18 top things to do in Dawlish, South Devon

Are you looking for things to do in Dawlish? Read on, as there’s plenty!

The home of the black swan, Dawlish is a charming coastal town in South Devon.

While it’s not as famous as other towns in the area like Paignton, Torquay and Exmouth, there are still a few fun things to do here – plus, in the peak summer season, it’s quite nice to go somewhere that feels a little more local. 

Whether you want to see the town’s famous swans, laze on the beach at either Dawlish Sands or Dawlish Warren, visit charming tea rooms or take in some coastal scenery, here are all the best Dawlish attractions!

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Things to do in Dawlish

The best things to do in Dawlish include looking for black swans, walking along the coast path, taking a ride in the scenic coastal railway, enjoying a cream tea at one of the town’s local cafes or swimming in the Blue Flag waters around Dawlish Warren.

Let’s dig into them all!

Visit Dawlish Town Beach

A view of Dawlish Town Beach

The sandy Dawlish Town Beach runs along the coast by the town, and at the far end, it’s backed by cliffs.

It’s a long beach, perfect for a stroll, and trains travelling to Exeter and Plymouth whizz along the parallel tracks. 

You can swim here in the summer months – and it’s usually a lot quieter than nearby Dawlish Warren! 

Look for Black Swans

Black swans on Dawlish water

One of the main things that Dawlish is famous for is its unique black swans

You’ll find these birds bobbing around on Dawlish water. 

They were brought here from Australia in the early 1900s and have lived in the town ever since! 

They’re easy to spot and are usually followed by a keen tourist with a camera!

Don’t get too close to them, as swans can be quite aggressive, particularly during the breeding season. 

Explore Dawlish Water and the Lawn

Dawlish Water, a brook running through the town centre. There's a path beside the brook

Dawlish Water spans the length of the town centre, and while the main attraction is undoubtedly the black swans, it’s also a charming spot to stroll down or sit on a bench for a while and take the town in. 

Dawlish Water is lined with quaint cafes, sweet shops, ice cream stalls and restaurants. I highly recommend Annie’s, which I’ve described next!

Head to Annie’s tea house for an afternoon tea

Cream tea in Devon with cream, jam and a scone

There are plenty of tea rooms along Dawlish Water, but one I particularly love is Annie’s Tea Room.

Recently, I walked from Teignmouth to Dawlish, and, needing to find some fuel, I entered the tea house looking rather sweaty and disheveled.

Most of the clientele were a lot better dressed, but I was welcomed warmly by the friendly staff and offered the menu, which contained sandwiches, jacket potatoes, and of course, a Devonshire cream tea.

I opted for the cream tea (mainly so I could make this Instagram reel alluding to the differences between Devon and Cornwall when it comes to cream first or jam first!), and the waitress was happy to make me a cappuccino with oat milk (yes, I know the cream had dairy anyway, but I just prefer oat milk…) at no extra cost.

The cafe is decorated with a homely and welcoming style and the staff couldn’t have been more lovely.

I highly recommend the cream tea here (there are a few varieties if you want to try something different!) but just remember – you’re in Devon, so cream goes on first!

Relax on Dawlish Lawn

Dawlish lawn with a little hut in the middle.

Dawlish Lawn is on the other side of the water, and it acts as a focal point for the town. It’s a pleasant place to have a picnic or relax in warm weather! 

On the second Sunday of every month, the lawn accommodates the Dawlish Farmer’s Market, which sells produce from nearby Devonshire farms. 

Step back in the town’s history at Dawlish Museum

Dawlish museum, looks a little closed but it's an interesting place to visit!

Dawlish Museum is a history museum detailing the history of the town. 

It’s actually a fairly big exhibition, spanning over three floors and 11 rooms! 

It’s known for having D-Day bagpipes, a historic kitchen and an exhibition about the Great Storm of Dawlish in 2014. 

It costs £2 for adult and £1 for child entry. 

Try your luck at Harrison’s Amusements

Harrison's Amuseuments arcade in Dawlish, with machines with toys

This small amusements arcade is located just to the east of Dawlish Lawn. 

It’s a small arcade with a few games, suitable for both adults and children. 

Take a whirl on Safari Adventure Golf

Safari themed golf course in Dawlish, with an elephant in the foreground

Safari adventure golf is a crazy golf circuit right in the middle of town. 

As the name suggests, it is safari themed, with lions and giraffes dotted around the 12-hole course.

Ideal for a family trip to Dawlish or date night with a difference, this circuit is fun and easy to access!  

Kick back on Dawlish Warren Beach

Dawlish Warren Beach

Dawlish Warren Beach is famous for its golden sands and safe swimming waters – it’s actually one of Devon’s blue flag beaches

This beach is immensely popular in the summer season, so I wouldn’t recommend coming here on a scorching hot day or in the school holidays – stick to Dawlish town beach, where it’s usually much quieter. 

However, it’s gorgeous on crisp autumn, winter or spring days!

If you want to enjoy some watersports, Dawlish Paddle Board Hire operates at Dawlish Warren. 

Take a hike in Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve

Girl walking to Dawlish Warren Beach

Spanning over 550 acres, Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve is an expanse of grassland and sand dunes behind the beach. 

The nature reserve is home to around 23,000 birds and wildfowl each year. There’s a bird hide that is perfect for birdwatching, although it’s important to be mindful of the creatures in the area. 

There are also lots of wildflowers in the area! 

Head to Funder Park with the kids

 Funder Park has all that you need for a day of family fun, with carousels and other amusements!

There’s also another golf course at Dawlish Warren – this one is pirate themed. 

Take the scenic train to Exeter

View of Dawlish sea from the train, which is one of the most scenic train journeys in the UK

Although it’s not an attraction per se, the train from Dawlish to Exeter is one of the country’s most scenic. 

In fact, The Guardian called it “arguably the most beautiful railway line in the UK“! 

Enjoy views of the Exe Estuary spanning out before you, making out the outlines of Lympstone and Topsham on the other side.

Sit on the right side going towards Exeter and the left side going back towards Dawlish for the best views.

Walk to Teignmouth

View of Dawlish from the Dawlish to Teignmouth walk

The Dawlish to Teignmouth walk is a great way to take in both seaside towns and some of the dramatic red rock cliffs and beautiful views that the South West Coast Path is famous for! 

It’s a moderate walk, with some cliff climbs just outside of Dawlish – of course, the climbs mean you’ll enjoy incredible views at the top. 

However, once you get over these, you’ll walk along the sea wall to reach Teignmouth. 

I did it the opposite way – from Teignmouth to Dawlish – but it’s the same route, and you can see my directions here.

Explore Teignmouth

View of the sea at Teignmouth from along the sea wall

Whether you walk, take the train or the bus to Teignmouth, it’s worth seeing some of the highlights of this town too!

I’ve written full blog posts about the best things to do in this town and the best beaches in Teignmouth, but here are some of my favourites: 

  • finding Keats’ house, where John Keats once stayed
  • admiring the beautiful seafront and the back beach
  • playing some arcade games in Teignmouth pier
  • taking the boat to Shaldon, which is apparently the oldest passenger ferry in the country!
  • walking down a Smuggler’s Tunnel from Shaldon to Ness Cove Beach
  • admiring the colourful houses of the backstreets of Teignmouth
  • walking around the gorgeous Shaldon Botanical gardens
  • the view from Bitton House (and the cannons from Algeria!)

Walk to Dawlish Warren

Walk the other way on the South West Coast Path, and you’ll find yourself in Dawlish Warren!

This is a shorter walk, only about half an hour, and it ends at the fun resort.

So if you want to explore the area and get a bit of exercise, this is a must-do!

From Dawlish Warren, you can also walk up the Exe Estuary a little to Starcross – here you can either take a boat to Exmouth or the train back to Dawlish. 

The train line also stops at Dawlish Warren and a bus connects the two towns. 

Explore the Exe Estuary

View over the River Exe from the small beach at Lympstone

The Exe Estuary splits East Devon with South Devon, and Dawlish Warren sits to the west of it. 

From Dawlish Warren Beach, you can see over to Exmouth. 

You can enjoy the Exe Estuary by walking, cycling, driving or even taking the train. 

The train from Dawlish to Exmouth runs down both sides of it – with a short detour into central Exeter. 

Alternatively, rent bikes and cycle up one side, or take a walk and see how far you get! 

See Powderham Castle

Powderham Castle on the Exe Estuary

Powderham Castle is located just up the estuary from Dawlish (around a 13 minute drive). Dating back to 1390, it has always been (and still is) the seat of the Courtenay family, who are the Earls of Devon. 

While it’s called “Powderham Castle”, it is actually a manor house and it does not have a keep or a moat.

However, it’s one of the most historic sites in Devon, with significance in the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War.

And of course, there are plenty of smaller historic stories that have taken place in the castle as well!

It’s not National Trust-run, as it’s a private residence, but tourists are welcome to visit part of the castle and the grounds. 

Head over to Exmouth

Taken on a short walk towards the mammoth caravan site.

The seaside town of Exmouth sits just over the River Exe – to reach it, you’ll need to take the boat from Starcross, drive or take a train all the way through Exeter. 

Home to Stuart Line Cruises, National Trust property A La Ronde and Orcombe Point which is the start of the Jurassic Coastline, there’s plenty to do in this fun town and it’s well worth a day trip if you’re in this part of Devon. 

Where is Dawlish? 

Bright coloured shop in Dawlish Devon

Dawlish sits in South Devon, not far from the end of the River Exe. 

It’s about 13 miles from Exeter and 46 miles from Plymouth.

Technically, Dawlish Warren is right at the end of the Exe, although this is by and large a part of Dawlish town.

It’s a nature reserve that’s just to the east of the town, and although it has its own train station, it’s not a separate place. 

It just has its own train station because it’s such a popular tourist spot!

How to get to Dawlish

The easiest way to get to Dawlish is by train. It’s connected to Exeter, Teignmouth, Paignton and Exmouth by rail.

There are also bus connections to nearby towns. Of course, you can also drive!

Where to park in Dawlish

If you drive, the biggest car park is Barton Hill, which has 245 spaces and costs a maximum of £4.30.

Is Dawlish Warren the same as Dawlish? 

Dawlish Warren is part of Dawlish – Dawlish is the town, and Dawlish Warren is a nature reserve turned seaside resort.

Dawlish Warren has its own station, but it’s not really a town in its own right! 

Can you swim in the sea in Dawlish? 

Yes, particularly from June to October – the sea is warmer here than in parts of Devon and Cornwall. 

However, I’d recommend that you swim in nearby Dawlish Warren, which is blue-flag-rated thanks to its water safety. 

Is Dawlish Devon or Cornwall? 

A lovely drone image showcasing a steam train leading the way along the famous Dawlish Sea Wall.

Dawlish is in South Devon in South West England

Why is Dawlish Warren so popular? 

 Dawlish Warren is a great destination for families, with activities like Funder Park and crazy golf. 

But it’s also famous for its beautiful nature reserve, the network of sand dunes, marshland and more. 

It’s also the site of the South Devon Railway, one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the country, and you can walk along the sea wall and take in the stunning views! 

Where to stay in Dawlish

Lammas Park House is a cosy guesthouse right in the heart of town. The staff are extremely friendly and they also serve a tasty breakfast each morning! Click here to read more.

Dawlish Warren Holidays is a holiday park in Dawlish Warren, so if you stay here you’ll be in a great location to see the resort. The park has mainly self-catering chalets which can sleep 4-6 people. Click here for more information.

Is Dawlish worth visiting? 

Coryton Cove and Red Sandstone Cliffs at Dawlish

Yes! With immense natural beauty over the glorious English Channel, beautiful Devonshire cliffs with excellent views and the nature reserve at Dawlish Warren, it has plenty of activities for family fun and is a great destination for adult groups or couples too. 

In the centre of town, there’s an assortment of shops, a great museum and of course, the famous black swans.

Dawlish town centre isn’t as renowned as larger resort towns like Paignton or Torquay, but it’s well worth adding to your Devon itinerary! 

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