In North Devon, we are blessed with beautiful rolling countryside, quirky country lanes, thatched cottages and extensive wild moorland. But ask the youngsters who have visited and most probably it will be the fabulous sandy beaches that will come first to mind. Let’s be honest, what family with children does not look forward to a beach holiday. If you are fortunate to have Croyde Bay Holiday Resort as your base then you have two beautiful examples right on your doorstep. The surfing paradise of Croyde beach is a short hop across the dunes and if you ever tire of that, a 5minute drive will take you to three miles of golden sands at neighbouring Saunton. Both offer extensive sandy playgrounds without the crowds, yet still packed with plenty to enjoy on the beach and in the sea.
But even for children there is so much more to North Devon than just beaches, which is handy on those rare occasions when the weather fails us, or if the family just fancy a change of scene. We asked our guests what they had tried and most importantly, what they would recommend. Here are the results, their top ten family days out, just in case you and the family fancy stepping out.
1. The Milky Way Adventure Park
If you’re looking for fun days out and with thrills a plenty, The Milky Way Adventure Park has it all! Ride the Cosmic Typhoon Devon’s tallest, fastest, longest roller coaster. Have a wild time in North Devon’s biggest indoor adventure play area with assault courses, slides built for adults & children. Kick back & watch amazing live shows featuring Merlin from Britain’s Got Talent with his death defying escapology show, plus fantastic displays from the North Devon Bird of Prey Centre And with over 110,000 sq ft of indoor fun & acres of outdoor activities, The Milky Way theme park is the biggest all weather family day out in North Devon!
2. The BIG Sheep
This just has to be one of the UK’s most innovative & exciting family attractions ever, providing wacky and unique entertainment for all the family. As the name suggests, this animal themed family amusement park abounds with all things sheep, with lamb feeding, sheep shearing and the world famous and hilarious sheep racing. But the Big Sheep has so much more. Get wet and wild in the splash zone or try scaling the 45ft climbing wall and don’t miss the aptly named Ewetopia, a simply massive indoor adventure play zone and suitable for literally all ages. New for 2015 is The Big One – destined to be Devon’s biggest roller coaster. And for whoever is not the nominated driver – don’t miss the Big Sheep Brewery!
3. The Tarka Trail
There’s no need to bike all 180 miles of this route through the backdrop to Henry Williamson’s classic story – Tarka the Otter; many families just plump for the six miles from Braunton to Barnstaple. Along this flat section you can Tarka hunt along the banks of the Taw and spot all kinds of wildfowl on the mudflats. Once in Barnstaple enjoy a picnic or try the Boston Tea Party cafe with ethical cuisine, lashings of tea and cake, and excellent value kids’ fare. Or if you just fancy a nice coastal walk before dinner try the Croyde to Saunton part of the trail. This 3.7 mile walk takes you along Croyde beach and the South West Coast Path before climbing steeply up and over Saunton Down and then looping back into Croyde through woods and country lanes. Highlights of the walk include stunning views of the Bay and Braunton Burrows. It is apparently do able in 2 hours and guarantees a healthy appetite!
4. Cobbaton Combat Collection
Mainly for the boys and ‘big boys’ really, this Military museum and collection covers mostly World War Two but also has exhibits from the Boer War right up to the First Gulf War. Ranging from military surplus British Army plus Canadian and Russian Forces – there are lots of tanks, guns, helmets, artillery, grenades, and bombs to Home Front ration books, gas masks, ARP and Home Guard uniforms and blackout lamps.
In 1981 Preston Isaac’s runaway hobby was opened to the public, and it just keeps growing. On site is a large shop stocking collectors’ items, de activated guns, inert ammunition, clothing, hats, badges, survival equipment, books, CDs, toys, souvenirs and much, much more. Just be careful to check that all of ‘juniors’ purchases will fit in the car! Thankfully for those needing some refreshment there’s also a working NAAFI canteen wagon with seating area, serving drinks and snacks.
5. The Exmoor Safari
The Exmoor Safari takes people on an all terrain 4X4 journey of discovery. You set of from the beautiful village of Exford in the heart of the Exmoor National Park. From there, knowledgeable guides will take you on one of the Safari’s many routes through the stunning, meandering and breathtaking scenery of the National Park.
It’s a great way to experience this stunning landscape, searching the rugged Moorland for the elusive Exmoor Red Deer, Roe Deer the endangered Exmoor ponies and other countless wildlife species. Each Safari is approximately two and a half hours long, departing at various times of the day to give each outing a different feel and character. Our tip is to opt for an early morning tour or the glorious evening experience. Don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars!
6. Try a spectacular Coastal Cruise
Here’s an opportunity to relax and unwind on a spectacular wildlife and coastal cruise on board the Ilfracombe Princess. This large modern, comfortable passenger vessel, is purpose built to sail close to the coast. Allowing you to enjoy one of the most dramatic coastal landscapes in England, with immense seascapes and the highest cliffs in Britain, as well as frequent sightings of Seals, Porpoises and Dolphins. Check out the shore line waterfalls, lighthouses, mines, secluded hamlets and picturesque historic cob villages. Alternatively you can do the same but at a faster pace. Ilfracombe Sea Safari, provide trips that are suitable for all ages and great fun. The boats are 10 meter Humber RIBs, which although they will take you at speeds of 20 knots, also have exceptional stability. Several sea safaris are available, lasting one or two hours, and this must be one of the most exciting ways to explore the stunning North Devon coastline. No.1 on TripAdvisors rating of Ilfracombe outdoor attractions and winners of a 2015 Certificate of Excellence, need we say any more?
7. Roylands Riding Stable
Whether you are looking for structured horse riding lessons, or just a fun family holiday activity, Roylands Riding Stables offers enjoyable and safe horse riding, beach rides and pony trekking experiences to meet all level of riding skills. And it’s right on our doorstep! They are a family run stables, established over 20 years, BHS Approved & Inspected, Vet Inspected and with fully qualified, friendly staff. All of their horses and ponies are well schooled and they are almost certain to have a horse or pony to suit your ability. Hacks in the surrounding area offer breathtaking views of the sea and coastline. Regular riders over 14 can also enjoy a canter along Putsborough beach, 3 miles of golden sand all the way to Woolacombe, with the waves lapping at your hooves!
8.Learn to Surf
Here’s an idea for all the family – it’s stimulating, it’s healthy, it’s out in the fresh air, it’s certainly fun and it’s right on your doorstep. Our on site surf school – Walking on Waves (WoW)– offers instruction for all ages from 5 to 75 and for beginners and improvers. There are taster sessions, courses for small groups, private lessons or why not book a family lesson and share those first wave experiences together (and at a great family rate) And here’s the really special bit, WoW is actively run by ex British and European Champion Sarah Whiteley, how good is that? The level of instruction is so good, that while there are no guarantees, almost all are standing up to catch a wave after just one lesson.
Do you have any adrenaline junkies in your family? If so then maybe the idea of leaping off cliffs into the sea has appeal? Coasteering with Pointbreaks is a mixture of scrambling and climbing around cliffs, through hidden sea caves, traversing rocky outcrops, swimming through ocean carved channels and jumping off headlands into sea pools and gullies, all the time being toyed with by the ocean swells. Coasteering can be as challenging as you want it to be, some of the jumps are only six feet high, and others are over 20 feet. They all have a scramble round option so don’t worry if you don’t want to jump. Point Breaks provides top quality wetsuits and safety equipment to keep you safe and warm. The instructors are all fully trained and know the areas used extremely well and to prove it, they always jump first!
10. Croyde Bay Holiday Resort
Okay you may regard this as a bit of a cheat but seriously we did get this response from our guests – “the best family alternative to the beach is making use of all the things to do in the resort itself”! And indeed why not. There’s a lot to be said for a day spent juggling the lure of the latest beauty therapies available in the Spa with a game of tennis, or a sauna followed by a swim in the Oasis pool. At the same time younger members of the family will be making new friends with Benny the bear or attacking all the latest games in the Fun Zone, or be in the pool themselves under the watchful eye of our Life Guard of course. The great thing is that while you are all together in resort as a family, you can also be following your own holiday moment. Maximising the enjoyment of the individual as well as the family. The best of both worlds!