A hand-picked collection of some of the best locations in North Devon to kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, based on the ease of use, parking, launch, and the beauty of the area.
Velator Quay, Braunton
About 200 yards past Velator Quay, in Braunton, is a small car park and a slipway into the River Caen where you can launch your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard at high tide. The parking is free, although it is limited. The slipway is only steps away from the car park.
It is about 1 mile from the slipway to the River Taw and the estuary. The Caen river is protected from the wind, as such it is always a pleasant paddle, even on the windier days.
You will notice lots of movement on the water surface because of the shoals of fish, including mullet and you may even catch a glimpse of the resident seal at the mouth of the river during the summer months.
There are no buildings on either side, and no paths for much of the paddle, so you may even catch a glimpse of a beautiful, but elusive, Kingfisher bird.
Once you enter the estuary, immediately turn right for a pleasurable and relatively safe cruise all the way to the horseshoe bay at Crow Point.
Neap and medium tides are the best, as the paddle can become quite difficult when paddling back up the Caen river as it empties out on larger tides.
It is best to launch and return no later than say an hour or 2 after or before high tide.
Intermediate/Advanced – The rips in the river and estuary can be strong.
Bideford is a fantastic location to paddle from, as you can explore the Torridge River and there is plenty of (paid) parking near the launch site. The entry is easy because of a large set of steps that drop into the Torridge specifically for launching kayaks, row boats, etc.
Follow the incoming tide upstream and into the stunning Torridge countryside, flanked by beautiful oak woods. Once the tide turns, make your way back for an easy cruise.
Mid to high tide.
Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced – if paddling up river; paddling towards the estuary is not advised for beginners because of the potential strong rip currents.
Lee Bay is one of the most picturesque locations in North Devon, with its heavily wooded valley and slopes and impressive collection of buildings. It also has free parking close to the rocky beach. It has a slipway so is an ideal location to go for a paddle at high tide.
You can cruise around the bay and not venture out too far, maybe stop off in one of the secluded coves and go for a dip, which makes it great for beginners. Or venture further afield, towards Bull Point, or towards Ilfracombe.
It is best to paddle on smaller tides, as larger tides can bring stronger rip currents and more danger.
Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced. – fine for beginners if you don’t venture outside of the bay and stay close to shore.
Paddling around Ilfracombe harbour is perfect for beginners, as there are few rip currents, especially on smaller, neap tides. The entry is easy, off the lifeboat slipway and there is plenty of parking (paid) close to the slipway.
If you are more experienced you may want to venture out into the Bristol Channel a bit more, following the stunning coastline. If you are a keen fisherman, bring your rod, reel and feathers as there is good mackerel fishing to be had during the summer months.
Ilfracombe is a working harbour and, as such, at certain times of the day you can pick up some gorgeous seafood, including local Lundy crab, a taste sensation!
Mid to high tide.
Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced. – Beginners must stay within the safe confines of the harbour.
Although not as easy to access as, say, Ilfracombe Harbour, or Bideford Quay, Croyde is a fine option to paddle when the conditions are correct.
The previous locations are not dependent on wave size, as they are not open to Atlantic swells. Croyde is, so, you will need to wait for it to go flat (no waves).
When the conditions are right though, it is a lovely paddle. You can either paddle along Baggy Point, hugging the coastline, exploring the various nooks and crannies, paddle across the beach and around Downend Point, or simply cruise around the Bay, perfect for beginners.
High tide is essential.
Putsborough Beach is also open to Atlantic swells, so make sure there are no waves before venturing over to Putsborough.
High tide is best for beginners and all round it is just easier as there is less distance to walk to the sea.
There is plenty of parking (expensive!), but it is a small walk to the shoreline, so make sure you bring wheels if kayaking.
During the summer months the water colour at Putsborough looks amazing, some of the clearest water in North Devon, so, at high tide it is a fantastic place to cruise the shallows, imagining you are in a tropical paradise!
You can relatively safely paddle the beach towards woolacombe, as there are very few strong rips, especially when there is no swell running and on smaller tides.
If you are more experienced you can follow the cliffs out to Baggy Point, giving you a unique perspective of the coastline from the sea. It is popular for people to fish for mackerel, or bass during the summer months, so be sure to bring your fishing rod. Perhaps end with a bbq on the beach with your freshly caught fish.
Hele Bay, just around the corner from Ilfracombe, has a relatively safe bay to paddle in at high tide, so is ideal for beginners. There is a car park nearby and a drop off area next to the beach to unload your kayak, or paddleboard, before getting changed in the carpark, very user friendly. The coastline from Hele Bay to Watermouth is delightful, with Watermouth Bay itself a stunning location.
It is best from an hour or so after mid tide to high tide.
There is good mackerel fishing to be had at certain times of the summer, and the odd report of bass being caught in the gullies to the right of the bay, under the coastguard cottages.
Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced. – Venturing outside the bay and along the coastline is for those with more experience only.
The information provided should just be used as a guide only – please do your own research into the specific details for each location and requirements – do not base your trip solely on the information provided here! It is up to you to be responsible for your own safety and those in your group.
Always make sure the conditions are perfect before venturing into the sea, or rivers on a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Seek local advice from local lifeguards, or shops, and, rule number 1 – if in doubt, don’t go out! Wear a life vest and always use a paddle leash.
Ready to start your holiday adventure in North Devon? If so, click here www.woolacombe-cottages.co.uk