The best family hotels in Devon

Race Rock Salcombe - one of the best family hotels in Devon

Race Rock Salcombe – one of the best family hotels in Devon

Devon is a big attraction for adventurous and active families, who come to swim and surf at its safe sandy beaches, coast along quiet winding country lanes or leap over its vast boulder-strewn hills. Even less sporty families are catered for, on nature trails and animal encounters, craft clubs and beach picnics. Family-friendly hotels abound, catering to both ends of the spectrum, but without compromising on style: all of our picks below have sophisticated interiors, excellent service and sublime food, and many have sea views. Most are relatively small and independently run, meaning there’s no fighting for space at the pool or beach or queuing for the buffet.

Covering every parent’s budget and every child’s whim, from canoeing and croquet, to pool tables and private cinemas, you’re spoiled for choice for family-friendly hotels in Devon. Here’s our pick of the best, in places like Salcombe, Woolacombe, Dartmoor and Babbacombe, near Torquay.

At a glance, the best family hotels in Devon

Watersmeet’s seafront location, overlooking the North Devon coast and Lundy Island, is simply sublime. Located at the quiet end of Woolacombe Bay, the hotel has private steps that lead down to Combesgate Beach, a small sandy cove that’s great for body-boarding and rock-pooling, but is rarely crowded, even in the height of summer. The overall vibe is fresh and airy, with white and gray walls, hardwood floors, driftwood lamps, Lloyd Loom chairs, and captivating views. Dedicated family rooms and interconnecting rooms are available, while extra beds can be provided in other rooms. This is that rare breed of hotel that manages to be both homely and romantic at the same time.

• The best hotels in Devon

Devon’s hippest coastal hotel has a range of self-catering cottages overlooking the garden and sea, ideal for families. There are two heated swimming pools – one indoor and one outdoor – and although the hotel’s proximity to the cliff edges precludes young children being allowed to roam free, there are several sandy beaches nearby with shallow swimming (although there are lifeguards). The restaurant, which serves the likes of Cornish rack of lamb, roasted cod and bubbles and squeaks polenta, has a relaxed attitude towards children in addition to a children’s menu. A private cinema shows films suitable for children every day. For weary legs at the end of a busy day’s exploring, a complimentary Land Rover whisks guests from East Portlemouth (where the passenger ferry to Salcombe docks) to the hotel.

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With a rugged Devon cove and a beach of its own, this is just about the perfect package. Occupying a sensitively designed single-storey building, the rooms overlook a glittering triangle of sea or overlook the valley. There is an indoor heated spring-fed swimming pool, a grass tennis court and a playground. Use of tennis rackets, crab bait, buckets and spades, and DVDs are complimentary. A draped café serves quick bites, kids’ lunches, and early morning dinners, and the one-bedroom and self-catering villas are all family-friendly. The hotel’s yellow Labrador, Daisy, is popular with young guests and the hotel is very dog-friendly, so your family dog ​​can come too. The hotel is at the end of a long track, so children can run free without danger from traffic.

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Nestled below the cliffs on Babbacombe beach, down a dizzying hairpin bend, the location of this spa hotel is nothing short of spectacular. Upon arrival, children are given a bucket, spade and fishing net with which to rock pool at Babbacombe Bay, a quiet beach near the hotel with calm waters and a friendly local seal. There are two beach suites and six beach huts that can accommodate a crib or rollaway bed, nine self-catering cottages stocked with board games and children’s books, and eight bedrooms in the main inn. Children can use the pool from 08:00 to 10:00 each morning and complimentary paddle boards and kayaks are available on a first come, first serve basis. The restaurant has a children’s menu.

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This impressive stately home on a sports estate in Dartmoor National Park is popular with rain-lashed walkers, outdoorsy families and golfers who make the most of the property’s extensive facilities. Family-friendly activities include apple pressing, archery, goat feeding, air rifles, a deer park tour and a free day bird of prey experience overlooking Dartmoor. A new KidsZone has boxes for dress-ups, toys and crafts for under-eights, while a TechZone, for ages eight to 16, offers virtual entertainment, including an Xbox. There are several connecting rooms for families in the hotel, while private lodges in the park can accommodate up to eight people.

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Attracting style-conscious families with a yen for simple seaside R&R, South Sands is clean and airy, with a relaxed New England vibe. The hotel is right on the beach with wonderful views over the estuary – if you enjoy walking or water sports then this is the place for you. White sand and calm seas are on the hotel’s doorstep, and use of buckets and spades is complimentary. In some rooms it is possible to have extra beds, while five beach suites are designed for families of up to six people.

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The setting is classic Devon: to the front of the hotel is a rugged coastline and to the rear are pastures full of sheep. There are two well-equipped indoor playrooms for toddlers and older children, a playground, crazy golf and family badminton courts. A busy schedule of arts and crafts sessions, entertainers, film nights, cookery lessons and sports is organized during the school holidays. In the restaurant, a children’s buffet full of pick and mix ready meals to prevent hunger pangs. Family Rooms have smart beds that fold into the wall or sofa beds that convert into bunk beds.

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Highbullen is a luxurious, gothic-fronted country hotel spread over a 125-acre estate in Devon. With a wide range of facilities on offer, Highbullen prides itself on being a ‘multi-generational’ hotel, suitable for large families. Dedicated rooms for families of four have sofa beds and trundle beds, while large families can rent lodgings exclusively. Scattered throughout the estate are two swimming pools – one indoor and one outdoor – tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, a private fishing river, croquet lawns, billiard rooms, an indoor activity center with games including pool and air hockey. A playground is due to open in June 2023.

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The Imperial is a family-friendly, dog-friendly seaside hotel with a rich Victorian heritage overlooking the English Riviera. A game room has a ping pong table, pool table, and video game console; there’s an indoor creative play area for the little ones; an outdoor play area with AstroTurf; miniature golf and a selection of mini-rides. There is a large choice of family rooms, with 13 family suites and six standard family rooms. During the summer holidays, the hotel focuses on magicians and face painting, along with an extensive program of activities including family quizzes, scuba diving, sleepovers and teddy bear picnics.

Frequent questions

Where is the best place to stay as a family in Devon?

On the north coast, the town of Woolacombe overlooks a long sandy beach perfect for surfing. On the south coast, exclusive Salcombe offers small sheltered coves such as North Sands and South Sands where younger children can paddle and build sand castles. Older children can rent sea kayaks or stand up paddle boards. Dartmoor National Park is ideal for families who enjoy walking or horse riding.

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