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The Best Outdoor Pursuits in South Devon

Body boarding on the South Devon coast

South Devon’s beaches are some of the best in the world. From the long sands at Preston Sands, Paignton, to the low-tide pools of Prawle Point, there is a beach for every day of your holiday – and more.

So if you are looking for somewhere to snorkel, swim, surf, go canoeing or paddle boarding, or simply dip your toe in, there is almost always somewhere basking in sunshine, where the water is enticing and clear. 

The best surfing beaches are found within a few miles of each other, between South Milton Sands and Challaborough. This beautiful stretch of coastline is easily reachable from popular holiday destinations and most of the beaches have excellent facilities including fantastic beachside cafés, equipment hire centres and surfing schools. Bantham Beach is renowned as one of the best surfing beaches in the UK. Sitting within stunning Bigbury Bay, the beach looks out over Burgh Island and its iconic art deco hotel. At low tide the beach opens up to reveal acres of shallow sandy pools warming up quickly in the sun to create ideal play areas for toddlers. Venture over to the South end of the beach and the low tide will expose a fantastic array of rockpools below the headland. 

Bigbury-On-Sea is a Blue Flag-awarded beach, linked at low tide to Burgh Island. You can walk across to the tidal island at low tide or take the famous Sea Tractor when the causeway disappears. Less popular with surfers than Bigbury Bay, the waves at nearby Thurlestone Beach are nevertheless surfed sometimes by those looking to escape the crowds during the peak season at Bantham. Known as a more challenging beach for surfers, Challaborough sits just to the north of Bigbury-On-Sea. The powerful waves can be a draw, particularly for experienced surfers, but combined with the rocky seabed it’s not a spot for the beginner.

Wherever you end up, there is no doubt that surfing is a fantastic way to keep fit, have fun and feel the power of the ocean – but remember to stay safe and it’s always advisable to wear a good quality wetsuit. 

If you don’t fancy getting wet, but love the water, there are various ways to enjoy it in South Devon...

There are a wide range of boat trips running across Torbay, from ferries between Torquay and Brixham to wildlife cruises and special events boats. Greenway Ferry and Pleasure Cruises operate from Torquay and Brixham Harbours, running regular ferries between the two towns and Dartmouth, as well as sightseeing trips, heritage cruises and trips along the River Dart to Agatha Christies “Greenway”. The Dartmouth Steam Railway & Riverboat Company organise Round Robin trips with boats along the River Dart, steam train and bus, as well as the Sea Train Adventure and services on the Western Lady, a Torquay-Brixham-Dartmouth ferry. Paignton Pleasure Cruises also operate a ferry service between Brixham, Paignton and Torquay as well as evening cruises around South Devon’s beautiful bay. Just off the coast, an array of wildlife awaits discovery. How about a Sea-Fari with Greenway Ferry and Pleasure Cruises or wildlife cruise with Paignton Pleasure Cruises and watch as dolphins, seals and other marine animals emerge from the water. 

If you’re not content to just let the wildlife swim by, there are also many fishing trips which depart regularly from the English Riviera. Mackerel and bass fishing are particularly popular. When it comes to coastal walking – and walking in general – South Devon is heaven on earth. There are plenty of great traffic-free footpaths and bridleways and ofcourse you’ve got some of the most stunning parts of the South West Coast Path to enjoy. With just over 90 miles of the path to enjoy from Plymouth to Dawlish Warren, it’s unlikely that you’ll have time to do the whole section. Plenty of people take years to finish the lot, linking up sections, sometimes years apart – and it’s a good excuse to come back to enjoy the delights of South Devon time and time again!