The Ultimate Guide to South Devon

Discover the best places to visit, where to stay and what to eat and drink.

What do you like to do on holiday? Are you an outdoor sports enthusiast, keen on hiking, cycling, and water sports? Maybe you are a foodie, eager to discover new culinary gems wherever you visit, or a history buff interested in learning the local lore. For some, it is not a holiday if there is no opportunity for relaxing on a beautiful beach, while for others, exploring gorgeous little villages is the activity that makes the trip worthwhile. No matter what you want to do, you will find it in South Devon, a captivating region of England renowned for its stunning coastline, picturesque villages, and rich maritime heritage. From sandy beaches and rugged cliffs to lush countryside and historic towns, this area has it all, steeped in a rich history and brimming with things to do. In South Devon, there is something for everyone, which is why we would like to offer this helpful South Devon guide. 

Welcome to South Devon

South Devon is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and history buffs alike. This seaside county is about four hours from London by car, but it features tropical-looking beaches that have earned the nickname of “British Riviera”. A large part of South Devon is a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the region is chock full of green businesses, including organic farms, zero-waste shops, and environmentally-minded vineyards. The landscape, with its rolling hills, is dotted with small towns, the coast features seaside resorts, and the railway lines offer spectacular coastal views as they carry visitors between gorgeous South Devon beaches. 

Coastal Delights

In this breathtaking part of the country, you will find pristine beaches, secluded coves, and dramatic coastal paths. Some of the best beaches on the South Devon coast include South Milton Sands, Hope Cove, Dawlish Warren, Bantham Beach, Blackpool Sands, South Sands and North Sands, in Salcombe, Anstey’s Cove and Torre Abbey Sands in Torquay, Goodrington Beach and Broadsands Beach, in Paignton, Mattiscombe Sands in Start Point, Ness Cove Beach, in Teignmouth, and Wembury Beach, near Plymouth. The beaches are only part of the story, though, and there is much more to explore. 

  • The English Riviera: During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the French Riviera was no longer within reach. That is when towns in the Tor Bay area became known as the English Riviera. The two largest towns, Torquay and Paignton, have beautiful beaches and nostalgic seaside ambiance, Paignton offering the ultimate bucket and spade holiday and Torquay a vibrant, cheerful town with sandy beaches, jam-packed with thing to do. Babbacombe is another gorgeous spot in this area, along with several smaller villages with personalities all their own. One of the most beautiful places in Devon, this area has gorgeous turquoise water, family attractions, arts and culture, and much more. 


  • Babbacombe Bay: This is the place of which Queen Victoria wrote, “'It's a beautiful spot... red cliffs and rocks with wooded hills like Italy and reminding one of a ballet or play where nymphs appear — such rocks and grottoes, with the deepest sea on which there was no ripple.” Visit this jewel of the English Riveria and you will easily understand why she waxed so poetic! Babbacombe is perfect for a beach holiday, or even a coastal stay that allows you to enjoy the beauty of the water without actually getting wet. Home to the highest cliff top promenade in all of England, it offers not only breathtaking views of the spectacular coastline, but also sightings of seabirds, seals, and dolphins. In Babbacombe there are many other coastal and woodland strolls for you to enjoy as well, featuring gorgeous views, hidden coves, and tranquil surroundings. There are also independent shops and boutiques, cosy tearooms, picturesque buildings, and the Babbacombe theatre, which has been hosting performances since the 1930s. Two of Devon’s most popular attractions can also be found here: Bygones, where you can enjoy an authentic life-size Victorian street, and Babbacombe Model Village, featuring four acres of award-winning gardens.  


  • Salcombe: One of South Devon’s most upmarket destinations, Salcombe is a sailing mecca boasting pristine beaches, turquoise seas, seafood shacks, and one of the best distilleries in Devon, Salcombe Gin. It is the perfect place for a blissful retreat, a foodie festival, or a walking holiday, and it is just bougie enough to attract a swanky crowd. You are sure to enjoy Salcombe, just along the coast from Dartmouth, where you can dine on incredible seafood, relax on gorgeous white sandy beaches, and marvel at the breath-taking views along the epic cliff walks. 


  • The South West Coast Path: When you take the South West Coast Path in Devon, you get to experience an exhilarating stretch of the path, full of maritime history, stunning seascapes, spectacular beaches, estuaries full of life, and seaside towns packed with character. You will explore villages, meander through beautiful countryside, delight in gorgeous views, and even see some ruins, a castle, and a National Trust estate once owned by Agatha Christie. 


  • Burgh Island: This iconic spot is a must-see, a tidal island connected to the mainland by a strip of beach that vanishes at high tide. When the tide goes out, you can walk from Bigbury-on-Sea to Burgh Island, and at high tide, you can ride the unique contraption known as the Sea Tractor. There is not much in the way of civilisation on Burgh Island, and that is perhaps the point. Here, you can get away from the bustle of modern life to walk the coast path, spot wildlife and enjoy gorgeous views of the coast. The handful of buildings on Burgh Island includes the 14th-century Pilchard Inn, and the art deco Burgh Island Hotel, which hosted such notables as Winston Churchill,  Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Noel Coward, Josephine Baker, and the Beatles. Agatha Christie found this little island so inspirational that she had a beach house built there in the 1930s as a writer’s house for her. Today, the Beach House is part of the Burgh Island Hotel.


Historic Towns and Villages

In South Devon, there is such a wealth of charming towns and villages, steeped in history and tradition that it is hard to narrow it down into a manageable list of places to visit. Will you choose the charming fishing village of Beer, with its fascinating maritime history, quarry caves and annual regatta? Another wonderful option is Dawlish, a peaceful place for wildlife spotting at the Dawlish Warren, but also a fun place to enjoy seaside activities that include go-cards, mini-golf, and surfing. Exmouth drips with Victorian-era charm, and the red sand and cliffs of Exmouth’s beach make a beautiful contrast against the rows of pastel beach huts. There, you will find great shopping and a jumping nightlife. Or you could choose to visit Sidmouth, the gateway to the Jurassic Coast, and see its Donkey Sanctuary, or head to Teignmouth, a quaint seaside town with independent eateries, an appreciation for the arts, and a beautiful beachfront park. On the banks of the River Dart you will find Dartmouth, with a 15th-century castle, bustling markets, and abundant water sports. Plymouth is also great for water sports, as well as shopping, dining, and attractions to entertain the whole family, including a gin distillery and the UK’s largest aquarium. Finally, we recommend you visit Totnes, the UK’s first Transition Town, part of a worldwide movement work on global crises at a local level. This may be the most ethical town in England, and it is certainly a creative, community minded town, with a wealth of independent shops and cafes and a strong vegetarian and vegan food scene. 


Outdoor Adventures

Just about everywhere you go in South Devon, you will find opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, water sports, and wildlife watching. It is not all beaches, either. The county’s rural interior is also spectacular, especially in places like Dartmoor National Park. One of the last true wildernesses in England, this beautiful space features moors full of heather, towering granite tors, and dense forests. Another outstanding outdoor place to enjoy is the Tamar Valley Area of Natural Beauty, full of picturesque woodland and rolling valleys. In addition to natural beauty, you will find history here, in the ancient mining town of Tavistock, or the living museum at Morewellham Quay. The Tamar Valley is also perfect for walking and cycling, hopping on the 21 mile long Drake’s Trail, for a section or the whole route. 



Culinary Experiences

The culinary scene in South Devon is outstanding, known for fresh seafood, artisan producers, and farm-to-table dining and the abundance of wonderful restaurants might astound you. In Kingsbridge, you will find Twenty Seven, helmed by Jamie Rogers, winner of the South West Chef of the year, where fresh, local produce is used in dishes that are skilfully prepared. In Dartmouth, The Seahorse, perhaps the best-known gourmet restaurant in the region, offers seafood at its best, in a menu of ingredients that are seasonal, fresh, and locally sourced. In South Pool, the Millbrook Inn serves delicious local offerings in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and in Buckfastleigh, you can enjoy ‘farm to fork’ fare at the Riverford Field Kitchen, in the very fields that produced your meal. The Angel In Dartmouth offers bold flavours made from seasonal ingredients, and dickandwills Waterside Brasserie and Bar in Salcombe is a waterside location featuring a menu of local produce and seafood, crafted into scrumptious dishes. This list barely scratches the surface, as South Devon has become a holiday destination for foodies, with fine dining, welcoming pubs, tons of fresh seafood, and picturesque beachside cafés throughout the area. 


Hidden Gems

Once you have seen all the most popular places in South Devon, why not head off the beaten path to a lesser-known village? Noss Mayo is one such spot, a secluded, ancient village with few amenities and abundant natural beauty. Another interesting village to visit is Clovelly, which cannot be reached by car. Because of the narrow cobble streets, villagers and businesses use sleds and donkeys to move things up and down hill. Even in the more popular spots you will find hidden gems, like Kents Cavern in Torquay, prehistoric caves that makeup one of the oldest landmarks in Devon. Inside the caverns, you will find a labyrinth of 400-million-year-old stalactites and stalagmites. Another unusual thing to do in Devon is to access the idyllic sands of Ness Cove beach in Shaldon through an original smugglers tunnel. 



Family-Friendly Fun

South Devon makes for a fabulous family holiday, with fun things to do around every corner. Head to the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company to take a steam train from Paignton to Dartmouth, then a river cruise to Totnes. Visit the beautiful Overbeck’s Garden, high atop a cliff, or the Saltram House, a historic property near Plymouth and a filming location for Sense and Sensibility. Want to meet some adorable creatures in Dartmoor? Visit the Miniature Pony Centre. 


Practical Information Visiting South Devon

Are you ready to experience the beauty, adventure, and hospitality that await in South Devon, where every corner reveals a new treasure? It is easy to get to South Devon, whether you fly into Exeter Airport or take a bus, train, or car. Once you arrive, there is an extensive transportation network. Should you need more guidance, there are visitor information centres sprinkled throughout the region. When you are looking for accommodation, Together Travel Co. is ready to assist you with your travel plans. Our collection of self-catering properties in Babbacombe Bay feature breathtaking views and each of our charming holiday cottages has been carefully restored with luxury interiors and modern amenities. Nestled into the rugged coastline, each Babbacombe beach cottage provides an exceptional seaside escape, and you can choose between two, three, four, and five bedroom sea-facing cottages with décor that alludes to their nautical and cultural heritage. Many of our properties are pet-friendly, which means you are free to bring your furry family members along and give them a chance to enjoy the fresh air and refreshing romps in the beautiful coastal countryside. 


Let Together Travel Make Your South Devon Holiday Spectacular

When you are ready to travel to a gorgeous destination that is just around the corner, Together Travel Co. is here to bring your holiday dreams to life. Why cope with stressful airport queues, when you can load up your car and be at an amazing holiday destination before you know it? Whether you prefer one of our holiday cottages in Devon or you and your family are interested in visiting another locale, we have a wealth of luxury cottages in the UK for you to enjoy. We can make your stay particularly special by helping you make arrangements for a special occasion or preordering a welcome hamper or breakfast hamper to make your stay cosier and more comfortable. Find out all we have to offer by contacting our expert concierge team at +44(0)1625 416430 or emailing us for more information.