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6 of the Best Beaches in Salcombe Devon

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view between trees of a river with a white sandy beach on the right bank and a hill with a small town on the far side on a sunny day with turquoise water and blue sky. Sunny Cove on Kingsbridge Estuary, one of the best beaches in Salcombe.

Golden sand, rolling hills, and a tranquil estuary… these are the best beaches in Salcombe, Devon…

Perched on the corner of the Kingsbridge Estuary on one of the best stretches of coast in South Devon, Salcombe is blessed with some seriously beautiful beaches.

From popular family hangouts within walking distance of town, to hidden sandy coves you have to hike to get to, there’s a beach to suit all tastes in this glorious part of Southwest England.

Having visited numerous times – and written an actual guidebook to Devon – I’ve gotten to know Devon’s south coast pretty well. So here’s my insider’s guide to the very best beaches in Salcombe, to help you plan your perfect seaside holiday…

6 Best Beaches in Salcombe

Quick tip before we begin: none of the beaches in Salcombe are lifeguarded. They’re all on an estuary rather than open sea, so the swimming conditions are generally safe, but the estuary is tidal so be sure to check tide times before making plans. Read these tips from the RNLI for more info.

1. North Sands Beach – Salcombe’s Closest Beach

small cove with a sandy beach and grey rocks at high tide with shallow waves on the sand and a hill on the far side of the cove covered with green trees on a sunny day
North Sands at high tide

Overlooked by the 16th-century ruins of Fort Charles (aka Salcombe Castle), North Sands is Salcombe’s nearest beach. A small, perfectly formed cove with a beautiful sandy beach overlooked by leafy hills, it’s easy to see why North Sands is one of the most popular beaches in town.

Dogs are welcome all year round and North Sands is regularly voted one of the most dog-friendly beaches in Devon. But it’s also great for families thanks to the sheltered bay and safe, shallow water.

The beach is completely submerged at high tide, but at low tide, there’s a huge expanse of sand to enjoy. Low tide also leaves rockpools teeming with marine life – head to the rocky area near Fort Charles to see what you can spot.

Facilities: There is a small public toilet behind the beach. You can eat in or buy takeaway food at The Winking Prawn – one of Salcombe’s most popular restaurants. Not lifeguarded.

Getting There: you can walk from Salcombe’s town centre in about 20 minutes, but it’s hilly. There’s a small pay & display car park (directions here) with space for around 90 cars – this gets very busy on sunny days. Alternatively, take the South Sands ferry and walk over (details below).

2. South Sands Beach

Golden sandy beach with very blue sea and a small hill behind with white hosues at South Sands Salcombe South Hams Devon England
South Sands at low tide

The next bay over from North Sands is South Sands – one of the most beautiful beaches in all of South Devon.

This one is my personal favourite! Sheltered by hills on either side, the beach is usually wind-free and feels like a bit of a sun trap.

Just like North Sands, the beach is completely submerged when the tide comes in. But high tide is a great time for swimmers, as you can enter the water straight from the beach steps. I watched a few locals bathing on a drizzly March morning on my last trip (but didn’t fancy joining them!!).

Facilities: There are public toilets close to the beach, and two hotels with very good restaurants. The terrace at South Sands Hotel is a lovely spot for drinks on a sunny evening. Not lifeguarded.

Getting There: The best way is to hop on the South Sands Ferry which runs to the beach from Whitestrand in Salcombe (directions here). It costs £4.75 (£3.75 for children) and you can pay by card or smartphone. FYI – the ferry only runs from Easter to October. Alternatively, it’s a hilly 30-40 minute walk from Salcombe’s centre or a short drive, but parking is limited.

3. East Portlemouth Beach (Fisherman’s Cove & Small’s Cove)

wide blue river with two small boats on it. on the opposite bank is a grassy hill with some green woodland and a long sandy beach with a large white house
East Portlemouth Beach is to the left of the jetty

A short ferry ride across the estuary from Salcombe lies the village of East Portlemouth and a string of idyllic sandy beaches. This is the quieter side of the estuary, home to hidden coves and a wild stretch of coast path.

Closest to the jetty are Fisherman’s Cove and Small’s Cove, sometimes collectively known as East Portlemouth Beach. Here, you can enjoy smooth golden sand, stunning views of the estuary, and clear, safe bathing waters.

The eastern bank of the estuary also stays sunnier for longer, so you can enjoy a full day at the beach – and watch the sunset over Salcombe at the end of the day.

Facilities: There are public toilets at the National-Trust-managed Mill Bay car park. FYI, there used to be a branch of Venus Cafe at East Portlemouth Beach but it is no longer operating. Pick up picnic supplies in Salcombe to take with you. Not lifeguarded.

Getting There: Hop aboard the Salcombe East Portlemouth Ferry (it leaves from the Ferry Inn Steps – directions here) to cross the estuary in a matter of minutes. The ferry runs year-round and costs £2.30 each way (£1.70 for children).

4. Mill Bay Beach

aerial view of a small cove with a white sandy beach next to a river with turquoise water surrounded by green grassy hills and woodland

Slightly further south from the two beaches mentioned above, Mill Bay Beach is a sheltered, family-friendly cove with fine golden sand and turquoise waters.

The beach is privately owned, in part by the National Trust, but visitors are welcome. This beach has some of the best swimming conditions in the area, with very clean, safe water, and several facilities on hand – so it’s a big hit with families.

Facilities: There are toilets and a National Trust car park at Mill Bay. You can also find a seasonal pop-up cafe in the carpark. Not lifeguarded.

Getting There: Use the ferry service mentioned above. From East Portelmouth Landing, Mill Bay is about a 10-minute walk south along the coast path.

5. Sunny Cove Beach

low view of a rock on a golden sandy beach with hills and blue sea in the background
There’s another photo of Sunny Cove at the top of this page.

Further south again along the East Portlemouth side of the estuary lies the evocatively named Sunny Cove – a wide stretch of sandy beach that feels deliciously secluded.

This is the last beach on the estuary before the coast path peels away to the east. Because it can only be reached on foot or by boat, Sunny Cove is often much less crowded than the other beaches in Salcombe – perfect if you want to get away from it all!

Facilities: None – other than those at Mill Bay mentioned above. Not lifeguarded.

Getting There: Use the ferry service mentioned above. From East Portelmouth Landing, Sunny Cove is about a 20-minute walk along the coast path.

6. Gara Rock Beach (aka Seacombe Sands)

long row of grassy cliffs on the south devon coast with two sandy beaches below in between large grey rocks with the bright blue sea on the right and blue sky above
Gara Rock Beach is well worth the walk!

Keep following the coast path east and you’ll eventually come to Gara Rock – a remote clifftop hotel with a popular, award-winning restaurant. Below this is a picturesque sandy beach tucked into a rocky cove: Gara Rock Beach – also known as Seacombe Sands.

This one is a bit of a hidden gem: the long trek to get there and lack of facilities or parking make it a pretty secluded and unspoilt choice. If you get lucky, you may even have the place to yourself!

Facilities: None – other than the hotel and restaurant half a mile uphill. Not lifeguarded.

Getting There: Take the ferry to East Portlemouth and follow the South West Coast Path – it’s about an hour’s walk to Gara Rock Beach. If you prefer to drive, there’s limited parking available at Gara Rock Hotel and Restaurant, half a mile from the beach (the path is fairly steep). However, there’s no car ferry, so you’ll have to drive around the estuary via Kingsbridge, meaning the drive is about 40 minutes.

Beaches a Little Further Afield

sandy beach with grassy hills behind on a windy, sunny day with rough waves and blue sky
South Milton Sands
  • South Milton Sands – a long sweep of golden sand with a rock arch out to sea, backed by grassy sand dunes. Don’t miss the fabulous Beach House restaurant here.
  • Blackpool Sands – a wide, sandy beach on a sheltered bay near Dartmouth. Lifeguarded.
  • Slapton Sands – a long, narrow pebble beach with the sea on one side and a lagoon on the other. Lifeguarded.
  • Mattiscombe Sands – a hidden sandy cove backed by rocky cliffs, which can only be reached by walking – closest car park is Start Point Car Park.
flat, empty sandy beach with grassy dunes behind and blue sky above
Bantham Beach
  • Maceley Cove – a “secret” hidden gem of a beach near the southern tip of Prawle Point headland. Can only be reached by walking the Coast Path – the closest car park is at East Prawle.
  • Bantham Beach and Bigbury Beach – two lovely, sandy beaches on either side of the Avon estuary, with views of the famous Burgh Island. This is a great area for watersports – including beginner surfing lessons. Lifeguarded.

Map of the Best Beaches in Salcombe

More on Salcombe

I hope you found this guide to the best beaches in Salcombe (and nearby) helpful. Let me know which one is your favourite in the comments below!

Things to do in Salcombe

Places to Visit in South Devon

Things to do in Plymouth

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