Beaches, moorland, charming towns, and even a couple of interesting cities… Devon is definitely worth stopping over in on any trip to the South West – it’s also a great weekend trip from London.
Many people come to Devon just to chill out on the coast. Some of the UK’s best beaches are here, and it’s a great place to enjoy a beachy staycation – no planes needed.
But there are many other things to do in Devonshire, and plenty for the avid traveller to do. Whether you’re into relaxing, activities, or culture, this county has something for you.
We’ve put together some of the very best things to do in wonderful Devon, for any kind of traveller. Also – Devon is so small that these can all be ticked off in one trip – we’ll have a Devon itinerary coming soon to show you how!
The Best Things to do in Devon
Explore the Western Jurassic Coast
Spanning 95 miles to Old Harry’s Rocks near Bournemouth in Dorset, the Jurassic Coast is one of the country’s best coastal drives. Enjoy beautiful cliff scenes, beach towns, and a few hikes on this stretch.
Designated a World Heritage Site in 2001, this stretch of coastline has 185 million years of history throughout the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. In non-geological terms, that means that the sea has been forming these cliffs since the dinosaurs were around. This is why you’ll see so many arches, stacks and stumps while exploring the coastline.
Exmouth has the oldest rocks of the coastline, so if you are into geology, make sure that you check out the difference between the rocks here and those further east. Visit Exmouth has a good recap of the history of the area.
The Devon version starts in Exmouth and spans to the Dorset border, past Sidmouth and a few other beach settlements.
Highlights that are worth checking out include:
- The village of Beer, with charming streets and a shingle beach – its name doesn’t come from beer, unfortunately, but there are few pubs to enjoy one in the village!
- Branscombe, which is believed to be the longest village in the country, and has plenty of historic buildings from its extensive history.
- Seaton and the Seaton Wetlands Nature Reserve
- The town of Sidmouth and its Jurassic Coast Cliffs – although please ask locals before going too close to these cliffs – they have collapsed recently.
Discover the History of Exeter
Most people come to Devon for the nature, but Exeter is actually one of the oldest cities in England, and is well worth spending some time in. Built by the Romans, it’s a fascinating city featuring the narrowest street in England, 14th century underground passageways, and one of the most striking cathedrals in the country – definitely one of the best points of interest Devon has to offer. Take a red coat walking tour to learn about it all!
Enjoy the Exe Estuary
The Exe estuary traverses eleven miles from the city of Exeter to the towns of Exmouth on the east side and Dawlish Warren on the west. It’s possible to hike the entire estuary in one day; a boat connects Starcross with Exmouth to make it a full circle. If you’re into hiking, this is one of the best days out in Devon!
The estuary combines river and sea views, with the chance to go birdwatching, experience small towns like Langstone and Exton, and see the beautiful 600 year old Powderham Castle. Enjoy a real holiday vibe at Dawlish Warren, or enjoy the many things to do in Exmouth, including stand up paddleboarding or other watersports.
Hike on Dartmoor
No trip to Devon would be complete without going to Dartmoor. Famed for being a rugged and wild yet historic natural site, Dartmoor is perfect for trekking, food, and learning about the ancient myths and legends.
It’s a 386 square mile area, home to waterfalls, many footpaths, and charming towns. I’ll be writing a full guide to Dartmoor soon but check out the visitor website for more information in the meantime.
Datmoor’s north-coast equivalent, Exmoor has hikes – both on the moors and along the seafront – and is one of the best places to visit in Devon. Natural phenomena, human interactions, and unique flora and fauna have made this national park so special over the years.
There are plenty of popular walks, the chance to see Exmoor ponies, and charming little villages, like Lynmouth on the western edge of the park. Exmoor traverses two counties, spanning into Somerset and subsequently neighbouring the beautiful Quantock Hills; so you’ll get the chance to experience two national parks in one! Check out the visitor website for more information.
Visit Lundy Island
Dubbed ‘The English Galapagos’, Lundy Island is located in the Bristol Channel and is an extraordinarily unique island for its flora and fauna, with a fascinating history. Owned by the National Trust and managed by the Landmark Trust, Lundy Island is only used for tourism but has so many reasons to visit – and not just that it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in North Devon.
Camp, stay in a unique self-catering accommodation or take a boat over from nearby Barnstaple to enjoy all of the island’s intriguing draws. Hike around with no disruption from cars and roads, look out for its unique birds, or go diving in its unusually (for Britain!) clear waters and wrecks. History buffs can learn about its smuggling history or tales of the competition for ownership of Lundy.
Be awed at Clovelly
The popular village of Clovelly sits on the north Devon coast, hugging the clifftop dramatically. It’s one of the most beautiful settlements in the county for sure, and is a must visit on any Devon trip.
Visit the famous Victorian kitchen gardens at Clovelly Court Gardens, eat at one of the ocean-view restaurants, or just amble around the town and take it all in.
Explore the English Riviera
Named after the French Riviera, the English Riviera is a 22 mile stretch of coastline featuring gorgeous beaches, beautiful marinas and charming coastal towns. You can drive along the stretch and see the four towns, which each have their own charm and character. Torquay and Paignton are bigger towns, and Babbacombe and Brixham being smaller, quieter settlements.
Being larger towns, Torquay and Paignton are among the most popular places to stay in Devon.
All towns have gorgeous beaches, plenty of opportunities for watersports, and lots of places to eat and drink. Also in the area is the wonderful Babbacombe Model Village, Kents Cavern, a steam train, Babbacombe Cliff Railway, Splashdown Quaywest waterpark, Paignton Pier, the 800 year old Torre Abbey – and much more!
Along the English Riviera, there are also lots of places to visit with a connection to Agatha Christie. She was a famous 20th century crime novelist, and her books were all set in Devon.
The most popular place to visit with a connection to Agatha Christie is Greenway House and Gardens, her summer residence. It’s owned by the National Trust and has lots of artefacts collected by Christie and her family, as well as beautiful grounds.
Other spots include:
- Elberry Cove which featured in The ABC Murders as the place of the death of Sir Carmichael Clarke.
- Kents Cavern, which was the inspiration for Hampsley Cavern in the Man in the Brown Suit and is very close to Torquay.
- Torre Abbey, which has a poisonous garden that was inspired by many of the poison that was used for Agatha Christie’s victims in the novels!
The historic market town of Totnes is a really unique place in South Devon. There’s a dynamic history spanning back to medieval times, which is displayed in the museum and Totnes Castle. There’s a bit of a hip movement in Totnes nowadays, with lots of independent shops and eateries. In the area, there is the River Dart and Dartington Hall House, the Sharpham Vineyard, and the South Devon Railway.
Devon’s largest settlement, Plymouth is known as ‘Britain’s Ocean City’. The main pull are the gorgeous marinas, with plenty of amazing places to eat and drink, but there are a few decent cultural and historical attractions as well.
If you want some history, check out the Elizabethan Gardens and the Mayflower Steps – which is where the Pilgrims set sail for North America in 1620. There are numerous museums and art galleries in Plymouth, as well as an art deco lido and a gin factory!
If you want nightlife in Devon, Plymouth is undoubtedly the best place for it. It’s a great urban addition onto a more rural holiday.
The Best Devon Attractions
In my opinion are the best places to visit in Devon – but I will be sharing plenty more on this website over the coming months. So do check back for more amazing things to do in Devon and south west England!