Free Things to do in North Devon

Published: 2022-06-27 / Author: James Matthews

Free family friendly things to do in North Devon

A good holiday is all about how you fill your days. But when you’re on a family getaway with children to keep entertained, those days can end up getting very expensive, very fast. Part of the beauty of Devon is that a family staycation doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. While there are plenty of attractions and adventure parks to while away the day, there are just as many free things to do across North Devon.

From striking walks and wildlife spotting to exploring the beautiful coastline, you and your family will never run out of free activities to make an unforgettable North Devon holiday.

Family friendly walks

Ideal for: active, adventurous families

One of the best free things North Devon has to offer is the South West Coastal Path, which has plenty of individual walks to take in along the route.

Just south of Woolacombe is the village of Croyde and the Baggy Point headland, with a gentle 2.8-mile walk that’s ideal if you have young children. Along the way, keep an eye out for seals in the water and peregrines overhead, as well as a set of preserved whale bones that washed up on Croyde Beach in 1915.

If you have older children with a bit more energy to burn, check out Morte Point to the north of Woolacombe. As you clamber over the coastal heathland, there are more chances to glimpse seals and dolphins. Morte Point is also worth a visit for the distinct rock formations known locally as the “devil’s teeth”.

Alternatively, you could head inland with your family and explore one of North Devon’s best free days out, Exmoor National Park. Exmoor has plenty of walking routes to discover but one of the most accessible is the loop around Wistlandpound Reservoir. The wide, level path is perfect for children in pushchairs as well as elderly relatives and wheelchair users, and the reservoir is surrounded by wildlife trails to help everyone get stuck into nature.


Wildlife spotting on Exmoor

Ideal for: breathtaking holiday photos

Exmoor isn’t just good for its stunning views. The National Park is also home to some of North Devon’s most iconic wildlife, making it the perfect place for families to discover the county’s natural beauty.

One of the park’s most recognisable residents is the Exmoor pony. There are roughly 500 Exmoor ponies living in 20 free-roaming herds, so they should be a fairly common sight wherever your walk takes you.

Also calling Exmoor home is England’s largest land mammal, the red deer. When it comes to free things to do in North Devon, catching a glimpse of these majestic beasts is tough to beat.

These also roam freely across Exmoor but are easiest to spot in April and May, while they retreat to more sheltered areas at the start of calving season in June. Just remember to always keep a respectful distance: red deer are powerful creatures and spook easily, especially when their young are nearby.

If you can tear your eyes away from the herds of wild deer and ponies, Exmoor also offers one of Devon’s most diverse bird habitats. Keep a watch out for the likes of buzzards, goshawks and kestrels in the skies, as well as owls in woodland areas.


Make your own fun on the beach

Ideal for: active families with energy to spare

No family trip to Devon would be complete without heading to the beach. And whether you’re looking for an active day in the sun or just to relax by the sea, there are plenty of free things to do on North Devon’s many beaches.

You don’t need to fork out for surfing or paddle-boarding experiences to be sure your kids have something to do. Sometimes all it takes is packing a football or a volleyball in the boot of the car and heading to somewhere like Woolacombe or Putsborough beach.

Or if you strike out for somewhere more secluded like Middle Beach where there’s more space to play, bring a bat for some beach cricket or rounders. 



Take your little ones on a seashell hunt

Ideal for: curious kids

Beach days aren’t just for testing your family’s bond with overly-competitive ball games. And particularly if you have smaller children who tire easily, you might be looking for something more sedate to do by the shore.

Seashell hunting can be a perfect free thing to do in North Devon. A seashell hunt is exactly what it sounds like: take your kids down to the beach and have them scour the sand for as many shells as they can find. Identifying shells can be a fun way for children to learn more about these little ocean critters, and it can also help more spirited kids focus their energy.

Barricane Beach is an ideal location for a seashell hunt, as the cove is famous for the exotic shells like cowries that wash up there. Just remember to leave the shells behind when you go. Seashells are small but vital survival tools for many coastal creatures, like the birds who use them for nesting materials and taking them home risks damaging the local ecosystem.

Winding down back at base

Whether you’ve been out hunting seashells or spotting red deer on Exmoor, the day doesn’t have to stop once you’re back at the hotel.

At Highbullen there are plenty of opportunities to keep your whole family occupied without spending the earth, with free pool access and discounted tennis and golf facilities for guests. It’s the perfect way to wind down at the end of the day, or wake yourself up before heading back out again tomorrow.