As Christmas 2019 hurtles towards us like a herd of flying reindeer, here is a handful of suggestions of...
There are so many things to do in South Devon that visitors can always discover something new, even if they’ve been holidaying here for decades. From soft play centres to sampling wines at Sharpham Vineyard, there’s something for every age, taste and mood, and it’s all just a short drive away wherever you’re based in the region.
Our locally-based team have compiled an extensive list of things to do in South Devon, whether you are visiting with your whole family, young kids, or just the two of you. You will find absolutely everything you need to have an amazing holiday in one of the most beautiful places in the UK.
South Devon is a treasure trove of charming traditional pubs, fantastic restaurants and thriving cafés. From Salcombe crab sandwiches to Devon cream teas, there’s a local speciality to suit every palate. Whether you’re dreaming of dining al fresco on a waterside terrace or cosying up by the fire with your favourite tipple, you’ll be spoilt for choice in South Devon. Not only is there everything your taste buds desire, but there’s also loads of venues that include music, entertainment and even play areas for the kids.
See below a list of our food and drink blogs:
With two Blue Flag beaches, 17 designated bathing waters, countless beautiful coves and around 80 miles of coast path to explore, some of the most enjoyable things to do in South Devon involve being by the water. Come rain or shine, our magnificent beaches are a sight to behold. Pack your towels, sun cream and prepare an indulgent picnic. Relax in the sunshine when the kids are splashing about in the water or playing games in the sand. Watch the glorious sun set across the horizon as you have a bbq with your friends and family.
For a full list of beaches in South Devon, visit our South Devon Beach Bible, where we’ve detailed directions, facilities, watersports hire and dog restrictions.
South Devon offers a multitude of festivals and events throughout the year to suit every taste and keep the entire family entertained. From live music weekends, food festivals and regattas to cultural events, outdoor Shakespearean plays and even pirate themed weekends, there’s something to suit the whole family. Take a look through our blogs on what’s on in South Devon as well as festivals in Devon for just a glimpse of what’s on during the year.
Most of South Devon’s most iconic sights, from Burgh Island and Thurlestone Rock to Start Point and Dartmouth Castle, all look great from the South West Coast Path. Discover secluded beaches, craggy cliffs and stunning panoramas as you explore the region’s best trails, which guide you to some fantastic pubs and cafés on route. Individual walks along the coast path suit different levels of fitness and ability, so take a look at our very own comprehensive South Devon Walking Guide for all the information you will need before you set out.
Devon boasts some of the best bathing waters in the UK, and with a range of sandy beaches, secluded coves, crystal clear estuaries and river swimming spots, you are guaranteed to find somewhere rather special to immerse yourself in the water.
You don’t need to splash out on expensive equipment to enjoy the region’s rivers and estuaries. South Devon contains many superb locations ideal for wild swimming, and for the brave there’s the annual Bantham Swoosh race in the River Avon.
South Devon is a fantastic place to discover by water, with its seemingly endless miles of coastline, beaches, coves and bays. At low tide, run through the shallow pools at Bantham beach, or if you’re feeling a little more daring, jump in at Bowcombe Bridge when the tide is high! Find out more about wild swimming in South Devon.
Devon is a region that is proud of its heritage, so naturally you’ll find a collection of museums and heritage centres that pay homage to tales of the past, giving you plenty of opportunity to learn more about the rich and intriguing history that has shaped this beautiful county. Most towns and villages have their own museums, each giving you insight into the unique story of the area. We’ve chosen a selection of museums in South Devon for you to take a look at to learn more about our regions intriguing past, a few of our favourites are:
With such breath-taking scenery and rich culture, it is hardly surprising that South Devon is home to many influential artists. The region is spoilt for choice with a vast selection of art galleries, featuring all sorts of incredible creations. Read our article on art galleries in South Devon for a look at where to find some of the most inspirational galleries locally. Three of our favourite local art galleries are:
Devon’s bountiful coast and countryside provides an abundance of seasonal produce grown and raised here on our doorstep. Quality meats and seafood, together with fresh fruit and vegetables farmed on fertile land, are carefully selected and displayed for sale by local farmers at the markets.
Fresh ingredients are combined to create mouth-watering homemade delicacies, ready to be devoured on the spot, or to be taken home and savoured.
With a wonderful range of farmers markets that run every month throughout the year, you are sure that no matter when you visit the area, you can always enjoy the delicious offerings the land has to offer.
Read our blog on 5 of the best farmers markets in South Devon to find a farmers market near you.
There’s nothing better than sitting back with the lights dimmed and losing yourself in a film. Perfect for the whole family, Kingsbridge cinema features a range of blockbusters and handpicked kino club screenings. You can find this wonderfully quirky cinema on the upper left-hand side of the high street, noticeable from its iconic blue clock perched on the roof.
Not only do they show the latest films on release, but they also stream live performances from the Royal Opera House and National Theatre, as well as many other shows and concerts from across the country.
Totnes film and cinema theatre, located in the heart of Totnes down a hidden passageway, is a truly unique and independent establishment. They offer a wide range of films, carefully chosen from all genres including classic black and white film noir, the best from musical theatre, modern-day classics and Oscar Award-winning movies. With a fully licensed bar which stretches the width of the building, they encourage people to come early and enjoy cocktails, fine wines, and craft beers.
In the heart of the beautiful grounds of Dartington, the Barn cinema is a unique 15th century venue running a wide-ranging film programme including independent arthouse, world and mainstream cinema, seven days a week.
For some, no visit to South Devon is complete without a bit of retail therapy. Home to many synonymous brands like, Jack Wills, Quaba Sails, Will Bees Bespoke and more, there are loads of independent stores and designer boutiques where you can shop till your hearts delight. Totnes, Kingsbridge, Dartmouth and Salcombe highstreets each have a fantastic array of stores which cater for every taste imaginable.
Take a look at our blog on things to do in Salcombe where you can find out more about the fantastic independent shops and stores in Salcombe’s bustling Fore Street.
When it comes to national recognition, few establishments can match the South Devon Chilli Farm. What started in 2003 as a back-garden hobby by a chilli lover, has now grown and blossomed into a company whose goods are sold across the country and received the praises of Jamie Oliver no less. Visit the South Devon Chilli Farm to see how the chilli’s grow in the tunnel, sample produce, buy your own chilli plant to take home, or try a delicious chilli hot chocolate in the café.
Read our article South Devon Chilli Farm – meet the producer, where we found out all there is to know about this amazing chilli farm.
South Devon is a great place to learn to surf or hone your skills. Learn from the experts or hire equipment from Discovery Surf School (Bigbury-On-Sea and Challaborough Beach), TricOceanSurf (Bantham) or Bantham Surfing Academy.
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. Learn more about surfing in South Devon here.
Stand up paddleboarding (or SUP) is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, and South Devon enjoys a thriving SUP scene. Stand up paddleboarding is a fantastic way to see South Devon’s estuaries and sheltered bays whilst getting some gentle exercise.
Home to crystal clear waters, South Devon provides the perfect playground for eager paddleboarders of all ages. If the weather conditions are favourable, most people pick up paddleboarding quickly and absolutely love the sensation of gliding across the water.
There are many places you can hire boards and all the equipment you need, including Waterborn (Kingsbridge), Sea Kayak Salcombe (South Sands), Surfing Sam (South Milton Sands), and Discovery Surf School (Bigbury-on-Sea).
Take a look at our dedicated article on stand up paddleboarding in South Devon here.
Canoeing and kayaking options in our region range from taking on white-water stretches of the upper reaches of the River Dart, to gently paddling around picturesque creeks.
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 here.
Coasteering is an adventure for families and adrenaline-junkies, and is one of the most exciting things to do in South Devon. This activity involves the thrill of jumping off the rocks into deep blue waters, swimming through caves and scrambling over rocks, along with the stunning scenery and the chance of seeing amazing ocean wildlife! Find out more about coasteering in South Devon here.
The most relaxed way to get on the water is to take a scenic boat trip, whether that’s a quick hop on the passenger ferries or perhaps a longer cruise. Include a picturesque ferry ride from Dartmouth to Totnes along the beautiful River Dart and during the summer a tranquil cruise on the Rivermaid between Salcombe and Kingsbridge. There’s also the option of a meal on the Picnic Boat from Dartmouth, or more frenetic options include a RIB ride out of Salcombe with Sea ‘n’ Shore.
Sailing is by far one of the most popular things to do in South Devon with both visitors and locals alike. There is no better way to discover the magnificent coastline than gently harnessing the power of the wind and gliding through crystal clear water.
Sailing is one of South Devon’s great attractions, with major annual regattas in Dartmouth and Salcombe and some smaller gatherings in villages like Frogmore and Dittisham. Sailing instructors and hire facilities abound, including Salcombe Dinghy Sailing and Salcombe Yawl and Launch Hire.
Read through our blog on Salcombe sailing: A complete guide to sailing in Salcombe.
Calling all adrenalin junkies out there! Whether you want to spend the day exploring hidden coves or crashing through the open water on a rib, learning to water-ski, scrambling over rocks, jumping from cliffs, exploring sea caves or discovering incredible wildlife, Salcombe based Sea ‘N’ Shore have it covered. This fantastic family run crew started their business from their love of outdoor water-based activities in South Devon. Their mission is to be a one stop shop for your adventure on the water, while always making sure that your safety is their first priority.
Not in the mood for getting wet? Well then, pop over to Dart Rock Climbing Centre and test your strength and agility in one of the indoor climbing and adventure centres. It’s a perfect place for active families looking to burn off energy, whatever the weather. Make the most of their unique GO! CLIMB! sessions that have been designed to enable everyone to experience the fun of climbing. No experience or equipment required, no age restrictions and no need to book! Their trained and qualified staff take you through the basics and show you how to use the safety system to set you off on your clip and climb adventure.
Dynamic Adventures offers an extensive range of supervised activities suitable for adults and kids. These are offered both onsite at their base in Dartington and offsite around the area. Pridhamsleigh Cave, just a 10 minute drive away from Dartington, is a fantastic place to visit to explore an underground limestone expanse under the guidance of their instructors.
Step inside South Devon’s past and visit one of the ancient historical castles in the region. Imagine a time gone by as you climb to the top of the battlement on the Dartmouth Castle, and learn about how a chain would be drawn across the mouth of the estuary to protect the port from enemies. Visit the classic Norman motte and bailey castle in Totnes, which was founded soon after the Conquest to overawe the Saxon town, or go to Berry Pomeroy Castle, the perfect romantic ruin with a colourful history of intrigue. Read through our blog on 3 must-visit castles in South Devon for all the information you will need for a great day out.
Discover National Trust properties in South Devon. Journey from wild coasts and curious historic houses to lush gardens and beaches. Take a stroll through Overbeck’s – a hidden paradise of subtropical gardens perched on a magnificent hillside in Salcombe. Explore Coleton Fishacre’s sprawling 24-acre garden and visit its fascinating art deco house. Greenway is an awe-inspiring estate on the banks of the River Dart. Take an extraordinary glimpse into the beloved holiday home of the famous and much-loved author, Agatha Christie. We’ve compiled a guide on the 4 must-see National Trust Properties in South Devon for you to read.
Dartington Hall is set on the outskirts of Totnes, a majestic 14th century, grade 1 listed manor house, set in 1200 acres of private estate. Take in the grandeur of this amazing space or walk through the spectacular gardens. Enjoy a variety of events held each year at the hall or enjoy a meal at their restaurant. The Dartington shops, located on the edge of the estate, are a great place for the whole family, whatever the weather.
Standing proud for nearly a thousand years, Buckfast Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery at Buckfast, near Buckfastleigh. Within the abbey precinct, visitors can browse in the bookshop or visit the Monastic Shop which has an extraordinary array of products made by nuns and monks across Europe. This includes the famous Buckfast Tonic Wine, which was originally brewed by the founding monks.
Dartmoor National Park is at the very heart of Devon. It’s a magical, ancient landscape of incredible views, granite tors, deep wooded valleys and rugged wide-open spaces. Nature is abundant in this national park, where you can see the iconic sight of the Dartmoor ponies living semi-wild across the moor. Dartmoor is safe, quiet and perfect for a family day out with easy walks, cycling routes and fantastic open spaces. No visit to Dartmoor would be complete without a stop at Becky Falls. Check out their Animal Discovery Zone before heading out to their incredible 70ft high waterfall.
Find out about some of our favourite Dartmoor day trips on our blog.
For animal lovers, South Devon offers a great range of attractions, especially for those who want to get up close and personal with an array of cuddly critters. From rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and chicks all the way up to grand shire horses, the farm has enough to keep kids entertained for the day. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that if you can pet it, you’ll find it at Pennywell Farm…
It’s big enough to occupy all the family for a morning or afternoon, yet not so big that it would be overwhelming for very young kids.
They also put on regular events and popular nativity at Christmas, so keep an eye on Pennywell’s website for news.
We are lucky enough to have Devon’s largest family theme park on our doorstep. A few miles from Dartmouth on the A3122, you’ll find Woodlands Theme Park. Boasting plenty of outdoor attractions, this huge complex also has the largest indoor adventure centre in the UK that runs over five floors, each the length of a football pitch! It’s not just one of the best things to do in South Devon with kids – it’s one of the most popular family attractions in the South West.
Within easy reach of the South Hams, Paignton Zoo is one of the biggest and best animal attractions in the country. A visit to the zoo is a great family day out, with over 2000 animals, 6 habitats, a jungle train, indoor play areas and much, much more. They have a selection of award-winning animal experiences with some of their most popular species, such as the giraffes, giant tortoises, rhinos, meerkats and more. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even recognise parts of the zoo from the long-running BBC television series ‘Zoo Keepers’ which was filmed there.
Just a short drive from the South Hams is the amazing Dartmoor Zoo, which is famous as the inspiration for the film, ‘We Bought a Zoo’. From Chincha the Jaguar to Kelloggs the Corn Snake, visiting the 72 mammals, 38 birds, 21 reptiles, 16 invertebrates and 5 amphibians will mean a day of fun for the whole family. Make an extra special memory of your trip to Dartmoor Zoo by adopting your favourite animal, giving you the chance to really help and be a part of that animal’s life.
Enjoy a day out with beautiful butterflies and adorable otters at the Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies Sanctuary. Start your visit in the specially designed habitat that feels like a rainforest, home to an array of exquisite tropical butterflies. Watch as these breathtakingly beautiful and delicate little creatures float through the air. There’s even a special ‘nursery’ where you can watch as chrysalis open to reveal a brand-new colourful butterfly!
There are three species at the otter sanctuary, including the native British, the playful short clawed Asian and larger North American otter. Watch them in their natural environment as they scuttle about and dive through the water, there’s even a viewing area to see them frolic and play underwater!
For a really packed day, you can purchase a triple ticket which includes:
Like Pennywell Farm, this popular attraction lets kids and adults get up close and personal with a range of adorable animals. Meet red squirrels, hedgehogs and little Ouessant sheep, not to mention the star of the show, ‘Wizard’ the European Eagle Owl.
Totnes Rare Breeds Farm is a short walk from Totnes mainline railway station and is also easily accessible from the steam railway stop.
The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s Visitors Centre at Coombe Park is about five minutes’ drive from Totnes. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully received, and there is a café and gift shop. The Visitors Centre is only open during the summer, from 10 am to 4 pm.
This is a great place to bring children to see and learn about horses, although it is not a petting zoo – the animals must not be touched unless under the direction of a staff member.
Running between Totnes Littlehempston and Buckfastleigh, the South Devon Railway is a nostalgic steam train service that forms the basis of a great day out, especially if you purchase a saver ticket which includes admission to the Rare Breeds Farm, Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies. Totnes is well worth exploring, just a short walk from Littlehempston Station, and the station at Buckfastleigh has a café, gift shop and museum.
Dartmouth Steam Railway operates between the historic harbour town of Dartmouth (departing from Kingswear) and the traditional holiday destination of Paignton, benefitting from stunning estuary and river views along the way. Why not combine the steam train ride with a river cruise between Totnes and Dartmouth, and an open-top bus between Paignton and Totnes. The famous Round Robin, which involves a scenic ferry trip, steam train ride and bus journey, is a great way to get to know the charms of Dartmouth, Totnes and Paignton. Get some fresh air and feast your eyes on the stunning South Devon scenery, and take some time to explore these three lovely holiday towns between journeys.
A trip to the House of Marbles in Newton Abbot is something out of the ordinary and a great family day out come rain or shine. The House of Marbles is a working glass and games factory set in a historic pottery barn. Attractions include museums, a shop and even a restaurant to enjoy a meal at the end of your day of exploring.
Keeping the little ones entertained on rainy days can be a struggle – or at least it would be without South Devon’s selection of soft play centres and art cafés to come to the rescue.
Paper Bird Island on Salcombe’s Island Street is an inspiring art space just a stone’s throw from our Salcombe office. Here, kids and adults can decorate a range of papier mâché animal and box shapes to take home.
Head to China Blue’s Ceramic Studio in Totnes, where you can paint some pottery or even try throwing it yourself.
Kingsbridge is home to the Art Café, where kids can paint a selection of ceramics that will be fired and made available to pick up later. Centrally located, this is great for children and adults alike.
Bumble is an indoor play facility including a hair salon for children and a meeting spot for parents, that’s creating a buzz about Kingsbridge. Allow kids to let off some steam while enjoying a cup of coffee and a chat.
Being outside is the perfect environment for children. With the freedom to run, swim and climb, it provides the ultimate opportunity to reconnect with life’s simple pleasures and earn those much-loved sandy toes, salty hair, and muddy knees. With hidden coves, rolling countryside and enchanting woodland to explore, South Devon is a giant playground for families that are eager for an adventure filled break.
With so many activities to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start first. With this in mind, we’ve created a roundup of the best outdoor activities for kids in South Devon, suiting children of all ages, and of course, grownups too. Embrace the elements, and re-wild your child in South Devon!
Rock pooling is quite simply one of the best outdoor activities for kids, feeding their natural curiosity and teaching them about various sea-creatures and their habitats. The best beaches to visit for rock pooling are South Milton Sands and North Sands – don’t forget your net and bucket and be sure to respect these delicate homes.
Once the rockpools have been exhausted, let the kids become budding architects or builders by spending days creating sandcastle masterpieces. Build cars or boats to play in, or opt for the traditional bucket-and-tip if you’re less artistically inclined. Our favourite sandy spots include North and South Sands, Mill Bay or either of the gorgeous beaches in Hope Cove.
Entertain the kids for hours while you enjoy the fresh air and beautiful harbour views – that’s assuming you won’t be getting caught up with the crabbing yourself! We’ve made it super easy for you and compiled an all you need to know guide on crabbing, with all our top tips.
Some of the best crabbing spots in Devon include:
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.
Offering curriculum-linked outdoor learning and environmental education, Forest & Beach give the opportunity for a unique adventure whilst in South Devon. They let the kids have the freedom to explore the natural environment in a fun, creative and practical way, with beach days, coastal adventure days and more!
River Dart Country Park is the ideal destination for adventure seekers. Set in the gorgeous Dartmoor National Park, Dart Country Park is one of Devon’s best-loved family tourist attractions. With oodles of activities including the adventure playground, agility trail or obstacle course, you are sure to have an amazing day out.
Choose from an array of luxurious spa facilities and salons in our region. For those staying in or around Dartmouth, Dart Marina and Dartmouth Hotel and Spa offer similarly extensive beauty and complementary health treatments. Around Salcombe, the spas at Salcombe Harbour Hotel and in Thurlestone are both popular choices. For more information about the spas in South Devon, read our blog on 5 sumptuous spas in South Devon.
Gin is the essence of British culture and is in the midst of a boom. Today it is enjoyed worldwide and is ever increasingly growing in popularity. Why not enjoy a rare and unique experience at the Salcombe Gin Distillery, and take home your very own bottle of gin which you’ve developed and distilled. Take a tour through the distillery and finish off the day sipping a G&T in their stylish bar overlooking the water.
Winding down to enjoy something a little more sedate, it doesn’t get more civilised than a cheese and wine tour at Sharpham Vineyard and Cheese Dairy. Resting on the south-facing slopes of the Dart Valley in Ashprington near Totnes, the Sharpham Estate would be worth a visit for the scenery alone. For connoisseurs it represents paradise on earth, with so many award-winning wines and cheeses on the menu. Choose a simple self-guided ‘trek & taste’ option or opt for the whole ‘Sharpham Experience’ – it’s entirely up to you.
Boasting some of the most spectacular views in the country, South Devon has three of the best golf courses one could hope for. For 18 holes of magnificent scenery, peaceful countryside and glorious surroundings, you couldn’t ask for more. Read through our blog on the top golf courses in South Devon.
Situated in the green hills of South Devon, Salcombe Brewery manufacture hand-crafted artisan beers from their very own brewhouse. Devon Amber, Lifesaver and Seahorse are some of the iconic ranges you will find that are produced with its own source of pure Devonian waters, perfect for ale brewing. Take a tour and see where the amber nectar is brewed and most importantly, enjoy samplings in the taproom. Their brewery shop is open daily, and they have an online store if you’ve missed something off your shopping list. We were lucky enough to chat to the owners – read our Q&A with Salcombe Brewery to find out how these intrepid entrepreneurs started their business.
The list of things to do in South Devon is endless and we hope that we’ve given you a glimpse into the incredible places to see, things to do and experiences in our beautiful region. For more inspiration on how to spend your time in South Devon, you may be interested in these articles:
Coast & Country Cottages have a vast selection of self-catering holiday cottages across South Devon. Whether you fancy a stay in a luxury holiday cottage or need a large family home, we have the property for you.