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10 stunning natural attractions in Devon

10 stunning natural attractions in Devon

There’s nothing better for your mood than getting out in nature. And the good news for families is that there are many incredible natural attractions in Devon that are accessible with kids.

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Fresh air fun is one of our very favourite things to do as a family. That’s why you’ll already find guides to outdoor attractions and the best beaches to visit right here on Devon with Kids.

However, they are not all natural wonders. Even extraordinary landmarks like Canonteign Falls and Kents Cavern have manmade elements.

Natural attractions in Devon

So what is a natural attraction? To me they are places where nature is the star of the show.

And, as this is Devon with Kids, they have to be fun places for families to visit too.

So, in this post I’m sharing my top picks from Devon’s natural attractions to help you get back to nature with your family.

Becky Falls

The main waterfall at Becky Falls Devon
Becky Falls on a summer day – visit after rain to see them at their most impressive

These falls in the Bovey Valley are part of a landscape created during the last Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago.

It’s an incredible natural playground, although one best suited to children who can wander under their own steam. Pushchairs are not an option as there are boulders to climb over and around.

There are plenty of rewards for families who do visit, including a stunning set of waterfalls, an animal discovery centre and petting zoo.

Read about our visit to Becky Falls in Devon.

Here’s some more ideas for family days out in Devon.

Lydford Gorge

Kids standing in front of Whitelady Falls in Lydford Gorge
Whitelady Falls

This is the South West’s deepest gorge and boasts a 30m waterfall and impressive natural whirlpool called the Devil’s Cauldron. That’s not to mention a host of waterfalls coursing through the gorge.

You can explore the gorge all day. Alternatively take an hour long walk up and down the to the 30ft Whitelady Waterfall.

This is the most accessible part of the gorge for families with young children. It would be possible to reach Whitelady Waterfall with a pushchair, although there are some steep sections.

You can visit Lydford Gorge with a dog, but it must stay on its lead.

The Gorge is maintained by the National Trust so members can visit for free. There’s also a National Trust cafe at the waterfall car park. Check it is open before you visit.

Here’s more about visiting Lydford Gorge with kids.

Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks

Rocky outcrop at Haytor against a blue sky
Haytor in Dartmoor

Devon is in the enviable position of having two national parks – Dartmoor in the South West and Exmoor which is shared with Somerset in the North.

There’s a wealth of opportunities to enjoy these natural landscapes from walking to climbing and fun activities to try with kids like geo caching.

There are hundreds of tors to explore – some more accessible than others. We’ve found there’s plenty close to moorland car parks so they’re not too difficult to reach even with little legs.

Here are some more easy walks to try on Dartmoor.

Or why not have a go at Letter Boxing? This was an early forerunner to geo-caching with boxes to be found across the moors.

Here’s more suggestions for places to visit in Dartmoor.

Fossil beaches on the Jurassic Coast

High view of the red cliffs of Peak hill near Sidmouth in Devon. Part of the South West Coastal path.
Sidmouth in Devon

Devon’s Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site brimming with natural artefacts.

You have nearly 100 miles of coast to scour but if you are looking for the best fossil beaches in Devon then check out Beer, Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton.

Fossil hunting isn’t an activity to be done on a whim. Make sure you stay away from cliffs and check the tide times. Rock slides and getting stranded are something to avoid at all costs.

Sea stacks at Ladram

Picture of Ladram Bay from a Stuart Line Cruise boat trip
Ladram Bay sea stacks

For a different perspective on the history of Devon’s Jurassic Coast take a boat trip to see its cliffs and rock formations.

The sea stacks at Ladram Bay are what’s left of ancient caves and arches that have long since collapsed leaving red layered towers of mudstone.

Book a boat trip from Exmouth or Sidmouth to sail past them.

Find out more about boat trips along the Jurassic Coast.

English Riviera

Clear blue sea on the South Devon coast meets the honeycombed rocks of the English Riviera
Elberry Cove on the English Riviera

Did you know that South Devon is home to a UNESCO Global Geopark? The English Rivera – the coastal region from Brixham to Babbacombe – was once located in a tropical sea south of the Equator.

Geologists know this because of the grey and pink limestone rocks all along the seafront. These are known to have been formed 400 million years ago, half a world away.

Over the millennia the limestone rose up out of the water to form mountains and deserts baked red by the sun, all the time moving north to where the rocks have now settled in South Devon.

This is why you’ll find red sand beaches, folded rock cliff faces and honeycombed sandstone all along the English Riviera coast.

To see it as its best take to the water for a boat trip.

If you want to find out more about the history of the English Riviera visit Kents Cavern and Torquay Museum.

Hartland Quay 

Rocky shoreline and folded cliffs of Hartland Quay in North Devon on a sunny day

The Hartland Peninsular is an incredible natural attraction in North Devon and Hartland Quay is a part that is easily accessible by car.

The folded cliffs are the result of the Earth’s tectonic plates colliding more than 320 million years ago.

The history of the folded rocks is fascinating for mini geologists. And of course they will love to clamber over the boulders at low tide as well as finding pockets of sand to make castles and countless rock pools.

When the weather is calm you can swim, launch a kayak or paddle board. If the sea is rough it puts on quite a show crashing over the old harbour wall and rocky outcrops.

Make a day of your visit and check out more things to do near Hartland.

Slapton Ley Nature Reserve

The fresh water of Slapton Ley is on the right

This is the largest natural freshwater lake in the South West of England. It is separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bank that turns into Slapton Sands beach.

There are circular walks through the Nature Reserve where you’ll find bird hides, a pond dipping pontoon and a duck feeding spot.

It would be easy to spend a whole day here exploring the nature reserve and relaxing on the two mile long beach where it’s common to spot seals.

You should also visit the WWII tank at Torcross car park. This piece of military kit ended up in the sea during rehearsals for the D Day landings which took place here.

Find out more about the history of Slapton Sands.

Valley of Rocks

South West Coat path in Valley of Rocks towards Lynton

By now you’ll have worked out that Devon isn’t short of dramatic landscapes and towering rock formations. But the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor National Park is something special – that’s why it’s made this list of natural attractions in Devon.

The Valley runs parallel to the sea and is topped by rocks that look like they’ve been dropped there by giants.

The geology is quite amazing and the views speak for themselves. 

Find out more in my post about walking the Valley of Rocks to Lynton.

Lundy Island

View across the south end of Lundy Island where the ferry harbours under the lighthouse
Arrive in style on Lundy Island

This carless wildlife haven off the North Devon coast is a top place to see puffins and seals. In fact it is often compared to the Galapagos Islands because its wildlife is so isolated.

To reach the island take a two hour crossing on the island’s supply ship, the MS Oldenburg, or book a seat with Ilfracombe Sea Safari which runs a one hour shuttle service.

Ferry services run from the end of March to the end of October.

Find out more about Lundy Island.

Where to stay to enjoy natural attractions in Devon

A roundhouse style glamping place in the rolling hills of Devon
Brownscombe Roundhouse near Totnes

If you want to immerse yourself in nature during your holiday what better accommodation than glamping?

Unique hideaways have more than 40 rural retreats in Devon ranging from family-friendly yurts to shepherds huts where dogs are welcome too.

Do you have a favourite natural attraction in Devon?

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