South Devon, home to the South Devon Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is one of the most enchanting parts of Devon, if not the UK.
If you’re looking to visit amazing beaches, swim and surf in crystal clear waters, and hike along the rugged cliffs of the southwest coast path, then South Devon is the place to do it.
From beaches and cute villages to vineyards and remote islands, here are the 25 best things to do in South Devon for a great day out!
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Christina Patel.
Address: 1 Promenade, Kingsbridge TQ7 1JD
Kingsbridge is a sweet market town that lies on the Kingsbridge Estuary.
Come here just before sunset to get the best views of the estuary – the tide is high and the water is still and everything feels so peaceful.
If you like to enjoy your sunsets with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, head to The Crabshell Inn, a delightful little pub located right next to the water.
2. Salcombe Harbour
Address: Salcombe Shadycombe Car Park
Salcombe is probably one of the most beautiful towns in South Devon.
In fact, it’s probably one of the most beautiful places to visit in Devon, full stop.
The streets are lined with multicoloured buildings and independent/boutique stores ready for you to browse.
There are three main car parks in Salcombe but I found Shadycombe (address above) to be the easiest to access.
3. Burgh Island
Address: Unnamed Road, Bigbury-on-Sea, Kingsbridge TQ7 4AS
Burgh Island is a small tidal island located in the town of Bigbury-On-Sea.
On the island, you can find beautiful golden sand and a secret (not so secret) natural mermaid pool.
In low tide, you can get over to the island on foot and in high tide, you can get over to the island via a sea tractor (which also happens to be one of the worlds first).
However, this stops running early evening so make sure you get your timings right!
4. Snapes Point
Address: Snapes Point National Trust Car Park, Salcombe TQ8 8NQ
Snapes Point is the place to come for unrivalled 360 views of the Kingsbridge Estuary, the rolling hills of Devon and the town of Salcombe itself.
Snapes Point is also a huge hit with the locals, so you know it’s a spot worth visiting.
The walk from the car park to the viewpoint is an easy (and very scenic) twenty-minute walk.
Although be warned, you might encounter a sheep traffic jam which could slow you down ever so slightly.
5. Gara Rock
Address: Salcombe TQ8 8FA
Gara Rock Beach (or Seacombe Sands as it’s sometimes known) has to be my favourite spot in all of South Devon, and I was lucky enough to experience this place all to myself.
It’s a small, and pristine cove located at the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary.
To get to the beach, simply park up in the free parking spot close to Gara Rock Hotel and then follow signs for ‘West Prawle’.
It shouldn’t take you longer than twenty minutes to reach the beach.
6. Start Point Lighthouse
Address: Stokenham, Kingsbridge TQ7 2ET
Start Point Lighthouse has been guiding ships through the English Channel since 1837.
Start Point is one of the most exposed headlands in all of England, which makes for some pretty dramatic Landscapes.
The best bit? It’s a great place to watch the sunrise.
So, if you’re an early riser make sure you head to Start Point to experience a pretty epic view of the sun rising over the horizon.
7. Mill Bay
Address: 2 Devon Rd, Salcombe TQ8 8PU
When I first arrived at this stunning bay, I was immediately transported back to Thailand.
The golden sand, the emerald green water and all the trees growing on the rock gave it that real Thailand feel.
There are a few ways of getting to Mill Bay: drive directly to the onsite National Trust car park, catch a water taxi from Salcombe Harbour or hike over from Gara Rock (mentioned above).
8. South Devon Railway
Address: The Railway Station, Buckfastleigh TQ11 0DZ
Take a ride on the famous South Devon steam train.
The original line was first opened in 1872. and was used for the transporting of goods, such as coal, wool and cider running until 1962.
Today, it now operates solely as a tourist attraction.
The line runs for 14 miles from Buckfastleigh to Totnes, through the gorgeous River Dart Valley, and the experience aims to transport you back in time by recreating train travel between the golden era of the 1930s to the 1960s.
The South Devon Railway is great fun for all the family and suitable for all ages.
9. Hope Cove
Address: Hope Cove, Kingsbridge TQ7 3HN
The village of Hope Cove is home to two gorgeous little beaches (Mouthwell Sands and Harbour Beach) and famously featured on the BBC hit drama “The Coroner”.
This location is a great place to come if you have a family.
Spend your day at the beach making sandcastles and follow it up with a spot of lunch at the village pub, Hope & Anchor, which has great views of the water.
Head straight here and park up in one of the villages, or hike here from Bolberry Down which will take you roughly 45 minutes to complete.
10. Sharpham Vineyard
Address: Sharpham Estate, Totnes TQ9 7UT
No, you don’t have to travel all the way to the vineyards of Tuscany or Napa Valley, we have it all right here on our doorstep in South Devon.
Sharpham Vineyard is a producer of classic British wines and offers guided tours and tasting sessions, with prices starting at as little as £15 per person.
If the wine tasting wasn’t enough, they also have an onsite cheese dairy and you can purchase some of their award-winning cheese for yourself. Delicious!
11. Soar Mill Cove
Address: Kingsbridge TQ7 3EN
Only accessible by foot or boat, this small sandy inlet is the perfect place to come to spot an abundance of wildlife and/or relax with a good book.
To get here, head to Bolberry Down National Trust Car park and then take the 20-30 minute downhill walk to the cove.
You can walk directly onto the beach as well as hike up on the cliffs beside the beach to get incredible views of the cove.
After your hike, be sure to stop off at Soar Mill Cove Hotel for a quick coffee.
12. Berry Head Nature Reserve
Address: Gillard Rd, Brixham TQ5 9AP
Berry Head is an internationally acclaimed heritage site and an area of conservation.
It’s home to both stunning wildlife and fascinating history.
Come here to enjoy incredible coastal walks, explore the Napoleonic War fortifications or spot some of the impressive wildlife.
Hungry after all that activity, make sure to grab some coffee and cake from the award-winning Guardhouse Café.
13. Thurlestone Beach
Address: 5 Thurlestone Rock, Thurlestone Sands, Kingsbridge TQ7 3JY
Thurlestone was another one of my South Devon favourites.
It’s such a peaceful and relaxing place and its natural beauty is utterly charming, so much so it’s won an award from the Marine Conservation Society thanks to its crystal clear waters.
Thurlestone is the ideal spot to visit if you want to avoid the summer crowds.
I’d recommend coming here for a beachside picnic.
Address: Dittisham, Dartmouth TQ6 0EU
Just a stone’s throw (short ferry ride) from Dartmouth is the village of Dittisham.
This picturesque village is lined with multicoloured cottages and small fishing boats that make you feel as though you’ve stepped inside a painting.
Head to Anchorstone Café on the waterfront for some locally caught, fresh seafood.
15. Bantham Beach
Address: Bantham, Kingsbridge TQ7 3AN
If you love sunsets and sand dunes then Bantham Beach is one of the best things to do in South Devon for you.
Bantham Beach is one of the best places in all of South Devon to watch the sun go down and to play amongst the sand dunes.
Not only that, but it’s also a blue flag beach so you know it’s going to be incredible.
Fancy trying your hand at surfing or paddle boarding? Bantham is the place to do it.
You can head to Bantham Surfing Academy to find out more.
Want to get those steps in?
Then why not walk from Thurlestone Beach to Bantham and take in some gorgeous coastal views?
16. Mattiscombe Sands
Address: Stokenham, Kingsbridge TQ7 2ET
Visit one of South Devon’s most secluded beaches with a trip to Mattiscombe Sands.
The water is a gorgeous turquoise blue, and the beach itself is home to an array of wildlife.
If you’re lucky you might get to share the stretch of sand with a family of cute grey seals.
Mattiscombe is known for being quite difficult to access, with a short but steep and slippery walk down to the bay, so be prepared for the challenge!
Mattiscombe is close to Start Point Lighthouse, so kill two birds with one stone and visit them both on the same trip.
17. Dartmouth Castle
Address: Castle Rd, Dartmouth TQ6 0JN
Combine coastal walks and history with a trip to Dartmouth Castle.
The castle has guarded the entrance of the Dart Estuary for over 600 years and offers incredible views of the sea.
Visit the castle tea rooms and take a ride on the Dartmouth Castle ferry for the ultimate experience.
If you want to walk around the castle make sure you book your visit here.
Address – Kingsbridge TQ7 2EY
Both a short walk (20 minutes) and a short drive (six minutes) from Start Point is Hallsands Beach.
Hallsands is a beautiful shingle beach (and another of my favourites!).
The waves here are loud and strong so it’s the perfect place to relax in the morning and listen to the ocean crash along the shore.
Hallsands is also such a great starting point for some of the best walks of the southwest coast path.
19. Dartmouth Harbour
Address: Dartmouth TQ6 9PT
Dartmouth Harbour is a wonderful natural port lined with an array of restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Make sure you stop here for a spot of lunch or a quick coffee to admire the stunning views and the cute fishing boats.
20. Greenway House
Address: Kingswear, Brixham TQ5 0ES
The previous home of one of the world’s best-selling authors, and legendary crime writer, Agatha Christie, Greenway House is one of the best things to do in South Devon.
Christie once described Greenway House as “the loveliest place in the world”, and if that’s not a good enough reason to visit there, then I don’t know what is.
Greenway House is now run by the National Trust so make sure you book in advance to secure a timeslot.
21. Sugary Cove
Address: S W Coast Path, Dartmouth TQ6 0JN
Just a short walk from Dartmouth Castle is the hidden gem that is Sugary Cove.
(What a great name!)
The cove is quiet and secluded, so you’ll most likely have this beautiful place all to yourself.
The walk down to the cove is quite steep so probably not suitable for those with young children and the cove also disappears during high tide, so make sure to plan for that.
22. Noss Mayo
Address: Noss Mayo, Plymouth PL8 1EW
Noss Mayo is a quaint village tucked away on the southern bank of the River Yelm.
You can either come here for a quiet pub lunch (there are only two in the village!) or hike the coast path and visit the secret Cellars and Warren beaches.
23. Royal Citadel
Address: Royal Citadel Plymouth, Lambhay Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PD
The Royal Citadel is an impressive 17th Century fortress built to protect the coast from Dutch Invaders.
What’s even more impressive is the fact that the Citadel is still in use by the British military today.
You can book a guided tour of the fortress, but be warned, as it’s still in use you could have your trip cancelled at a moment’s notice.
If that happens, don’t fear, because The Royal Citadel is located in the centre of Plymouth, meaning that there are still plenty of other activities for you to do.
Address: Fore St, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4PR
Fancy taking a trip back to Victorian times?
Well, you can do exactly that at Bygones.
Bygones is a life-sized Victorian street complete with cobbled streets and original signs from the Victorian Era.
Wander through the streets and take a peek inside the fifteen shops and the nine period rooms.
The street is bursting with colour and entertainment, making it fun for all the family.
25. Slapton Sands & Torcross Beach
Address: At The Beach, Torcross TQ7 2T
Despite having two separate names, Slapton Sands and Torcross are essentially the same beach.
If you’re a lover of watersports then this spot is for you.
The water is clear and calm, creating perfect conditions for kayakers, paddleboarders and swimmers.
And if you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot an abundance of wildlife, from seals to dolphins to shoals of mackerel.
Unlike a lot of the beaches in Devon, Slapton and Torcross have a few beachside cafes close to the shore.
So grab a coffee and walk along the water, or enjoy a pint as you’re watching the sun go down.
You won’t regret it!
So there you have it: the 25 best things to do in South Devon for a great day out!
Which of these things to do in South Devon are you going to try out first?
Please let me know in the comments below!