Woolacombe is a small resort town/village on the north Devon coast. It is famous for its three-mile stretch of gently sloping, sandy beach.
The village is packed with pubs, cafes and restaurants serving the holidaymakers that come here for this beautiful stretch of north Atlantic coastline.
Woolacombe lies within close proximity to Mortehoe which also has great access to the area’s beaches and its own selection of great pubs.
In this article, we will tell you about the best things to do in Woolacombe. From beaches and hikes to kayaking and horse riding and much, much more.
If you are visiting other parts of Devon, be sure not to miss out on our guide to the best things to do in Devon and the most beautiful towns in Devon.
So, if you want to know what to do in Woolacombe, keep reading!
Getting to Woolacombe
By Car: Woolacombe is approximately 230 miles from London and can be driven in around four and a half hours. Take the M4, M5 and A361. A more scenic route (which takes in Stonehenge) is to take the A30 and A303.
By Train: Woolacombe does not have a station, however, you can get to nearby Barnstaple by train and then take the bus. There is a train every hour from London Paddington to Barnstaple with a change at Exeter St. David’s.
The journey time is 3h20m and costs from £31.70 one-way if booked in advance. From Barnstaple take the 303 bus which takes 45 minutes. Check train times and book your tickets on The Trainline here.
By Bus: as with the trains, there is no direct coach link between London and Woolacombe. However, it’s easy to reach Barnstaple by coach from London. There are direct coaches from London Victoria Coach Station to Barnstaple every day.
The journey time is around six hours. Tickets from £24.00 if booked in advance. From Barnstaple, take the 303 bus the final 45 minutes to Woolacombe. Check bus times and book your tickets on Omio here.
By Plane: The nearest international airport is Bristol which is just over 100 miles away. There are trains and buses from Bristol direct to Woolacombe via Barnstaple. Check flight prices on Kiwi.
Places to Stay in Woolacombe
Budget: Ocean Backpackers is a great option for those that are on a smaller budget but still want fantastic service and clean rooms. It has both dorm rooms and private rooms available. It’s located in nearby Ilfracombe right by the harbour and is a great option for families that want to have family rooms and access to shared kitchens. Dorm beds start at £50 per person per night and private rooms start around £90 per night. Book a stay at Ocean Backpackers here.
Mid-range: The Fortescue Arms is a fantastic pub hotel located right in Woolacombe. It’s a wonderful pub with great food, nice beer options, and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Breakfast is included each morning and rooms start at a reasonable £70 per night. Book a stay at the Fortescue Arms here.
Luxury: Watersmeet Hotel is absolute luxury located on a hill overlooking Woolacombe and Combesgate Beach. The has stunning rooms, an outdoor and indoor swimming pool, and unbeatable views of the sea. Rooms start at £170 per night. Book a stay at Watersmeet Hotel here.
Woolacombe Bay Holiday Park
Woolacombe Bay Holiday Park is a large holiday park offering caravans and lodges on the cliffs overlooking Woolacombe Bay.
The park is just a few minutes’ walk from the beach, but also has plenty of entertainment on site. With both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, spa treatments and Jacuzzis, this is a great place to stay in Woolacombe.
The Best Things to do in Woolacombe
There are so many wonderful things to do in this part of Devon. Whether its a relaxing beach holiday or an adventure-packed trip to the coast that you’re after, you can find it all around Woolacombe.
1. Relax at Woolacombe Bay Beach
This three-mile stretch of golden sand is renowned for its clean waters and is a great place to relax. The award-winning Woolacombe Bay Beach is one of the most popular places in Devon and is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, surfing and bodyboarding.
Woolacombe won the Sunday Times Beach of the Year Award in 2021 and has been voted TripAdvisor’s best beach for two years running.
The beach is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer months and there are beachfront facilities including public toilets, beach huts for hire, surf hire shops and food and drink stalls.
It’s easy to see why this beautiful stretch of the Atlantic coastline is so popular with tourists and locals alike. Hitting the beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Woolacombe.
2. Explore Rock Pools at Barricane Beach
This small cove tucked in between the cliffs has a picturesque beach with plenty of rock pools and is famous for its shells. Barricane Beach is within walking distance from Woolacombe and is a great place for both swimming and surfing.
Be aware that this Woolacombe beach isn’t patrolled and access can be restricted at high tide. There are also no facilities at Barricane, however, the great thing about this beach is its wild and untouched beauty.
3. Visit the Mortehoe Museum
This quaint museum housed in an old barn records the history and heritage of Mortehoe, Woolacombe and the surrounding areas.
The first-floor houses displays relating to the introduction of the railway, the local fishing and farming industries and much more.
The ground floor is a shop that sells postcards and maps of the local area and locally produced handicrafts.
The museum is open from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm Sunday to Friday. As there is no charge, the Mortehoe Museum is one of the best free things to do in Woolacombe.
4. Walk the South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path is made up of over 600 miles (965km) of paths and trails around Devon and Cornwall and is the longest such trail in the UK.
The great things about this beautiful coast path is that you can just dip your toe in and have a short walk, or tackle a larger section; it’s completely up to you.
One of the most rewarding and scenic sections of the trail is between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. This 7.5-mile stretch is suited to those with a moderate level of fitness and should take around three and a half hours to complete.
For those not wishing to retrace their steps, you can hop on the number 31 bus for the short trip back to Woolacombe.
5. Hike Morte Point Trail
The Morte and Bull Point Trail is another very scenic walk that follows the South West Coast Path for a few miles before heading inland in a large loop.
This circular walk takes in some stunning coastline and clifftop views between Morte Point and Bull Point. This area was known for smugglers thanks to the high cliffs and hidden caves far below.
If you are lucky you can spot seals, dolphins or even a basking shark from the cliffs.
The inland section of the trail takes in heathland and grassland which is the perfect habitat for birds and local wildlife.
The Morte Point Trail is 6 miles (9.6 km) and takes roughly two and half hours to complete. A moderate level of fitness is required.
6. Admire the Bull Point Lighthouse
The lighthouse at Bull Point dates back to 1879, however due to erosion of the cliffs underneath, it was replaced in 1975 and moved a short distance farther inland.
It’s possible to visit the site of the lighthouse, but you can’t enter as it is still a working building used to keep shipping safe from the rugged north Devon coast.
The original tied cottages for the lighthouse workers have been converted into holiday cottages that can now be hired out.
7. Go Horse Riding
If you’ve ever fancied galloping across a long, sandy beach as the waves lap at the shore and cliffs rise up above you, then Woolacombe is the perfect place.
Woolacombe Riding Stables offer horse riding trips for people of all ages and abilities. These trips will see you riding across sand dunes, beach and access to over 200 acres of tranquil countryside.
See the official website for more information, and to find out about prices and book a ride, call the stables directly on +44 (0)1271 870260.
Horse riding is one of the best Woolacombe things to do if you really want to get a feel for the area’s natural beauty.
8. Go Sea Kayaking
One of the best ways to explore the rugged coastline around Woolacombe is to take a sea kayaking tour.
Woolacombe Surf Centre offers a selection of tailored trips and workshops to suit all abilities.
The Discover kayak session lasts two hours with one hour on the water and is a great option for beginners. The session costs £35.00 per person and includes paddling around the local coves and harbour.
For more experienced kayakers, the Explore kayak session is three hours, with two hours on the water and offers more challenging paddling around the coast. The price is £45.00 per person.
Kayaking is definitely one of the best ways to Discover North Devon Woolacombe and gives you a unique view of the area.
9. Have a Pint in Captain Jack’s Pub
Woolacombe used to be one of the places pirates would frequent on dark nights, and these ruffians have left their mark on the town, and no more so than at Captain Jack’s Pub!
The pub occupies the oldest building in Woolacombe so the place is bursting with history. As a true haunt of pirates, it’s no surprise that rum is a favourite at Jack’s and they have over 20 different varieties.
Captain Jack’s is a traditional British pub serving a great selection of cask ales (craft beers) and ciders, many locally produced. They also specialise in hearty “pub grub” so makes a great option for lunch or dinner. But be warned, the portions are huge!
10. Have Fun at Funder Island
Funder Island is one of the best places to visit in Woolacombe for big kids and small kids alike! There is an 18-hole adventure golf course and lots of rides for the youngsters.
There are onsite cafes and stalls selling a range of drinks and snacks including the famous Kelly’s Ice Cream from next-door’s Cornwall.
The great thing about Funder Island is that it is free entry, so you just pay for the attractions you want. Funder is located right in the heart of the village and is one of the top Woolacombe tourist attractions.
The theme park is open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Things to do near Woolacombe
There are plenty of great things to do near Woolacombe, from charming villages to hiking trails and national parks. The coastline around the town offers some fantastic activities from kayaking to boat trips and more.
11. Visit Barnstaple
The nearby market town of Barnstaple is well worth a visit for its quaint riverside location. The town is packed with interesting things to do from museums and sculpture gardens to hiking trails, pubs and restaurants. Check out our guide to all of the best things to do in Barnstaple here.
12. Visit Charming Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe is another Devon seaside resort and fishing town a few miles farther up the coast. It is one of the most picturesque towns in Devon thanks to its quaint harbour, golden beaches and pastel-coloured houses.
One of the best ways to reach Ilfracombe is to walk the South West Coast Path from Woolacombe as detailed above.
13. Explore Exmoor National Park
Woolacombe lies just a few miles west of the Exmoor National Park. Here you can discover some of the finest countrysides in North Devon with rolling hills, moorland, rivers and waterfalls.
There are lots of interesting things to do on Exmoor from hiking, cycling and horse trekking to kayaking and rafting.
Check out the Exmoor National Park Visitor Centre website to see what’s on right now!
So, is Woolacombe Worth Visiting?
Woolacombe is definitely worth a visit, not least for its incredible three-mile-long beach. With so many great Woolacombe things to do, from surfing and kayaking to hiking the clifftop trails, this North Devon village should be on the list of every visitor to the west country.