Each year, without fail, the North Atlantic comes alive after it’s summer slumber. The Autumn half term coincides with surf season in the UK, with increased probability of waves, favourable winds, warm water and weather.
Tropical storms and hurricanes, which originate in the mid/south Atlantic, push up into the North Atlantic, colliding with the cold air pushing down from the Arctic.
The resulting High winds out at sea create waves which march their way to the coasts of Europe and the UK, where some of the best waves on the planet can be found.
There are numerous fantastic surf locations in North Devon, perfect for surfing or watching, with many of these locations being beauty spots.
The selection of locations below are ideal for surfing and exploring in North Devon during half term, when the waves can be great.
Weather and sea temperature in North Devon during October half term
During October the sea temperature is about 16 c, a degree or two colder than summer, so you could surf in a summer wetsuit. But, ideally, the best would be a 3-4 mm wetsuit to keep you toasty on those cold days or in the mornings.
The air temperature is variable, which can range from 10c to 25c +! It could be a baking Indian Summer, or (more likely) very windy and very wet (this can make for great waves!) Wetsuit boots are not necessary at this stage, but it’s getting there.
Ability: Beginner to Advanced
Putsborough Sands has easy access, lots of parking (It’s great to be able to park up and watch the waves.), the surf is beginner friendly and there is surf hire available.
This beach is located at the southern end of Woolacombe Beach, nestled beneath the north facing cliffs of Baggy Point.
At low tide, the waves are at there smallest and rise steadily with the tide. So, if it’s really big and blown out (wind chopped) head here for a more manageable wave, the lower the tide the better.
The beach faces sightly more north than others and has the shelter of the cliffs and headland, so is protected from strong south, or south westerly winds
On smaller days, the best conditions are near high tide.
Putsborough has a handy rip which runs along the rocks under the cliffs, which can make for an easy paddle out after each wave.
A fun righthander breaks into the rocks when the waves are larger, so you catch a wave and ride the rip back out.
Generally, the wave is average quality, and can be a bit of a closeout (when the wave closes down all at once with no green face to ride) at times. But it has its day and is ideal for beginners and fairly safe as there are no significant rips along the beach.
The sea is also much cleaner and greener than other locations in North Devon, which is always a bonus. Sometimes I surf here precisely for this reason.
There are many walks around Putsborough, along the headland, or a few miles to Woolacombe and back. Visit the Exmoor ponies that live in the hills overlooking Woolacombe and Putsborough. Microlights riding the updrafts, can often be seen hovering quitely overhead.
There is no lifeguard service at Putsborough.
Ability: Intermediate to Advanced
Lynmouth borders the majestic Exmoor. As such, the scenery is breath-taking. Lynmouth has an alpine charm of its own, with it’s deep gorges, flowing rivers and pine covered slopes.
It has a water powered cliff railway, the quickest way to get to Lynton by foot (or bike).
The waves at Lynmouth break over a boulders. There are 2 waves, car park lefts, and Blacksands lefts.
Both waves are long, sloping lefthanders, but can still pack a punch on bigger days.
Lynmouth is protected from strong south, south westerly winds and best on a southerly wind. The swell needs to be fairly large, but on some swells can be similar to Putsborough.
There is paid parking along the Esplanade, which is a great place to sit in your car and watch the waves. It can be busy during the holidays with visitors, surfers and ramblers, so get there early.
Lynmouth is a charming village, with a selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. Take a ride on the water-powered Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway up to Lynton town where there are more places to eat and things to do. Don’t forget a visit to the awe inspiring Valley of the Rocks.
There are no surf shops or surf hire in Lynmouth.
Amazing walks follow the West and East Lyn rivers upstream, with flowing waters and autumn colours. Maybe you’ll see a salmon jump, or a dear amongst the oak trees.
There is no lifeguard service at Lynmouth.
Ability: Beginner to Intermediate
Saunton beach is probably one of the best waves for beginners ever! The gently sloping beach makes for slow, sloping waves, which can give you more time to get to grips with the basics of surfing.
The only significant rip to speak of is the rip which runs along the rocks, which is very strong, but provides a quick and easy route out the back, even on bigger days.
It is a longboarding favourite, with long, but slow, peeling righthanders peeling off of the rocks on certain tides. The best tide for surfing Saunton is about mid tide, with the waves at low tide breaking even further out, with less shape.
The cliffs to the north do provide good protection from northerly winds. The righthanders which peel off the rocks can be glassy faced when other beaches are blown out.
There is a beachside grill for post surf nosh, or to enjoy a hot chocolate whilst watching the autumn waves.
Surf hire is available, and there are surf schools based here.
It is fun to walk along the rocks and watch the surfers from the side, close up, but don’t get too close!
During autumn, on the windy, huge swell days, Saunton is generally blown out, and not so inviting. Unless you plan on only surfing the white water on the inside, and not venturing out the back. Saunton is good for this as waves reform several times before dissipating on the sand.
There is no lifeguard service at Saunton.
Ability: Beginner to Intermediate
This beach is much like Saunton, a slow, sloping wave, ideal for beginners or longboarders.
There is no handy conveyor rip out the back though so not so easy on larger days. But, like Saunton, it is ideal for beginners, with multiple reforming waves and no dangerous rip currents.
Westward Ho! beach is somewhat protected from southerly winds by the cliffs to the south, so will be the cleaner option if the winds are from the south. It is always slightly smaller here than Saunton as is slightly less open to Atlantic swells.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and cafes. The Pier House, the furthest restaurant out along the cliffs to the south, looks over the Atlantic waves. A fantastic place to have a drink and food during the summer, with great outdoor seating. Or during the winter, cozy inside watching the waves smash the rocks below.
The walk along the coast path to the cliffs is delightful, eventually ending up at Bucks Mills, Clovelly and beyond. Walking along the beach, around to the estuary on a windy day can certainly blow the cobwebs away and make you feel alive. Fresh ocean air is surely an invigorating tonic.
Parking is available directly behind the pebble ridge which follows most of the beach.
There are many surf hire outlets and surf schools.
There is a lifeguard service at Westward Ho!.
Holiday cottages in North Devon for Autumn half term.
If you have checked the long distance forecast for Autumn half term, and can see potential for favourable conditions in North Devon, you will need somewhere to stay.
We have plenty of holiday cottages in North Devon for autumn half term to choose from, and during the autumn/winter months you are more likely to find a bargain. Check our special offers page or call us now to see what is available.