Get out there! 20 weekend-friendly things to do in South Devon

Posted on 7th May 2019. In , , ,

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With over 120 miles of coastline, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the South West Coast Path and a host of nature reserves, South Devon is about as juicy as it gets for a weekend break. So pull on your boots and embrace the adventure. Here are some of the best things to do in South Devon on a short break or weekend.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

1. Take the ‘Taste of the Teign’ trail

Take a culinary journey around the beguilingly beautiful Teign Estuary in South Devon thanks to the Taste of Teign trail. The trail takes in: Old Walls, the steepest vineyard in England; the Red Rock Brewery, renowned for its craft beers and real ales; Shute Fruit and produce, where you can pick your own fruit and even learn how to make preserves; Milltop Orchards, where you can enjoy seasonal fruit, apple juice and cider; and Luscombe Farm Shop, where you can buy seasonal vegetables picked from the fields above the estuary.

On the tour you’ll discover the location of the Teign Estuary’s world-renowned mussel and oyster beds. You’ll also be taken to a host of local cafes, restaurants and pubs where you can enjoy produce from the estuary’s fields and waters alongside fresh fish and crustaceans landed at Teignmouth Harbour. Alternatively, if you prefer a more peaceful supper you can purchase some tasty morsels and take them back to your hotel or glamping spot to enjoy.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

2. Hop on the oldest foot passenger ferry in England

Also in Teignmouth you’ll find the oldest foot-passenger ferry in England. Hop aboard and cross the Teign Estuary to Shaldon where you’ll find lovely pubs, the highly regarded Clipper Café, and the award-winning ODE-dining and café-ODE.

Don’t forget to take the opportunity to descend through the smugglers’ tunnel, which is carved through the red rock of The Ness, to a hidden beach on the other side. You’ll also find Shaldon Zoo – the smallest in England – right next to the entrance to the smugglers’ tunnel, so you can manage both in one hit, if you like.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

3. Go wild in the great Devon outdoors

If you want to experience the magic of the great Devon outdoors with your family or friends, then check out WildWise. They host extraordinary events throughout the year, including nighttime paddles on the River Dart, Dartmoor walk abouts, wild camps for boys, girls and families, and also wild foraging experiences.

Events take place in gorgeous locations on Dartmoor, near Exeter, in the Dart river valley near Totnes, and on the spectacular south Devon coast, near Kingsbridge. WildWise brings together bushcraft, nature awareness and creative experiences with a spirit of play and enquiry, to facilitate a deeper connection to nature.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

4. Stay in an 18th century folly

The Haldon Belvedere (Lawrence Castle) is an 18th-century turreted folly sitting 882 feet above sea level near Haldon Forest, only a few miles from Exeter. It has breathtaking panoramic vistas over the Devon countryside and a rooftop terrace that provides astonishing night sky views of the constellations. On a clear day you can see Portland Bill and due to its incredible 360 degree views, you can see every sunrise and every sunset from its elevated position.

Its luxurious penthouse apartment is perfect for romantic couples with its lofty ceiling, Georgian gothic detailed doors, separate bathroom with bath and shower, and a fully fitted kitchen built into the two turrets.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

5. Cook up a feast at River Cottage HQ

Get stuck into some of the incredible courses at River Cottage HQ or just head on over to enjoy one of the delicious dining experiences on offer. River Cottage has given millions of TV viewers a taste for great cooking since 1999, when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall first brought his famous food ethos to Channel 4.

Since then, the cottage (which is on the Devon and Dorset border) has welcomed thousands of wannabe cooks and dinner guests through its door. The cottage is a base for the Cookery School, unique dining experiences and memorable events run throughout the year. Including cheesemaking and fermenting, and the Chef’s Table experience and dinner with Hugh.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

6. Take on Devon’s BMX bike track

Set in 90 acres of beautiful Devon countryside, the award-winning River Dart Country Park has a treat for thrill-seekers. Its purpose-built BMX track is open to all ages and skill levels.

The track has already been a huge hit amongst the few who have been lucky enough to try it, including the country’s top young BMX riders. Best of all, it’s open all year round and is free to use for River Dart Country Park campers and day visitors.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

7. Go on safari in the South West

It may not be lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) but there is still plenty of amazing wildlife to see on safari in the South West of England. Located in Exmoor National Park, which unfolds across Devon and Somerset, a Red Stag Safari will allow you to discover the region’s incredible animals, including red deer, Exmoor ponies, kestrels and kingfishers, from the superior comfort of a Land Rover Discovery.

Driving across country, and even fording rivers, a safari adventure is also a chance to get up close and personal with the fabulous landscapes of the area as you enjoy panoramic views across the moors to that famous coastline. Red Stag Safari’s expert guide, Andrew Turner, will also be on-hand to ensure you get the most out of this unique experience.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

8. All aboard for a Dartmouth adventure

From ferry voyages to sailing the seas on a heritage trawler, there are plenty of watery trips to be had in and around Dartmouth and a little boating expedition could be the perfect way to add some adventure to your weekend in South Devon.

As the only coal-fired paddle steamer still in operation in the UK today, the Kingswear Castle Paddle Steamer is a fabulous historic vessel and runs cruises between Dartmouth and Totnes – an easy journey of around 1 1/4 hours. Alternatively, you could push the boat out and hop aboard The Fizz Boat, a 90 minute trip for up to 12 during which you can enjoy scenic views and plenty of bubbles – sign us up!


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

9. Horse around with adorable mini ponies

For a day out that’s sure to melt the hearts of the whole family, you can’t do much better than The Miniature Pony Centre in Dartmouth. Prepare for serious cuteness overload as The Miniature Pony Centre has some of the sweetest residents around including incredible American Mammoth Donkeys, draught horses and a whole family of miniature Shetland ponies. You might even be lucky enough to spot a real live unicorn! The centre is also home to an array of poultry, farm creatures and small furries plus some weird and wonderful critters too such as hissing cockroaches and giant African land snails!

As well as having the chance to interact with the animals, there is plenty for everyone to do at the centre including indoor and outdoor play areas, pony rides, nature walks and even special kids’ entertainers during the school holidays. There is also an on-site cafe where you can grab a coffee or break for lunch when hunger strikes.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

10. Go back to school with Salcombe Gin

With its stunning coastal setting, the resort town of Salcombe is well worth a visit and Salcombe Gin Distillery and Bar makes it even more appealing! Pay a visit to the distillery to see the brand’s beautiful copper still in action or join a tutored tasting to learn more about the distillation process and the flavour profiles of the Salcombe Gin collection.

To really get to grips with the distillation, sign up for the Gin School where you will be able to create your very own gin recipe and distill a 70cl bottle of gin. You’ll even be able to name it and create a personalised label for your bottle – the ultimate weekend away souvenir!


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

11. Explore stunning woodland at Haldon Forest Park

South Devon is brimming with incredible landscapes and so it’s essential to spend some time in the great outdoors when visiting the area. Haldon Forest Park, which is situated a 15-minute drive from Exeter, offers 3500 acres of breathtaking woodland to explore. The forest park is criss-crossed by a variety of walking trails to suit different abilities as well as routes designed to help you spot some of the local wildlife.

Haldon Forest Park also has plenty on offer for little explorers such as the Superworm Trail which offers plenty of fun activities and the Gruffalo Orienteering Course – a navigational challenge the whole family can enjoy! For thrill-seekers of all ages, the treetops of Haldon Forest are home to a Go Ape activity course – strap in and swing through the branches for an exhilarating adventure with spectacular views.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

12. Enjoy a historic journey by steam train

Originally built in 1872, the South Devon Railway offers the chance to enjoy a traditional steam train trip through stunning countryside. The former Great Western Railway branch line runs for seven miles between Buckfastleigh and Totnes with several departure times throughout the day. You can even hop off on arrival at Totnes Riverside to visit some of the market town’s famous attractions and eateries before making your return journey.

The SDR also hosts a number of special events through the year including the Rails and Ales Beer Festival, fesitve Polar Express train trips and even visits from the world’s most famous engine – Thomas!


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

13. A day at the races

Fancy a flutter? Experience the exhilaration of a day at the races at Newton Abbot Racecourse in South Devon. Located close to the historic market town of Newton Abbot, the racecourse hosts race days throughout the summer into October with special events such as the uber glamorous Ladies Day and family-friendly Easter Saturday.

Newton Abbot is also the venue for a number of other weekend-worthy day trips including outdoor cinema screenings, craft fairs and gin festivals, check out their calendar of events for their most recent updates.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

14. Escape the hustle and bustle on Burgh Island

Located across from Bigbury on Sea Beach. Burgh Island can be accessed via a sand bank during low tide, however at other times the only way to arrive is by Sea Tractor. This completely unique contraption will carry you safely through the surf for the bargain price of £2. Once ashore you can explore this island including its ruined chapel and abundance of flora and fauna.

As well as stunning landscapes, Burgh Island boasts the iconic Burgh Island Hotel. This fabulous celebration of Art Deco style exudes 1930s glamour and counts Agatha Christie and Noel Coward among its previous guests. From the seawater mermaid lagoon to the outdoor dance floor and black tie dining experiences, a break here will never be forgotten.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

15. Marvel at the House of Marbles

Get in touch with your inner child with a visit to the House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey. This marbelous (sorry) attraction is located on the site of a historic pottery and today it’s home to a glassworks where a team of highly skilled craftspeople produce incredible artworks and, of course, marbles. As well as seeing the finished product you may be able to watch the team at work, try out the interactive marble runs and enjoy the Games Garden.

This unique attraction also offers a chance to learn with museums of glass, marble and pottery where you can delve into the history of the materials. There is also a Museum of Games where you can check out artefacts from as far back as the 1600s before rounding off your visit with a trip to the Old Pottery Restaurant.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

16. Hit the beach

While it’s true that there is much more to South Devon that beautiful coastlines, a weekend in the area simply must include a visit to at least one of the breathtaking beaches the area has to offer. Whether you prefer to surf, stride along the sand or remain horizontal with a book and a glass of something cold, there is a South Devon Beach to suit you!

The gorgeous Blackpool Sands Beach near Dartmouth is the ideal choice for those seeking holiday vibes on their weekend away. As well as fabulously clear waters and lifeguards on duty in the summer months, the beach has plenty of amenities including showers, loos and eateries. There’s even a secret garden tucked behind the beach where you can see some unusual tropical plants in a peaceful oasis.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

17. Go wild at Wildwood Trust

Taking the phrase ‘bumper day out’ to new levels, the WildWood Trust offers an abundance of adventure in the great outdoors. As well as picturesque trails and woodland, the park is home to some amazing animals including European brown bears, wolves, boar and wildcats and visitors can learn about these important species through talks and feeding sessions.

For history enthusiasts, Wildwood is also home to a Saxon village where you can find out about the craft and culture of the period while the tree top drop slide and zilpline offer something for those with a penchant for adrenaline!

Located just outside Ottery Saint Mary, WildWood Trust is just 10 miles from the stunning stargazing cabins at Royal Oak Farm which would make the perfect base for exploring this magical part of the world.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

18. Indulge in a cream tea

As you might imagine, there is no shortage of places to indulge in a cream tea in South Devon, and, after a weekend of beach walks and woodland adventures, sampling the local delicacies is an absolute must! Find yourself a cosy spot to share a pot of tea and freshly baked scones – just remember to observe Devon custom by dolloping on the cream before you reach for the jam!


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

19. Discover English wine 

Sharpham Wine has long been a key player in the English wine scene and a trip to the winery on the banks of the River Dart offered the chance to bask in the beauty of the vineyards and sample the goods. In addition to an array of red, white, rose and sparkling wines, the Sharpham Dairy produces delicious cheeses, including an award-winning brie, to nibble on while you sip.

Now the winery is in the process of moving to a brand new site on the other side of the river where a new state-of-the-art premises awaits. The new Sandridge Barton site includes a dedicated visitor centre and is expected to open in April 2022 when you will be able to enjoy guided tastings once again.


Best Things To Do In South Devon 

South Devon Weekends 

20. Hop aboard a sea safari experience

Sailing out of Teignmouth on a 10m Humber rigid inflatable boat, a trip with Devon Sea Safari is a chance to catch a glimpse of magical marine creatures in their natural habitat. The expert crew will help you spot dolphins, porpoises, whales and seals as you cruise around Labrador Bay, Babbacombe and Torbay.

The safari boat trips are also an opportunity to take in the stunning South Devon coastline from a different angle as you tour round the red sandstone formations and rugged caves before heading back to shore where you can explore the bustling Teignmouth Harbour.


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Claire Robinson Founder of Weekend Candy
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