Are you looking for the best things to do in Sidmouth? Here’s our full guide!
The natural beauty of Sidmouth, one of East Devon’s premier resort towns, has been attracting travellers for decades.
Sidmouth’s a small town sitting on the Jurassic Coast and has a tiny population of about 12,500 people. But it’s well-catered for tourists, with an abundance of hotels and restaurants.
Boasting a fascinating history not just from the Jurassic period, but also from the town’s rise as a holiday resort, the coastal town is renowned for its excellent walks, beautiful sea views and landscaped gardens.
Gaze up at towering red-sand cliffs, be amazed at the golden beaches and go back in millennia of history as you discover the Jurassic Coast.
I live in nearby Exmouth (about half an hour from Sidmouth), and I’ve visited the town lots of times in my childhood and more recent years.
While Exmouth is much bigger and more accessible, Sidmouth has a wonderful charm that you only really find in smaller towns.
Whether you fancy strolling around the lovely countryside or enjoying family fun on Sidmouth’s beaches – or if the weather’s not too kind and you need to shelter – all of the main attractions of the seaside town are featured in this post!
Things to Do in Sidmouth
The best things to do in Sidmouth include lazing on the beach, admiring the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast (and maybe even doing a hike or two on them!), walks up the River Sid, learning about the town’s history with its blue plaques and visiting the nearby donkey sanctuary – East Devon’s most adorable attraction.
Here’s a full list of what to do in Sidmouth!
Admire the towering Jurassic Coast cliffs in the town centre
The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is the only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in England, spanning 95 miles through East Devon and Dorset, and travelling 185 million years back in time in the process.
The stunning coastline is home to fascinating fossils, glorious beaches and rugged steep cliffs; and the far west segment is its oldest part.
You can see the beautiful cliffs right from Sidmouth town centre, so bring a camera and snap away!
Walk on Sidmouth Beach
Before you go and snap those iconic pictures though, make sure to make the most of Sidmouth Beach. It’s beautiful, clean and accessible.
Try and get there when the tide is out to be treated to gorgeous red sand and rockpools otherwise covered by the sea.
If you’re an adventurer, head out to the eastern end where you can hire kayaks and canoes. As Sidmouth is in the sheltered Lyme Bay, the waters here are generally calm and fantastic for watersports!
Visit Sidmouth Museum
Are you more of a museum person?
Don’t worry, Sidmouth covers all grounds and the collections and exhibitions in this museum are not to be missed.
Given the important geographical location of Sidmouth, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that this museum is dedicated to fossils, minerals, and rocks that have been found in the area.
There are many interactive displays and so much to learn, it really is fun for all the family.
And don’t miss The History of Sidmouth exhibit to learn all about the area in the 1700s!
Stroll up and down the River Sid
I don’t know about you, but I love a good walk along a river after lunch. Lucky for us, Sidmouth and the Sid Valley encompass a fantastic riverside walk.
While you might not fancy the entire 40-mile stretch (good luck to you if you do!), the entire route is full of beautiful views and calm, quiet pathways perfect for a stroll.
However far you choose to go, make sure you don’t miss Byes Tollhouse to fully immerse yourself in the history of the town.
Climb up Peak Hill
Another fantastic option for a walk is to climb Peak Hill, which has immense views from the top.
Run by the National Trust, this short, relatively easy walk will reward you with stunning views of the Jurassic Coast.
Take a trip in autumn to fully appreciate the wildlife and berries that grow.
Visit Connaught Gardens
Dating back to the 1930s, Connaught Gardens are beautiful partly walled-in glorious gardens that absolutely can’t be missed on a trip to Sidmouth.
It’s around 1.25 hectares in size and boasts many mixed borders and municipal beddings.
The setting is perfect for wandering around and marvelling at the lovely rare plants on display.
Refreshments are available at The Clock Tower cafe and if you come in the summer, you might be treated to an entertainment event or concert.
Laze on Jacob’s Ladder Beach
Another amazing beach, Jacob’s Ladder is named after a wooden stairway that comes directly from Connaught Gardens.
Not only is it stunning, but it’s also backed by some impressive cliff faces.
That also means you’re slightly protected from the wind. This is a very convenient win – you know what the British seaside is like!
One of the more interesting things about this beach is that the pebbles are actually protected by law!
There are rock pools, sand, and shingles, but you can’t take anything from the beach.
Kick back in a Sidmouth pub
What would a trip to the British seaside be without a trip to the pub?
It’s almost as important as getting fish and chips!
Sidmouth has some wonderful pubs and given the location, you’re almost guaranteed to get some incredible views while sipping on your pint.
Don’t forget to try the local cider!
Pay a visit to the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary
The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary is a lovely spot to visit, especially if you have little’uns with you.
It’s over 50 years old and is dedicated to transforming the lives of donkeys across the world.
This sanctuary for donkeys has rescued hundreds of amazing animals over the years, many of who were adopted after being mistreated for tourism purposes.
You’ll learn all sorts at this place and come away with a newfound love of donkeys.
Follow the blue plaques to learn about Sidmouth’s heritage
One thing about Sidmouth? There are a lot of blue plaques.
That means the town has a lot of history.
So, what better way to learn all about it than to do a mini tour and find them all?
Learn as much as you can and visit sites of historical importance (with pitstops at the pub, of course).
In fact, it’s a heritage trail and it’ll take you through exotic gardens, places of extraordinary architecture, and tell you all about the town’s royal connections.
There are 64 in total, can you find them all?
Sidmouth Toy and Model Museum
The Toy and Model Museum is full of fun and is the accumulation of 40 years of work and collecting by owners Ian and Rebecca.
From model cars, trains, and aircraft, to Star Wars and Harry Potter exhibits, this one is particularly popular with younger children.
There are also vintage Barbie dolls and board games!
Walk to Branscombe, Beer, or Seaton
Another great walk on this list, but upping the ante to a challenging level (maybe even strenuous depending on your fitness level), the South West Coast Path walk to Seaton (which goes via Branscombe and Beer if you fancy a shorter trek) is an impressive 10.3 miles.
Hiking on the coastal path is one of the best things to do in Devon, so don’t miss this hike for epic views!
You know what that means? You’ll have earned that cider and carvery by the end of it!
You’ll see butterflies, red cliffs, and masses of wildflowers.
That’s all while walking across rocks that are nearly 200 million years old!
It’s a stunning walk, just make sure you’re kitted out and have the right footwear on.
Walk to Exmouth
If you’re wanting a longer walk, but don’t fancy so many ups and downs, head to Exmouth on the coastal path from Sidmouth.
This one is easy to moderate in difficulty making it a much more chilled-out route.
It’ll take you through the resort of Ladram Bay, home to a gorgeous beach that is open to the public in the winter months.
Then, it goes through the town of Budleigh Salterton which has tonnes to do including beaches and vineyards, and along the way, you’ll see woodland and cliffs and do lots of open-field walking.
Visit the Beer Quarry Caves
Admittedly, this one is a 20-minute drive away, but it’s so good, we had to include it!
The Beer Quarry Caves are man-made caverns that are 2,000 years old, home to Beer stone which has been used in many of the nation’s cathedrals, Exeter’s guildhall and countless churches and buildings across South West England.
On guided tours of the underground quarry, you can learn all about the cave’s history and ecology, including how it became one of the most important industrial sites in the UK.
Explore charming Branscombe
Branscombe is a quintessentially quaint British fishing village, so we just had to put it on this list!
The longest village in England, this delightful settlement is home to fossil hunting, charming thatched roof cottages, South West Coast Path hikes and charming tea rooms and pubs.
Places to visit near Sidmouth
Part of the charm of staying in Sidmouth is that you can experience some of the best things to do in East Devon on a day trip while you’re here!
Home to Stuart Line Cruises and Orcombe Point which is the start of the Jurassic Coast, Exmouth is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park is a must-do in Devon.
With popular attractions like its many tors (Brent Tor with the church on top is my favourite!), National Trust site Castle Drogo and a plethora of incredible hiking routes, this wild and rugged landscape is one of the UK’s most iconic national parks.
Get ready for sensational views and look out for wild ponies as you drive around!
One of Devon’s two cities, Exeter is close to Sidmouth and is packed full of interesting historical attractions.
The most famous is Exeter Cathedral, but it’s also home to an enigmatic quay, one of the narrowest roads in the world, a house that was moved and Medieval passageways.
An atmospheric house basking in stunning countryside, Killerton House is one of the best national trust properties in Devon.
It dates back to the 18th century, and was donated donated to the National Trust in 1944 by the Acland family.
Along with historic rooms, the house boasts a collection of historic fashion.
Plus, the 2590 hectare estate, which contains the remains of an iron-age fort, is ideal for walks.
Honiton is one of the more underrated places to visit in Devon, but it’s famous for its lace-making industry that dates back 400 years.
While you’re here, explore the town’s rich history at the Allhallows Museum or, if you’re visiting on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, check out the Honiton Farmer’s Market.
Honiton’s on the edge of the Blackdown Hills, a stunning (yet offbeat) AONB, and from the town you can take in a variety of walking and cycling routes.
Just a stone’s throw from the Dorset border, Seaton’s a popular Jurassic Coast seaside resort.
It’s home to the Seaton Tramway, which explores the beautiful Axe Valley as it journeys to Colyton.
Plus, check out Seaton Wetlands, a nature reserve that’s home to hikes and plenty of birds!
Bask on the beach, or enjoy the variety of coastal walks that leave from the town – you can even hike into Dorset from here!
Where to Stay in Sidmouth
Less than two miles from both Sidmouth Beach and Jacob’s Ladder Beach, the Balfour Arms is perfect for your trip to Sidmouth.
This gorgeous hotel has a garden and shared lounge so you really feel at home.
The Duke’s Inn is in a great location, modern, and super high quality.
It boasts an award-winning restaurant that serves local produce and is less than two miles from Jacob’s Ladder Beach.
If it’s sea views and luxury you’re after, The Belmont Hotel is for you.
It has beautiful gardens and terraces, and also includes access to a free swimming pool and spa at their nearby sister hotel!
Most bedrooms have a sea view, so don’t miss out. It’s one of the best places to stay in Devon.
Where to eat in Sidmouth
The ideal place to enjoy breakfast in Sidmouth, The Clock Tower overlooks Connaught Gardens.
There are plenty of veggie options on the menu – I had the vegan breakfast roll when I visited which I loved!
If you’re after fish and chips while you’re in Sidmouth, there’s nowhere better than Prospect Plaice!
With all the classics, including battered fish, burgers and veggie burgers and of course chunky chips with lashings of salt and vinegar, this is the perfect takeaway venue to visit!
The Marine is a traditional but bright and airy pub on the heart of Sidmouth seafront.
It has a huge selection of drinks along with tapas, pizzas and burgers on the food menu.
If you’re spending a few days in Sidmouth, here are some easy-to-follow itineraries.
One day in Sidmouth itinerary
If you’re spending one day in Sidmouth, begin with a walk up and down the beach.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could walk up Peak Hill or for something more chilled, amble around Connaught Gardens.
Enjoy lunch in one of the best pubs or restaurants in town, and visit Sidmouth’s museums in the afternoon.
Two days in Sidmouth itinerary
Complete day number one as above.
On day number two, visit the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary and the Beer Quarry Caves.
Then, explore gorgeous Branscombe, a glorious village full of thatched-roof cottages, and hike to the nearby village of Beer.
Three days in Sidmouth itinerary
If you have three days in Sidmouth, check out the nearby towns of Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth on day number three.
Go on a Stuart Line Cruise, check out A La Ronde (a 16-sided house!), head up to Orcombe Point which is the start of the Jurassic Coast or stroll up the River Otter from Budleigh Salterton to Otterton.
Don’t miss the adorable village of East Budleigh too!
One week in Sidmouth itinerary
If you have a whole week in Sidmouth, take in a coastal path hike from the town to Exmouth or Branscombe.
Spend a day in Exeter, exploring the cathedral, the city’s museum and historic quay.
Pass a day hiking on Dartmoor and venture to the Jurassic Coast of Dorset or the Torbay area of South Devon!
While Sidmouth is a small place, it actually has a long history and was mentioned in the Domesday Book as Sedemuda (which meant the mouth of the River Sid).
Initially a small fishing village, Sidmouth grew to become a market town, although never become a port due to no shelter or natural harbour at the coastline.
However, it’s often called “Port Royal” due to two ships leaving the town in the 100 years war with France. There was also a fort built in the 17th century in response to fears of a French naval attack!
Like many towns in coastal Devon, Sidmouth had smuggling connections in the 15th-18th centuries.
Jack Rattenbury, potentially Devon’s most famous smuggler, was born in nearby Beer, and the Mutter family (a smuggling family!) were based close by in Ladram Bay.
In fact, Mutter’s Moor which is located on Peak Hill was named after the Mutters.
Sidmouth became a popular tourist destination in the early 19th century, which is when many of the buildings which stand today originated from. Even Queen Victoria once stayed here as a baby!
Nowadays, Sidmouth remains a popular tourist hub with gorgeous views, epic walking trails, and a plethora of things to do!
Visiting Sidmouth FAQs
What is Sidmouth known for?
Sidmouth is known for its Jurassic Coast cliffs, beautiful beaches and scenic gardens.
What is there to do in Sidmouth when it rains?
If you’re visiting Sidmouth in the rain, you could visit the town’s museums, the nearby Beer Quarry Caves or the attractions in Exeter, which is a short drive away.
You can see my full guide to visiting Devon in the rain here.
Which is nicer Sidmouth or Exmouth?
Both are lovely East Devon towns. Exmouth is more residential (I live here myself!) and Sidmouth feels more touristy.
However, this means that Sidmouth has more of that remote fishing-town feel, and it’s especially scenic if you visit out of the tourist season.
But, if you want a slice of local life, head to Exmouth!
Why is it called Jacob’s Ladder Sidmouth?
It’s named after a ladder that connected the beach to the Connaught Gardens; it was named after the biblical Jacob’s Ladder to Heaven.
What shops are there in Sidmouth?
Sidmouth has a variety of independent and historic stores. Check out Fields of Sidmouth which has a history spanning back over 200 years.
All of the best things to do in Sidmouth!
Stunning scenery unfurls before your eyes and there’s a range of fun family attractions to keep everyone entertained – Sidmouth is without a doubt one of the most beautiful holiday spots in the country.
Most tourists come for the beaches but stay for the mesmerising views from the cliff tops.
You can also enjoy amazing family days in East Devon or just kick back on Sidmouth beach – there’s so much on offer in this East Devon town!
If you’re planning a trip to this part of the country, don’t forget to check out my full Devon travel guide full of all my local trips to the county!