If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in Ilfracombe in North Devon then I’ve got lots of ideas for you.
Whether you want to find North Devon beach for rock pooling, have a fun-packed day out at a family attraction, or save some pennies with free days out in and around Ilfracombe, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve even got ideas for things to do in Ilfracombe on a rainy day.
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Free things to do in Ilfracombe
Fact: days out with kids can get expensive. So let’s start with some of the free things to do in Ilfracombe:
1. Meet Verity
No visit to Ilfracombe would be complete without a look at Damien Hirst’s ‘Verity’ who watches over the entrance of the harbour.
She’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But she’s good for sparking a debate and is completely free to see. You can’t really miss her!
Did you know Verity is 20.25 meters high and weighs 25 tonnes? That’s the same as four elephants!
She’s in one of the Devon scenes recreated in the Devon Colouring Book for Kids – a companion for your West Country adventures.
2. Squeeze into St Nicholas Chapel
Overlooking the harbour is St Nicholas Chapel – a former church for local seafarers that was once home to 14 children. It is also a lighthouse and continues to warn mariners about the rocky coast today.
The 900-year-old chapel was restored by Ilfracombe Rotary Club in the 1960. They provide plenty of information about the building’s many roles over the centuries from place to worship to laundry and family home.
It’s free to look around and won’t take long. The main interest for children is to imagine what it would be been like to live here with 13 siblings!! There’s also a great view of all the comings and goings from the harbour.
Find out more about St Nicholas Chapel.
3. Catch a crab in Ilfracombe Harbour
Ilfracombe is one of the top places in Devon to go crabbing. Dangle an eco-friendly line from the harbour wall at high tide.
Bacon and stinky sardines are favourite nibbles of Devon crustaceans.
4. Play at Bicclescombe Park
Relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Bicclescombe Park where you’ll find a children’s play area and sensory garden.
You might spot the local boating club sailing their models in the lake. If you fancy a treat there’s also tea rooms at the old mill.
Find out more about visiting Bicclescombe Park.
5. Walk the South West Coast Path
Breathe in lungfuls of fresh air during a walk along the stunning South West Coast Path that passes through Ilfracombe.
If your kids are motivated by treasure hunts then you could buy them a South West Coast Path Passport to get stamped along the way. There’s check points at Pack o’ Cards on High Street in Combe Martin and Ilfracombe Tourist Information Centre on The Promenade.
Find more points of interest on the coast path in North Devon.
Keep an eye on the Visit Ilfracombe website or the latest events in Ilfracombe.
Ilfracombe: things to do on wet days
If the weather fails you, here’s some places to go and things to do in Ilfracombe in the rain (or if you want to avoid the sun!!):
6. Explore under the sea at Ilfracombe Aquarium
In the Old Lifeboat House on the harbour you’ll find Ilfracombe Aquarium. This small attraction is great for wet days in North Devon.
Step inside and you’ll find exhibits telling the story of North Devon’s marine life from river to coast.
Find out more about visiting Ilfracombe Aquarium.
7. Explore local history at Ilfracombe Museum
This small museum has more than 28,000 items that will fascinate young visitors, from prickled bats to Victorian garb and war time photographs.
Under 16s visit for free making this one of the cheap things to do in Ilfracombe.
Find out more about visiting Ilfracombe Museum.
8. Catch a show Landmark Theatre
The Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe is the place to catch a family-friendly live performance.
Find out what’s on at the Landmark Theatre.
9. Play at Watermouth Castle – a North Devon theme park
This real-life castle hosts attractions and theme park fun for families whatever the weather.
Explore the maze like dungeons, marvel at the underground fountain show, enjoy fair ground rides and discover the secret life of gnomes. Watermouth Castle and the attractions in its grounds offer a full family day out.
Find out more about visiting Watermouth Castle.
10. Catch a flick at Embassy Cinema
Looking for something to do on a chilly or wet day in Ilfracombe? You’ll find all the latest flicks showing at Embassy Cinema on Ilfracombe High Street.
Find out what’s on.
Here’s some more things to do in Devon when it rains.
More attractions and things to do in Ilfracombe
Here’s some of the action-packed things to do in Ilfracombe:
11. Catch a ferry to Lundy Island
Lundy his one of the most stunning natural attractions in Devon and a top place to spot puffins and seals.
Ilfracombe is one of the places to catch a ferry to visit it.
Ferry services run from the end of March to the end of October.
Find out more about Lundy Island.
12. Go on a sea safari
Another popular thing to do in Ilfracombe is to book a sea safari. Experiences range from one to six hours exploring the North Devon coastline where it’s possible to see dolphins, seals and sea birds in their natural habitat.
Find out more about sea safaris from Ilfracombe.
13. Quad biking at Keypitts
Have an off road adventure quad biking near Ilfracombe. As well as quad bikes, Keypitts have axe throwing and 4×4 Land Rover Experiences.
There are quad bike routes suitable for children aged six and up.
Find out more about activities at Keypitts.
14. Segway with EasiGlide Devon
Kids as young as seven can have a go on a Segway with EasiGlide at Ilfracombe. Their tours take place with amazing coast views and last between 45 minutes and an hour.
If it’s raining this is an activity in North Devon that can still go ahead. Sessions take place in a indoor arena instead.
Find out more about segway experiences in Ilfracombe.
Things to do near Ilfracombe
A bit further afield you’ll find these places to visit near Ilfracombe:
15. Slip n Slide near Ilfracombe
Here’s a fun activity for the summer months. Seaview Slip n Slide is the largest in Devon and you’ll find it at Mullacott Cross between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe.
This exhilarating activity is fun for all the family and can be combined with a visit to Footgolf North Devon who share the same site.
You can whizz down the slide between May half term and the end of the summer season. Check the website for open days and times. This is an activity aimed at children aged seven and up.
Find out more and book via the Slip n Slide website.
16. Borough Farm Dog and Falconry Displays
Every Wednesday from June to September see this popular rural show outdoors at Borough Farm near Woolacombe.
The sheepdog show demonstrates the amazing skills of the farm’s dogs and the falconry display features ‘fast and furious’ birds of prey.
Borough Farm is a 10 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more about sheep dog and falconry at Borough Farm.
17. Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park
This Devon wildlife park combines every kid’s favourite things (well most): animals and dinosaurs. Visit Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park in North Devon to see lions, wolves, sea lions, primates, meerkats and penguins.
Plus there’s life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, botanical gardens, a miniature railway and a gigantic indoor soft play area for wet days.
Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park is a 20 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more about Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park.
18. See the national carriage collection at Arlington Court
This delightful North Devon National Trust property on the edge of Exmoor is home to the National Carriage Museum including horse drawn vehicles of all shapes, sizes and purposes. It is fascinating for horse and vehicle enthusiasts of all ages.
Don’t miss the gleaming 17th Century Speaker’s State Coach which is tucked away in its own stable to protect it from daylight.
The walled gardens, lawns and pond are a delight to wander around, and perfect for wildlife spotting, den building and adventure play.
In the house you can see collections of pewter plates, silver spoons and trophies, as well as period costumes.
Arlington Court is a 25 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more about visiting Arlington Court.
19. Meet the animals at Exmoor Zoo
If you’re looking for things to do in North Devon with kids then a day at the zoo is a real crowd pleaser. Exmoor is a small zoo with its fair share of rare animals that you may not see elsewhere in the country.
There are animal talks and chances to find out more about the zoo’s residents throughout the day.
Exmoor Zoo is a 25 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more about visiting Exmoor Zoo.
Find more Devon zoos and animals parks.
20. Ride the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway
This picturesque North Devon narrw gauge railway is being restored by a team of volunteers. One mile of the 1/50 gradient route between Woody Bay and Killington Lane Halt is open.
You can use your ticket to travel along the route as many times as you’d like in a day.
The railway is a 30 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more about Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
21. Walk the Valley of Rocks
Devon isn’t short of dramatic landscapes and towering rock formations, but The Valley of Rocks in Exmoor National Park is something special.
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.
Valley of Rocks is a 40 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more in my post about walking the Valley of Rocks to Lynton.
22. Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway
For wonderful views of the North Devon coast a ride on the funicular at Lynton and Lynmouth is a must. It’s the highest and the steepest totally water powered railway in the world.
No visit would be complete without a Devon Cream Tea 500ft up at the top of the railway.
The Cliff Railway is a 40 minute drive from Ilfracombe.
Find out more about visiting Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway.
Beaches near Ilfracombe in North Devon
Here’s some of the best beaches in and around Ilfracombe:
23. Tunnels beach
Tunnels at Ilfracombe is the spot where holidaying Victorians used to come to bathe. Walk through hand carved tunnels in the rock to reach this secluded cove where you’ll find tidal pools and rock pools.
There is an admission charge for Tunnels at Ilfracombe and dogs are not allowed.
24. Wildersmouth beach – a dog-friendly beach in Ilfracombe
This sheltered shingle beach is surrounded by rugged cliffs and is one of the less busy places for a day at the seaside near Ilfracombe.
There’s parking, public toilets and a cafe near by. Dogs are welcome all year round.
25. Hele Bay beach – a dog-friendly beach near Ilfracombe
If you’re looking for a smaller cove to spend time making sand castles and exploring rock pools than Hele Bay is ideal.
Dogs are welcome all year round and there’s a cafe for light snacks.
26. Combe Martin beach
To the East of Ilfracombe is Combe Martin. This has a small shingle cove that opens out on to wide flat sands at low tide – great for sand castles, water sports and relaxing.
Combe Martin beach holds the Seaside Award and has plenty of facilities to help you make a day of your visit including parking, cafes, toilets and nature trails.
27. Barricane & Combesgate beaches at Woolacombe – dog-friendly Devon beaches
To the South West of Ilfracombe is Woolacombe where you’ll find a long stretch of golden sand as well as the coves of Barricane and Combesgate beaches.
Shell hunters will love a visit to Barricane Beach. Shells from a far off Caribbean island have somehow floated all the way to this small rocky cove. It’s a phenomenon that has made it a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
There’s a small cafe here famed for it’s Sri Lankan curries.
Combesgate, just around the corner, is a great place for rock pooling. Be aware that this beach is accessed via steps and there’s very little sand at high tide.
Dogs are permitted all year but must be kept on a lead in the summer months. There are shops and parking not far from these beaches.
28. Woolacombe beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
And when you see its miles of sand and brilliant surfing conditions you’ll understand why. How could it not be on your bucket list of things to do near Ilfracombe when you visit?
There’s an RNLI lifeguard station which is manned during the summer season plus cafes, restaurants and public toilets close by.
Dogs are allowed in two zones on the beach and must be kept on a lead.
Find more North Devon beaches.
So that’s my round up of the places to visit in and around Ilfracombe. If I’ve missed your favourite hang out then let me know in the comments below.
More things to do in and around North Devon
If you are looking for things to do further afield, check out these Devon destination guides:
- Place to visit around Barnstaple
- Things to do in Hartland, North Devon
- Visit these family-friendly places in Dartmoor
- Go East to find Mid Devon
- Visit West Devon
- Take a day trip to Exeter
Download the 101 Days out in Devon with kids ebook
Grab your copy of this guide to family-friendly things to do across the county, from coast to coast, in the cities, on the moors and whatever the weather.