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7 oar-some spots to SUP and kayak in Devon

Getting out on the water this summer? Here's our pick of family-friendly places to paddle, plus options on watersports hire and picnic pitstops.

Looking to hit the water this weekend? The weather’s finally hotting up and that means it’s time to trade in those well-worn hiking boots for a paddle.

Muddy’s favourite waterways are well worth a punt, all brilliant family-friendly spots around the county.

Exe Canal, Exeter

Muddy adores this stretch of calm water between Exeter Quay and the Turf Locks. It’s always pretty calm and so serene, lined with reeds and with plenty of stopping off points to sit and have a picnic.

Local hire: If you’re in the city centre, Saddles & Paddles on the quay hire bikes, canoes, kayaks or stand up paddleboards for all ages. Or Sam of Exe Adventures will come to you, running a minibus pick up and hire service with boards and kayaks which makes it easier than dragging loads of kit about if you’re with the kids.

Picnic pitstop: Lured by the promise of a pint at the end of it? Head to the Turf Hotel where the canal and river meet, open for the summer season. At the other end on Exeter Quay, there is loads of takeaway choice for coffee, cake and light bites, including the new Quayside Distillery, Veg Box for vegan wraps and Mango’s Cafe who do a mean smoothie.

Blackpool Sands

Clear waters and a large shingle beached backed by a pretty area of evergreens and pine trees, what’s not to love? Blackpool Sands is so peaceful and if you’re lucky you may bump into a seal or a happy dolphin.

Local hire: You can hire kayaks, paddleboards, wetsuits at Summer Watersports. Kayaks are available in single, double or triple by the half-hour, one hour or two hours.

Parking & pitstop: Parking is on the flat right by the beach and The Venus Cafe next to it is a real hit with locals, thanks to quality home-cooked food and vegan options. It’s also a real trailblazer when it comes to sustainability and eco-cred.

Combe Martin

An idyllic bay in North Devon where you can spend hours adventuring on blue waters discovering rock pools, coves and marine nature. The village looks out over the bay and creates a cosy cove in which you can spend a day soaking up the sun and fresh sea air. Plus, it’s blessed with some of the best rock pools in Devon.

Local hire: Head to award-winning Surfside Kayak Hire, for all your water-based needs. They run Kayak Tours, so you won’t miss all the best secret coves and local landmarks and places to see wildlife.

Parking & picnic pitstop: Kiln car park is right next door to the beach, and if you like your coffee and cooked brekkie with a side helping of cool surfer vibe, Castaway Cafe is your go-to.

Watermouth Cove

This pretty cove in North Devon is a secluded harbour and also home to a whole ecosystem of marine species which are perfectly used to regular visitors. There are lots of boats to paddle around which some will find really interesting along with a shingly beach to rest on and refuel. Take a picnic to enjoy looking at ocean, and also of the Watermouth Castle which overlooks the bay.

Local hire: Watermouth Cove Holiday Park has launch facilities, (it costs £3.50 to launch here if you’re not staying at the park), kayak hire and their family-run Beach House Cafe.

Picnic pitstop: Storm in a Teacup, a quirky boat cafe fantastically located for scoffing cream teas, coffees and cakes right next to the water.

Shaldon Beach

Shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone but here’s a fab place for an early morning paddle board with on-road parking just a few feet from the water, and a flat walk across the sand with your kit to get there. It’s fun gliding between the moored boats and buoys or and your way along the shoreline for an ogle at Shaldon’s property porn. (It’s also been on our hitlist for Devon’s Best Places to Live, you know.)

Local hire: SeaSports SouthWest run half-day taster sessions for both beginner kayakers and paddleboarders in groups of up to six, just across the water at Teignmouth.

Picnic pitstop: The Clipper on the water’s edge to the left of the beach do amazing fish and chips (and naughty cheesy chips) to warm you up, or the wonderful Shaldon Bakery have a brilliant meal deal on at the moment – £4.95 for a hot pasty (meat or cheese), a cake and a drink.

Hope Cove

Hope Cove is made up of two sandy bays, and both are easy to get to from the car park with your kit. If you bob between Mouthwell Sands and the harbour beach you’ll see all the rocky cliffs and crystal-clear pools. Hope Cove is brilliant for families, for beach games, sandcastles and sunbathing.

Local hire: Triocean have an extensive range for sale and hire, including double and single kayaks, boards and wetsuits.

Picnic pitstop: A large car park is opposite and the village is right there next to the beach for easy ice cream trips and coffees at award-winning The Cove Cafe. When it’s cold we also like snuggling in the heated cosy pods overlooking the sea at the Lobster Pod Bistro.

South Sands Beach, Salcombe

Huddled in the mouth of the estuary, this popular beach is an epic day out, as it’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The cove locations means you’re sheltered from sea winds and it’s a real sun trap when the sun shines.

Local hire: Salcombe Paddleboarding hire out kayaks and paddle boards, offer tuition and, new for 2022, are launching sea kayak adventures

Picnic pitstop: Hurrah! The gorgeous terrace and bar overlooking the water at South Sands Hotel is a doozy.

Looking for more places to dip your toe? Check out Becky Bettesworth’s favourite places to wild swim.

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