A trip to Devon is all about the great outdoors: its beautiful beaches, lush countryside and dramatic moorland are ripe for exploration, alfresco activities on land and in the water and a ton of fun things to do.
Devon is also popular among surfers, finding love among walkers and cyclists who flock to Dartmoor National Park. If the weather is bad and enjoying this beautiful slice of outdoors in England is out of the question, hunker down in a cosy café and watch the sea instead. Either way, you're bound to have an excellent time here.
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Best things to do in Devon
What is it? A floating restaurant in the middle of the Exe Estuary. You can only get to this custom-built wooden barge festooned with bunting by boat – either your own or a water taxi. Some game diners arrive by paddleboard.
Why go? Jesus walked on water, you can eat on water – with a 360-degree view of boats, shores and rolling hills. The menu is seafood-heavy – go with friends and order one of the sharing platters.
What is it? Luxury digs overlooking the Kingsbridge Estuary in the pretty coastal town of Salcombe, South Devon.
Why go? For a watery weekend. Eat breakfast overlooking the estuary; drink in the scenery on a yacht trip; come back for a swim in the spa’s indoor pool; then take a stroll beside the sea before dining at the hotel’s crustacean bar. Splish splash.
What is it? A working farm that’s also a friendly, cheap but basic campsite near some of North Devon’s best surfing beaches.
Why go? For a rural retreat. The camping fields have great views of the countryside and the loudest sound you’ll hear is the baaing of the farm’s flock of pedigree British Berrichon sheep – several of which are regular champions on the country show circuit!
What is it? A three-and-a-half-mile-long strip of golden sand backed by dunes that runs between the villages of Braunton and Croyde in North Devon. Part of the video for Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ was filmed here.
Why go? To surf. When the conditions are right, this is one of the best places in the country for beginner and intermediate boardmasters to catch some waves. The water is also perfect for swimming, which makes this beach popular with families, and walkers love the vistas.
What is it? A watersports centre, school and shop in Exmouth, East Devon, run by Steph Bridge, a five-time kite race world champion, and her husband Eric.
Why go? To learn how to kitesurf or paddleboard from the best in a stunning setting. Whatever level your sea-slicing skills are at you can take a lesson at Edge. Kids are welcome and wetsuits and equipment are provided. Dive in!
What is it? A laid-back bistro in Woolacombe with a community vibe because it’s also a lodge-style hostel, puts on gigs and has an affiliated surf school.
Why go? To devour large portions of healthy, locally sourced food. As well as salads, steaks and a catch of the day, there’s an extensive tapas menu including juicy prawns, Devon whitebait and Lundy squid – when you’re by the sea, eat the seafood.
What is it? A family- and dog-friendly café and takeaway in Ness Cove, Shaldon that has won awards for its sustainability credentials.
Why go? For a hearty breakfast before or a tasty lunch after a morning spent exploring the quaint fishing village of Shaldon. As you would expect, the fish is MSC certified, the meat organic and the tableware compostable.
What is it? A vast National Park in the heart of Devon with a landscape that takes in wooded valleys, rushing waterfalls, rugged terrain and sweeping flatlands; where ponies roam free and archaeological remains reveal the area’s ancient heritage.
Why go? To breathe clean air as you walk, run or cycle in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history and wildlife you’ll encounter or, for a quirky alternative, book a llama walk.
What is it? An Elizabethan pile nestled in spectacular countryside near Honiton that now houses a restaurant and hotel. As well as the main dining room indoors, the garden folly offers a more informal eating experience.
Why go? To sample dishes made with vegetables and herbs grown in the on-site kitchen garden – the menu has a ‘Mostly Picked This Morning’ section – and fish, meat and cheese from local producers. Follow your meal with a stroll in the pretty grounds.
What is it? West Country branch of the upmarket cinema chain with two screens and a buzzy bar. Become a member for discounts on tickets, food and drink at the venue, plus offers at several local businesses.
Why go? To catch the latest blockbusters, for sure, but also to watch an art house film, cinema classic or screening of a theatre show, in comfort with quality snacks.
What is it? Exeter’s busiest visitor attraction is a free museum that tells the story of Devon but also contains artefacts from around the world and across the centuries.
Why go? To see an array of animals, including birds, sea creatures, an elephant and, everyone’s favourite, Gerald the giraffe. The museum also has a temporary exhibition space that hosts touring shows.
What is it? An amazing farm shop in Topsham that sells its own-grown fruit and veg, a vast range of quality food from other local producers, plus goods like homeware and outdoor gear.
Why go? To fill your trolley with delicious, fresh food, from sausages to cider, and lose yourself browsing the other departments. You can also eat there and have a massage if all that shopping feels too stressful.
What is it? A historic area of Plymouth on the waterfront with cobbled streets, narrow lanes and listed buildings that’s also a foodie hub with a cluster of independent shops. Star attraction is the Mayflower Steps, from where the Pilgrims are thought to have sailed away to America in 1620.
Why go? To sip cocktails on a tour of the Plymouth Gin Distillery, gawp at the inhabitants of the National Marine Aquarium, home to the biggest fish tank in Europe, or just wander around drinking in the sea air.