Fun Things to do in Paignton: A South Devon Resort Town

Paignton Harbour, traditional scene

There are so many things to do in Paignton, one of the UK’s top holiday destinations.

Loved by families due to a large amount of kid-friendly attractions, this South Devon town has lovely beaches, plenty of restaurants and a fun holiday atmosphere. 

A resort town since the Victorian era (thanks to the invention of the railways!), Paignton has grown into a popular destination that’s brimming with incredible things to do. 

If you’re visiting Paignton and are wondering what the best attractions are, this blog post will detail them all!

What’s Paignton like? 

Paignton Torbay Devon England near tourist destinations of Torquay and Brixham

Paignton is a popular resort town, and while it’s not a dreamy seaside village like St Ives or Port Isaac in Cornwall, it has a quintessential British seaside atmosphere.

The town itself is a little dated, but there are gorgeous beaches nearby and plenty of things to do for all ages. 

If you want a traditional British seaside holiday, with fish and chips, amusement arcades, beautiful beach huts and stripy deck chairs, then it’s worth seeing what attractions Paignton has to offer! 

The best things to do in Paignton

Paignton Pier

Paignton pier as the sun rises over Torbay, South Devon, UK.

A pier just makes any seaside town seem more holiday-like, right? 

Listen to the call of seagulls and take in the smells of freshly fried chips as you stroll down Paignton Pier.

It has won multiple awards for its abundance of attractions, including traditional seaside stalls serving delicious food, rides and plenty of arcade games. 

From the end of the historic pier, you can enjoy amazing views over both Torquay and Brixham. 

It’s free to explore, although any attractions will of course cost you extra!

Paignton Beach

OverlookingPaignton Beach from the pier Devon England UK Europe

Once you’ve explored Paignton Pier, take some time to enjoy the beach as well!

Ideal for a family day, this is a huge stretch of sand that’s just begging for sandcastles to be built on it. 

The waters are fairly calm here, so it’s a safe swimming beach, but you can also hire a pedal boat or even do a fishing trip from the shore.  

It’s also in close proximity to Paignton town and has disabled toilet facilities and ramps providing access to the beach. 

Dartmouth Steam Railway

Public steam train pulling carriages over a bridge through Devon Countryside from Dartmouth to Paignton

 The Dartmouth Steam Railway is one of the best ways to see South Devon, linking Paignton with Kingswear, Dartmouth and Totnes. 

It’s organised by the Dartmouth Rail River company which offers a range of transport, including a steam train, river cruise and ferry crossing. 

You can choose from either taking the steam train to Paignton to Kingswear, rolling past some of the best countryside views in the West Country, and hopping over to Dartmouth on a water taxi to see the attractions here. 

Or, go for a Round Robin ticket, where you take a bus (open-topped buses are sometimes available) to Totnes, cruise down the river to Dartmouth, and then hop over to Kingswear and take the train back. 

Not only will this enable you to see Devon scenery from different perspectives, but you’ll also take in some of the most historical towns in the area! 

Compton Castle

Dating back to the 14th century, Compton Castle is an imposing fortified manor that was once home to Sir Walter Raleigh’s half-brother. 

The house was fortified in the 16th century in response to a French invasion but was ultimately abandoned in the 1800s when the family moved to Bodmin in Cornwall.

However, it was restored in the 20th century and sold to the National Trust, which opened it as a tourist attraction and heritage site. 

Stroll around the manor house and walk in the footsteps of history, or admire the perfectly tended gardens that surround the property! 

If you’re a National Trust member, you’ll get free entry. You can read more about National Trust memberships here.

Paignton Zoo

Paignton Zoo is one of the most popular animal attractions in Devon. It’s home to more than 2,000 animals including lions, monkeys, meerkats and elephants. 

I have mixed views when it comes to zoos, but Paignton is a registered charity for animal conservation and works to protect and conserve wildlife both in the UK and overseas – so your ticket payment goes towards these projects.

I personally haven’t visited – due to my mixed views – but I understand that they’re good educational places for kids and some adults enjoy the day out too!

There’s a lot to see here, so if you do want to visit while you’re in town, it’s recommended that you take a day out of your Paignton itinerary to do so. 

Greenway Estate

The Torbay area is Agatha Christie’s Devon, and she lived at the Greenway House and Estate. 

If you’re a literary fan, this historic house is a must-visit!

Also run by the National Trust, the estate was the home of the famous detective novelist.

The famous author proclaimed the house to be “the loveliest place in the world” and with beautiful surroundings nestled the heart of the South West, we’re included to agree! 

Dating back to the Georgian age, the house was originally built for a sea merchant.

The travel theme continued with Agatha; she collected various artefacts while on trips abroad, a collection of which is on display. 

Once you’ve explored the historic villa, decorated in 1950s style, take a step out to the gardens, where you can enjoy a lush woodland which descends into the Dart Estuary. 

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Berry Pomeroy Castle has a fascinating history; it began life in the 16th century as a family castle for and the Seymour family, one of the most important families in the UK during the Tudor period.

They aimed to create the most spectacular house in Devon – but these dreams never came into fruition, and it was abandoned by the turn of the 18th century.

Thanks to its abandoned status, many ghost stories stemmed from Berry Pomeroy Castle over the years! You can learn about these on an audio tour.

The castle is run by the English Heritage. See my full members’ review here.

Goodrington Sands

Goodrington Sands is one of the best beaches in Paignton.

Around a half-hour walk from Paignton, this stretch of red sand has been awarded the prestigious Blue Flag Award for its cleanliness. 

Take in extraordinary views of the red cliffs, and if you’re lucky you might even see the steam train trundle past!

It’s quite a large beach, so there is plenty of space to stretch out even in the summer months! 

Fairy Cove

Fairy Cove is a miniature red sand beach tucked behind Paignton Harbour.

It’s very sheltered, so the seas are usually very calm here!

It’s only a small beach, but it’s a wonderful peaceful spot compared to the other beaches around Torbay.

Broadsands Beach

This sandy beach is among the most popular in the area. It’s a long sandy beach that’s a bit more natural than Paignton’s main beach!

The beach gently slopes, and rock pools are exposed at low tide.

It’s also won the prestigious Blue Flag award for its water cleanliness!

If you want a more idyllic beach away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre, definitely consider Broadsands.

Young’s Park

Located just behind Goodrington Beach, Young’s Park was previously a lagoon. 

It has a few points of interest, including a boating lake with pedaloes and the interesting “bumper boats” (like bumper cars but on water!) and mini golf. 

For any fans of eerie/ dark tourism, over 300 French sailors are apparently buried beneath the park, and there’s also one lone grave within the park! 

Oldway Mansion

Oldway Mansion is a historic house and estate just outside of Paignton.

Originally called the Fernham Estate, it was bought by Isaac Merritt Singer, who founded the sewing machine company, in 1871!

It was rebuilt between of 1904 and 1907, modelled after the Palace of Versailles.

The mansion itself isn’t open to the public, but you can enjoy walking in the grounds and looking at it from afar!

Splashdown Quaywest

Splashdown Quaywest is the UK’s biggest all-outdoor waterpark.

While that’s an impressive title, this is only because the UK doesn’t have that many all-outdoor waterparks and not any particular attribute to Splashdown Quaywest’s size!

In all honesty, Splashdown Quaywest isn’t my favourite South Devon attraction – I found the whole park in need of a make over, and it was incredibly busy despite booking a timed slot.

However, if you’re looking for things to do in Paignton with teenagers or older kids, or if you just want to try out a few flumes, it’s an ok attraction for a couple of hours.  

One of my favourite things about Splashdown Quaywest is the spectacular views that you’ll witness as you soar down the slides, looking over Goodrington Sands as you go. 

You can read my full review here.

Cockington Court

Cockington Court (sometimes called Cockington Hall) is a historic building turned into a creative arts space. 

You can explore the manor house for free, where you’re invited to discover stories of the Cary and Mallock families who resided here. 

There’s also an art gallery with rotating exhibitions and the Seven Dials cafe, which serves fresh coffee and tasty lunches. 

Stand Up Paddleboarding

Stand Up Paddleboarding has certainly become one of the most popular water sports in the UK over the last few years, and there’s a plethora of options available all over Devon and Cornwall.

Reach Outdoors is located at Goodrington and here you can hire paddle boards, take classes or enjoy guided tours around the area.

If you don’t want to paddleboard, there are plenty of other fun activities you can try around Paignton, like water skiing. 

Boat Trips around Paignton

See Paignton from a different perspective by joining one of the many boat rides that plough the waters of the English Riviera. 

Paignton Pleasure Cruises offer fishing trips, pleasure cruises around the coastline and day trips to Dartmouth.

Walk the South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is the UK’s longest hiking trail, spanning 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. 

It traverses through every beach town in Devon, and the part that spans through Paignton is relatively easy; so it’s a great introduction to this type of terrain! 

From Paignton, you can walk to nearby Brixham or even to Kingswear, and in the other direction, the trail ultimately leads to Babbacombe in Totnes.

While it’s an easy section of path, once you’re away from Paignton and Torquay you’ll take in ancient red sandstone and rural scenes overlooking the blue ocean. 

Where to stay in Paignton

How to get to Paignton

To reach Paignton, drive to the end of the M5 or the A303 until you reach Exeter. Then, take the A380, which leads to the South Devon coastal town!

If you’re taking the train, cross-country routes connect cities like London and Bristol with Exeter. From here, you can take a regional train to Paignton. 

You can also use coach services to connect with Exeter and then take a train to Paignton. 

How to get around Paignton

Paignton is very walkable, and regular buses connect different attractions in the town and even span to Torquay and Exeter. 

Places to visit near Paignton

Rooftops in Totnes, Devon, UK

There are plenty of places near Paignton to visit if you fancy a day trip! These are some of my favourites: 

  • Totnes: A gorgeous historic town just a few miles from Paignton, Totnes has plenty of attractions including an ancient castle and plenty of boutique shops. 
  • Dartmouth: In a scenic position on the southern coast of Devon, Dartmouth is home to gorgeous beaches and a charming castle. 
  • Torquay: Torquay is Paignton’s neighbour, the capital of the English Riviera and also has lots of family-friendly attractions. 
  • Brixham: Most famous for being a fishing port, Brixham has lots of beautiful beaches nearby. 
  • Exmouth: Exmouth is around a 45-minute drive from Paignton and has a gorgeous two mile beach. It’s the start of the Jurassic Coast so you can take in some amazing coastline from here! You could also visit Dawlish Warren, which is on the other side of the River Exe. 
  • Exeter: There are lots of things to do in Exeter, including charming historical attractions like the Exeter Cathedral and tours of the underground tunnels. It’s well-connected by trains from Paignton. 
  • Plymouth: Devon’s other city, Plymouth boasts a range of ocean-based activities, including the UK’s largest aquarium and the oldest continuously operating gin distillery in the country. 

FAQs about staying in Paignton

Swan floating on the lake in coastal town of Paignton, Devon

Which is nicer Torquay or Paignton? 

It’s a tough call – they’re close to each other and both have their own draws! I’d say that Torquay is probably a bit fancier, with more of a riviera atmosphere, whereas Paignton is more of a traditional seaside resort with lots of attractions. 

Is Paignton a seaside town? 

Yes, Paignton is a town on the coast of South Devon. 

Why is the sand red in Paignton? 

The sand is red in Paignton thanks to the red sandstone rocks, which is due to an iron chemical – usually this is only found in the desert!

How long is Paignton seafront? 

Paignton Seafront is 1.3 miles or two kilometres long.

Can I park on the Paignton seafront? 

Yes, there is road parking at the seafront and plenty of parking in the town.

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