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Things to do in Westward Ho!, Devon

The seaside resort of Westward Ho! is a popular North Devon holiday destination with a long sandy beach.

Westward Ho! sea front
Westward Ho! sea front © tony - stock.adobe.com

It is the only town in the UK to have an exclamation mark in its name.

This came about as the town was named after a book of the same name, written by Charles Kingsley in the mid-19th century, based in nearby Bideford.

Keen to cash in on the book's success, developers built a hotel and villas along the two mile sandy beach to attract sea-bathing visitors, and so the Victorian town of Westward Ho! was born.

A surfer at sunset on Westward Ho! Beach
A surfer at sunset on Westward Ho! Beach © mrriley - stock.adobe.com

Holiday camps boomed in the area in the 1950s but as they went out of fashion and closed, Westward Ho! became more residential.

However Surfbay Holiday Park and Braddick's Holiday Centre still continue the holiday camp tradition in the area.

Present Day Westward Ho!

Westward Ho! is ideal for family vacations surrounded by unspoilt Devon coastal scenery, best explored on long walks.

The coast at Abbotsham by the South West coast path near Westward Ho!
The coast at Abbotsham by the South West coast path near Westward Ho! © Taste the Image - stock.adobe.com

Although its Victorian heyday is long gone, the village of around 1,700 locals remains a friendly community with plenty to see and do.

The golden sandy beach stretches for two miles and is known for its excellent surf. The inland area is protected by a natural pebble ridge.

Westward Ho! Beach
Westward Ho! Beach © Jenny Thompson - stock.adobe.com

Close by there are extensive grasslands offering a natural habitat for birds and wildlife in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Northam Burrows Country Park, behind the pebble ridge, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The waves roll in at Westward Ho!
The waves roll in at Westward Ho! © tony - stock.adobe.com

The village itself has a collection of local shops, mainly geared to tourists, and two churches, the Westward Ho! Baptist Church and the Holy Trinity Church. There are also several local pubs serving excellent food.

The old railway was closed in 1917 but the flat railbed is now part of the South West Coast Path which runs around the coastline.

Northam Burrows Nature Reserve
Northam Burrows Nature Reserve © tony twyman/EyeEm - stock.adobe.com

The Tarka Trail nearby offers family cycle hire and miles of off-road cycling.

During the summer there is a ferry link from neighbouring Appledore, a pretty shipbuilding town, across to Instow.

The Tarka Trail in Devon
The Tarka Trail in Devon © steheap - stock.adobe.com

Famous persons linked to Westward Ho! include Rudyard Kipling, who attended the United Services College which features in his book, Stalky and Co.

Things to do in Westward Ho!

Besides family beach activities such as fishing for shrimp and crabs in the rock pools and enjoying the tidal lido known as the Rock Pool, Westward Ho! has some traditional arcades and a go-kart track.

Kites on Westward Ho Beach
Kites on Westward Ho Beach © Jenny Thompson - stock.adobe.com

There is ample car parking, beach huts and deckchair hire in the summer.

The sandy beach is ideal for swimming in the Blue Flag waters under the watchful eye of local lifeguards.

The North Devon Surf School on the beach offers equipment hire and surf lessons.

View across estuary from Northam Burrows Country Park
View across estuary from Northam Burrows Country Park © Mushy - stock.adobe.com

Kite surfing and kite buggy rides on breezy days are excellent fun to watch or participate in.

Keen golfers will already know that Westward Ho! is home to the Royal North Devon Golf Club, the oldest golf club in England and Wales and still considered an excellent golf course.

North Devon coast
North Devon coast © John - stock.adobe.com

One final recommendation for a memorable family day out is the Big Sheep working farm at Abbotsham, with plenty of hands-on activities and cute baby animals for petting.

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