Are you looking for the best things to do in Kingswear, Devon? Here’s a list of all of my top picks!
Life revolves around the steam railway in Kingswear – a few times an hour, you’ll hear the roar of the engine as the locomotive trundles over the tracks.
The small village is renowned for its railway location, with the vintage station at its heart.
While there aren’t oodles of Kingswear attractions, this picturesque South Hams village is nothing but serene, with stunning views over the River Dart at every turn.
I’ve visited Kingswear village a few times throughout my travels around Devon (I live in nearby Exmouth), and recently re-visited to check out some of the best things to do in town.
So, here’s my full list and Kingswear travel guide!
Things to do in Kingswear
The best things to do in Kingswear include walking around the pint-sized village and enjoying its plethora of colourful houses, nearby National Trust properties like Coleton Fishacre and Greenway, and of course, taking the famous steam train from the village to Paignton.
Experience the Jazz Age grandeur at Coleton Fishacre, just a seven-minute drive from Kingswear.
This award-winning country home, now a National Trust treasure, was built by the renowned D’Oyly Carte family in the 1920s.
Architect Oswald Milne designed it to harmonize with its spectacular seaside setting.
The D’Oyly Cartes, key figures in the London theatre scene, infused the house with Art Deco elegance and musical heritage, providing an authentic ‘upstairs and downstairs’ view of the era.
You can explore the history-laden rooms and the RHS-accredited garden, which sports exotic flora from the Mediterranean, South Africa, and New Zealand.
The home, steeped in history and heartbreak, reflects a passion for the outdoors, arts, and entertainment.
For National Trust members, entry is free. Check out my full review of National Trust membership by clicking here!
If you fancy making a full day of it, you can take a circular walk from Kingswear to Coleton Fishacre – more information here.
Unlike Dartmouth Castle (which sits on the other side of the estuary), Kingswear Castle isn’t a visitor attraction.
In fact, you can rent out the castle and stay here – it’s bookable with The Landmark Trust (and is actually quite affordable for a group of four!)
However, I’ve popped it in this Kingswear guide because it’s worth strolling along the South West Coast Path toward the castle, catching a view of it and enjoying the vistas of Dartmouth Castle to the west – over the other side of the River Dart.
Both of these castles were artillery forts created to defend the end of this river – throughout history, there was a constant anxiety that enemies could invade Britain using the rivers on the south coast (Pendennis Castle in Cornwall is another example of this).
One of the very best things to do in Kingswear has to be Agatha Christie’s house!
Born in Torquay in 1890, Dame Agatha Christie is one of the most famous writers to ever come out of Devon.
She moved away from the county as an adult, but acquired Greenway House as a summer residence, calling it “the loveliest place in the world” and filling it with sentimental treasures from her childhood home in Torquay and collections from her travels.
After she died in 1976, the house was passed to her daughter, but ultimately sold to the National Trust.
Nowadays, the trust keeps and maintains it, and has gone to contentious effort to ensure that all exhibits resemble Agatha Christie’s Greenway. A guide once told me that they made it look “as if she’s just popped out to get some milk”.
Basking in a stunning River Dart location, with a few gardens and a quay – which is home to another fairytale-esque thatched roof cottage – Greenway is the ideal escape to enjoy architecture, history and nature.
Plus, it’s only a 15-minute drive from Kingswear!
Take the steam train to Paignton
The Dartmouth Steam Railway (which is its official name, despite the terminus being in Kingswear!) is one of the most popular attractions in South Devon.
I would recommend all visitors to Kingswear to try out this journey, which is a nostalgic hark back to the founding days of railway transportation.
The vintage railway reminds travellers of journeys long gone, with manually opening doors, faded seats and, of course, the huge locomotive.
But it’s not all about a historic journey – the steam railway has been deemed one of the most beautiful in England, time and time again.
Initially, enjoy panoramic views over the river and across to Dartmouth.
The train then journeys through a residential area, before coming out to the glimmering coast of Torbay, right on the sands of Goodrington Sands (home to Splashdown Quaywest Waterpark).
It’s a 25 minute long journey, and once you arrive you can either explore Paignton OR enjoy the rest of the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company’s transport (more on that below!).
Round Robin Trip with the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat
Enjoy a Round Robin Trip to Paignton, Totnes and Dartmouth by taking the passenger ferry over to Dartmouth, then a scenic cruise up the river to Totnes, a bus to Paignton and finally climbing onboard the steam train to get back to Kingswear.
The ferry is a quick hop over the River Dart, but you’ll learn much more about it on the fantastic river cruise.
With lovely views of Dartmouth and its many boats, along with various beautiful houses and boats and a variety of scenic villages, there’s plenty to learn about on this delightful journey – and you’ll be kept entertained by a full commentary.
There’s ample birdlife along the River Dart, and if you’re lucky you might even spot a seal!
The bus journey from Totnes to Paignton is simple, and from Paignton, the steam train departs regularly to take you back to Kingswear.
I’d recommend booking this ticket in person at the office – online, it doesn’t give you the option to travel from Kingswear, but if you pick the ticket up it should be sufficient to allow you on the initial ferry to get to Dartmouth to the cruise dock.
Walk to Brixham
I recently enjoyed the lovely walk from Kingswear to the castle, but if you want to hike a little further, the 10-mile Kingswear to Brixham walk is waiting for you!
Don’t miss the noteworthy Brownstone Battery as you hike, which is one of Devon’s historic World War II coastal defences, dating back to 1940.
Another unique sight along the route is the geological formation known as Dragon’s Tail – you’ll understand why it has that name when you see it!
Venturing further north, you’ll traverse past the tranquil beaches of Man Sands and St Mary’s Bay.
The trail also takes a scenic detour around Berry Head Nature Reserve, though a straighter course to Brixham can be chosen if you prefer.
For the return leg, the number 18 bus connects Brixham to Kingswear.
Check out the colourful houses
One of my favourite things about Kingswear is the amazing views gazing up at the rainbow-coloured houses.
In other places with similar colourful houses, I’ve learned that they were painted to enable sailors to recognise their houses after being away at sea for a long time.
This may have been the idea at Kingswear – although nowadays, they’re maintained for tourist purposes – they certainly add a vibrant edge to views of the town.
Kick back in a cosy pub
Being a small, fairly rural village, Kingswear doesn’t have a huge variety of restaurants.
But there are a couple of cosy pubs where you can kick back and relax.
The Ship Inn has a gorgeous beer garden that’s right next to the church – so you can enjoy your drink on a balcony overlooking Kingswear station.
There’s also the Steam Packet Inn, named so thanks to the village’s steam train connections.
Walk up the Dart Valley
On one side, the iconic train puffs as it trundles past.
On the other, enjoy the beautiful views of Dartmouth Harbour and the historic town.
There’s a trail that leads from Kingswear station along the side of the river, crossing over the railway track at the Dartmouth Higher Ferry dock and winding as it passes Noss Creek.
The beauty of this route is that you can hike however far your please before turning back – but if you’d like to walk to Greenway (4.5 miles), there are full directions here.
Take the ferry over the river and explore Dartmouth
The foot passenger ferry connects Kingswear with Dartmouth, offering a quick and hassle-free connection between the two sides of the River Dart.
While Kingswear is calm and relaxed, Dartmouth is bustling, especially in the summer months!
There are a few more things to do here and you could easily spend a whole day exploring its attractions.
- Dartmouth Castle
- Bayards Cove Fort
- Beaches like Blackpool Sands (short bus ride away)
- Dartmouth Museum
- Royal Avenue Gardens
- Boat trips to Dittisham
- More walks along the Dart Valley Trail
Where to stay in Kingswear
Despite its petite size, there are a few places to stay in Kingswear! These are some of the top picks.
Set in a historic Kingswear building, Kingswear Park Club offers a unique, adventure-filled stay.
Enjoy the convenience of well-equipped units, onsite sports facilities, and a wellness centre.
All apartments feature kitchens and private bathrooms, with select units boasting sea views.
Nestled in Kingswear’s heart, Shipwrights offers stunning Marina and River Dart views.
This two-bedroom haven features free WiFi, a flat-screen TV, and a fully-equipped kitchen.
With a cosy fireplace and all essentials included, it’s the perfect bolthole for an idyllic retreat.
If you love staying in holiday cottages, Kingswear Castle, a 16th-century fortress, offers a unique holiday stay.
Nestled on the water’s edge with spectacular views over the river and towards the sea, it blends historical charm with modern comforts.
Enjoy stunning river views, flag-raising from the roof, and Victorian-styled rooms with a touch of mystery— experience history in this one-of-a-kind rental.
How to get to Kingswear
Kingswear is accessible via the A380 and A3022, linked to the M5 and A303 for those travelling from further afield.
The nearest railway station is Paignton, which is connected to the national rail network – you can take a train from Paignton to Exeter St David’s, where you can connect to services to London, Bristol and other UK cities.
From Paignton, the historic Dartmouth Steam Railway provides a scenic route to Kingswear, or bus services are available.
FAQs about visiting Kingswear
What county is Kingswear?
Can you swim at Kingswear?
While Kingswear itself doesn’t have a beach, there are plenty of spots nearby for a refreshing dip.
The picturesque towns of Paignton and Torquay, just a short drive away, offer lovely sandy beaches for swimming – Oddicombe Beach is my particular favourite (it’s one of the best in Devon).
Or, hop on the ferry and walk down to Sugary Cove Beach in Dartmouth.
Is there parking in Kingswear for the ferry?
Yes, there is a pay-and-display car park in Kingswear called Darthaven Marina near the ferry terminal, providing convenient parking for those planning to cross the River Dart by ferry to Dartmouth.
There is also a vehicle ferry which you could utilise to have your car on the other side of the river!
Is Kingswear worth a visit?
Despite the fact that it doesn’t have as many attractions as other spots in South Devon, Kingswear is lovely to explore for a few hours – or it’s a fantastic holiday destination for relaxed trips.
Kingswear offers stunning river views, the famous steam train and scenic walking trails. It’s also the perfect base for exploring the South Devon coast!
Are you ready to visit Kingswear?
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to spend your family holidays or are exploring Kingswear as part of a boat and steam train exploration, Kingswear’s a delight.
The nostalgic service of the steam railway often draws travellers in, but there are a few things to see right in the heart of the village too.
On a sunny day, Kingswear’s an absolute delight – soak in the vibrant hues of the waterfront, breathe in the fresh sea air, and let this picturesque gem of Devon enchant you.