Best things to do in North Devon with kids
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.
Lockdown update: Please follow the latest Government guidance and stay local for your once daily exercise. This can be taken in parks, beaches, in the countryside, in forests, public gardens, the grounds of heritage sites and at playgrounds. Always keep two meters away from people not in your household or bubble.
Here is my guide to the outdoor places in Devon where you can exercise in lockdown.
If you’d like to travel further afield and are wondering what to do in Devon check out these family days out in Devon to the East and South as well as the North.
What to do in North Devon
Find out which Devon attractions and things to do in Devon With Kids have reopened.
But without further ado, here’s some fantastic places to visit in North Devon to add to your holiday bucket list in the county:
Things to do near Bideford – North Devon attractions for families
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.
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.
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.
Out and about in Devon with teens? Here’s our recommended things to do in Devon with teenagers.
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.
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.
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 Land Rover 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.
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.
Dogs are welcome on leads.
8. Find discount shops and family fun at Affinity Devon
If you fancy a bit of retail therapy during your North Devon holiday then head to Affinity where you’ll find 25 discount shopping outlets.
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.
10. Search for tiny friends at the Gnome Reserve
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 woodland garden paths.
There’s more than 1,000 to spot across four acres.
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
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Instow beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
Instow is a wide sandy beach that is good for swimming 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
14. See the national carriage collection at Arlington Court
This delightful North Devon National Trust property is home to the National Carriage Museum including horse drawn vehicles of all shapes, sizes and purposes.
In the house you can see collections of pewter plates and trophies, period costumes and step down into the cellars. The grounds are perfect for wildlife spotting, den building and adventure play.
15. Meet the animals at Exmoor Zoo
If you’re looking for things to do in North Devon with toddlers the 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. Discover country life at the North Devon Show
If you are holidaying in North Devon at the beginning of August you can’t miss a visit to the North Devon Show. This celebration of farming and country life is a great family day out with arena attractions, Devon food stalls and vintage vehicle displays.
19. Have a sweet time at Quince Honey Farm
Find out all about the life and work of honey bees at Quince Honey Farm. Explore more than 8,000 years of bee keeping in the museum, hit the soft play and meet some creepy crawlies in the critter cabin.
North Devon beaches near Barnstaple
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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 canoeists.
There’s parking and shops close by. There is a dog free area during the summer months.
23. 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
24. 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.
25.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.
North Devon beaches near Ifracombe
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. Barricane / Combesgate beach – a dog-friendly Devon beach
Shell hunters will love a visit to Barricane beach, which is also known as Combesgate 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.
Dogs are permitted all year but must be kept on a lead in the summer months. There are shops and parking not far from the beach.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. Soft Play in North Devon
33. Cinemas in North Devon
- Neo Cinema Woolacombe (part of Woolacombe Bay Hotel)
- Scott Cinemas Barnstaple
- Bideford Cinema
- Lynton Cinema
- Embassy Cinema Ilfracombe
34. Bowling in North Devon
35. Trampoline Centres in North Devon
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…
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 things to do:
- Hit the beach – check out the suggested beaches near Bideford, Barnstaple and Ilfracombe above.
- Go crabbing – North Devon has some fab places to drop a line. Here’s my full guide to where to go crabbing in Devon
- Explore Exmoor National Park – Exmoor straddles Devon and Somerset. From its highest point at Dunkery Beacon you can see across both counties and Wales.
- Go letterboxing on Dartmoor – find these unusually placed letter boxes and record your find with a stamp that you’ll find inside.
- 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
- Search for hidden geo-caches – download a geo-caching app and away you go.
- Walk the South West Coast Path – there’s 90 miles of coast path in North Devon with sections suitable for the whole family.
More things to do with kids in Devon
Here’s some more reading about fun things to do in Devon:
- 101 things to do in Devon with kids
- 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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