Devon is a county located in the southwest of England. You’ll find sandy beaches, rugged coastlines, and some beautiful moorlands! It’s a great place for a road trip or staycation especially if you’re into hiking and/or surfing! There’s so much to do in this part of the country, here are some of the best things to do in Devon!
1 - Explore Clovelly
Clovelly is a privately owned fishing village in the heart of the Torridge district in North Devon. The small village attracts over 150,000 visitors every year and there are plenty of reasons why!
Clovelly is not accessible by car due to the long steep cobbled streets that head down the hillside to the harbour being left exactly as they were some 400 years ago! Take your time strolling down the hill, explore the small shops and tea rooms if you need a break from the steep walk. If the suns out, make sure to pop into the red lion pub in the harbour for a refreshing beer or grab an ice cream from the small kiosk next door.
If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure, then make sure to take the short walk along the beach and see if you can find Clovelly’s secret waterfall!
Although Clovelly is now one of the best places to visit in Devon, it wasn’t widely spoken about by outsiders until in the 19th Century. Charles Kingsley featured the village in his famous novel, Westward Ho! Make sure to check out the Kingsley Museum. Here you’ll learn more about the author and how he came to love the small village!
2 - Hike to Speke's Mill Mouth Waterfall
Speke’s Mill mouth waterfall is one of the most popular in North Devon. The striking waterfall drops 48 meters in three steps from the cliff face before the water finds its wat to the ocean below. If you’re thinking about how to get to Speke’s Mill Mouth waterfall, it’s fairly easy for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. You’ll need to take a 4km hike down the southwest coast path from Hartland Quay. If you love hiking as much as I do then you’ll understand why this is one of the best things to do in Devon.
There are parking charges during peak season but in the colder months you may be able to park for free. From Hartland Quay take the path along the cliff edge towards St Catherine’s Tor. After the Tor continue down the path until you reach the waterfall. The best views are of the top break of the falls. Make sure you follow the small path that drops down just Infront of the waterfall for some stunning photos near the base of the first break.
There’s plenty more to see around Harland especially whilst on your walk, keep your eyes on the stunning coastline as you see some amazing rock formations. There’s also plenty of different plant life and wildlife around this part of Devon. Watch out for butterflies and birds as you stroll down the coast.
Postcode: EX 39 6DB
3 - Visit Canonteign Falls
A unique place to visit in Dartmoor National Park is Canonteign Falls. Unlike Devon’s other significant waterfalls this one was not naturally formed and at 70m high is actually England’s highest man made fall.
The water flow was used to power a mine wheel in the 18th Century. But when the mining boom came to an end in 1880 the course of the stream was diverted over the this rock formation and down through fern-lined woods in the Teign Valley.
It’s now part of a beautiful private estate where you can walk up the falls to appreciate views of Dartmoor. There’s also children’s trails, an adventure playground and lakes to explore.
To reach the top of the waterfall you have to negotiate uneven and root riddled footpaths. There’s also a series of 90 Victorian steps that are less than even. Come prepared with good walking boots.
If you are stomping up you could probably do it in 20 minutes but there are things to look at on the way so we took about 45 minutes to get to the top on out most recent visit.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the view when you reach Buzzard’s View at the top.
Visiting Canonteign Falls costs £8.50 for adults and £6.50 for children in 2021. It’s open daily from March to November. However, opening hours may vary and are weather dependent, so it’s always best to check the attraction’s website before you visit. Parking is free and there is a cafe at the bottom of the falls where you can find hot and cold food and drinks as well as delicious Devon cream teas.
Find out more about visiting Canonteign Falls and other waterfalls in Devon.
4 - Go Surfing at Saunton sands
If you want to go surfing in Devon, by far the best place to visit is Saunton Sands. This beautiful beach is 3 and a half miles of golden sandy heaven- and with decent waves to boot. You can surf, paddleboard, bodyboard or just swim and splash in the waves.
It doesn’t matter whether you already know how to surf, or want lessons- there are facilities at Saunton for you, from wetsuit and board hire to group and private lessons. Most places open early in the season and continue on into October. It’s still possible to surf on the beach during winter, but the water is cold and there’s unlikely to be any shops or cafes open.
Talking of cafes, don’t miss the local ice cream- it’s delicious. And if you want great fish and chips, pop into nearby Braunton and visit Squires- it’s one of the best in the UK. Their fish curry is delicious!
If you’re motorcycling in the UK, be sure to use Saunton as a base and ride the coastal road all the way up to Bridgwater- it’s one of the best roads in the country and the views across the Bristol Channel are spectacular. You can do it in a car, but some places are very narrow.
There are several great hotels in the area, including the imposing Saunton Sands hotel which sits right on the cliff overlooking the bay, but there are also plenty of campsites and B & Bs in the area.
5 - Check out Dartmouth
If you’re heading to Devon, don’t miss a trip to Dartmouth. This historic town is nestled on the banks of the River Dart, on the south England coast and it’s one of the most picturesque places you’ll ever visit.
The town is overshadowed by Brittania Royal Naval College Dartmouth- home of the officer training for the Royal Navy. Look closely and you’ll likely see some very unhappy people being forced to run up some very big hills. (Ask me how I know!)
One of the best things about Dartmouth is how easy it is to fit into an England road trip– it’s not as far away as you think. It’s easy to access by car or you can arrive in style by steam train! The route goes all the way up to Paignton and takes just a couple of hours to go up and back, but you can enjoy some beautiful views across the river and the surrounding countryside
The river is one of the major features in Dartmouth- definitely take a river cruise or rent one of the small boats available for the day. You can actually take a boat halfway up and then cycle back if you have push-bikes- that’s a great way to spend the day! (Although remember what I said about those hills!
There are plenty of boutique shops and great cafes to enjoy- don’t miss the Dartmouth Arms for its fabulous pizza!
6 - Woolacombe beach
If soaking up the sun on a beautiful golden sand beach is more your thing then you should make the trip to the award winning Woolacombe beach. The beach is recognised as one of the best in the UK and is just a short drive from other popular beaches such as Saunton Sands and Croyde!
Woolacombe beach is a whopping 3 miles long and has a wide range of fun activates you can take part in. Surfing, Kayaking, walking, and kitesurfing are just a few of the activities on offer. The beach is cleaned daily and has small beach huts that you can rent too. On clear days you’ll have great views of Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.
The beach is manned by lifeguards and dogs can visit too (except from May to October). There are plenty of shops and cafes in Woolacombe too just a short walk from the beach.
7 - Visit the Museum of British Surfing
If you’re in Devon for the surf, there’s plenty of beaches for you to pick from. But one place you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss is the Museum of British surfing! The museum was founded in 2003 and has gone from strength to strength ever since. The museum has what is believed to be one of the largest public collections of surfboards and related memorabilia in Europe. It has some fantastic exhibitions and showcases different private collections too.
The museum is run by a handful of passionate volunteers, so it depends on tourism to keep running and providing visitors with a worthwhile experience! Make sure you pop in and learn about the origins of the UK surf scene and how the sport has evolved over the decades into what it is today. You’ll learn everything about how surfing began and how the different accessories such as wetsuits were developed over the years.
Be sure to pick up a few bits of your own memorabilia in the gift shop too, there’s plenty of clothing, keyrings made from fishing line, books and even bodyboards if you fancy trying to catch a wave!
8 - Explore Westward HO!
Westward Ho is most well-known for its unusual name, the small seaside town is located a short drive from Bideford and was made famous after Charles Kinglsey wrote about the town in his best-selling novel Westward Ho! in 1855. The development of the village started around 10 years after the publication of the novel to satisfy the Victorian’s need for seaside holidays.
If you head down the seafront, you’ll find many cute little multicoloured houses, small souvenir shops and cafes as well as plenty of places to pick up some equipment for any water sports you might want to give a go! The beach is of course one of North Devon’s most popular surfing and swimming destinations and it has a blue flag status which is awarded to beaches in Britain which meet a very special criteria.
There are lifeguards in the summer months and dogs are allowed on the beach all year round. You’ll find that there are also lots of dog friendly accommodation and catering options to choose from.
Westward Ho is also home to the oldest golf course in England and Wales. The Royal North Devon golf club, founded in 1864, has 18 holes which are played right next to the beach! If you’re fancy a dip in the sea, then you’ll most likely drive through the course to get to the car park.
So if you’re heading to Devon anytime soon make sure you check out some of the locations in this guide. If you think I missed any locations or have your own favorites, please let me know in the comments!
What do you think are the best things to do in Devon?