Hit the beaches. Some of our favourites for family holidays in Devon are Bigbury on Sea with its great surf school, Mattiscombe (worth the walk to get there) and Bantham. All are big, sandy and perfect for all ages. But there are plenty of other wonderful beaches all along the south and north coasts; most are very tidal and you’re advised to get a local tide timetable from a newsagent.
Roam around Dartmoor, one of England’s great untouched portions of wilderness, for hiking, canoeing on the River Dart, horse-riding, rock-climbing or just plain yomping. This is the kind of place where all thoughts of computer screens and TVs are banished and kids can work up an appetite through good old-fashioned exercise. The River Dart Country Park is a good place to start. You’re bound to spot ponies out in the open but there are even cuter ones at the Original Miniature Pony Centre. Dartmoor Prison can be used as a veiled threat for unruly kids, but while still functioning as a prison it also has a museum of interest to all ages.
Take kids impressed by the fact that real soldiers play on Dartmoor to Castle Drogo and Okehampton Castle. In Haldon Forest Park near Exeter, those with a head for heights will enjoy the Go Ape treetop adventure course.
Head for Plymouth to take a boat trip into the Plymouth Sound and up the River Tamar, past the Devonport Royal Dockyards, where you’ll see frigates and nuclear submarines. A trip to the National Marine Aquarium is also a must.
Discover the south coast of Devon, dubbed the English Riviera and chock a block with beaches, cafés and restaurants. Though it’s busy in summer, it’s all the more fun for that – teens gravitate to each other on the piers and young children bond over buckets brimming with crabs. At Torquay, don't miss Babbacombe with its model village and clifftop railway down to Oddicombe Beach.
Savour countless villages and the many opportunities to step back into the past. See how the other half lived at Cockington Court & Country Park then let off steam in the gardens. At Brixham, step aboard a replica of Drake’s ‘The Golden Hinde' and visit the Heritage Museum. Paignton has some great beaches and also the country’s only outdoor waterpark. Paignton Zoo is brilliant, but you might also head to Woodlands Park for more animals, plus rides and other attractions.
Pennywell Farm is another place to get up close and personal with animals, including ridiculously cute miniature pigs, while Devon Wildlife Centre and Hospital combines education with fun for a good day out.
Take all ages on a guided canoeing trip in a Voyager 12-seat canoe between Totnes and Dartmouth with Canoe Adventures. Young kids might also like Digger Land, where they can drive real JCBs. Alternatively, Crealy Great Adventure Park has a seemingly endless array of rides.
Don’t miss Dartmouth, a small but bustling town, packed with cafés and pleasant shops and a great place to get on the water – contact Dartmouth Boat Hire Centre, hop on the car or passenger ferry to the other side of the estuary, take sailing lessons or enjoy a cruise between Dartmouth and Totnes.
Explore Salcombe. Its trendiness is reflected in its prices but it's a great place to amble around before taking the small ferry to East Portlemouth Beach.
Catch a steam train ride: the South Devon Railway chugs along the River Dart between Totnes and Buckfastleigh. At beautiful Berry Pomeroy Castle, scare yourselves silly with ghost stories. Powderham Castle is also worth a visit.