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Kayaking at Blackpool Sands

Make the most of our sunny days by taking part in some of these outdoor activities in South Devon during your break.

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On the water

There are countless ways to enjoy South Devon’s coastal waters, rivers, estuaries and lakes. These range from exploring the underwater ruins of South Hallsands as part of a scuba diving expedition, to taking a relaxed trip up the River Dart on the historic Kingswear Castle Paddle Steamer.

Here are some of the most popular ways to get on the water in South Devon:


North Sands, Salcombe - a popular South Devon beach

Exploring South Devon by kayak is one of the best ways to see its natural beauty from a new angle. Instructors and equipment hire facilities are dotted all around the region, making it ideal for novices as well as experienced kayakers.

The River Dart is known as one of the best kayaking rivers in the country, with sections of white water upriver giving way to gentle stretches from Totnes to the estuary at Dartmouth. The Kingsbridge Estuary is another popular area, offering kayakers the chance to discover unspoilt creeks and beaches, especially around Salcombe and East Portlemouth.

Find out more about kayaking in South Devon, including where you can hire equipment, here.


Surf South Devon 1

Devon’s premier surfing beach at Bantham offers great waves and stunning views of Burgh Island. Bigbury-On-Sea is also surfable, and at both these beaches you’ll find equipment hire and tuition.

Find out more about surfing in South Devon.


SUP, or Stand-Up Paddleboarding, is one of the fast-growing watersports in the UK. It’s a fun way to exercise and take in the view, and it’s something that’s offered all around the region. Find out how our team members got on when they tried SUP with Triocean Surf, based near Bantham Beach.


You’ll find a huge range of opportunities to sail in South Devon, whether you’re a complete novice, an experienced sailor or anywhere in between.

Going sailing for the first-time? Expert instructor Ross Crook recommends starting small.

Beginners may be interested in lessons from the experienced instructors at Salcombe Dinghy Sailing. Find out how one of our team members got on in his first lesson with Ross Crook last autumn.

Ross also gave us his tips for first-time sailors here.

Another highly experienced, patient local instructor is Bill ‘Scratch Hitchen’. Scratch has spent his life on the water, having circumnavigated the globe several times as a merchant seaman and worked for 17 years as a shell fisherman out of Salcombe. There’s nobody better to show you the estuary in a Salcombe Yawl, and he’ll even let you bring your dog!

Find out more about Scratch here.

These are just two examples of the wide selection of instructors, schools and businesses offering sailboat hire in the area.


A further way to see South Devon from the water is to hire a motorboat. These include:

In many cases, no experience is necessary, but checking ahead is advised.

On land

Starting at the more active end, Dartington-based Dynamic Adventures offers guided outdoor activities for kids and adults, including:

  • caving
  • archery
  • zipline
  • high ropes
  • rock climbing
  • abseiling
  • orienteering
  • mountain biking.

Interested in learning or developing an outdoor skill? Salcombe Shooting School offers tuition and practice sessions which are suitable for all levels.

Or perhaps something a little less action-packed? Discover historic Dartmouth on a guided tour, organised by the Dartmouth Tourist Information Centre. Tours take between one hour and 90 minutes and take in the harbour town’s most important buildings and sites.

Days out in Devon - Dartmouth

If you prefer to walk at your own pace and plot your own route, we recommend heading to the South West Coast Path. Some of our favourite sections to explore are from Dartmouth to Blackpool Sands and from Hope Cove to Bantham Beach, as well as the especially rugged trail around Start Point.

For kids

If you’re keen to ensure your kids get a healthy dose of sunshine, fresh air and exercise on holiday, you’ll find no shortage of outdoor activities to tempt them in South Devon.

Most of the watersports schools and hire services are suitable for children (minimum age restrictions may apply), but there are plenty of options with a focus exclusively on kids.

These include:

Forest & Beach

Based near Beesands, Forest & Beach provides outdoor learning and environmental education. Run by experienced primary school teachers, Pete and Andrea Moore, Forest & Beach offers inspirational learning opportunities through forest and beach school activities, farm visits and more.


Woodlands is Devon’s largest family theme park. Located just a few miles from Dartmouth on the A3122, the park combines a huge indoor adventure centre with a wide range of outdoor rides and attractions. Extra entertainment and activities are always arranged for holiday periods, so it’s worth checking out their website for upcoming events.

Animal attractions

If your children love animals, they’ll adore the following attractions, all within easy reach of anywhere in the South Hams:

Pennywell Farm

Located near Buckfastleigh, this popular petting zoo gives kids and adults lots of opportunities to pet and stroke animals from rabbits and guinea pigs to shire horses. Find out more about Pennywell Farm here.

Totnes Rare Breeds Farm

A stone’s throw from the South Devon Steam Railway station at Totnes Littlehempston, this little animal attraction is just the right size for a visit with younger children. The rare owls, including Wizard the European Eagle Owl, are the farm’s biggest stars. Find out more on the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm website.

Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies

Situated at Buckfastleigh Station on the South Devon Railway, Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies are separate complexes but you can purchase a joint ticket if you’d like to see both. You can also buy an overarching ticket permitting you to visit Totnes Rare Breeds Farm, Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies as well as ride the steam train – this provides an active and fun day out for all the family.

For even more outdoor activities in South Devon, check out:

You can also browse all our ‘Family days out’ blog articles here.

South Devon makes a wonderful base for families looking for lots of outdoor activities to enjoy on land and sea, all within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Ferryside in East PortlemouthExplore almost 400 self-catering holiday homes in South Devon.