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Stunning scenery, beautiful wildlife, and the gentle lapping of waves against the boat. Exploring the Salcombe Estuary from the water shows you South Devon from a new perspective…

Upon its 30-mile shoreline expect to journey through a myriad of secret coves and crystal waters. Dine at sumptuous waterside eateries and get up close with a varied range of wildlife, from egrets and herons to basking sharks, dolphins, and seals. Much of the Salcombe Estuary is inaccessible by car, so walking or travelling by boat is the best option when exploring its ever-changing waters. 

Exploring the Salcombe Estuary from the water is one of our favourite things to do. And it comes as no surprise to us that it’s a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, whilst also forming part of the South Devon Heritage Coast area.

Exploring the Salcombe Estuary from the water: our favourite things to do

Looking for something specific? Use our quick links below or read on for a comprehensive guide on exploring the Salcombe Estuary from the water:

South Pool

South Pool

Leave the town of Salcombe behind and potter down this peaceful part of the water towards South Pool. This delightful parish is only accessible by boat during high tide, where you can moor up easily and head off on shore for a walk. If you are looking for a picture-perfect, chocolate box village, head to Frogmore.


Alternatively, you can head towards Kingsbridge. Taking in the stunning wildlife and countryside of South Devon, along this length of the estuary. Stop at The Crabshell Inn. A wonderful eatery on the water’s edge, for a delicious pizza, before carrying on your journey down the Salcombe estuary.

Hidden coves and beaches on the Salcombe Estuary

Salcombe things to do

Secluded, sandy coves pepper the shores of the Salcombe Estuary, many of which are only accessible by boat. Stop at Sunny Cove or Mill Bay, two beaches off East Portlemouth, where locals love to spend their days lounging on the sandy shores. Or, take the boat out to sea and admire Bolt Head from the water.

The spectacular headland is an awe-inspiring piece of coastline, rugged and breathtaking, a truly dramatic marker for the town. As you make your way back down the estuary, you can catch a glimpse of Ditch End Beach. A secluded, unspoilt cove that’s only accessible by boat.

This tiny little stretch of sand is particularly family-friendly due to its shallow and calm waters, making it the perfect place for a spot of paddling. For more South Devon coastal inspiration read our comprehensive guide to secret beaches and secluded coves.

Take in the town from the water and see if you can spot Salcombe’s landmarks or even your Salcombe holiday home. There’s something rather special about being part of the view that you have taken in so many times before.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on the Salcombe Estuary

The Salcombe Estuary is a haven for wildlife and is home to important breeding and feeding grounds. On your travels, expect to see a wide variety of birds such as gannets, oystercatchers, cormorants and even the elusive kingfisher. 

You can also expect to see larger mammals, such as dolphins, seals and basking sharks. If you’re lucky enough to be in close proximity with these beautiful animals, make sure you allow them enough room to swim freely, remaining respectful of their natural habitat.

Ali from Salcombe based watersports specialist Sea N Shore says, I am humbled every day when I get to take people out on our ribs and show them the breathtaking wonders of the Salcombe Estuary. My favourite places include Sunny Cove, where the colour of the sea is so turquoise, tranquil and inviting. Also, Salcombe’s protected waterway The Bag is full of wildlife. I often see the seals, jellyfish, egrets and herons, to name just a few! Finally, Starehole Bay – home to the fascinating wreck of the Herzogin Cecile – is not to be missed.

Where to hire a boat to explore the Salcombe Estuary

sailing salcombe estuary

If you’re without a boat and planning to explore the water for yourself, why not hire a dinghy from Salcombe Dinghy Sailing, a motor boat from Whitestrand Boat Hire or a clinker-built motor launch from Salcombe Launch Co.

Alternatively, hire a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board from Sea Kayak Salcombe and peacefully meander your way around the creeks. For those who would prefer an organised trip, there are many options. So why not opt for an exhilarating RIB ride or a longer excursion with Sea N Shore.

Regardless of your chosen means of transport, always check tide times before setting out. Creeks with their extensive mudflats won’t be accessible at low tide! Our jam-packed guide on things to do in Salcombe has even more inspiration on how you could spend your time exploring the area.

Holiday properties overlooking the Salcombe Estuary

Holiday property overlooking Salcombe estuary

At Coast & Country Cottages we have a fabulous selection of properties overlooking the Salcombe Estuary, from quintessential Fisherman’s coastal cottages to luxurious waterside apartments boasting private beaches and moorings!

Visit our website to view our full collection of South Devon properties, or give our locally based team a call and we will be happy to help you find the perfect property. You will be exploring the Salcombe Estuary from the water in no time at all!

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