Are you searching for the best things to do in Torquay? I live nearby, and have put together my favourite activities from my many trips there over the years.
With a pulsating town centre, a charming marina with large and small boats bobbing on the water and picturesque beaches like Oddicombe and Meadfoot just a short journey from the town centre, there are so many fantastic things to do in Torquay.
It’s famous for being one of the UK’s best beach destinations (it’s not called the English Riviera for nothing!), home of Agatha Christie, and a town that’s jam-packed with fun family attractions – Torquay in Devon has something for everyone!
Bask on the best Torquay beaches, take in spectacular views from the South West Coast Path, go back in time at Torre Abbey and go underground in Kent’s Cavern Cave.
Torquay has plenty in the way of attractions – whether you’re a solo traveller, family, couple or group – BUT it has got a bit of a bad reputation in the last few years, with many locals and visitors claiming that it’s a little past its best.
For me, it’s not my favourite Devon beach town (I think Exmouth, where I live, is miles better), but there’s no denying that the entire area of Torbay has an incredible amount of attractions and hotels – and there are lots of hidden gems in the area.
So, if you’re looking for the best things to see in Torquay, here’s my full guide!
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Best things to do in Torquay
A coastal town in South Devon, England, Torquay sits around 18 miles from Exeter and is one of the biggest settlements in the county, with a population of around 53,000.
It’s been a popular tourist spot since the Victorian era and boasts beautiful sandy beaches, subtropical gardens and a variety of museums.
Stroll around Torquay Harbour
Like many beach towns across Devon and Cornwall, one of the main attractions is to just enjoy the beachfront.
Torquay promenade is renowned for its towering palm trees that ascend into the bright blue skies and Princess Pier which dates back to 1890 and is a popular fishing destination.
It’s the perfect spot to grab a cup of coffee or enjoy a seafood slap-up meal; check out Bay Cafe for coffee and Pier Point Restaurant and Bar for a meal.
Torquay Marina is a fantastic spot to people-watch, whether you want to admire the boats of varying sizes or take in the jolly bucket and spade atmosphere of the coastal town.
You can also walk down to Princess Gardens, pretty coastal gardens where you can enjoy a range of plants.
Visit Torquay Museum
If you’re a history buff, then don’t miss Torquay Museum – one of the most interesting to visit in town when it’s raining!
With exhibitions and interactive displays that explore the region and world’s natural history, geology and archaeology.
You’ll learn about Ancient Egypt and other World Cultures, along with archives about the story of Torquay, from its Romanization and to the beginning of modern-day Torquay.
Travel on the Torquay land train
The Torquay Land Train is a fun way to explore the town; it’s perfect if you’ve just arrived in the area and don’t want to walk around, but be driven!
The Torquay Land Train takes visitors on a 45-minute journey through the town and along the seafront, passing many of the town’s most popular sights including Princess Pier, Torre Abbey Gardens and The Strand.
You can book and get more information by calling 07980 269352.
Explore Torquay’s sandy beaches
While Torquay’s main beach, and others around Paignton, have become a little over-commercialized, there are plenty of glorious coves and sandy bays around Torbay.
You can take these in by driving around the coastline or hiking on the South West Coast Path (more on that below!).
Some of my favourite beaches around Torquay are:
- Antsey’s Cove: Pictured above, Antsey’s Cove is a beautiful, secluded cove located between Torquay and Babbacombe.
- Meadfoot Beach: Sitting at the bottom of dramatic cliffs, dotted by bushes and trees, Meadfoot Beach is a glorious stretch of white sand and bright blue water curving around the coastline, just one mile from Torquay.
- Torre Abbey Sands: Torre Abbey Sands is Torquay’s main beach. It can be very busy, especially during the summer months, but it’s a golden strip of sand in very close proximity to the town’s amenities.
- Goodrington Sands: This is technically a Paignton Beach, but I love the expanse of gold sand! It’s also where the Splashdown Quaywest waterpark is based!
Take the Babbacombe Cliff Railway down to Oddicombe Beach
Another beach recommendation – but this one deserves a sentence of its own because of the unique way to get down there!
The Babbacombe Cliff Railway dates back to 1926, descending slowly down the cliffs as tourists can take in the glorious ocean and coastal scenery, along with the beautiful subtropical plants.
When you get to Oddicombe Beach, you’ll enjoy a beautiful cove, perfect for watersports or relaxing on shingle, before heading back to the top of the cliffs.
An 800-year-old Grade I listed building, Torre Abbey was founded in 1196 by six Premonstratensian canons who came from Nottinghamshire’s Wellbeck Abbey
They were granted permission to build the abbey William Brewer, who owned the land, which nowadays spans over 18 acres.
It was once the richest English monastery for the Premonstratensian canons orders, and it remains the best-preserved abbey in Devon and Cornwall.
Like many monasteries around Europe, it was closed in 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Following its closure as a monastery, it was adapted to become a private home, where the Cary family lived for over 300 years.
Nowadays, it’s an historical attraction and museum containing 600 works of art dating from the 18th century to the present day.
Once you’ve absorbed the history, step out into award-winning Torre Abbey Gardens, home to a variety of subtropical and exotic plants including dahlias, roses and perennials, where you can take a view of the building from the outside.
At less than a 20 minute walk from the town centre, it’s the perfect spot to visit in Torquay!
Babbacombe Model Village
An intricately-constructed model village that draws visitors from all around the world.
The entire village – or, to put it more accurately, a miniature world, spreads over four acres, with 400 buildings, depicting locations from as far back as the 16th century. You’ll find stately homes and Bath’s famous Georgian crescent!
Babbacombe Model Village also includes the ‘Little Enders’ soap set, a celebrity mansion with a fe w notable characters and the Victorian snowy village.
There are also some award-winning gardens with a 1/12 scale model railway weaving around the gardens.
It’s a charming place to visit, young or old, and will give you a sense of wanderlust without leaving Torquay!
Cockington Country Park
Situated inland, between Torquay and Paignton, Cockington Country Park stretches over 450 acres, with picturesque gardens dotted with ornamental lakes.
The park boasts scenic walks, lakeside views, activity trails and wildlife spotting opportunities.
There’s also a historic manor house which is nowadays where more than 20 craft studios are based. You’ll also find an art gallery and tea room.
Also on-site are glorious thatched roof cottages and an 11th century church.
People of all ages will enjoy a fantastic day at this country park!
Walk the South West Coast Path trails around Torquay
Like all towns in South Devon, Torquay is located on the South West Coast Path.
The South West Coast Path runs from Minehead in Somerset to Studland Bay in Dorset, curling around Cornwall and bypassing both North and South Devon’s coastline.
The coastal path climbs up cliffs, through rocky valleys, along sandy beaches and drops into charming coastal towns and villages.
From Torquay, you can hike through rugged terrain, past epic beaches and through Torbay’s town’s and villages.
The Torquay to Brixham walk is a fairly easy hike, passing through Paignton (so there’s plenty of places to grab ice cream or a snack!).
You could also walk from Torquay to Babbacombe, which traverses around Thatcher Point headland and spans through some wilder scenery.
This is a seven-mile walk – if you want a really long hike, you could walk to Teignmouth, via Shaldon, afterward!
Torbay’s neighbour, Paignton, is also worth visiting.
I prefer Torquay to Paignton, but there are a few attractions in town, and you can easily drive, take a bus or train or even walk between the two towns.
Paignton has a small pier and a large variety of shops and cafes.
Enjoy the town’s arcades, take a boat out from the beach or even visit Paignton Zoo!
Splashdown Quaywest Waterpark
This attraction is in Paignton, and if I’m being completely honest it’s not my favourite attraction in South Devon – when compared to waterparks in other international destinations, I found it a little underwhelming – but if you’re visiting as a family or group, it could be good fun!
There are eight waterslides, including Surf Lagoon and Raging Rapids, and if you’re keen to spend all day sliding down the flumes, you’ll probably enjoy it! You can also take in beautiful views of Goodriungton Beach from the top of the slides.
However, there isn’t much room to chill out in the water, although there is a sun deck.
Kent’s Cavern Caves
Situated on the edge of Torquay is Kent’s Cavern Caves; a cave complex that has provided shelter and refuge since Stone Age times.
It’s the oldest known cave system in Britain, at over 500,000 years old, and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
More than 80,000 artefacts have been found that prove human activity here dates back hundreds of thousands of years.
Stalagmite floors were formed over ice age cycles, with the second floor being 400,000 years old and the upper floor being 12,500 years old. There’s thought to be a third floor which is even older, but it’s not been excavated yet.
The tours are accessible by guided tour only, starting at 10:00 am every day. You can book tickets on the website.
Agatha Christie Mile
Torquay is the birthplace of the famous crime writer, Agatha Christie.
If you’re interested in crime fiction and the writer’s life, you can partake in a self-guided tour of some of the most important places in Toruquay related to Christie:
- The Grand Hotel: Agatha spent her honeymoon night with her first husband, Archie Christie, here. You can even stay in the Agatha Christie Suite here!
- Torre Abbey Gardens: Don’t miss the Agatha-Christie-inspired Potent Plants Garden!
- Princess Pier: Agatha used to go roller-skating with friends here when she was young.
- Princess Gardens: these gardens feature in Christie’s crime novel, The ABC Murders.
- Agatha Christie Bust: this is a bronze statue that was unveiled in 1990 on Palk Street to commemorate the Agatha Christie Centenary Year.
- Imperial Hotel: this Victorian four-star hotel featured in three of Agatha’s novels: Peril at End House, Sleeping Murder and The Body in the Library.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the town, visiting landmarks and locations associated with her life and work. The tour includes places like Torre Abbey, Torquay Museum, and Kents Cavern.
Enjoy Torquay’s nightlife
Fancy a night out? Being one of the larger towns in Devon, Torquay is known for its vibrant nightlife. It is renowned for its bars, clubs, and restaurants to suit all tastes.
Here are some of my favourites:
- Hole in the Wall: Torquay’s oldest pub, the Hole in the Wall dates back to 1540 and has gorgeous low-beamed ceilings and stone floors. You’ll find a fantastic selection of real ales and other drinks and hearty food including local seafood.
- The Apple and Parrot: If you want some live music, this is your place! The Apple and Parrot hosts concerts every evening, along with a wide range of beverages.
- The Foundry: A popular nightclub, The Foundry hosts events throughout the year. You can book tickets on Eventbrite.
Housed in a former cinema (it was called “the Tudor Cinema, but of course, it wasn’t actually a cinema in the Tudor era!) Bygones offers a fascinating insight into life in Britain during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
The museum showcases recreations of Victorian and Edwardian streets, complete with shops, a pub, a sweet shop and a dressmaker’s workshop.
While you’re here, explore a vintage arcade, a wartime display and a collection of antique toys and dolls.
It’s a treasure trove of exhibitions, history buffs of all ages can enjoy stepping into its historical realms!
Torquay’s Dinosaur World
Are you visiting with little ones? The head to Torquay’s Dinosaur World!
This is a popular attraction for families and dinosaur enthusiasts.
The indoor museum features life-sized models of dinosaurs, including a Parasaurolophus, a Dimetrodon, and a Triceratops.
Visitors can learn about the history of these prehistoric creatures through interactive displays and hands-on activities.
There’s even a T Rex fossil skill where you can take some fun pictures!
Located right in the town centre, it’s an easily accessible attraction that you can enjoy in all weather.
Fancy some live entertainment?
Babbacombe Theatre showcases a wide range of performances throughout the year; whether you fancy musicals, plays, comedies, or pantomimes, there’s always something to enjoy here!
The shows vary throughout the year; you can check what’s currently on here.
The Imperial Torquay Spa
One of the best holiday activities to enjoy, no matter the weather, is to kick back in the spa.
There’s a fantastic spa in Torquay: The Imperial.
With four treatment rooms offering treatments like Relax & Reset Facial, Decleor Tranquil Back & Face Treatment and Jessica Luxury Manicure & Pedicure, a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and heated pool for swimming, you’ll soak in the lap of luxury as you enjoy a spa day.
Plus, most packages include a two-course meal at The Palm Court Lounge & Bar which services dishes like Smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh watercress and tomato linguine.
The Real Crime Museum
The Real Crime Museum in Torquay offers visitors a fascinating insight into the world of crime and punishment.
With exhibits on some of the UK’s most infamous crimes, here you’ll see a range of artefacts, including weapons, crime scene evidence, and police memorabilia.
Set in historic underground bunkers used in WW1, there’s also a real prison cell from HMP Dorchester.
The Real Crime Museum is located right by Torquay’s harbour, making it the perfect attraction to pop into while you’re exploring Torquay.
Leisure Pool at the Riviera International Centre
If you’re looking for things to do in Torquay in the rain, head to the Leisure Pool at the Riviera International Centre.
Here, you’ll find a flume, a wave pool and a children’s play area.
Waves is open all year round, making it an ideal activity for families during the colder months.
It is situated around a mile from Torquay harbour, close to Torre Abbey.
Enjoy a retro bowling experience at Hollywood Bowling in the heart of Torquay.
Here, you’ll find 21 bowling lanes, perfect for larger groups or couples on date night.
There’s also an American-themed diner and bar on-site, so you can spend the entire evening in this venue!
Situated along the South West Coast Path, Thatcher Point is one of the best natural spots to visit near Torquay.
Follow the South West Coast Path heading eastwards, towards the point, which is on the headland that juts out at the end of Torbay.
From Thatcher Point, you can take in dramatic cliff scenery and look out to Thatcher Rock, enjoying the diverse array of birds and flora on the headland.
The area is also renowned for fossils, and gold has even been found here!
HQ Escape Rooms
If you’re visiting Torquay as a family or a group (or even a couple who’s up for a challenge!), HQ Escape Rooms are a fun activity that you can do rain or shine!
Escape rooms are immersive adventure games where players solve puzzles, riddles, and challenges to escape from a room or series of rooms (although, of course, you can quit and exit at any time!).
Often, these have a theme or storyline. At HQ Escape Rooms, you can do a Sherlock or Gunpowder Plot-themed room – and players must work together to uncover clues, decode messages, and solve puzzles to escape before time runs out.
Torquay Harbour is right in the heart of the town centre, so it’s easily walkable from all the other parts of town.
Jungle Journey Adventure Golf
Take a whirl on Jungle Journey Adventure Golf, a rainforest-themed crazy golf course with 18 holes.
There are no leopards or lions here, but you’ll tiptoe through long grass to reach each hole.
It’s fabulous, family-friendly fun!
Royal Terrace Gardens
Royal Terrace Gardens is an extensive garden with Mediterranean plants and beautiful coastal views.
The paths weave down the cliff, making a picturesque stroll that’s perfect for sunny days in town.
As Torquay’s been a tourist hotspot for decades, there’s always been plenty of watersports on offer. But nowadays, there are less pedaloes and more stand-up paddleboards!
Businesses like Torquay Watersports, where you can charter a boat and take a RIB sea safari, taking in the spectacular coastline as you go.
Fancy SUPing instead? Reach Outdoors do paddleboarding classes and sessions – or if you’ve already tried out stand up paddleboarding you can hire a board out for a day!
There’s not much surfing in this part of Devon – you’ll need to head to Woolacombe’s beaches for that – but Meadfoot Beach offers fantastic safe swimming.
The Agatha Christie Mile is fun when you’re in town, but it’s also worth visiting Greenway – her historic holiday home.
The first mention of Greenway was in 1493, but this building was built in the 18th century.
It’s most famous for being under the ownership of Agatha Christie, and unlike many of National Trust houses in Devon and Cornwall, it’s full of her own items, all of which portray the novelist’s rich history.
Once you’ve soaked the history in the house, enjoy the beautiful gardens with sweeping views down to the River Dart.
Eat at some of the best Torquay restaurants
Being a sizeable town, there are a few excellent restaurants in Torquay!
Here are some of the best:
- The Elephant: a Michelin-starred restaurant offering British cuisine with modern twists, like citrus cured bream, tapioca crisps, and smoked oyster emulsion. Choose from an a la carte or tasting menu!
- The Orange Tree: serving a sumptuous menu with options for all tastes (check out their vegan roasted celeriac gnocchi!), The Orange Tree is an opulent dining experience steps from Torquay Harbour.
- Hanbury’s Famous Fish and Chips: Situated in Babbacombe, Hanbury’s is a favourite spot for traditional fish and chips – which you’ve got to enjoy while you’re by the seaside!
- No 7 Fish Bistro: Torbay’s first seafood restaurant, you can enjoy some of the best seafood dishes including scallops simmered with mushrooms, vermouth and lemon and lobster and crab from Brixham harbour.
Day trips from Torquay
Thanks to Torquay’s advantageous position on the South coast of Devon, there’s an array of fantastic day trips from the town, encompassing the best places to visit in Devon. Visit other beach settlements like Dartmouth, Salcombe and Exmouth or enjoy either of Devon’s cities – Torquay is between them! Here are all of the best day trips from Torquay.
A historic town situated on the banks of the River Dart, Dartmouth is is known for its charming cobbled streets, ancient buildings and stunning waterfront location.
Here you’ll find Dartmouth Castle, built in the 14th century to protect the town from invasion, and the Dartmouth Steam Railway, which offers scenic journeys through the stunning countryside.
Dartmouth also boasts a range of independent shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants, serving locally sourced produce and seafood.
The town is popular with visitors looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the South Hams, including nearby beaches, coastal walks and water sports.
Situated on the eastern side of the Kingsbridge Estuary, Salcombe is known for its beautiful beaches and range of watersports.
The town has a range of independent shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, along with the Salcombe gin distillery.
Salcombe is also a popular destination for walkers, with several scenic trails offering breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline and countryside.
Don’t miss the 8.5 mile walk to Hope Cove, a glorious village with two epic beaches.
Exmouth is a charming seaside town located to the east of the Exe Estuary.
It sits at the western end of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s renowned for its geological importance and stunning natural beauty.
Exmouth boasts a long sandy beach, perfect for swimming (in lifeguarded areas) and water sports, as well as plenty of amenities such as cafes, restaurants and shops; although, as a local, I love the restaurants in town more (check out Spoken and Vino 32!).
There are a few things to do in Exmouth in the rain too; enjoy attractions like A La Ronde, a unique 16 sided house and the Exmouth Museum, which delves into the town’s past.
The county town of Devon, Exmouth has Roman, medieval and Georgian influences which are evident in its architecture and landmarks.
The city is home to the world-famous Exeter Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and is renowned for its stunning stained glass windows and vaulted ceiling.
At Exeter Quay, you can enjoy the historic custom house, seafood restaurants with water views like Rockfish and watersports opportunities – rent out paddleboards, canoes and kayaks at Saddles and Paddles.
With a vibrant cultural scene, in Exeter you can visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, independent shops and a range of fun bars, such as The Terrace cocktail bar.
The craggy moorland of Dartmoor, one of England’s best national parks, is home to rocky tors, archaeological sites, temperate rainforest, medieval bridges like the Clapper Bridge (pictured above) and incredible sweeping views.
It’s one of the best places in Devon for hiking, and there are also plenty of charming villages and towns to explore, like Chagford and Widecombe in the Moor.
Devon’s largest city, Plymouth is famous for its maritime heritage and naval history.
Walk around the city and take in Plymouth Hoe, a public park offering spectacular views of the Sound and the iconic Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse. There’s also the scenic Barbican, with restaurants, pubs and bars.
Plymouth also has a range of museums, including The Box, which has exhibitions about the city and county’s history.
Also, don’t miss the Plymouth Gin Distillery, which is the longest-running gin distillery in the country. You can visit the restaurant or do tours and tastings!
Places to stay in Torquay
Torquay is one of the best places to stay in Devon thanks to its array of hotels and apartments. Here are some of the best hotels in town:
Situated in Babbacombe, Cary Arms & Spa is a luxurious seaside hotel, sitting on the edge of a cliff, offering stunning views of the English Channel.
The hotel has a spa, an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar.
With individually designed, plus rooms, Cary are individually designed, spacious and trendy. They have all the mod cons you’ll need for a comfy stay, and some even have roll-top baths in their ensuite bathrooms!
Situated just steps from Torquay station, the Grand Hotel is located on the seafront and has Victorian-era architecture.
With an indoor and outdoor pool, a restaurant serving delicious afternoon tea (just remember its cream on first, as you’re in Devon) and beautifully landscaped gardens, here you can relax in elegantly furnished and offer sea or garden views.
Located on a hill overlooking the seafront, the Imperial Torquay has a swimming pool with gorgeous views.
The perfect place for a summer holiday, the comfortable rooms have cosy furnishings and en-suite bathrooms, some with roll-top baths.
How to get to Torquay
There are several ways to get to Torquay, including by car, train or bus.
By car, Torquay can be reached via the M5 motorway, exiting at junction 31 and following signs for Torquay.
The journey takes approximately 3.5 hours from London (depending on traffic and where in London you’re coming from) and two hours from Bristol.
Torquay has a station that connects to Exeter St Davids; you can take a train to here from London, Birmingham or Bristol.
For those travelling from further afield, the nearest airport is Exeter Airport, which is approximately 30 miles from Torquay.
How to get around Torquay
Torquay is a relatively small town and is easy to navigate on foot. Many of the main attractions are within walking distance.
But if you want to visit some other places in South Devon, you can use local buses, which operate frequently throughout the day and connect Torquay with other towns and villages in the area like Paignton, Torquay and Dartmouth.
You can also take the train from Torquay to Paignton, Teignmouth, Dawlish, Exeter and Exmouth.
If you want a taxi, try Torbay Taxis by calling 01803 211611.
Are you ready to explore Torquay?
From picturesque beaches to family-friendly attractions, there are so many things to do in Torquay! Don’t forget to save this guide for more information and check out my Devon posts for more!