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With its pristine waters, numerous beaches and delightful creeks, the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary is one of the region’s great attractions, and there are several ways to make the most of it during your stay in South Devon.

The Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary is a drowned river valley or ‘ria’, unusual in the fact that it’s not fed not by a large river but by several small streams. It’s a haven for wildlife as well as holidaymakers alike, and it’s always worth keeping an eye out for rare birds and marine animals around the estuary.

During the regattas and race days, the harbour fills with sailing boats but there’s always something happening on the water, and plenty of places to stop and watch the world go by.

Here are ten ways to make the most of the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary during your time in South Devon.

1. Rib-riding

Stylish ribs skimming along on the sparkling waters of the estuary are a familiar sight from Salcombe and the nearby coastline, and there’s no shortage of ways to get on board one. These range from speedy or slow-and-steady tours with local companies like Sea ‘n’ Shore to purchasing your own vessel.

Wolf Rock, based conveniently in Churchstow’s South Hams Business Park, offers the full range of marine services, including rib sales, engine service and repair, storage, launch and recovery. For residents and regular visitors who love to get on the water, rib piloting or riding is at the very least a must-try activity – although be warned, lots of people become quickly hooked!

2. A guided sailing tour with Scratch

Having been around the world five times by the age of 19, East Portlemouth-born Bill ‘Scratch’ Hitchen has many a tale to tell. There’s no better guide to the estuary than Scratch, a friendly and hugely experienced sailor, who’s even happy to let your dog jump onto his Salcombe Yawl as you enjoy a sailing lesson, a guided tour, or a little bit of both.

Scratch Hitchen by the water in Salcombe


Find out more about Scratch’s yawl and launch hire and tuition here.

3. Make a splash with a spot of coasteering

Team member Holly coasteering off Gara Rock

Coasteering is quickly growing in popularity, and there are two companies in Salcombe providing this thrilling activity, which combines swimming, climbing and jumping into the water. Take a rib ride out of Salcombe with Adventure South or Sea ‘n’ Shore to find a coastal spot, or meet up with the former at South Sands to have a go at coasteering within the estuary itself.

4. Stand-Up Paddleboarding and kayaking


Slightly more relaxed activities are stand-up Paddleboarding and kayaking, both of which are popular in the estuary, thanks to its calm water and glorious scenery. Hire equipment from Sea Kayak Salcombe at South Sands, who also provide lessons and guided tours involving both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks.

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5. Wine and dine at the water’s edge

You can appreciate the estuary without getting on or in the water of course, and one of the best ways to do this is with a waterside meal. There are so many wonderful options to choose from, including:

  • dickandwills in Salcombe for a special dinner
  • Kingsbridge’s Crabshell Inn and Salcombe’s Island Street Bar and Grill for a lively night out
  • casual drinks at the beer garden of the Ferry Inn in Salcombe
  • a homemade lunch at the Wardroom Café in Salcombe

Alternatively, pick up a portion of fish and chips or a hearty pasty in Salcombe or Kingsbridge, and find a picturesque spot by the water – again, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

6. Sail a dinghy

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

If you’re looking for a structured way to learn to sail, dinghies are a tried and tested way to start. How about getting in touch with Salcombe Dinghy Sailing? Lead instructors Ross and Zoe Crook are qualified and highly experienced at helping sailors of all levels improve their proficiency. We know because one of our team members took a taster session with Ross last year – find out how he got on with Salcombe Dinghy Sailing here.

7. Pick from plenty of beaches

Salcombe is blessed with easy access to a number of stunning sandy beaches, both in easy walking distance in the cases of North Sands and South Sands, and within a short passenger ferry ride away, as with East Portlemouth, Mill Bay and Sunny Cove. All of these beaches are ideal for a traditional family day at the seaside, whether you want to paddle and swim, sunbathe, play games or build sandcastles. North Sands, South Sands (seasonal), East Portlemouth and Mill Bay (seasonal) all also have places nearby to pick up a homemade bite to eat or refreshing drink.

8. Swim from shore to shore

Wild swimming in the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary is growing in popularity, thanks to the sheltered environment and beautiful scenery. Care and attention is essential of course, with strong tides and constant traffic being important considerations, but for proficient wild swimmers the rewards are huge. Find out more about wild swimming in the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary here.

9. Dust off the walking boots

You can get plenty of exercise and fresh air around the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary while staying nice and dry, by choosing from a range of picturesque walks. These include walking from Salcombe to Bolt Head, or from East Portlemouth to Gara Rock, where you can enjoy both estuary and coastal views.

Find out more about our favourite South Devon walks here.

10. Enjoy a very merry ferry ride to Kingsbridge

The colourful South Sands ferry from Salcombe is loved by kids and adults alike, but if you’d like a longer journey with even more to see, then there’s a seasonal ferry that runs between Kingsbridge and Salcombe. A ride on the Rivermaid passenger ferry is a great way to spot wildlife, appreciate the scenery and catch a glimpse of places to which you’ll want to return later. The same company also offers estuary and coastal cruises. Find out more here.

Spend a week by the stunning Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary and book a holiday in South Devon this year. Choose from an extensive selection of self-catering properties in: