This wildly beautiful bay offers an ancient quay, some of the most spectacular geology in Northern Europe, the Shipwreck and Smuggling Museum, the Hartland Quay Hotel and Wreckers Retreat Bar, wonderful sunsets and a beautiful sandy beach.
Open all year, it is situated right on the coast path so is easily reachable on foot. Or, for a thrilling arrival, drive or cycle down via the windy toll road which is frequently used for International Hill Climb racing. There is plenty of parking for vehicles of all sizes - and you'll be hard pushed to find a car park with a more incredible view!
The beach itself is spectacular in all weathers. On calm days it's perfect for sunbathing, paddling, sea bathing, digging in the soft sand, rockpooling, crabbing and picnicing. On wild days there is nowhere better to view the awesome power of the sea and wind as the waves crash against the incredible rocks and cliffs, and to beachcomb along the pebbles to see what bounty has been thrown up.
Once the old customs houses and warehouses for the bustling quay (which was swept away in the storm of 1887), Hartland Quay Hotel offers a wonderful place to stay in this most spectacular of settings. Surrounded by the sweeping, geometric cliff faces, steeped in history and legend, and despite all the home comforts, secluded in a way that is rare to find in these modern times, it is a genuinely family run business (Chris and Jill Johns are the third generation of Johns to run the hotel). It provides a very warm welcome, caters well for families and offers comfortable en-suite rooms (in what were once the hay lofts), piping hot water and generous breakfasts sourced from local ingredients.
The Wreckers Retreat Bar (once the stables) is decorated with a fascinating array of relics from shipwrecks past and is the perfect place to eat, drink and relax before walking, rockpooling and watching the powerful waves on Hartland Quay beach. It offers a genuinely friendly welcome, good lunchtime and evening food for all tastes and budgets (including fish straight from the sea), seating inside and out (perfectly snug on wild Hartland days and glorious views on sunny and calm ones), and real ales including some local ones. Children are genuinely welcomed and catered for and well behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the bar.
You can also explore the history of Hartland Quay and its spectacular coastline inside the Hartland Quay Museum. The museum’s many colourful displays tell the story of four centuries of shipwrecks, of the locally based, heroic life saving services, and of the men and ships which traded from Hartland Quay over the centuries.
Finally, if you're lucky enough to be down at Hartland Quay on a clear evening, you are likely to be treated to some of the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever see.