The beach at Woolacombe was voted the best in Britain by TripAdvisor this year thanks to its three mile stretch of clean golden sand, life guards and excellent surf. Woolacombe School of Surf (woolacombesurf.com; 01271 872350) offers lessons costing from £20.
Damien Hirst is the co-owner of 11 The Quay (11thequay.co.uk; 01271 868090) and it is filled with his artwork of framed formaldehyde fish. The restaurant has great views of Ilfracombe’s pretty harbour and the menu offers great, fresh local seafood.
While in Ilfracombe make sure you check out the Tunnels Beaches. These tunnels were created in 1823 to allow people to reach inaccessible beaches beyond the cliffs. At low tide they offer a wealth of rock pools, bathing pools and you stand a good chance of spotting some seals.
Wildlife fans should also make the trip to nearby Lundy Island to see puffins, seals and deer. There are no cars on the island and only 23 homes making it a quiet, unusual place for a day trip. You can take part in rock pool rambles or the letterboxing treasure hunt that will take you all over the island - pick up a letterbox pack at the shop on the island. And if you are full of energy, climb up to the lighthouse for views over Devon, Cornwall, Wales and Somerset.
If you fancy some exercise away from the waves try cycling the Tarka Trail. The whole thing is 30 miles long but families can opt to do the flat six miles from Braunton to Barnstaple where you can entertain yourselves watching out for otters and wildfowl while you wheel along.
If you prefer boats to surfboards then Salcombe on the south coast could be the destination for you. This pretty harbour town attracts plenty of people looking to get out on the ocean waves. South Sands Sailing (southsandssailing.co.uk; 01548 843451) offers kayak rentals as well as lessons.
Hire a boat from Salcombe Boat Hire (salcombeboathire.co.uk; 01548 844475) and you’ll be set up with not only a boat but free fuel too. Then potter around the estuary to The Millbrook (millbrookinnsouthpool.co.uk; 01548 531581) in nearby South Pool. This cosy country pub has a lot of soul and is accessible by boat. It even operates a veg shed to ensure the locals get their hands of fresh veg 24 hours a day, after the last village store disappeared from South Pool more than ten years ago.
Aside from sailing there is plenty to do around Salcombe. Walk along the South West Coast Path and you’ll discover hidden coves or go rock pooling on North Sands beach. Alternatively, hop on the ferry and head across the water to the beautiful East Portlemouth beach.
Along the coast from Salcombe and worth a visit is Bigbury-on-Sea. This is a fantastic family beach with shallow bathing and rock pools. It’s a great place to learn to surf too. The Discovery Surf School (discoverysurf.com; 07813 639 622) offers beginners lessons for £38.
From Bigbury-on-Sea you can enjoy a unique adventure – riding a sea tractor. The hydraulic vehicle is the only one in the world and was designed in 1969 by Robert Jackson in return for a case of champagne. It costs £2 each way between Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island.
See the beautiful countryside from a different vantage point by heading out on a canoe tour. Canoe Adventures (canoeadventures.co.uk; 07706 343744) offers guided canoeing that is open to all ages from toddlers to grandparents. You’ll canoe for miles up the River Dart from Tuckenhay with trips lasting four to five hours.
Take an adventurous dip with Blue Dot Adventure (bluedotadventure.com; 01837 657550 ). The company know all the best places to go wild swimming from secret coves to pools high up on Dartmoor. They will put together a trip for you based on your age and ability and can also arrange climbing or coasteering trips too.