Are you looking for things to do in East Devon?
I’m a local to the area, and I’ve created a full, comprehensive list to help you plan your holiday.
Whether you’re spending your summer holiday in Exmouth, are driving around the East Devon coastline checking out quaint villages like Beer or Seaton or are on a hiking holiday in the East Devon AONB or Blackdown Hills, this part of the county has so much to offer.
It’s often overlooked, as tourists tend to head to Torbay in South Devon, Woolacombe and the surrounding area in North Devon or even forfeit Devon entirely and head straight to Cornwall!
But I loved this area so much that I decided to live here – and hopefully, this blog post will demonstrate why!
Where is East Devon?
East Devon is the easternmost part of Devon (funny that!), which is a county that sits nearly in the far South West of the UK – only Cornwall is further southwesterly!
East Devon sits between the Exe River and the Devon/ Dorset border.
Apart from Exeter, its largest town is Exmouth, which has lots of family-friendly attractions along with restaurants and bars.
Otherwise, East Devon is a largely rural region – as you travel along the coast, the next town of any size is Lyme Regis in Dorset.
Things to do in East Devon
Whether you want to explore the area’s spectacular scenery or experience some of the best family attractions, here’s my list of things to do in East Devon!
Board a Stuart Line Cruise in Exmouth
Exmouth is the largest town in East Devon, so it’s no surprise that it boasts some of its best attractions!
One of the best things to do in Exmouth is to climb on board a Stuart Line Cruise boat.
These ships ply the Exe Estuary and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, offering trips like coastal cruises to Ladram Bay and Sidmouth or trips to see the vibrant birdlife and views of Powderham Castle on the River Exe.
With tours starting at around £10, Stuart Line Cruises are fantastic budget-friendly activities in East Devon!
Visit A La Ronde, an enigmatic 16-sided house
Sitting just above Exmouth, in the village of Lympstone, is A La Ronde, a 16-sided house.
This curious house was home to two spinsters, who filled it with items that they’d collected from a grand tour of Europe that they’d completed in the 18th century.
This was remarkable for women at the time, and you can learn all about it with a visit to A La Ronde, while experiencing the very quirky architecture!
Watersports at Exmouth beach
Down at Exmouth Beach, it’s worth spending a day or two here in the summertime to enjoy the watersports scene.
Exmouth has one of the best watersports centres in the country and throughout the summer months you can experience stand up paddle boarding, canoeing or kayaking.
On particuarly windy days, windsurfing is popular – and sometimes when the waves are particuarly large, you can go surfing.
You can rent paddle boards and other watersports gear from EDGE watersports.
Walk from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton
The Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton walk is one of my favourites in East Devon, and it’s really easy to access if you’re staying or living in Exmouth.
Starting at Exmouth Beach, this route follows the South West Coast Path on top of the cliffs, past Orcombe Point, and through the first part of the Jurassic Coast.
It only takes about an hour (from the start of the cliffs), and it’s moderately easy – at least compared to other parts of the South West Coast Path!
Budleigh Salterton is a pleasant town to have an amble around. It has a pebble beach, so it’s not as popular in the summer months as other East Devon coastal towns, but it has a lot of independent shops, some decent restaurants, museums and a few other attractions which have made it onto this list of the best things to do in East Devon!
In fact, I wrote a whole post about the best things to do in Budleigh Salterton, which you can read here.
Try English wine
Thanks to East Devon’s mild climate – snow is very rare and its summers aren’t quite as hot as the South East’s – grapes for English wine can flourish here.
You can learn all about English wine and try some at Lily Farm Vineyard in Knole.
Sitting around half an hour from Budleigh Salterton, this vineyard is situated on a steep hill, creating the perfect microclimate to grow grapes for wine.
On a tour, you’ll first learn all about the establishment and English wine in general, and then have the chance to try some!
Of course, you’re welcome to sit and enjoy a glass of wine after the tour, or even buy some to take home.
Jurassic Coast Road Trip
The Jurassic Coast is England’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site – so it’s unsurprising that any East Devon attractions list has to include it!
The Jurrasic Coast spans over most of Dorset and all of East Devon.
So you could drive the whole way along it, checking out some of the best places in Dorset as you go, or stick to the East Devon part of the coast!
Here are some of the best places to visit in the East Devon part of the Jurassic Coast. I’ll go into some of them a bit later in the post, so keep reading for the best attractions!
- the rock formations of Ladram Bay
- the stunning beach town of Sidmouth
- Beer, home to the Beer Quarry Caves
- Branscombe, a beautiful cove tucked between towering cliffs (and the longest village in the country, apparently!)
- Seaton, known as Devon’s most rebellious village!
Admire Ladram Bay
Ladram Bay is one of the first impressive rock formations on the Jurassic Coast that you’ll find when heading east.
It’s a hidden cove with bright orange cliffs and a rock formation that juts out from the beach.
A beautiful place for a stroll, you can also head down to the beach in the winter months.
In the summer, set sail from Exmouth Marina where you can take in beautiful vistas from the sea.
Go back in time at the Otterton Mill
Otterton Mill brings history to life.
A working mill for nearly 1,000 years, Otterton Mill was a traditional place where flour was made.
Nowadays, you can look around the mill and chat to the friendly volunteers who will explain how it operated.
Visiting is free of charge, and you can even try some of the freshly-milled flour!
There’s a cafe on-site that serves ethical food made from seasonal, local products and it’s the perfect place to grab a coffee.
Nature walk along the River Otter
The River Otter is one of the best hidden gems in Devon.
Spanning to Budleigh Salterton beach, it’s a haven for birds, and there’s a pleasant walk that you can take from Otterton to the coastal town.
But it’s not just birds and fauna to enjoy here.
The River Otter is the only place where wild beavers have been found in the UK in the last 400 years.
Nobody’s completely sure how they got there, but they have been allowed to stay.
You can partake in Devon Beaver Tours which will show you the nature of the area and the best places to see the creatures!
Visit Sir Walter Raleigh’s Birthplace
While I’m not the biggest Sir Walter Raleigh fan, I find it fascinating how he came from a tiny East Devon village.
East Budleigh sits about five minutes from the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton, and it’s a minuscule village consisting of thatched-roof cottages, a couple of pubs and a church.
However, one of the most famous explorers in the world – and the person who founded British colonies – came from this settlement, sitting in beautiful countryside that is classic of East Devon.
Sir Walter Raleigh was born in Hayes Barton, near East Budleigh.
You can visit the town and have a pint at the Sir Walter Raleigh Inn, check out the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh and see the church with an engraving of the Raleigh family headquarters on the end of the family pew in the chapel.
You can also visit Hayes Barton, where Sir Walter Raleigh was born. You can’t actually go into it – it’s an old farmhouse – but it’s viewable from the road!
Explore the traditional holiday town of Sidmouth
Sidmouth has some of the most beautiful beaches in the area, and it’s well worth adding it as a stop on your East Devon itinerary.
A popular Victorian town, it’s the perfect place for a stroll around the seafront, and you can take in the traditional Victorian architecture that was built during the town’s heyday.
Also, walk around the beautiful Connaught Gardens, which are beautiful gardens with some charming flowers.
Experience the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary
The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary is ideal for a family day!
Dating back to 1969, this sanctuary was started by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, who adopted a donkey called “Naughty Face”.
After adopting this donkey, Svendsen dedicated her life to helping donkeys in need.
She travelled around the country to donkey sales, and bought those who were the most injured and distressed, to bring them to her sanctuary where they could live in harmony!
It’s adopted over 10,000 donkeys and is open for visitors – although there is strictly no riding.
Be awed at the Beer Quarry Caves
The Beer Quarry Caves are definitely a must-visit attraction in East Devon!
Dating back 2,000 years, these underground caverns were built to mine Beer Freestone, which has been used in St. Paul’s, Exeter, Winchester and Norwich Cathedrals, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.
In fact, the stone has been used in 24/44 of the UK’s Cathedrals!
It’s also been used in lots of West Country churches.
While beer stone was mined here throughout the years, from the Dissolution of the Monasteries onwards it was used a lot for council and governmental-related buildings.
It was once again used for Victorian churches when many were restored.
The caves are also known for their bat life, particularly horseshoe bats.
On a tour around the Beer Quarry Caves, you’ll learn about the fascinating history and geology of this area.
Take in the jaw-dropping views of the Jurassic Coast cliffs at Branscombe
Branscombe is one of the most picturesque villages in all of Devon – and it’s actually alleged to be the longest village in the country! (Strange claim to fame, but we’ll take it!).
This fishing village turned holiday hotspot is right in the heart of the Jurassic Coast, so you can take in immense views of the area’s signature cliffs from Branscombe Beach.
If you want a short but enjoyable walk along the coastal path, the hike from Branscombe to Beer is particularly beautiful!
Climb on board the Seaton Tramway
Taking in the gorgeous Axe Valley, the Seaton Tramway is a completely unique attraction to visit in Devon!
It’s a double-decker tram that spans from Seaton, Colyford and Colyton, taking in incredible bird life and fauna as you traverse the river.
Seaton is a gateway to the Jurassic Coast and has coined the reputation of “Devon’s most rebellious town” thanks to the fact that it partook in the Monmouth Rebellions in 1685.
However, nowadays it’s quite peaceful, and is home to a mile-long pebbled beach.
Walk some of the South West Coast Path
The East Devon segment of the South West Coastal Path spans the Jurassic Coastline, making this one of the most immense hikes in the West Country!
Starting in Exmouth, the Jurassic Coast path spans 95 miles all the way to Studland Bay in Dorset.
Some of my favourite options include Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton, Budleigh Salterton to Sidmouth or Branscombe to Beer.
There are plenty of other walks on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset too, especially around
Walk some of the East Devon Way
If you love hiking, you can see some of the highlights of the East Devon area on foot by taking the East Devon Way!
Unlike the South West Coast Path, this hiking route spans inland from Exmouth, through some of the most beautiful Devonshire countryside scenes.
It first spans through Woodbury Common to see the ancient castle, then spans through Aylesbeare Common and across the River Otter, to the ancient village of Sidbury.
It then crosses the captivating landscape of Farway Common and goes through the ancient market town of Colyton before dropping back to the coast to Lyme Regis.
Head to Crealy Theme Park & Resort with the kids
An ideal attraction for families, Crealy Adventure Park is a theme park with various rides.
I remember going here at the age of five – a good 25 years ago – with my grandma!
It has over 60 rides including The Flying Machine which is a chair swing, The Twister rollercoaster and the Flying Dutchman, a swinging pirate boat.
There’s something for all ages here!
See iron age forts
East Devon is home to a few fascinating iron age forts. Many of these have shown evidence of both Iron Age and Roman occupation, and typically sit on top of a large hill – so its residents could see attackers! Here are a few to look out for:
- Woodbury: Sitting close to Exmouth, Woodbury Castle isn’t much more than a large mound, but it’s remarkably well-preserved and hiking here is one of the best walks around Exmouth.
- Musbury: Located on the East Devon Way, Musbury Fort offers some impressive vistas of the Axe Valley.
- Hembury: Sitting near Honiton, many people argue that Hembury is the most impressive hillfort in Devon. Here, you can still see the defensive ramparts that were used to keep out attackers.
- Dumpdon: Located in the Otter Valley, you’ll find Iron Age earthworks at Dumpdon.
Walk in the Blackdown Hills
The Blackdown Hills are a proper hidden gem.
Straddling the border of Devon and Somerset, not that many visitors know about these rolling hills, but they’re incredibly scenic and there are some excellent walks in the area.
In particular, there are a few excellent walks around Upottery where you can take in the beauty of these hills. Click here to read more about them!
Explore the beautiful Exeter suburb of Topsham
One of the most historically significant settlements in East Devon, Topsham dates back to the 1st century, when a port was built by the Romans.
It got a charter in the 13th century – and by this time, the Countess of Devon had built a weir over the River Exe to power her water mills in the town!
This meant that Topsham built up and became quite a wealthy town.
I’ve included Exeter in my things to do in South Devon guide, but it’s also worth mentioning in this East Devon guide too, as it sits on the boundary!
Here are some of the best things to do in Exeter:
- awe at the inspiring Exeter Cathedral, one of the most impressive historic landmarks in the UK
- see the historic buildings of Exeter city centre, like the House that Moved and the guildhall
- explore Exeter Quay – there are lots of excellent restaurants here!
- learn about Exeter’s history at the RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum)
- take a guided tour of Exeter with Red Coat tours
- explore Exeter’s Diagon Alley at Gandy Street
How to get to East Devon
One of the reasons why I decided to settle in East Devon is because it’s relatively accessible – particuarly when compared to North Devon or parts of Cornwall!
HOWEVER, I’m largely talking from an Exmouth perspective here. The smaller villages and towns are more challenging when it comes to public transport, but not impossible! But let’s look at the car route first…
If you have a car, East Devon is around three hours from London.
This can vary, depending on where in London you’re coming from and how many country lanes you need to drive down, but it usually takes me 3 hours 30 minutes to drive from my mum’s house in South East London to my house in Exmouth with no traffic and no stops.
From London, you’ll want to get on the M3 and then the A303 until you reach Devon, and then come off at whatever junction is closest to where you’re going.
From Bristol/ Birmingham/ Manchester/ anywhere else further north, you’ll take the M5 to Exeter and then drive down a number of country roads to reach your East Devon destination!
If you want to take the train, there are frequent connections from London Paddington and Waterloo (Paddington is GWR and much quicker, Waterloo is South Western Railway and the train ride is very sloooow).
The Waterloo line does stop at Honiton, or you can take passenger trains from Exeter to Honiton. There are also rail connections from Exeter to Exmouth (which is a big reason why I moved here!).
Otherwise, buses connect Exeter to most other towns and villages in East Devon.
National Express buses also connect Exeter with other UK cities.
Is East Devon worth visiting?
Yes, East Devon is definitely worth visiting! It’s a wild, rugged area of the country with few large settlements, but plenty of epic beaches and countryside charm.
Unlike other rugged sections of the South West’s coastline, it’s not as touristy, so there are plenty of quiet spots – even in the peak summer months!
Whether you want an outdoor adventure on the South West Coast Path or the East Devon Way, are going on a fishing trip from Jurassic Beaches or fancy seeing some of the best family-friendly attractions in the county, there’s so much on offer in gorgeous East Devon.
See my other Devon tourist guides!
Although I live in East Devon, I travel to all of the regions in the county frequently and have created posts about them all! Check out the rest of my guides here: