holiday-makers, the most popular beach in Devon is our very own Woolacombe, where you can also find our holiday parks. Consistently the best-reviewed beach in Devon on Tripadvisor, Woolacombe Beach offers hours of fun with dunes, rock pools and great surfing to enjoy.

Picture taken from the sea of Exmouth sandy beach with a pleasure boat sailing by on the foreground and a ferris wheel on the sea front
Exmouth Beach in South Devon voted second-best after Woolacombe Bay in North Devon

North Devon is better for surfing

Now this isn’t just our opinion, it’s actually true! North Devon’s jagged coastline is far more open to the elements than South Devon and has windier weather conditions, making it the perfect spot to do some surfing. In fact, North Devon has recently been recognised as a World Surfing Reserve.

Croyde Bay is a hotspot for seasoned surfers, thanks to its swells all year round and winds from the east which bring consistently great surf. Woolacombe Bay is great for every level of surfer and has surf schools to help everyone stand up on the board. What’s more, if you stay in one of our Surf Village lodges, you’ll even enjoy complimentary surfboard and wetsuit hire to get you started.

South Devon might be worth considering if surfing is off the cards, but if surfing is what you’re after North Devon is definitely for you.

Family of four in the waves at Woolacombe Beach, they are wearing wetsuits and in the water riding surf waves
North Devon has surfing beaches for all abilities from pro surfers to body board beginners

North Devon is less touristy

Whilst more and more people are becoming aware of the outstanding beauty of North Devon, it’s still far less busy than South Devon. In a list of the most visited seaside towns in the UK, Torquay in South Devon had 4.8 million visitors between June 2021 and May 2022. In contrast, North Devon’s equivalent Ilfracombe saw around 1.1 million visitors.

Booking a trip in North Devon means you’ll be less overrun by other holidaymakers, with the space to enjoy your holiday properly. Plus, you can brag to everyone you know about the hidden gems you discover (only don’t tell too many people!).

Ilfracombe is North Devon's most visited seaside town but it's much less busy and prettier than Torquay in South Devon

Discover beautiful towns and landmarks in North Devon

North Devon is home to lots of interesting landmarks, picturesque towns and villages, and unique places to visitFrom Damien Hirst’s Verity in Ilfracombe to the tiny harbour village of Clovelly that you can only reach on foot, tourists are in for a treat when they visit North Devon. Here are some landmarks and activities to try while you’re here:

  • Ride the Funicular at Lynton and Lynmouth - Opened in 1890, the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway was initially built to join the two towns and is still in use today!
  • Smell the roses at RHS Garden Rosemoor - Nestled between two national parks, these 65-acre gardens are beautiful all year round and especially worth a visit during their peak in June.
  • Have fun at The Big Sheep - whatever the weather, The Big Sheep near Bideford will have something to do for everyone. From roller coasters to lamb feeding, enjoy hours of fun and laughs.
  • Walk the Valley of the Rocks in Exmoor - North Devon isn’t short on beautiful walks and this dramatic section of coastline can be enjoyed in a 3-mile circular loop walk. Make sure to look out for wild goats along the way!
A narrow cobbled street lined with pretty cottages at Clovelly in north Devon
Clovelly is set on a steep hillside leading down to a pretty fishing harbour with freshly landed catch

North Devon has a rich literary history

Yes, South Devon did inspire the likes of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan-Doyle, but North Devon’s dramatic coastline and national parks have long inspired writers and poets too.

The Tarka Trail, a 180-mile loop that showcases all of North Devon’s beauty is a popular walking and cycling trail inspired by Henry Williamson’s novel Tarka the Otter written in 1927. Hop on or off the trail at different points and explore the Taw-Torridge rivers that Williamson was inspired by.

Deep in the heart of Exmoor, you’ll find Doone Valley which features in RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone. Blackmoore spent much of his childhood in the valley and it’s easy to see why he decided to base his novel there.

Several of the best romantic poets visited the town of Lynmouth, on the northern edge of Exmoor. Shelley, Wordsworth and Coleridge all spent time here, and it was even dubbed by poet Robert Southey as ‘The English Switzerland’.

Finally, a delve into North Devon’s rich literary history wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Westward Ho! Did you know this town’s name came from a novel by Charles Kingsley? The success of the book led to Westward Ho! becoming a popular seaside town that’s hugely known and loved. South Devon can’t boast a literary town name!

The picturesque village of Lynmouth in Devon and its harbour at high tide with little fishing boats in the water and pretty Little Switzerland houses around it
Lynmouth is known as Little Switzerland and it's hilltop neighbour is most easily reached by funicular railway

Perhaps we are biassed when it comes to the friendly rivalry of North Devon vs South Devon and both undoubtedly have their charm. All we know is that this part of the UK makes for a wonderful family holiday; you can expect glorious coastline, pretty towns and villages, and lots of interesting visitor attractions and things to do. So book your next getaway at one of our three Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks today.

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