An icy Christmas Day swim in South Devon has been a tradition for some time now, but in the...
Tucked along the South Devon coast and situated at the mouth of the meandering Avon River, is the prestigious Bantham Beach. Sheltered dunes line the sandy expanse, sloping down to the shallow, lapping waves. Further along the horizon, watch as the waves break along the edge of the iconic Devonshire Burgh Island. With the reputation as one of the most renowned surfing beaches in the area, surfers flock to this haven throughout the year. As one of the Marine Conservation Society’s Recommended beaches for 2019, with its convenient facilities, eateries and things to do, it’s no wonder Bantham Beach is an ideal family location for a perfect day out.
Bantham Beach is where expansive sands, shallow waters, surfable waves and stunning scenery come together to create one of South Devon’s most popular natural attractions. Indeed, its popularity is such that it ranks highly not only within our region – and not even just across the country as a whole – because the Lonely Planet ranked Bantham amongst the top 10 beaches in Europe in 2015. As the Bantham Estate owners have proudly pointed out, the beach is the only English beach on the list, underlining what an impressive achievement this is.
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Once the panorama of Bantham Beach opens out before you, you’ll be reluctant to go anywhere until the sun disappears behind the horizon. All the facilities are on hand for a perfect day at the beach, whether you’re coming alone, with friends, as a couple or with a young family, and those in the latter category will be pleased to know that when the tide is low, the beach becomes dotted with shallow pools that make for excellent paddling for the little ones.
Toilet facilities are located by the entrance to the car park and towards the beach you’ll find The Gastrobus, where you can pick up locally-sourced snacks and drinks, either to take back to beach or to enjoy at one of their outside tables. The Gastrobus is open 10 am to 5 pm depending on the season and the weather. What’s more, for further facilities, take a short walk to Bantham village itself, where you’ll find The Sloop Inn, which offers an extensive menu, and the village stores.
Dogs are permitted at Bantham throughout the year, but there are important restrictions. Between 1st May and 30th December, dogs are not allowed on the main beach. However, there is a large sandy area beside the estuary, otherwise known as River Beach, where your four-legged friend is welcome at all times of year. The dog friendly area is signposted, but the owners suggest you ask the gatekeeper upon arrival for guidance if you’re unsure. For more information on the best beaches to visit in the area with your canine companion, read our guide to the best dog friendly beaches in South Devon.
For sat nav purposes, Bantham Beach’s postcode is TQ7 3AN. Bantham Beach is on South Devon’s west coast, between the beaches of Bigbury-On-Sea and Thurlestone. The beach is within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and faces tidal Burgh Island, which is situated about two-thirds of a mile out to sea.
Like its neighbour at Bigbury-on-Sea, Bantham Beach looks out over Burgh Island, the sight of which inspired the late Dame Agatha Christie to write her best-selling novel, ‘And then there were none’. You can reach this island on foot from Bigbury beach during low tide or by riding on the popular sea tractor from the same starting point. Getting to Bigbury from Bantham is easy enough, either by walking along the beach when the tide is out, taking the coast path, or riding the passenger ferry in high season.
With space for over 1000 cars, there’s ample parking at Bantham Beach. The car park is a level walk of around 75 metres from the sand. Toilet facilities are located at the village-side of the car park, and on the beach-side you’ll find the Gastrobus.
Parking in high season is £8.50 for the day, and falls as low as £3.50 in the off season. Cars must be removed from the car park by 9pm in high season and earlier at other times of the year, depending on the daylight. Look out for a sign by the entrance to the car park informing you of the closing time for that day, or check with the gatekeeper if you’re unsure. There is a charge of £25.00 to release your car after closing time.
If you’ll be spending a lot of time at Bantham Beach, consider getting a weekly (£25.00) or fortnightly (£40.00) ticket. Annual passes are available for £95.00 if you’ll be there even longer.
After a session of surfing, swimming or even just soaking up the sun, you’ll be in need of some sustenance. Fortunately, there are two popular eateries to choose from, one backing onto the beach and the other just a stone’s throw from the car park…
Just a few steps from the beach car park, you’ll find the Sloop Inn, a 14th century former coaching house with a reputation for good food and friendly service. Choose from an extensive menu jam packed with homemade meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes, plus light bite options during the day. Perhaps better known as a restaurant than a bar, the opening hours are based around meal times (11:30am – 2:30pm and 6pm – 11pm Monday to Friday, and 12pm – 11pm during the weekends). Booking is highly recommended, especially during the holiday season, and also on a Sunday, as they are famed for their sumptuous roast dinner!
The Gastrobus at Bantham, as its name suggests, is part gourmet café-restaurant and part food van. Well known for serving delicious street food, irresistible sweet treats and aromatic coffees, it plays a big part in making Bantham Beach such a top summer attraction. The seasonal Gastrobus, Gastropizza and Gastro Treats vans are found at the edge of the Bantham Beach car park (towards the beach), and there’s also one at Thurlestone Beach, in the north car park.
Bantham Beach is famed for its waves, and as such has become one of the most popular surfing spots in South Devon, and for many people, the beach is synonymous with surfing. It’s unique in that it can be great for all levels of surfers on the same day – when the waves are big the pros will surf at the back and the novices on the inside middle sandbar closer to shore, the waves are generally easy to catch, and there is a wide open beach set amongst a natural bay. Bantham has previously been voted as one of Europe’s best beaches, which is not surprising given its natural beauty that offers something for everyone! A long sandy beach with great rock pools either side, and waters that are great for surfing, body boarding, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking you really couldn’t ask for much more!
It’s not just surfers you’ll spot off Bantham Beach, as the estuary provides shelter from the wind and is amazing for stand up paddleboarding and also kayaking! Another popular activity is to do the river float either up or down stream depending on which way the tide is going.
Situated on the beach itself, the Bantham Surfing Academy offer lessons from beginner to advanced and will also hire out all the equipment you need to practise by yourself. With a deep rooted love for the water, you will find yourself in excellent hands, regardless of whether you are learning the ways of the waves or simply brushing up your skills. If surfing’s not your thing, why not consider taking lessons in stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking instead, also available with the Bantham Surfing Academy. Equipment can be hired from Triocean Surf, which can be found two miles from Bantham Beach.
Bantham Beach is located on an ideal spot along the South West Coast Path to choose from a range of hikes, from all-day treks to manageable strolls that will take a couple of hours or less. Bantham to Hope Cove is around a seven round trip with some nice stopping points along the way, namely Thurlestone beach and South Milton Sands. Salcombe is a further eight miles from Hope Cove so this is only a walk for those with plenty of stamina!
In the other direction, past Bigbury-on-Sea you’ll come to Challaborough Beach less than half a mile to the north. Beyond this sheltered cove, the terrain becomes more rugged and undeveloped on the way to the River Erme and onwards to Noss Mayo and the River Yealm. The South West Coast Path’s website has details about crossing the rivers and advises planning your journey carefully.For a different experience entirely, head along the Avon towards Aveton Gifford and tread one of South Devon’s most secluded and striking hikes.
At Coast & Country Cottages we love walking, so much so we have created a comprehensive walking guide. For more inspiration, and finer details, download our walking guide today!
The Sunrise Swoosh is a 6 km wild swimming race which has quickly become a major fixture on the annual calendar of this growing sport. Billed as a low-key event, in keeping with the natural beauty of the venue, there is a minimal infrastructure at The Bantham Swoosh, allowing swimmers and spectators to appreciate the scenery as well as the sporting entertainment.
The ‘race’ starts at Aveton Gifford and proceeds to Bantham Beach, although the organisers stress that it’s only a competition for those who wish to treat it as one. There’s no cut off time for slower swimmers, but you’ll need to confirm that you are fit and competent in the water before being allowed to register. Around 850 swimmers participated in the most recent race, which took place on 24th June 2019. There were two swims, one at dawn and the other at dusk. Some swimmers even raced in both!
Bantham Beach is the proud host of this team work event that brings together fitness fanatics to celebrate their similarities and differences. This is one of the top international cross fit competitive events and this year everyone will congregate for two days of intense physicality at Bantham Beach. It’s worth noting that there the will be traffic control in Bantham over these days, so expect a little congestion at times.
Other scenic beaches in South Devon with similar facilities include nearby Bigbury-on-Sea and South Milton Sands, and towards Dartmouth you may wish to consider Blackpool Sands. South Devon is a beach lovers paradise, and the coastline is peppered with expansive sandy beaches, shingle bays and secluded coves. Visit our ‘Beach Bible’ for comprehensive information about the best beaches in South Devon.
At Coast & Country Cottages we have a wealth of Bantham Beach self catering holiday cottages, perfectly situated to access both the coast and countryside. From traditional coastal cottages to country escapes, we have properties to suit all requirements, be it a romantic escape, a family holiday or a dog friendly cottage near a South Devon beach. What’s more, we have a variety of properties in nearby coastal villages such as Thurlestone, Hope Cove and Bigbury-on-Sea – we would go as far to say we offer the best selection of holiday homes with sea views in South Devon!