Paddlers’ paradise: A guide to kayaking in South Devon

September 24th, 2016 | By Ross Purdy

With the region’s beautiful coastline, rivers, creeks and coves to explore, it’s no wonder that kayaking in South Devon is such a popular pastime.

North Sands, Salcombe - a popular South Devon beach

Take in the stunning natural scenery, see castles, forts and historic houses from a new perspective, and catch a glimpse of some wonderful wildlife. Or, if you have sufficient skills and experience, why not head for a challenging white water stretch of the River Dart?

This brief guide to kayaking in South Devon will help you find your bearings.

River Dart kayaking

Taking one of a number of boat trips along the River Dart will provide you with some fantastic views from the water. Exploring the waterways, creeks and wooded banks by kayak, however, will give you an even more memorable experience. If you’re interested in kayaking on the River Dart, you’ll find plenty of options, with local companies offering both structured tuition and equipment hire, depending on your needs.

Totnes Kayaks is based at the village of Stoke Gabriel, a beautiful village on the River Dart. You can learn to kayak under supervision or hire equipment if you’re experienced enough to go out by yourself.

Canoe Adventures offers something a little different. Based in Tuckenhay, about halfway between Totnes and Dartmouth, this company gives you the option to rent large canoes by group (each is suitable for up to 10 people). Alternatively, you can book by the seat and join an existing party.

In Dartington Hall near Totnes, you’ll also find Dynamic Adventures, which offers a wide range of options for active days out. Although based by the Dart, most of their trips are focused on sea kayaking. They cover Dartmouth, Salcombe, the Erm Estuary, Bantham, Plymouth and Torbay.

Dittisham, a beautiful village around four miles up the Dart from Dartmouth, is home to Dittisham Boats, which rents out SUPs and kayaks in addition to motorboats.

Holiday cottages by the Sea - Dittisham

Why is kayaking on the River Dart so popular?

Kayaking on the River Dart offers something for everyone, with challenging white-water sections upriver for experienced paddlers and gently meandering stretches as the river winds into the South Hams. Between Totnes and Dartmouth, the water is fairly easily to navigate, the scenery is spectacular and there are some wonderful places to visit by kayak. Why not stop at one of these places for a break?

  • The medieval town of Totnes, famous for its beautiful architecture and quirky character
  • Dittisham, a charming village with the original Anchorstone Café and a popular riverside pub, the Ferry Boat Inn
  • Greenway, the former home and estate of the late Dame Agatha Christie
  • The Sharpham Estate, with its vineyard, cheese dairy and another Anchorstone Café
  • Tuckenhay, home to the much-loved Malters Arms pub
  • Dartmouth, a picturesque harbour town with a fantastic range of cafés, pubs, restaurants, and more.

Kayaking on the River Dart is a fantastic way to get to know the local area, and an excellent way to build up an appetite before visiting some of the region’s best food and drink establishments.

Dartmouth kayaking

In Dartmouth itself, we recommend getting in touch with the Canoe Section of Dartmouth Yacht Club. Their experienced tutors can help complete beginners and they offer helpful taster sessions. These are ideal for those who are only visiting the area or simply want to try their hand before paying for full membership.


From Dartmouth it’s possible to travel upriver to explore the creeks or head out to sea if your training and equipment are up to scratch. There are lots of beautiful coves accessible only from the sea, but caution and careful planning are strongly advised if you’re planning to visit any of these.

Salcombe kayaking

The gentle waters of the Kingsbridge Estuary make for excellent paddling, particularly for beginners. South Sands beach, about 1.5 miles from the centre of Salcombe, is the place to head. There you’ll find Sea Kayak Salcombe, right on the beach next to Bo’s Beach Café.

Rent equipment, join tours or receive instruction from their expert team. Fully qualified and insured BCU coaches can also rent equipment from Sea Kayak Salcombe if they’d like to use South Sands as a base for their own group tours or lessons, etc.

Sea kayaking in South Devon

Kayaking in South Devon isn’t all about exploring inland waters. If you’d rather head out into the ‘big blue’, you’re sure to find an option for you. Here are some popular choices:

Blackpool Sands

Kayaking in South Devon is a popular holiday pastime

In the summer holidays, Venus Watersports at Blackpool Sands runs the Venus Riders Watersports programme. This means you can hire sit-on-top kayaks, SUPs, boogie boards and other equipment, or join a kayaking tour if you’d like to receive some guidance. The beautiful, Blue Flag-awarded beach is at the perfect spot for exploring stunning Start Bay and its many beaches and coves.

South Milton Sands

South Milton Sands sits at the southern end of beautiful Thurlestone Bay and looks out over iconic Thurlestone Rock. Kayakers love paddling out to see this unusual rock formation close up and can hire sit-on-top kayaks and other watersports equipment from Surfin’ Sam. You’ll find Surfin’ Sam in the National Trust car park just behind the beach.

Bantham Beach

Bantham Beach is renowned as the best surfing beach in the region and one of the best spots for watersports in the country. It’s fitting therefore that it’s home to Triocean Surf, an approved RNLI surf hire centre which also supplies kayaks, SUPs and related equipment from their base just five minutes away.


On the beach at Bigbury-On-Sea, which holds a prestigious Blue Flag award, you’ll find a Discovery Surf School. This company rents out an extensive range of equipment including kayaks and SUPs. It’s hard to think of a better spot than Bigbury Bay, which looks out over unique Burgh Island, for exploring by water.


Whatever your level, kayaking in South Devon is a wonderful way to get to know the region’s unspoilt beaches, stunning rivers and estuaries, and enticing harbour towns and villages. Take a look at our extensive range of holiday cottages in Salcombe, Dartmouth and in the surrounding South Devon countryside.