Is Dawlish Warren really the Best Beach in Devon?

Most people would say no. But Dawlish Warren is the one for me because it’s the nearest. I can finish work at 5 and be in the sea by 5.43. If you are passing, it is worth a visit.

Red Rock Dawlish Warren
What is Dawlish Warren?

Nestled at the mouth of the River Exe, an alarming sprawl of holiday camps, chip shops, pubs full of chickens in baskets, an exhausted funfair, screaming ghost train, roaring go-carts and a few angry looking donkeys.

Funfair at Dawlish Warren

Battle through this and you get to the shops with fake wooden fronts and loud signs.

Shops at Dawlish Warren

And and even louder amusement arcade.

Amusement arcade at Dawlish Warren

Of course, we don’t even look in the amusement arcade because we are wild beach lovers and sea swimmers. But it is perfect for an afternoon out on a wet Sunday in December. The air hockey keeps four people happy for over 10 minutes for just £1. Then you can lose £20 in the next 10 minutes at the 2p gambling machine. It is huge fun pouring 2p pieces into an ever-moving stack of coins in the hope of causing a landslide win. Even though you know you will lose.

If you do win any money the shops are perfect for getting rid of it.

Shops at Dawlish Warren

They are a wonderland of plastic from China. Step inside for more toys, glass animals and exquisite shell decorations.

Where to go next?
The Beach by the Shops

Here you can people watch all day. In South Devon, the beaches are full of well-spoken beautiful people rowing to shore from the yachts they are so entitled to. In North Devon, they rush in and out with their surfboards, all blonde hair and bronzed skin. Here they arrive by train, from Birmingham and the North.

Dawlish Warren Beach

A little oasis of diversity with huge families from landlocked cities having the time of their lives.

Everybody is busy. They play games in circles like only big family groups know how to do, or sort the sand out. They have to dig trenches, bury themselves in holes, and create ornate castles. It takes all day.

If you want to dogwatch you move on to the next bit and soak up the joyous anarchy of 20 to 100 dogs having a festival together, abandoning their owners, charging in all directions and greeting everybody with utter delight.

Dog on Dawlish Warren

The owners bleat things like ‘stop that’ and ‘come here now or we will go home.’ As if their dogs understand empty threats and have never behaved like this before.

Walk the Spit

The spit is a geological phenomenon. A long slice of land, river on one side and sea on the other, stretching almost all the way across the mouth of the river Exe.

Dawlish Warren Spit

Every year the sea rises and snatches a few dunes so the slice gets a little thinner. 

Dawlish Warren collapsing dunes

Those of us who live along the estuary enjoy wondering if the spit will disappear completely. If that happens the sea will invade the estuary. We love talking about who will be flooded and which towns might disappear. We don’t know what we are talking about but it is fun speculating on the disaster that is possibly years away, and will only happen to people you don’t know. The ones who can afford to live on the edge of the river.

It is maybe a mile long? Sometimes it feels like three, especially if you walk all the way long to look across the water at Exmouth at the end and you have forgotten to bring a sandwich and it’s too hot. But it is magical because most people don’t walk it, they are too busy digging up the first bit.

Only 20 minutes from the shops full of plastic and screaming machines you can look out over a nature reserve.

Nature Reserve at Dawlish Warren with evening Primrose
It is full of Evening Primrose

And you can play at being alone on a desert island thinking about how you would survive here for weeks if you had to.

Red Rock

In the other direction is Red Rock.

Red Rock Dawlish Warren

  You can scramble easily up the hidden path to the top.

Path to the top of Red Rock Dawlish Warren

 It is covered with soft tufty grass and flowers. You can lie and look at the sky or watch the idiots who climbed up before you and are now standing horribly close to the sheer drop. This rock is made of sand and, like all the cliffs around here, likes to throw chunks down into the sea with no warning.

Behind Red Rock is our private beach.  A short walk from the main section but too far for most people. I think it is my beach because hardly anybody goes there. 

Red Rock Beach Dawlish Warren

Sometimes a seal comes along to say hello and will follow swimmers down the coast. There are cruise liners in the distance and a multi-million-pound sea wall protecting the train line. 

The train line goes to Cornwall and, now that Cornwall has been sold to millionaires, it is important to keep it running. We like to talk about the day the train line fell into the sea, along with a few houses. Talking about how long the new wall will last is nearly as much fun as discussing the spit getting washed away.

Key Facts

Don’t go to the first toilet on the left by the bike shop. I did yesterday. It was filthy, and the lock won’t let you out unless you twist it exactly the right way. I was in there for five minutes and had to phone a friend to say ‘I’m stuck in the toilet, come and get me out.’ to make it work.


The parking system is fantastic. Cars enter the car park through a small tunnel under the railway.

Carpark queue at Dawlish Warren

This car park is always full. The only way out is back through the tunnel, but you have to queue because more cars are coming in.  If you want a good dose of Shaudenfraude go there and watch cars, stuffed with fainting dogs and crying children, trying to escape.

Where to stay

My house, if you know me.  If you don’t, that would be weird. There are a couple of hotels but this place is really for those of us who love static vans. There are several parks with maybe thousands of them?

Holiday Camp at Dawlish Warren

They look a bit bleak from the side of the road but if you have children they are a lot easier than leaky, stuffy tents. They have TV and neighbours with more small children for your children to play with. The best holiday is always one where your children are off playing with somebody else.

So that is Dawlish Warren.  We are having music in the garden to celebrate Midsummer this weekend. If we are lucky it won’t rain and the next post will be about what a success it was.

Meanwhile, here is the cherry tree, groaning with cherries.

Chicken stealing cherries

Apart from on the lower branches. The chickens jumped up and stole them all.

4 thoughts on “Is Dawlish Warren really the Best Beach in Devon?”

  1. I laughed tell I cried particularly with the car park. No one would believe that is real unless they saw it xx

  2. Hi Jo, I haven’t had time to keep up with your blog for a while, but now I have I’m binge-reading them in bed on a Sunday morn with a pot of tea…heaven! I love your story-telling, and bravo! for photo of chicken jumping!

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