Best South Devon Things To Do, Plymouth, South Devon

Best South Devon Things To Do, Plymouth, South Devon

South Devon is one of the UK's most popular holiday destinations. It's packed with visitor attractions. We list some of the best below.

 

Major South Devon holiday attractions

Plymouth National Marine Aquarium. Located by Sutton Harbour and Plymouth's historic Barbican overlooking Plymouth Sound. A day at the UK's largest aquarium is an amazing experience. Great for rainy days. Once you've finished at Plymouth National Marine Aquarium, wander across to the Barbican and explore Sutton Harbour. Plymouth Hoe is nearby.

Paignton Zoo. Devon's biggest zoo is situated on the outskirts of Paignton in The English Riviera. Very easily accessible by car, it's a top family day out.

Living Coasts. Coastal zoo and aquarium located on Torquay's waterfront in The English Riviera. Discover Torquay Harbour and take a boat trip after your visit.

Exeter Cathedral. One of the UK's most extraordinary buildings, Exeter Cathedral is located in the heart of the city. Includes 'the longest uninterrupted gothic vaulting in the world [which] is one of the finest examples of architecture anywhere'. (Exeter Cathedral website)

Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM). This is an exceptional museum with a remarkable collection that was voted 'Museum of the Year 2012'. We can't recommend the museum highly enough. Again, located in the centre of Exeter.

Burgh Island. Iconic UK location. At low tide, Burgh Island is connected to the pretty coastal village Bigbury-on-Sea by a narrow stretch of sand. At high tide, the water rises and cuts the island off which provides the ideal excuse to take a trip on the famous sea tractor!

Haytor Rocks. Dartmoor's most famous tor is very easily accessible via the A38 and Bovey Tracey. Located on the east side of Dartmoor, it provides huge views of the National Park and South Devon coast.

Salcombe Kingsbridge Estuary. When the sun's out, this is one of the most extraordinary locations in the UK. Essential visiting when on holiday on South Devon.

Woodlands Park. South Devon's most popular adventure park is situated near Totnes and Dartmouth. Kids love the place.

Babbacombe Model Village. Kids also love Babbacombe Model Village. Located in Babbacombe in the north section of The English Riviera, it's close to Babbacombe Cliff Railway, Oddicombe Beach and Babbacombe Beach and Harbour.

Kents Cavern. Show cave situated near the centre of Torquay in the north east section of The English Riviera. There is evidence of human activity in the area stretching back 500,000 years. Britain's oldest human bone was found in the cave dating back some 40,000 years. Kents Cavern is located in the world's first urban Geopark.

Dartmouth Steam Railway. Famous South Devon railway running between The English Riviera and Kingswear/Dartmouth. Part of the classic Round Robin provided by Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway. Take the Dartmouth Kingswear Lower Ferry to Kingswear. Hop on the Dartmouth Steam Railway to Paignton Station. Ride on the bus to Totnes Steamer Quay. Follow the River Dart downriver on the Dartmouth Totnes River Cruise. Clearly, you can take the trip in the other direction.

Torre Abbey. If culture and history are of interest then Torre Abbey is essential visiting. Located in Torquay, it's a fascinating place.

Morwellham Quay. Morwellham Quay is located on the Devon/Cornwall border and is part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Major holiday attractions just outside South Devon

Crealy Adventure Park & Resort. Hugely popular family adventure park just east of Exeter in East Devon.

Eden Project. One of the UK's popular visitor attractions is within easy driving distance of South Devon.

 

Beaches in South Devon

Blackpool Sands (Beach). Famous shingle (small pebble) beach a short distance south east of Dartmouth. It's private so you have to pay a small parking fee to access the beach but there are excellent facilities including toilets, a cafe and shop. 

Bantham Beach. Huge low tide sand beach with top views across the water to Bigbury-on-Sea Beach and Burgh Island. Bantham is popular with families and surfers. Stunning location.

Bigbury-on-Sea Beach is South Devon's most famous beach. The big low tide sand beach connects with Burgh Island.

South Milton Sands/Thurlestone Sand (Beach) is a National Trust sand beach with a superb cafe. South Milton Sands is part of Thurlestone Sand.

South Sands (Beach) is located near the mouth of The Salcombe Kingsbridge Estuary. Great place for watersports.

Mill Bay Beach (National Trust) is a sand beach across the water from Salcombe on The Salcombe Kingsbridge Estuary. At low tide, Mill Bay Beach merges with other beaches lining the estuary. Extraordinary place.

Slapton Sands (Beach). Huge stretch of shingle that runs down the edge of Start Bay.

Goodrington Sands (Beach). Famous red sand beach on The English Riviera.

Dawlish Warren Beach is a popular holiday spot near the mouth of the Exe Estuary. There's a big, sand beach backing onto dunes. In high season, it gets busy at the southern section of the beach. To get away from the crowds, wander in the direction of Exmouth. A huge spit of sand pushes out into the estuary. This area is a National Nature Reserve as well. Beautiful spot.

See our Best South Devon Beaches listing for a comprehensive list of South Devon beaches organised by location.

 

National Trust properties in South Devon

Coleton Fishacre (National Trust). Stunning National Trust property on the South Devon coast between Kingswear/Dartmouth and the south end of The English Riviera.

Greenway (National Trust). Greenway was once Agatha Christie's home. We'd recommend taking the ferry to Greenway Halt and the National Trust's Greenway. Note that you can walk back to Kingswear on the Dart Valley Trail before taking a ferry across the water to Dartmouth.

Overbeck's Garden and Museum (National Trust). Another amazing location overlooking the Salcombe Kingsbridge Estuary.

Saltram (National Trust). Situated on the outskirts of Plymouth, one of the National Trust's busiest Devon properties.

Buckland Abbey (National Trust). Once home to Sir Francis Drake, Buckland Abbey is located in the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by Dartmoor National Park.

Compton Castle (National Trust). Wonderful building. Restricted opening times so consult the National Trust website for information.

Bradley (National Trust). Located on the edge of Newton Abbot. Again, restricted opening times so consult the National Trust website for information.

 

English Heritage properties in South Devon

Dartmouth Castle (English Heritage). Dartmouth Castle and the smaller Kingswear Castle across the water guard the mouth of the Dart Estuary. The setting is magnificent and worth visiting for the views alone.

Totnes Castle (English Heritage). English Heritage castle in the heart of Totnes.

Berry Pomeroy Castle (English Heritage). Impressive castle ruin situated between Totnes and The English Riviera.

Salcombe Castle (English Heritage). Another castle ruin on The Salcombe Kingsbridge Estuary.

 

Boat trips in South Devon

Plymouth Ferries and Boat Trips. Boat trips and water taxis around Plymouth Sound and the River Tamar.

Totnes Boat Trips. Boat trips on the River Dart.

Torquay Ferries and Boat Trips. Boat trips around The English Riviera and South Devon coast.

Paignton Ferries and Boat Trips. Boat trips around The English Riviera and South Devon coast.

Brixham Ferries and Boat Trips. Boat trips around The English Riviera and South Devon coast.

Dartmouth Ferries and Boat Trips. Boat trips in the Dart Estuary, on the River Dart and along the South Devon coast.

Salcombe Boat Trips. Salcombe East Portlemouth FerrySouth Sands Sea Tractor/Taxi and Salcombe Kingsbridge Ferry.

 

Zoos and wildlife in South Devon

Paignton Zoo. Devon's biggest zoo is situated on the outskirts of Paignton in The English Riviera. Very easily accessible by car, it's a top family day out.

Dartmoor Zoo. Located between the south border of Dartmoor National Park and the South Devon coastline.

Shaldon Zoo. Situated on the edge of the pretty South Devon village Shaldon which overlooks the Teign Estuary to Teignmouth.

Plymouth National Marine Aquarium. Located by Sutton Harbour and Plymouth's historic Barbican overlooking Plymouth Sound.

Living Coasts. Coastal zoo and aquarium located on Torquay's waterfront in The English Riviera. Discover Torquay Harbour and take a boat trip after your visit.

Pennywell Farm. Top South Devon/Dartmoor day out for young families.

Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies. The South Devon Railway runs between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies is located at the Buckfastleigh end of the line. Totnes Rare Breeds Farm is located by Totnes.

Exe Estuary RSPB Nature Reserves. Amazing cluster of nature reserves along the Exe Estuary.

 

Gardens in and around South Devon

Coleton Fishacre (National Trust). Huge gardens sloping down to the South Devon coast.

Overbeck's Garden and Museum (National Trust). Gardens overlooking the Salcombe Kingsbridge Estuary.

Saltram (National Trust). Extensive gardens on the edge of Plymouth.

Buckland Abbey (National Trust). Beautiful, intimate gardens surrounding Buckland Abbey.

 

Museums in South Devon

Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM). This is an exceptional museum with a remarkable collection that was voted 'Museum of the Year 2012'. We can't recommend the museum highly enough. Again, located in the centre of Exeter.

Torre Abbey. A museum and art gallery housed within an ancient abbey, this is up there with the best cultural attractions in South West England. It's an amazing place that's seen a lot of investment in recent years which means the exhibitions and building are high quality. If you like history and the arts, make sure you go.

Torquay Museum. Brilliant local museum. Visit alongside a trip to Kents Cavern.

Plymouth Mayflower Visitor Centre. Tells the story of the Pilgrim Fathers. Great location on Plymouth's historic Barbican.

 

Outdoor activities in South Devon

South West Coast Path. See our Best South Devon SWCP/South West Coast Path Walking listing for more information.

Templer Way. Drops down from the Haytor Rocks area of Dartmoor National Park to the Teign Estuary and the South Devon coast at Shaldon and Teignmouth. Great walk.

Tamar Trails. Superb place. If you have kids and are looking for a family adventure holiday, the Tamar Trails Centre could keep you going for weeks. Activities include treesurfing, mountain biking, canoeing, archery and walking.

Haldon Forest Park including Go Ape Haldon Forest. Big family favourite for locals with kids.

Exe Estuary Trail. Superb multi-use trail running around the Exe Estuary. We'd recommend cycling the trail.

Drake's Trail. Another superb multi-use trail but this time on the other side of South Devon running between Tavistock and Plymouth.

Plymouth Tinside Lido. One of the best places to swim in the UK!

Splashdown Quaywest. Bills itself as the UK's biggest outdoor waterpark. We've spent many great days with the kids at Splashdown Quaywest. Stunning location overlooking Goodrington Sands and Tor Bay in The English Riviera.

Bigbury-on-Sea Discovery Surf School. Learn to surf in this iconic UK location.