Wembury beach is a great all-round outdoor enthusiasts beach. Set in a South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with award winning waters from the Marine conservation society, this beach offers a range of activities for all ages and abilities. The stunning area of coastline host a range of cliffs hugged by rugged footpaths and renowned rock pools teaming with diverse wildlife all set with views of the impressive island the Great Mewstone. It’s location also means it’s the closest surfing beach to Plymouth, however it does require a decent swell to work well and it’s rocky reef can be hazardous. It’s close proximity to the city can also make it a busy beach, with the small National Trust run car park quickly filling up on a summers day.
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Car parking and facilities
The car park at Wembury beach is National Trust owned and run, meaning it's free for National Trust members, or charges of £5 apply for non-members, reducing to £3 after 4pm. It is a small car park and quickly fills up on a sunny day. It also has a steep walk down to the beach, with some large steps onto the beach itself which can become difficult with lots of equipment.
Beach facilities include the Old Mill café who make a stunning hot chocolate, a beach shop providing rockpooling and general beach equipment, the Marine Centre offering interactive learning opportunities and regular rockpool rambles and Toilet facilities including showers although they are cold. The beach itself is small and with mainly pebbles and some sand at low tide, it’s the perfect location for making some rock stacks.
Wembury beach is a popular spot for water sports with its impressive views and dynamic conditions, although bare in mind this beach is not supported by life guards presence, and the reef can be hazardous.
Wembury is an exposed point break with unreliable and fickle waves needing a solid swell to work. Winter provides the best time of year for surfing here, when southwest swells combine with offshore winds from a northerly direction, on these days quality fun waves can break with swells up to ten feet, however, from personal experience the average winter swell is around 4-5ft. The waves tend to break left providing some fairly long rides on a good day, rights can be taken but tend to be shorter due to the rocks. When surfing here be aware of the rocky outcrops on both sides of the bay partially close to the beach at high tide. Ensure you check the surf report before heading down so as not to be disappointed by a flat sea.
Wembury also offers a great coastline to explore by kayak and stand up paddle boards (SUP), best in the summer months when the sea is a bit calmer. For complete novices the bay area can provide a great place to learn on a clam day, and some impressive photo opportunities with the Mewstone in the background. For those more experienced paddler's looking for a chance to explore further a variety of routes can be take after launching from the beach.
Around the Mewstone
A popular paddle is out and around the Great Mewstone, this roughly 5km round trip paddle offers an alternative
look at the coastline from the sea itself. As you paddle around the island you can see a small Sheppard's hut.
Originally built to house a local man found guilty of a minor
crime, once his time was served he decided to remain
on the island and raise his family, never once returning to shore. Later the hut was used to house a family destined
for exile in Australia, the house was enlarged resulting in the turret shaped building which remains visible today.
The island now hosts a range of sea birds, (this can make it rather smelly, especially in the summer months). The Mewstone itself is now a registered nature reserve and as such landing on the island is not permitted.
Be cautious on this paddle as strong winds and sea currents can make it treacherous especially when rounding the island with its hidden rocks. This route should only be attempted by confident and experienced paddlers with full safety equipment.
Up the River Yelm
The River Yelm sits around Wembury’s headland and offers a fantastic paddle. After launching from Wembury beach paddle out around the reef and head left, hugging the cliffs you’ll soon enter the mouth of the River Yelm. Continue following the estuary upstream it will divert into two options, the left channel will take you up towards Yealpton and Pulzlinch bridge offering a beautiful paddle through Devonshire countryside with multiple creeks to explore. The right channel will lead you to the picturesque quaint villages of Noss Mayo and Newton Ferris boasting a range of pubs, including the Ship Inn, The Swan Inn, and the Dolphin inn and Bistro. All perfect places to stop relax taking in the tranquil atmosphere, before paddling back. I would personally recommend the fish and chips from the Ship Inn at Noss Mayo an award winning waterside pub. For those wanting a shorter paddle around the rivers you could alternatively launch from the public slip at Newton Ferris and just paddle around the estuary.
These longer paddles require some fore planning and stamina. Ensure you check the tide times before beginning paddling so as not to be caught short and stuck in the mud as the tide turns back out. In order to make this an easier paddle you can time the journey with the tide, paddling up the river as the tide is coming in and returning back to Wembury as the tide comes back out. As always check the weather conditions are suitable and not too windy or choppy, ensure you have the correct safety equipment and know your ability.
Another fun activity at Wembury is exploring its vast rock pools teaming with life. With one of the best places in the UK to rock pool it’s perfect for younger explorers. For the best experience head to the beach just before low tide as the large reef will be exposed. Here you are likely to see a copious amount of sea critters including limpets, crabs and star fish. When rockfishing remember to take care the rocks can be slippy, and always ensure you keep an eye on the tide so as not to become cut off or stranded. When handling any sea life take care, don’t keep the creatures in your buckets for too long so as not to distress the animals and always replace animals and rocks where you found them so as not to make any creatures homeless.
Wembury’s area of outstanding natural beauty allows for multiple gorgeous walks around the South West costal path, with stunning vistas and lots of local wildlife.
Wembury beach to Heybrook Bay
This walk provides views across to the Great Mewstone with beautiful cliff top flowers and grazing Dartmoor ponies. The costal path runs close the the cliff edge, in places it has been regressed backwards due to costal erosion and in winter can become very muddy so I would recommend a pair of wellies or hiking boots. Starting form Wembury beach car park, head down to the beach and take a right over the stream onto the costal path behind the beach heading west. Halfway through the walk, a small slipway on the will allow you to drop down onto the beach where you can explore multiple rockpools or you can continue on the footpath around to Wembury point. A steep uphill climb will take you up to the Wembury point trail and views across the bay, this tarmac track track is often a favourite grazing point for the Dartmoor ponies. Continue along this track around the headland until you reach a small gate dropping sharply downhill into Heybrook bay. Heybrook bay is a small village, with the Eddistone inn at its centre, here can stop for some cheesy chips, cold beverage or hot chocolate and enjoy some beautiful views of Plymouth sound! Just head back along the same route to return back to Wembury beach. This is also a great route for those looking to do a costal run as the path is well walked.
The tarmac path at Wembury point also offers an amazing location with easier accessibility. This area is perfect for those with pushchairs or wheelchairs or an alternative area to skateboard or longboard with smooth tarmac. The path is smooth and wide with some beautiful views of the bay meandering around the headland to provide views off Plymouth sound. Wembury point car park is located at PL6 0BA, however it has extremely limited space and the road leading to it is quite narrow.
For more information about Wembury visit the National trust site https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wembury or https://www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk/things-to-do/wembury-beach-p276303
Images by Anna Butler @annnabutler, Jack Cory @jackcory, and Rhi Dumper @wetsuits_and_hikingboots
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