Top Family Days out in North Devon and Ilfracombe

woolacombe beach in the sunshine

Top Family Days Out in North Devon and Ilfracombe

We’ve recently spent a week on holiday with family in Ilfracombe. We were with the whole Mackcracken clan, all 15 of us with varying ages of children (4-12) to keep entertained, staying in one large holiday house. I’ve created this post to share the top family days out in North Devon and Ilfracombe.

We were very lucky with the weather whilst we were away and only had one rainy day. We wanted to make the most of the sunny weather and decided on lots of trips to make the most of the beaches and opportunities to explore what the local area has to offer.

With so many of us in the family and varied ages and interests to think about, it was a challenge at times to plan days out that were suitable for everyone.

I’ve rounded up our favourite family activities that we got up to whilst away and hope that they are useful ideas for top family days out in North Devon for planning your next trip to the area.

Coombe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park

When researching top family days out in North Devon, Coombe Martin Dinosaur Park seemed a firm recommendation so we were eager to put it to the test ourselves. When we set off the for the day it was a dry, unfortunately it didn’t stay that way and we got rather soggy on our way walking through the animals. However, there was still plenty to do indoors whilst we waited for it to slow down a little and it didn’t stop us having a great day out.

The park is a mixture of animals including lions, monkeys, wolves and reptiles and animatronic dinosaurs hidden in amongst the greenery on the paths whilst walking round. We found the park to be clean and have lots of different areas to keep everyone entertained.

There is a large soft play area that the children loved exploring and gave us an opportunity to dry off from the rain for a while. There was also a bug’s exhibition and a pharaoh’s adventure that were both indoors to give us a break from the weather, as well as an indoor dinosaur museum.

There were lots of shows scheduled throughout the day including animals talks such as penguin feeding and an opportunity to meet the meerkats. We did settle down to watch the sea lion show but had to abandon and run to the soft play due to a heavy downpour of rain.

top family days out in north devonDespite the rain, we still spent 4 hours at the park and felt that is offered good value for money and offered something for all ages to enjoy. Please note that there are some very steep paths and steps around the park and to the car park which may not be suitable for those with mobility issues.

For up to date visitor and ticket information visit the main website here.

Kate at crafts on sea has also recently been to the park, you can read all about her adventures here (

Woolacombe Beach

No list of top family days out in North Devon would be complete, without a trip to the beach! We visited Woolacombe Beach twice during our week as the kids had so much fun the first time. Both time when we set off for the day, the skies were grey and miserable, however on both occasions it seemed like within minutes of setting up on the beach the clouds had cleared to reveal bright blue skies for the rest of the day. Woolacombe beach has beautiful soft sand, perfect for digging holes and building sandcastles according to Mini. The sign at the start of the beach proudly boasts that it has been voted Britain’s best beach by Tripadvisor for 2015 and 2016.

We had lots of fun playing on the beach and splashing in the sea. There were plenty of children with body boards trying to catch the waves, there were also shops hiring them out if you don’t have your own. We didn’t try the boards out during our first visit but we still had lots of fun jumping over the waves.

top family days out in north devon

On our second visit we bought Mini a body board to try out and she absolutely loved it, she was super confident riding the waves. I thought at only 4 she may have struggled but I obviously underestimated her and we will definitely use the board on holidays in the future.

The beach was really clean with good facilities, toilets/showers and cafes and ice cream bars, we can also highly recommend the bakery in the town for delicious pasties.

top family days out in north devon

There were also a group of brightly coloured beach huts that can be hired for the day or the week, which looked like a fun idea.

The Big Sheep

As soon as we knew we were going on holiday to Ilfracombe, Mr Mack and his family talked about how they had enjoyed visiting The Big Sheep on their family holidays years ago. With talks of sheep racing, duck trials and rides to explore we were all looking forward to our visit.

top family days out in north devon

You can read our full blog post of our visit to The Big Sheep here.

Crabbing at Coombe Martin

After our recent success of crabbing whilst away in Weymouth, Mini was desperate to show off her skills to her cousins. Armed with buckets, nets and some of Grandad’s bacon that we had stolen for bait, we headed to Coombe Martin.

The town itself is very small but does have a few nice cafes and gift shops. The beach is set across a bay, which also had lots of rocks for climbing on and exploring. Along the edge of the beach is a path that leads along the bottom of the cliff edge and runs across a large number of rockpools. This was clearly a popular crabbing destination as we had to walk quite a way along the path to find some rockpools that weren’t already being occupied.

top family days out in north devon

With 9 of us in the group we were hoping for success and to spark some friendly competition amongst us. Unfortunately the crabs outwitted us and we didn’t manage to catch many at all, Mini’s Uncle Ian was the overall winner with three. Mini didn’t manage to catch any crabs but she did catch quite a few shrimps so she was pleased with that.

I think it might be a good idea to visit earlier or later on in the day when its less busy and you may stand a better chance. That being said we still had fun trying and enjoyed climbing over the rocks to reach the best pools to try.

Ilfracombe Aquarium

We spent a morning exploring Ilfracombe Aquarium on our last day, you can read our full review here.

top family days out in north devon

Boat trip from Ilfracombe Harbour

After a few days of travelling to days out, we decided to have a quieter day exploring Ilfracombe town, we were lucky in that we could walk in about 10 minutes from our holiday house.

Along the harbour there were stalls offering lots of different types of boat trips including Mackerel fishing trips and trips to the nearby Lundy Island. We chose to go for a trip along the coast line with “Historic Lifeboat Trips”. After all, in my book a list of top family days out in North Devon wouldn’t be complete without a boat trip.

The company uses ex-RNLI boats and is captained by local lifeboat crew volunteers. We booked onto a 30 minute trip, which ran regularly throughout the day. The boat holds up to 12 passengers, so we booked a whole one for our family which felt like a private charter boat with just us aboard.

We were helped aboard by the Captain and most of the family headed to sit at the front of the boat. Mini, however decided to stay inside for the first part of the ride. She enjoyed chatting to the Captain and even found a hat to wear. The cabin was exposed at the back so we still had good views out to see. Towards the end of the trip Mini got a little more confident so we all headed out to sit with the rest of the family at the front of the boat.

The trip took us along the coast line of Ilfracombe and the Captain gave us a commentary of historic facts about the area. We all really enjoyed the trip, even the bumps from us hitting the waves.

Current prices are £6.50 per person for 30 minutes, although we negotiated a cheaper price for taking all 12 seats.

More information is available at

More ideas to consider …

I asked some of my blogger friends to share some of their recommendations for top family days out in North Devon, these are their thoughts:

Stephanie at Renovation Bay-Bee enjoyed her day out on the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, you can read all about their adventures here.

Ky at Snapshots & Adventures has recently visited Exmoor Zoo and also recommends Woolacombe beach as a great day out for little ones.

Emma at Me and B make Tea also recommends a trip to Lynton and Lynmouth as a must do if you are in the area.

Hayley at Devon Mama highly recommends a trip to the Milky Way adventure park.

I’d love to hear about your favourite spots and top family days out in North Devon too, feel free to share in the comments.


Potty Adventures

Country Kids



  1. September 4, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    I’ve never been to north Devon but it looks so lovely there – sounds like you guys had a fab time. Sarah #adventurecalling

  2. September 5, 2017 / 8:49 am

    I used to visit Devon a lot as a kid, but as an adult always seem to just pass through heading to Cornwall, maybe time for a rethink. #adventurecalling

    • mommamack15
      September 5, 2017 / 9:06 am

      Maybe visit the two and have a cream tea both the Devon and Cornwall way 😋

  3. September 5, 2017 / 10:54 am

    You only had one rainy day? Clearly I am in the wrong part of the country! 😉 It looks like you had a fantastic time and it does look idyllic – I have never been to Devon! There looks to be so much to do though! Sim xx #littemakes

    • mommamack15
      September 5, 2017 / 10:55 am

      We were very lucky with the weather 🤞

    • mommamack15
      September 8, 2017 / 3:52 pm

      The dinosaur park was great fun, hopefully it will be a bit drier on our next visit 🤞

  4. September 11, 2017 / 9:34 am

    Wow! Loads of ideas here. I haven’t been to North Devon for ages but I think we must go soon #CountryKids

  5. September 12, 2017 / 11:07 am

    What a wonderful holiday to be all together in one big house. We used to stop for breakfast in Ifracombe on our way to an overnight treat at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel each year when the kids were little. It was always a treat. Woolacombe beach is lovely, though we have only ever been in winter it has never stopped my kids getting in the sea. I’d love to visit in summer one day. Such lovely activities you packed into your holiday, I bet the kids will want to do it all again next year.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

    • mommamack15
      September 12, 2017 / 4:47 pm

      Definitely visit Woolacombe on a summers day, it was one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever been to in Britain

  6. September 12, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    Looks like there’s so much to do with kids. I haven’t been to that part of the world for years, but fell in love with Woolacombe – the beach goes on and on there doesn’t it #CountryKids

    • mommamack15
      September 12, 2017 / 4:48 pm

      Yes, we loved the beach, really lovely sand 😊

    • mommamack15
      September 12, 2017 / 6:21 pm

      Thanks, we all had a great time, the weather really helped

  7. September 12, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    What a great selection of days out. It certainly sounds like you had a great time. We had a similarly large family getaway in the summer and had a great time. I particularly like the look of Woolacombe beach and I also know my toddlers would love the crabbing. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling I hope you can again tomorrow.

  8. September 13, 2017 / 8:48 am

    I love Devon, we always have an amazing time there. We went to east Devon this year, but a couple of years ago we went to Ilfracombe and Woolacombe Beach. There’s so much for families to do. I love this list, so many great ideas, I’ll be saving this for later. Thanks so much for sharing with us #AdventureCalling

    • mommamack15
      September 13, 2017 / 10:35 am

      Before we went I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough to keep us occupied, given the size and age range of our group. Lucky to say we were pleasantly surprised 😊

  9. September 13, 2017 / 11:37 am

    I’ve never been to Devon, this looks amazing. Definitely somewhere I’d like to visit. Looks like there is so much to do and see x #countrykids

    • mommamack15
      September 13, 2017 / 7:11 pm

      Definitely recommend it as a holiday destination x

  10. September 13, 2017 / 12:22 pm

    What a great list of destinations. We’ve never visited Ilfracombe but would love to go for the coastline and the aquarium. #CountryKids

  11. September 13, 2017 / 8:17 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever visited that part of Devon. Woolacombe beach looks fabulous and the wildlife and dinosaur park sounds like an interesting place to visit 🙂 #countrykids

    • mommamack15
      September 13, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      The beach is one of the best I’ve visited in England, well worth a visit

  12. September 13, 2017 / 8:49 pm

    We’ve been to a few of these last year on our camping trip to Woolcaombe. The beach there is fabulous for kids, families and the body boarding is brilliant.

    • mommamack15
      September 13, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      The body boarding was great fun even for a 4 year old 😊

  13. May 5, 2018 / 1:48 am

    Woolacombe Beach! Ah. One of the top beaches we have been to. But, here’s something we did on holiday last time in that area when it rained. Instead of taking your child shopping when it rains, help them make a present for someone back at home. Not only will your child get to be creative and give a unique gift, but you’ll get to spend quality time together, until the sun shines again. This is especially good if the present is for the child’s other parent or another relative.

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