Wondering how to spend your days whilst on holiday in Salcombe? We’ve put together a quick list of things...
There are so many things to do in South Devon that visitors can always discover something new, even if they’ve been holidaying in the region for decades. From coasteering and kayaking to sampling wines at Sharpham Vineyard, there’s something for every age, taste and mood, regardless of rain or shine!
Whether you’re on a short break away or a longer family holiday, the area offers so much, from attractions, activities and museums to a wealth of beaches, watersports, walks, and so much more – you really are spoilt for choice! Our locally-based team have compiled an extensive list of things to do in South Devon, so that you have the ultimate toolkit to help plan your perfect South Devon break…
Looking for something specific? Use our quick links below or read on for our comprehensive list of things to do in South Devon:
With two Blue Flag beaches, 17 designated bathing waters and around 80 miles of coast path to explore, it comes as no surprise that some of the most enjoyable things to do in South Devon involves being on the beach! A paradise for beach enthusiasts, the coastline is jam packed with secluded coves, sandy expanses and shingle bays. For a full list of beaches in the region, visit our South Devon Beach Bible, where we’ve detailed directions, facilities, watersports hire and dog restrictions.
With miles of coastline, woodland trails, riverside rambles and rolling countryside, South Devon has a myriad of walking routes that crisscross the region. This small corner of Britain is often regarded as a walkers wonderland, and once you start adventuring, it’s easy to see why! Many iconic sights, including Burgh Island, Thurlestone Rock, Start Point and Dartmouth Castle, all look great from the South West Coast Path, and what’s more, you will discover secluded beaches, craggy cliffs and stunning panoramas as you explore the region’s trails. Individual walks throughout the region suit different levels of fitness and ability, so take a look at our comprehensive South Devon Walking Guide ahead of planning your adventure.
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.
Dartington Hall, set on the outskirts of Totnes, is a majestic 14th century, grade 1 listed manor house nestled in 1200 acres of private estate. Take in the grandeur of this amazing space, or meander through the spectacular gardens. Aside from tucking into a feast at either the popular White Hart pub or the Green Table Cafe, you will find a variety of events held throughout the year at the hall, and you are encouraged to explore the wider estate, with walking routes that navigate through a protected deer park, and along the River Dart, making it a great place for the whole family to visit if you’re looking for things to do in South Devon.
Gin is the essence of British culture and is in the midst of a boom, and today it’s enjoyed worldwide and is ever increasingly growing in popularity. Why not enjoy a unique experience at the Salcombe Gin Distillery, and take home your very own bottle of handcrafted gin, developed and distilled by yours truly. Take a tour through the distillery and finish the day sipping a G&T in the stylish bar overlooking the Salcombe Estuary.
For 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 is 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.
Nestled in the rolling green hills of South Devon, Salcombe Brewery manufactures 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. The 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, so be sure to read our Q&A with Salcombe Brewery to find out how these intrepid entrepreneurs started their business.
When it comes to national recognition, few establishments in the area can match the South Devon Chilli Farm. What started in 2003 as a back-garden hobby by an avid chilli lover has now grown and blossomed into a company whose goods are sold across the country and even receive praise from the likes of Jamie Oliver! Visit the South Devon Chilli Farm to learn of how the chillies grow in the tunnel, and be sure to sample produce, buy your own chilli plant, and try a delicious chilli hot chocolate in the café. Read our article South Devon Chilli Farm – meet the producer to learn more about their story.
Boasting some of the most spectacular views in the country, South Devon is home to three outstanding golf courses situated in the popular destinations of Bigbury, Thurlestone and Dartmouth. Read through our blog on the top golf courses in South Devon to become acquainted with where to find 18 holes of magnificent scenery, peaceful countryside and glorious surroundings – you really couldn’t ask for more!
Step within South Devon’s history and visit one of the ancient castles in the region. Imagine a time gone by as you climb to the top of the battlement on the Dartmouth Castle, learning of how a chain would be drawn across the mouth of the estuary to protect the port from enemies. Visit Totnes Castle, a classic Norman motte and bailey castle, which was founded soon after the Conquest to overawe the Saxon town, or explore 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.
Explore National Trust properties in South Devon, and journey from wild coasts and curious historic houses to lush gardens and secluded beaches. Take a stroll through Overbeck’s, a paradise of subtropical gardens perched on the hillside in Salcombe, or explore Coleton Fishacre’s sprawling 24-acre garden and visit its fascinating art deco house, not forgetting Greenway, an estate on the banks of the River Dart, where you will take an extraordinary glimpse into the beloved holiday home of the famous and much-loved author, Agatha Christie. We’ve compiled a handy guide detailing the must-see National Trust Properties in South Devon.
Choose from an array of luxurious spa facilities and salons in our region. For those staying in or around Dartmouth, Dartmouth Hotel and Spa offer extensive beauty and complementary health treatments. Similarly, around the Salcombe area, the spas at Salcombe Harbour Hotel and The Voyage Spa in Thurlestone are also popular choices. For more information read our blog on sumptuous spas in South Devon.
Within easy reach of the South Hams, Paignton Zoo is one of the biggest and most popular animal attractions in the country and boasts over 2000 animals, 6 habitats, a jungle train, indoor play area and much, much more. They have a selection of award-winning animal experiences with various species including giraffes, giant tortoises, rhinos and meerkats.
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 provide a day of fun for the whole family. You could even make an extra special memory of your visit by adopting your favourite animal, giving you the chance to really help and be a part of that animal’s life.
Pennywell Farm is a firm favourite amongst both local residents and visitors, especially for those who want to get up close and personal with an array of cuddly critters. From rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, and even miniature pigs, not forgetting the grand shire horses, the farm is proud of the hands on experience, and 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 regular updates.
We are lucky enough to have Devon’s largest family theme park on our doorstep, and just a few miles from Dartmouth you will find Woodlands Theme Park. Boasting an array of outdoor attractions, this huge complex also has the largest indoor adventure centre in the UK that spreads 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.
A trip to the House of Marbles in Newton Abbot is a completely out of the ordinary experience, 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, and the attractions include museums, a shop and also a restaurant to enjoy a meal at the end of your day of exploring.
The River Dart Country Park is the perfect destination for adventure seekers. Set within the wild and rugged Dartmoor National Park, the River Dart Country Park is one of Devon’s best-loved family tourist attractions. With oodles of activities including the adventure playground, agility trail and obstacle course, you’re sure to have an amazing day out.
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, and if you’re lucky, you may be able to stroke! Totnes Rare Breeds Farm is a short walk from Totnes mainline railway station and is easily accessible from the steam railway stop.
Enjoy a day out with enchanting butterflies and otters at the Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies Sanctuary. Your visit will start in the area specifically designed to mimic a rainforest habitat, which is home to an array of exquisite tropical butterflies. Keep your eyes peeled and watch as these beautiful and delicate creatures navigate through the air – there’s even a special ‘nursery’ where you can watch as chrysalis open to reveal a brand-new colourful butterfly. Outside, you can get up close to the resident otters, and depending on the time you visit, you will be able to help feed them. There are three species at the otter sanctuary, including the native British, the playful short clawed Asian and larger North American otter. Watch them scuttle about and dive through the water, there’s even a viewing area to see them frolic and play underwater.
For a jam packed day, purchase a triple ticket which includes:
The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s visitor centre at Coombe Park is located about a five minutes (drive) from Totnes. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully received, and there is a café and gift shop. This is a great place to bring children to see and learn about horses, although it is not a petting zoo, and the animals must not be touched unless under the direction of a staff member. Please note, the centre is only open during the summer, from 10 am to 4 pm.
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, navigating through rolling countryside and alongside the River Dart.
Dartmouth Steam Railway operates between the historic harbour town of Dartmouth (departing from Kingswear) and the traditional holiday destination of Paignton, and takes in 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 the area. 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.
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.
Bumble is an indoor play facility in Kingsbridge including a hair salon for children and a comfortable meeting spot for parents/carers. Perfect for allowing kids to let off some steam whilst enjoying a steaming cup of coffee.
Kingsbridge is also 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.
Based near Beesands, the Forest & Beach school 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, it’s an ideal opportunity for a unique adventure, whilst enjoying the freedom to explore a natural environment in a fun, creative and practical way.
Not in the mood for being out in the elements? Not to worry, pop over to Dart Rock Climbing Centre and challenge 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 – the 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.
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 family run crew started their business from their love of outdoor water-based activities, and their mission is to be a one stop shop for adventures on the water, whilst always ensuring safety is a top priority.
Dynamic Adventures offers an extensive range of supervised activities suitable for adults and kids, offered both onsite at their base in Dartington and
offsite in the surrounding area. Pridhamsleigh Cave, for example, just a short drive away from Dartington, is an exciting place to explore an underground limestone expanse under the guidance of instructors.
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, leaving from Dartmouth.
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 kid 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.
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 Hall, 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 many, no visit to South Devon is complete without a bit of retail therapy. Home to many synonymous brands like, Jack Wills, Quba Sails and Will Bees Bespoke, there are also a wealth of independent stores and designer boutiques, so you can shop until you drop! The Totnes, Kingsbridge, Dartmouth and Salcombe high street all have a fantastic array of stores which cater for every taste. Take a look at our blog on things to do in Salcombe to learn about the thriving independent shops and stores in Salcombe.
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 the full schedule.
South Devon is proud of its heritage, and so naturally, you will find a collection of museums and centres that pay homage to tales of the past, providing plenty of opportunity to learn about the rich and intriguing history that has shaped this beautiful area. 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 the regions past, a few of our favourites are:
With such breath-taking scenery, it comes as no surprise that South Devon is home to many influential artists – you really are 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 to learn about where to find some of the most inspirational galleries locally. Three of our favourite local art galleries are:
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 of Bantham offers great waves and stunning views of Burgh Island. Bigbury-On-Sea is also surfable, and at both of these beaches you’ll find equipment hire and tuition. Learn more about surfing in South Devon here.
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. There are many superb locations ideal for wild swimming, and for the brave there’s the annual Bantham Swoosh race in the River Avon. Read our guide to wild swimming in South Devon to find the best spots.
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, and exploring South Devon by kayak is one of the best ways to get up close to its natural beauty. 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 a total adventure for adrenaline-junkies, and the 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.
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.
Sailing is by far one of the most popular things to do in South Devon with both visitors and locals alike, and as such, you will find major annual regattas in Dartmouth and Salcombe and some smaller gatherings in villages like Frogmore and Dittisham. 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 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.
Stand up paddle boarding (or SUP) is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, and South Devon enjoys a thriving SUP scene. Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic way to see both estuaries and sheltered bays whilst getting some gentle exercise. Home to crystal clear waters, South Devon is 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.
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.
Dartmoor National Park resides 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 wild across the moor. Dartmoor is safe, quiet and perfect for a family day out with easy walks, cycling routes and fantastic open spaces. Find out about some of our favourite Dartmoor walks on our blog.
South Devon is a treasure trove of charming traditional pubs, fantastic restaurants and thriving cafés. From fresh crab sandwiches to sumptuous Devon cream teas, there’s a local speciality to suit every palate, regardless of whether you’re dreaming of dining al fresco on a waterside terrace or cosying up by the fire with your favourite tipple. Below is a selection of just some of our food and drink blogs, perfect if you’re looking for things to do in South Devon:
Devon’s bountiful coast and countryside provides an abundance of seasonal produce, and best of all, it’s raised here on our doorstep. Quality meats and sumptuous seafood, together with fresh fruit and vegetables farmed on South Devon’s fertile land, are carefully selected by local farmers to sell at their weekly markets. Even better, 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.
Coast & Country Cottages have a wealth of self-catering holiday cottages across South Devon. Whether you fancy a stay in a luxury holiday cottage complete with hot tub or sea view, or need a large family home, we have the property for you. Browse our website, or call our friendly team who will happily help with your search.