Instow lies at the confluence of the river Taw and river Torridge in a tidal setting across the river from Appledore, the beach area is referred to as Instow sands.
The beach changes appearance during the day as the large tidal range goes in and out again. When the tide is in the beach is a thin strip of dry sand but as the tide goes out large expanses of sand are revealed and the boats moored in the river slowly become marooned on the sands.
Generally Instow sands is a good place to paddle and swim. The water is very shallow which makes it great for children.
These calm conditions also mean that Instow sands is not a beach for surfers who are usually found at Westward Ho! Beach instead you will often find dog walkers and families enjoying traditional family activities such as sand castle building and kite flying.
A recent report indicates that rising sea levels is having an impact on the circulation of sand within the estuary. Sand from Saunton, Westward Ho! and Crow Point is influenced by tidal action and can be deposited in other river or beach locations depending on the state of tide, swell and wind direction. Recently this appears to have created a build up of sand on Instow Beach. Sand loss has a negative effect on the ecology of the estuary and it is important that sand at Instow is preserved within the ecosystem. The best idea to tackle this problem is probably to fence the sand dune areas at Instow which helps promote the growth of marram grass which in turn minimises sand loss from water and wind erosion.