Devon is a perfect destination for a family staycation with not one but two coastlines, dozens of family attractions and some idyllic places to stay. If you have chosen to holiday in North Devon then you’re in for a treat. Whether you’re looking for days out in North Devon, a family theme park, dog-friendly beaches in Devon or wish to discover some of the area’s heritage then there’s plenty of things to do in North Devon with kids.
If you’re planning a full family holiday then take a look at my big guide to holidays in Devon for families. I also have guides to places to visit in Mid Devon, West Devon, Exeter and things to do in South Devon.
What to do in North Devon
I’ve split this guide into areas to help you find the best things to do near you. There’s also some handy for rainy days and free things to do towards the bottom.
Things to do near Bideford – North Devon attractions for families
Maximise making memories together at one of these North Devon family attractions near Bideford:
1. The Big Sheep – a North Devon theme park
This is a full-on North Devon day out for the whole family with outdoor adventure play, animals, a rollercoaster and even a brewery. The Big Sheep is also an ideal North Devon attraction to visit on a wet day as it boasts Devon’s largest indoor play area.
There’s also an indoor show arena, pets corner, electric quad bikes, pony rides and combat laser tag games.
Find out more about visiting The Big Sheep.
2. Explore RHS Garden Rosemoor
Rosemoor is a wonderful place to go and appreciate captivating horticulture in the heart of the Torridge Valley. There are exotic blooms, prune-perfect hedgrows and ornamental gardens to explore.
For kids there are two play areas and plenty of interesting features hidden around the gardens. Don’t miss the Hobbit Hole or Mr McGregor’s Shed.
Find out more about visiting RHS Rosemoor.
3. High ropes in North Devon at H2Outdoor
If you’re looking for high energy activities in North Devon challenge your family to a day of high ropes fun at H2Outdoor just outside Bideford.
If you’re feeling really adventurous H2Outdoor can also take you kayaking and coasteering on the Atlantic Coast.
4. Visit Hartland Abbey – one of North Devon’s historic houses
Hartland Abbey dates back to 1157 when it was founded by Augustinian monks. It became a family home after the abbey was dissolved in 1539 and is now open to visitors from Sunday to Thursday.
The house is a treasure trove of art by the likes of Gainsborough, Hudson and Kneller. There’s quizzes and nature trails for children, woodlands gardens and themed open days throughout the year.
Dogs are welcome on a lead in the Abbey grounds.
Find out more about visiting Hartland Abbey.
5. Learn about local seafaring heritage at North Devon Martime Museum
This small North Devon attraction tells the story of the area’s maritime community from its fearless smugglers and fearsome pirates to its ship building heritage. The North Devon Maritime Museum has interactive displays and quiz sheets for kids.
Find out more about visiting North Devon Maritime Museum.
6. Visit North Devon’s pretty car free village Clovelly
Step back in time at this 14th fishing village where cars are banned from the narrow cobbled streets.
Don’t forget your sensible shoes for the walk up and down the steep hill which leads to a picturesque harbour and pebbled beach. Otherwise be prepared for a bit of a queue for the Landrover ride.
There’s donkey rides for children in the main summer season and craft workshops where you can find hand-made pottery and gifts. This is one of our favourite North Devon days out – it’s very rare we don’t visit when we are in the area.
Read about our visit to Clovelly Village.
7. The Milky Way – a North Devon theme park
This top Devon family attraction is a great day out whatever the weather. There are literally shed loads of activities to do indoors and out.
Ride rollercoasters, have a go at archery, see one of the UK’s best bird displays and live shows by illusionist Merlin as seen on Britain’ Got Talent.
It’s also one of North Devon’s accessible places to visit.
Find out more about visiting The Milky Way Adventure Park.
8. Soft play at Affinity Devon
World of Wonder soft play centre is great for wet days in North Devon. It has a multi-level junior play frame is designed to 0 to 11-year-olds. A climbing wall is the latest addition.
If you fancy a bit of retail therapy the Affinity shopping village is just next-door with 25 discount outlets.
Here’s where to find out more about World of Wonder.
9. Learn to surf – North Devon activities
Sign up for surfing lessons with the UK’s highest rated surf school at Westward Ho! beach.
Two hour lessons in the water start at £30. No experience is necessary and all equipment is included, making this a really easy activity day in Devon.
Find out more and book a lesson with the surf school.
10. Search for tiny friends at the Gnome Reserve
You’ll find the Gnome Reserve at Merry Harriers Garden Centre.
This small visitor attraction is packed full of magic for young children. Don a gnome hat and go on a hunt for these colourful little people dotted along the garden paths.
There’s more than 2,000 to spot.
Find out more about visiting The Gnome Reserve.
11. Survival Games
If you’re looking for things to with teens near Bideford then they’ll love Survival Games which offers airsoft and laser tag.
These outdoor combat, all weather activity are played in natural woodlands with towers, bunkers and various buildings, where you can experience the adrenaline of laser combat, the game where everyone is equal.
Find out more and book activities at Survival Games.
12. The Ultimate Adventure Centre
This outdoor activity centre in Abbotsham near Bideford has all kinds of adventurous things to do from coasteering and SUP, to high ropes, archery and an assault course.
Find out more about activities at The Ultimate Adventure Centre.
13. Woolley Animal Farm Park
This is a great value day out with the kids where they can meet animals, groom ponies and feed new arrivals in the Spring.
Entry to the farm park cost £4 per person. There’s an extra charge for llama walking and tractor rides.
Find out more about visiting Woolley Animals Farm Park.
14. Meet alpacas at Mill Farm
Hang out with the alpacas at Mill Farm in Bradworthy were you’ll have up to an hour meeting these lovely animals and experiencing their home in the North Devon countryside.
This is not a walking experience but you will be able to hand feed the alpacas and pose for as many photos as you’d like.
Experiences are for groups of uptimes to six people at a time and must be pre-booked.
Find out more and book your visit to meet the alpacas at Mill Farm.
Also see my guide to things to do near Hartland in North Devon which is just down the road from Bideford before you reach Bude in North Cornwall.
North Devon beaches near Bideford
Enjoy a day on the coast at one of these North Devon beaches:
15. Hartland Quay
Visiting Hartland Quay is one of our favourite things to do in North Devon.
It’s a beach made of rocks and pebbles that is good for swimming and water sports. It’s also great for rock pooling so don’t forget a bucket to collect and observe your finds.
You may also want to bring a camera to capture the amazing rock formations in the cliffs.
You’ll find the Hartland Quay Hotel half way down to the beach where you can get hot and cold meals.
There’s also a visitors centre telling you the story of the Quay. There’s parking and toilets. Dogs are not allowed on this beach.
16. Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! is a two mile stretch of sand and shingle beach that is ideal for swimming and water sports. Why not take the plunge and learn to surf there?
There’s parking and toilets. Dogs are not allow at certain times of year.
17. Instow beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
Instow is a wide sandy beach that is good for building sand castles and water sports. You’ll find a cafe, parking and toilets nearby. Dogs are allowed all year round.
Find out more about North Devon beaches.
Things to do near Barnstaple – attractions in North Devon
Have a fun-packed day out near Barnstaple with one or more of these family attractions or activities:
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.
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 toddlers 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.
Find out more about visiting Exmoor Zoo.
20. Axe throwing with Norse Hawk
Book something a little less ordinary as part of your North Devon holiday – axe throwing!
Norse Hawk is North Devon’s first axe throwing activity centre and offers indoor and outdoor axe throwing, with family throwing games and a Viking Garden for picnics.
Axe throwing is suitable for families with kids aged 11 and up.
Find out more about Norse Hawk.
21. Take a ride on the 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.
Find out more about visiting Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway.
22. Ride the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway
This picturesque North Devon narrow 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.
Find out more about Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
23. 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.
Find out more in my post about walking the Valley of Rocks to Lynton.
24. Discover country life at the North Devon Show
25. Have a sweet time at Quince Honey Farm
Find more things to do near Barnstaple in North Devon.
North Devon beaches near Barnstaple
Here’s my tip picks for beaches near Barnstaple:
26. Saunton Sands – a dog-friendly Devon beach
If you love sand, beach huts and dunes then you’ll love Saunton Sands. This beach has 3.5 miles of sand that dogs can enjoy all year round.
There is a section from the slipway where they must be kept on leads before they can run free.
27. Lynmouth beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
Lynmouth beach is a shingle beach on the edge of Exmoor National Park. This beach is dog-friendly all year round and has good surfing conditions at low tide.
There are public toilets and you can pick up an ice cream or more substantial meal at the shops overlooking the beach.
28. Putsborough Sands
This stunning three mile stretch of sand is often quieter than the much lauded Woolacombe just around the corner making it a great place to head for a beach day in the busy summer months. It’s popular with swimmers, surfers and body boarders.
While it may be quieter than Woolacombe you still need to get there early to bag a parking spot on a sunny summer’s day. It’s important to be aware there’s no life guards.
The beach is mix of golden sand and craggy rocks backed by rolling hills and dunes. There’s a couple of well regarded surf schools based here as well as a cafe, beach shop and toilets.
Dogs are allowed on the beach to the right of the car park. There’s a smaller section to the left where dogs are banned from 1 April to 31 October.
29. Croyde beach
This award-winning Devon beach is a popular tourist hang out in the summer months and has a RNLI Lifeguard station to oversea the water.
Croyde can be found at the end of a drive down proper North Devon roads – keep going, the beautiful stretch of sand and great surf is worth it.
Dogs are banned during the summer months.
Things to do around Ilfracombe – North Devon attractions for families
Have a great family day out at one of these family attractions in Ilfracombe:
30. Ilfracombe Harbour and 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.
Did you know Verity is 20.25 meters high and weighs 25 tonnes? That’s the same as four elephants!
Find this and more facts about Devon landmarks in the Devon Colouring Book for Kids.
31. Ilfracombe Aquarium
Also on the harbour, in the Old Lifeboat House in fact, 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.
32. 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.
33. 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.
34. Borough Farm Dog and Falconry Dsplays
Every Wednesday from June to September see this popular rural show outdoors at Borough Farm near Woolacombe.
The sheepdog show will shows off the amazing skills of the farm’s sheepdogs and the falconry display will feature ‘fast and furious’ falcons, a magnificent Eagle owl, and the delightful ‘Boris’ the Little owl.
The displays take place every Wednesday until the start of September.
Find out more about sheep dog and falconry at Borough Farm.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. 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.
For the complete Devon with Kids guide see my post about all the things to do in Ilfracombe.
North Devon beaches near Ilfracombe
Here’s some of the best beaches near Ilfracombe:
38. Wildersmouth beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
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.
39. Combe Martin beach
This small shingle cove 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.
40. 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.
41. Tunnels beach
Tunnels at Ilfracombe is 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 are admission charges for Tunnels at Ilfracombe and dogs are not allowed.
42. Woolacombe beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
Woolacombe Beach has been named in the top five beaches to visit in Europe. And when you see it’s miles of sand and brilliant surfing conditions you’ll understand why. How could it not be on your bucket list of things to do in North Devon 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.
43. Hele Bay beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
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.
Things to do on rainy days in North Devon
Something that gets asked a lot in the Devon with Kids Facebook group is: what is there to do in North Devon in the rain?
Most people visiting the area hope to spend their days in the great outdoors, making the most of the coast, countryside and Exmoor National Park. This is what North Devon is famous for after all!
But when it’s wet, you need a back up plan and options can seem few, especially when you have kids to entertain.
In the list below you’ll find some fantastic places to visit in North Devon whatever the weather. But if you want to skip to even more wet day fun read my full guide to things to do in North Devon in the rain.
44. Soft Play in North Devon
Here’s where to find coffee, cake and loads of indoor fun for little ones:
- Let’s Go Barnstaple, North Devon
- JunglaRoo Barnstaple, North Devon
- World of Wonder, Affinity Devon, Bideford, North Devon
- Little Stars at The Milky Way, Bideford North Devon
- Play Hive at Quince Honey Farm, South Molton, North Devon
Find out more about these indoor play centres and more around the county in my guide to soft play in Devon.
45. Cinemas in North Devon
- Neo Cinema Woolacombe (part of Woolacombe Bay Hotel)
- Scott Cinemas Barnstaple
- Bideford Cinema
- Lynton Cinema
- Embassy Cinema Ilfracombe
46. Bowling in North Devon
47. Trampoline Centres in North Devon
Free things to do in North Devon
If you’re on a budget or would just prefer to keep things simple then there’s lots of free North Devon activities:
48. Go crabbing
North Devon has some fab places to drop a line. Here’s my full guide to where to go crabbing in Devon.
49. Explore Exmoor National Park
Exmoor straddles Devon and Somerset. From its highest point at Dunkery Beacon you can see across both counties and Wales.
50. Cycle the Tarka Trail
This figure of eight trail covers 180 miles with plenty of starting points from Lynton on the coast to Okehampton on the edge of Dartmoor. Find out more about the Tarka Trail.
51. Search for hidden geo-caches
There are plenty hidden all over Devon. Download a geo-caching app and away you go.
52. Walk the South West Coast Path
There’s 90 miles of coast path in North Devon with sections suitable for the whole family.
So that’s our bumper round up of North Devon things to do with kids. If you’re venturing further afield then you might want to check out…
More things to do with kids in Devon
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.
Here’s some more reading about fun things to do in Devon:
- Things to do in Mid Devon
- Places to visit in West Devon
- Things to do in South Devon
- Places to visit in East Devon
- Explore things to do in Dartmoor with kids
- Free things to do in Devon
- Visit South Devon beaches
- Visit North Devon beaches
- What to do in Devon when it rains
I think you’ll agree that you need more than one holiday in North Devon to see everything it has to offer.
What’s your favourite things to do in North Devon with kids? I’d love to add some recommendations to this list.
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