JUST browsing the list of activities beckoning from the brochure had me craving a lie down.

Kayaking, wakeboarding or a Trim Trail with the EX34 sports instructors?

How about a session on the high ropes, adventure golf, bungee trampolining, a swim or water-walking session, in a great big ball (in case swimming is too humdrum for you), kiddy karting or rock climbing? Woolacombe Bay Holiday Park is a family-owned business whose mission is that Holy Grail: keeping everyone happy (even the most bewilderingly energetic) while using up that precious annual leave on your holibobs.

This is a noble aim, because, as any journey-frazzled parent will tell you, if the kids are happy, you’re happy. Woolacombe Bay is made up of four award-winning sites slap-bang in the middle of one of the most idyllic beach spots in Britain (or, I think, the planet) on the North Devon coast. These offer holiday-makers the choice of camping and touring trips, caravans, apartments, villas, bungalows and farmhouses or leisurely lodges set in landscaped gardens. We stayed in an exclusive lodge in Golden Coast resort just as the holiday season dawned on this sleepy West Country paradise. Toddler-proof, comfy and hotel-standard stylish, these self-catering lodges are a godsend, with the youngsters playing outside with their instantly made holiday-buddies. Meanwhile their parents and grandparents (extended family trips are the beauty of the park packages) sit on the terrace, exuding that familiar, lightly medicated air of the thoroughly relaxed. Rescued from the work/school/sofa triangle that is the daily grind, the scene is like something out of the 1950s, with children playing so happily outside together in Teletubbyland-safe surroundings, leaving you free to open a bottle of wine and bless this place.

However, back to the action. Woolacombe Bay has ten pools across four parks, as well as bowling alleys, discos, gaming arcades, a cinema, 17th century inn with stonking food, art and craft sessions, entertainments galore, kids’ clubs for all ages (including the Extreme Teen Club with Wii wars and DJ training), spa treats, all linked up by the Billy Beachball shuttle bus. In fact, it feels something like stepping into an entertainments multiverse. The heart of the holiday appeal, though, is the stunning location on the North Devon coast.

Summoning boarders from all over the world, Woolacombe Bay is worshipped for the long-breaking waves that roll in to the award-winning  beach, voted best in Britain last year. The area hosts hundreds of European surfing events, but it has allure even for the usually unbudgeable. Because, as soon as you feel that spritz of ozone in the air, you’ve got your holiday mojo.

That award-winning sandy smile, under seagull squalks and with a child stoked on ice cream, would cheer up the grumpiest land-lover, even if your idea of holiday exertion is a stroll among the rockpools, chips in hand. Luckily, to make the most of all the action, I had taken on holiday a sports enthusiast whose irrepressible energies were made to test the limit of a place like this. Meet Richard: a man whose idea of a holiday hangover cure is to zip on a wetsuit and jog off to catch the early surf. I know: insane. But it takes all sorts.

And so, as my daughter and I sampled the mellow magic of the languid Waves ceramic studio, where we happily painted plates and drank endless cups of hot chocolate while humming contentedly (bliss), he was off to throw himself at the water. Again. Having sampled the breaks of the real thing, he headed for a session on the state-of-the-art surf simulator. This glasshoused gadget generates a sheet of water just a few inches deep, pumped over a mammoth stationary wave.

Deciding against throwing myself into this giant washing machine, I watched in awe as youngsters, mothers and, of course, men, learned to carve, turn and ride that wave. Impressive! And, if you can tear yourself away from the park amenities, you don’t have to go far off-piste to explore this unspoilt West Country wonder. It’s well worth treating yourself to a seafood feast in the cobbled, traffic-free fishing village of Clovelly, a short drive away.

And the gorgeous North Devon coastal walk soaks up this rugged, ragged shoreline, with the option of cycling along the Tarka Trail, earning you calorie credit to splurge on cream tea and cider in the achingly pretty village of Mortehoe. Wildlife-lovers should hop on to the MS Oldenburg to Lundy Island. This is England’s only marine nature reserve where you can spot basking sharks, puffins, seals and birdlife. Our youngster was endlessly thrilled by The Big Sheep Farm with its surreally satisfying sheep-riding races.

There’s also the Milky Way theme park, Quince Honey Farm and spectacular, dramatic scenery of Morte, jewel in the National Trust’s crown. And, an absolute must is the incredibly fun-packed Wildlife & Dinosaur Park in nearby Combe Martin. No commercial claptrap here: this sport occupies 28 acres of spectacular gardens in this area of outstanding natural beauty, with the rolling slopes of Devon rambling down to a hypnotically gorgeous cove, served by a few welcoming pubs. Four weeks later, my four-year old is still chattering about the life-sized dinosaurs at the park, which squirted water from behind their railings. So realistic were they that she still asks whether they are properly locked in? Or are they their way to eat her teddies?!

The wildlife park is an oasis of lemurs, monkeys galore, wolves and big cats, tended by staff so expert that I now feel I have more respect for sea lions than my own species. Watching the sleek, mammoth frames of these beasts chatting, happily performing tricks and generally charming everyone, I would definitely consider a swimming sessions, or a meet and greet, (£25) with the added pleasure of a whiskery photo op.

The Earthquake Canyon ride was a hit, too – and let the train take the strain when those hills get the better of your aching calves. But, the joy of this holiday is that every eye-opening day out is framed by your time at the holiday park itself.

As I learned from fellow holiday-makers, even if you come here several summers in a row, you could never use up the array of entertainment, and pure contentment, on offer. With all activities included in your package, even if you do choose to mooch about enjoying the scenery, it’s a bargain-packed no-brainer for stressed-out families.

Turns out you CAN have it all...


The details...

  • Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks in Devon features a choice of short breaks, plus seven and 14-night holidays. Deals currently on offer – for bookings made online – include four-night midweek breaks for a family of four costing from just £139 (saving £160) in late June. 
  • In peak season, a seven-night holiday for a family of four costs from £399 (a reduction of £330).
  • Guests can enjoy more than 40 free activities in 2013 including indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and steam rooms, cinema, fishing, children’s clubs, daytime entertainment and live music and shows every night.  Also available for a supplement is a surfing simulator, 10-pin bowling, professional nine-hole golf course and high ropes course. 0843 208 0368, www.woolacombe.com/bp
  • The Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, Combe Martin, North Devon, EX34 0NG. Wildlifedinosaurpark.co.uk
  • The Big Sheep, Abbotsham, EX39 5AP. 01237 472366 or thebigsheep.co.uk.
  • The Milky Way Adventure Park, EX39 5RY. 01237 431255 or themilkyway.co.uk