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15 of the Best Things to Do in Salcombe Devon

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river full of boats and yachts at sunrise with golden light shining on a town on the right side bank on the river. Things to do in Salcombe devon

An insider’s guide to the best things to see and do in Salcombe, on the south coast of Devon.

Welcome to Salcombe: a historic sailing town clustered onto a hillside on the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary, overlooked by rolling hills and fluffy pockets of woodland.

After discovering the town two years ago, it’s quickly become one of my favourite spots in Devon. There’s a bit of a bougie, yachtie scene (Salcombe was recently crowned the UK’s most expensive seaside town) – but the incredible nature here is something everyone can enjoy.

Both sides of the estuary are dotted with idyllic sandy beaches, while further along the coast are dramatic cliffs, stunning coast walks, and hidden rocky coves. In short: holiday heaven!

Looking for the perfect self-catering accommodation for your trip? I highly recommend checking out 4 The Reach, which is possibly one of the best holiday apartments in town. I’ll share more photos and a special offer near the end of this page – but first, let me show you the best things to do on your next trip to Salcombe…

Best Things to do in Salcombe

Try your hand at sailing and watersports, go wildlife spotting along the estuary, or simply spend a sunny day relaxing on a beach beside crystal clear turquoise water. In town, explore boutique galleries, artisan studios, and independent shops along the historic high street – and dive into the epic local food and drink scene.

In a hurry? There’s a map and a short version of the list at the bottom of this page! Use the contents menu above to skip ahead if you need to. Otherwise, read on for some of the best things to do in Salcombe…

1. Enjoy Salcombe’s Beautiful Beaches

view between trees of a river with a white sandy beach on the right bank and a hill with a small town on the far side on a sunny day with turquoise water and blue sky. Sunny Cove on Kingsbridge Estuary near Salcombe.
Sunny Cove Beach – across the estuary from Salcombe

One of the main reasons people visit Salcombe is for the town’s stunning coastal location and the many beautiful beaches dotted around it. The closest are North Sands and South Sands, just south of the town centre – hop on the popular South Sands Ferry to save yourself a hilly walk.

You can also take a ferry across the estuary to East Portlemouth, where you’ll find a string of pretty white sand beaches – the further south you walk, the quieter these beaches get! Check out my guide to the best beaches in Salcombe for more info.

2. Independent Shopping on Fore St and Island St

whitewashed stone cottage with a shop front, there are green and pink flowers growing around the grey front door and the sign above says NIKA
shop with a bright pink stripey fexterior and pink and white striped awning above the window that says Cranch's
Don’t miss Cranch’s Sweet Shop!

Fore Street is Salcombe’s high street, running parallel to the river and lined with historic fishing cottages and traditional pubs. Look out for the bright pink facade of Cranch’s Sweet Shop – established in 1869, it’s Devon’s oldest sweetshop. I also recommend popping into Bert & Buoy, Salcombe Candle Co, and Nika – to name just a few.

The indie shopping scene continues on Island Street – where you’ll find distilleries, artist studios, and some great boutiques tucked between boatyards and sailing suppliers. Don’t miss Salcombe Gin and Salcombe Dairy (more on both of those later), the Devon Rum Company, and Will Bees Bespoke.

3. Take a Ferry Ride to Kingsbridge

red, white and yellow ferry boat on a river with a green hill behind on a grey day with cloudy sky - the Kingsbridge to Salcombe ferry heading towards the jetty

Fed by many tiny streams, with creeks shooting off here and there, the Kingsbridge Estuary is a true wildlife haven. Seals and dolphins can sometimes be spotted in the estuary, and birds such as herons, egrets, and curlews are common sightings – especially when low tide exposes the muddy banks.

The Kingsbridge-Salcombe Ferry is a leisurely, 40-minute cruise upriver aboard the red-and-white Lady Mary – the perfect chance to soak up the tranquil landscapes and spot wildlife. Spend an hour or two exploring Kingsbridge before returning on the ferry (or by bus).

4. Hire a Boat in Salcombe

grey and blue RIB motorboat in a blue river with the small town of Salcombe on a hillside in the background

Another – and perhaps more romantic – way to explore the Kingsbridge Estuary is from your own boat. At Whitestrand Boat Hire, you can rent a small motor boat by the hour or by the day. You don’t need a licence or any experience – and the staff can give you all the information you need.

Get out and explore the estuary and its many creeks – keeping an eye out for birds and wildlife as you sail along. You could head up Southpool Creek – stopping off at Millbrook Inn for lunch – or, with a full day, you can make it all the way up to Kingsbridge. The popular Crabshell Inn has mooring spaces so you can pop in for a drink by the waters edge.

Just be sure to check tide times, and speak to the staff at Whitestrand, before setting out. At low tide, some parts of the river dry up completely, and you’ll often see uninformed amateurs stuck in the mud!

5. Visit Overbeck’s Garden

interior of a blue wooden glasshouse with red tiled floor and dozens of potted plants and cacti filling the back wall

One of the best things to do in Salcombe is to pay a visit to Overbeck’s Garden. This is a hidden paradise on a clifftop above Salcombe: a surprising garden of exotic plants from around the world that somehow thrive in the South Devon climate.

Owned and managed by the National Trust, the garden is on the grounds of an Edwardian manor house, Sharpitor. Arranged in layers on the cliffside – with incredible ocean views – there are several gardens in one, including an olive grove, banana garden, and terraces packed with succulents and palms.

6. Gin Tasting with Salcombe Gin

exterior of Salcombe Gin Distillery with brick walls on the lower half and grey wood cladding on the top hald. There is a large window with bottles of gin and posters on sdisplay.

Gin lovers won’t want to miss this one! Salcombe is home to its very own gin distillery – home to the award-winning (and simply excellent) Salcombe Gin.

Head to their riverside distillery on Island St for a tour and a tasting. They also run a fantastic Gin School, where you can create and distil your very own bottle of bespoke gin. I haven’t done this (yet) but a good friend of mine visits Salcombe annually and says it’s a brilliant experience.

7. Kayak or Paddleboard in the Estuary

a man and woman on blue paddleboards on a wide blue river with a motorboat behind them and many white sailing boats in the distance

I’ve already mentioned the joys of exploring the Kingsbridge Estuary from a boat – whether you rent your own or hop on a ferry. But for a slower pace, I highly recommend renting a paddleboard or kayak to explore.

I love using paddleboarding on rivers – it’s much easier to balance than the ocean, and moving at water level without a motor gives you the best chance of spotting wildlife up close before you scare it off. Larger marine life including dolphins, seals and basking sharks can sometimes be spotted in the estuary, so keep your eyes peeled as you paddle.

There are a few rental companies in the area – North Sands Watersports are highly rated and have a variety of equipment to rent. Ask the staff for recommendations on where to go – as this will depend on tide times and weather.

8. Walk the Coast Path

long row of grassy cliffs on the south devon coast with two sandy beaches below in between large grey rocks with the bright blue sea on the right and blue sky above
Gara Rocks – a 4-mile cliff walk from Salcombe

One of the best things to do in Salcombe is to soak up the epic coastal scenery and tranquil estuary valley from a hiking trail. The South West Coast Path provides some gorgeous walks in both directions, with routes to suit all abilities. Below are some of the best coastal walks near Salcombe:

  • Bolberry Down, 1.7 mile circular. Explore the wildlife-rich clifftop downs via a flat, easy-to-follow path.
  • Kingswear to Brownstone Battery, 5 mile circular. Start from North Sands Car Park and follow the coast path west to Bolt Head, returning inland through Tor Woods.
  • Salcombe to Gara Rock, 4 miles each way. Take the East Portlemouth Trail and follow the coast path around to Gara Rock for epic views and hidden beaches. The restaurant at Gara Rock Hotel is an excellent stop-off for lunch.
  • Snapes Point, 2.5 mile circular. An easy, accessible walk from Snapes Point National Trust Car Park, providing excellent views of Kingsbridge Estuary.

9. Snorkelling in the Kingsbridge Estuary

white wooden boat in a river with seagrass visible below the very clear water and a green hill in the background
A glimpse of Salcombe’s underwater seagrass meadows

Although it’s fed by many small rivers and creeks, the Kingsbridge Estuary has very little freshwater input – instead, it’s mostly a marine system. There are some rare and unique marine habitats here, which is why the estuary has been labelled as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The lower shores are lined with rich seagrass meadows, home to marine life such as seahorses, fan mussels, and stalked jellyfish (unlike other jellyfish these are permanently attached to the seagrass). Head out with a snorkel when the tides in to explore this underwater world – taking care not to disturb these rare and protected habitats.

10. Eat Seafood

white bread sandwich filled with breaded shrimp next to a green leaf salad on a white and red plate on a wooden table in a restaurant with cream walls and a large window. The Winking Prawn Restaurant in Salcombe.
“Po Boy” shrimp sandwich at The Winking Prawn

Seafood fans will delight in Salcombe’s incredible food scene. From cosy harbourside pubs and casual cafes to high-end restaurants, the seafood scene is strong in this coastal town. Below are some of the best places to eat in town (credit goes to my friend Ruth, who’s been holidaying in Salcombe for years and sent me the BEST list of places to check out).

  • Crab Shed – stylish but chilled restaurant right on the quayside with waterside views, serving up fresh crab and other local seafood.
  • Winking Prawn – one of the most popular spots in Salcombe, a cute little cafe in North Sands with a massive terrace. Don’t miss their “Po Boy” shrimp sandwiches.
  • Oyster Shack in Bigbury – seafood worth driving for! A colourful, rustic restaurant on the Avon Estuary with lots of outdoor dining specialising in fresh local oysters and shellfish.
  • Beachhouse in South Milton Sands – another one worth driving to – gorge on epic seafood with your feet in the sand at this gorgeous restaurant.
  • Victoria Inn – probably the best pub in Salcombe, with great food.
  • King’s Arms – another great pub in Salcombe. The terrace is lovely on sunny days.
  • South Sands Hotel Restaurant – relaxed luxury overlooking South Sands Beach with a lovely terrace in summer.
  • The Jetty at Harbour Hotel – high-end dining overlooking the estuary with a focus on fresh local seafood.
  • Rockfish – a new branch of my favourite seafood chain is opening up in Salcombe very soon, so watch this space!

11. Learn to Sail with Salcombe Dinghy Sailing

wide blue river filled with several white sailing boats. there is a hill on the other side of the river with a small town on the side of the hill.

Thanks to its position on the sheltered Kingsbridge Estuary, Salcombe is a brilliant place to learn to sail. Salcombe Dinghy Sailing offer several courses – including some for both absolute beginners.

Their Level 1 “Start Sailing” course takes two full days or four half days – a perfect intro if you want to get into sailing. I’ve not tried this one myself, but the sailing centre comes highly recommended and Salcombe is a GREAT place to learn.

12. Uncover the Town’s History at the Maritime Museum

If you need a break from Salcombe’s beaches and coastal trails (or an activity for a rainy afternoon) head to the Maritime Museum.

This friendly, volunteer-run museum tucked into the Old Council Hall is the perfect place to delve into Salcombe’s long seafaring history – including boatbuilding, wartime naval activity, and treasures from local shipwrecks.

13. Learn More at the Lifeboat Museum

exterior of a brown stone cottage with two doors and a sign that says RNLI Shop & Museum.

For even more insight into Salcombe’s maritime history, there’s also the Salcombe Lifeboat Museum.

Housed within the Lifeboat Station on Union Street, this small museum charts the story of over 140 years of lifesaving history in Salcombe. Admission is free – but pick up a souvenir in the RNLI shop on-site to help support the vital lifeboat industry in south Devon.

14. Soak Up Local Art at Salcombe Art Club

exterior of The Drang Gallery in Salcombe with pink walls and several paintings in the windows
One of the many, MANY art galleries in Salcombe!

Salcombe is crammed with so many art galleries it feels like its bordering on too many! One of the best for your list is the Salcombe Art Club.

Tucked away inside a disused sail loft near the lifeboat quay, Salcombe Art Club is a community studio for local artists. From May to September, the studio is transformed into an art gallery for the Summer Exhibition. Admission is free, so pop in and browse works by local artists – you might even find yourself a unique souvenir to take home.

The Art Club also host regular art classes and workshops for members – so if you’re an enthusiastic artist and a regular visitor to Salcombe it may be worth applying to join. Below are some more great local galleries you shouldn’t miss:

15. Unwind at the Harbour Beach Club Spa

rectangular indoor swimming pool with four beach chairs lined up next to it infront of large windows overlooking a grassy field

On my most recent trip to Salcombe, the Great British Weather completely rained off my afternoon plans, so I found myself in need of an indoor activity. Thankfully, my gorgeous holiday apartment 4 The Reach (more on that below) was riiiiight next door to the fabulous Harbour Beach Club Hotel which is home to a divine spa.

The Beach Club Spa is small but perfect: there’s a 12m pool, sauna, steam room, and a hydrotherapy pool beneath a glass roof. The best part is the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows alongside the pool which look out onto the lush green countryside around South Sands. The perfect place to unwind after all that time exploring the coast!

Top tip: guests at 4 The Reach can get discounted spa access (or a free pass if you drop my name when you book a stay of 7 days or more).

16. Don’t Miss Salcombe Dairy Ice Cream and Chocolate Factory

exterior of Salcombe Dairy Chcocolate Factory, a blue painted building with wooden cladding along the top floor. there is a large window with chocolate making instruments visible.

If you have a sweet tooth like me, you need to head to Salcombe Dairy. This family-owned ice cream company is a Devon institution, and you’ll see it being sold all over the Southwest.

At their factory shop on Island St, you can watch the ice cream being freshly made before buying a scoop (or three) to try. There’s also a small cafe terrace where you can sit with an ice cream or hot drink and watch the world go by.

Across the road in Hannaford’s Landing, you can also visit Salcombe Dairy’s new Chocolate Factory. Watch the full chocolate-making process from bean to bar through the glass dividing walls that separate the shop from the factory. Be sure to try the interactive tasting machines. And, of course, pick up a few chocolatey treats while you’re there.

Where to Stay in Salcombe

emily wearing pink pyjamas with a blue pattern on standing on a balcony next to a glass wall looking out to sea with a sandy beach below and grey sky above at South Sands Beach in Salcombe
Soaking up the views of South Sands

On my most recent trip, I stayed at 4 The Reach, a beautiful luxury apartment overlooking South Sands Beach (the stay was gifted, I paid for everything else).

Get the Tour: Click here to watch the video I made showing a full tour of the property!

This is a stunning two-bedroom apartment next door to the Harbour Beach Club in South Sands – about an 8-minute drive from the centre of Salcombe. It’s brand new and has been decorated to absolute perfection: a simple, minimalist style with lots of light browns and nautical blues. There are plenty of nods to Salcombe’s maritime scene throughout, including several murals by local artist Paul Barclay.

interior of 4 The Reach holiday apartment in Salcombe with a long brown leather sofa and circular leather footstool on a blue rug.

There’s a large, covered balcony (with glorious views of the beach). The vast open-plan living area has everything you need for a relaxing stay, but also lots of cute little extra touches: like the chess set between two reclining chairs for lazy afternoons, and the record player in the corner if you fancy a party.

I particularly loved the huge, high-spec TV and sound system – ideal for an evening in after a long day exploring. You can cook up a storm in the impressive kitchen, pour yourself a glass of Salcombe Gin, and cosy up on the soft leather sofa for a movie night. Dreams.

Everything is top quality and luxurious: high-end furnishings, Le Creuset dinnerware, Bang & Olufsen TVs, Ralph Lauren bathrobes, and a fabulously extravagant Dolce & Gabbana kettle and toaster set!

The two bedrooms had luxury hotel room vibes, with plush bedding and generously sized TVs. Both bedrooms also have roomy ensuite bathrooms; stylishly decorated with rainfall showers and double sinks.

I absolutely loved my stay at 4 The Reach – the perfect place for a beach holiday in Salcombe.

4 The Reach Holiday Apartment Special Offer

The property’s owner is also giving my followers a fantastic special offer. Mention my name (Emily Luxton) when you book a stay at 4 The Reach and you’ll receive a dinner voucher worth £150 for short stays – and free spa access for stays of a week or more. This will only work when you book through the Taylor Made Salcombe website: click here.

Best Day Trips Near Salcombe

view of a dry harbour with several small boats moored in the mud. there is a white and black timber clad tudor building behind and pink flowers and daffodils in the foreground.
Dartmouth Harbour

Dartmouth – another South Devon sailing town, with a large marina, lots of historic buildings, and a great seafood scene. Take a cruise on the river Dart, visit Dartmouth Castle, or explore Agatha Christie’s former holiday home at nearby Greenway.

Totnes – a historic market town with a unique twist: as the UK’s first Transition Town, Totnes is super ethical and eco-friendly. It’s crammed with independent businesses, sustainable restaurants, and some top-notch vegan and veggie eateries. Hire a kayak from Totnes Kayaks to explore the River Dart – look out for otters and seals.

Burgh Island – this dramatic, windswept little island is connected to the mainland by a sandbar. At low tide, you can walk to the island from Bigbury-on-Sea. At high tide, hop aboard the bizarre-looking Sea Tractor to make it across the now-underwater beach. The only buildings on the island are the historic Pilchard Inn pub (which dates back to 1336) and the famous, art deco Burgh Island Hotel.

white sandy beach with a blue tractor on it and a thin strip of sand leading to a small tidal island with a white building on it. burgh island is one of the best places to visit in south devon.
Take the Sea Tractor to Burgh Island at high tide

Start Bay and Start Point – in between Salcombe and Dartmouth, the wide stretch of Start Bay is lined with some of south Devon’s best beaches. It’s also home to Slapton Ley, a lagoon cut off from the sea by a thin strip of beach. Nearby, the windswept headland Start Point is great for coast walks and hidden coves – don’t miss Start Point Lighthouse for amazing sea views.

Things to do in Salcombe: Quicklist and Map

  1. Enjoy Salcombe’s Beautiful Beaches
  2. Independent Shopping on Fore St and Island St
  3. Take a Ferry Ride to Kingsbridge
  4. Hire a Boat in Salcombe
  5. Visit Overbeck’s Garden
  6. Gin Tasting with Salcombe Gin
  7. Kayak or Paddleboard in the Estuary
  8. Walk the Coast Path
  9. Snorkelling in the Kingsbridge Estuary
  10. Eat Seafood
  11. Learn to Sail with Salcombe Dinghy Sailing
  12. Uncover the Town’s History at the Maritime Museum
  13. Learn More at the Lifeboat Museum
  14. Soak Up Local Art at Salcombe Art Club
  15. Unwind at the Harbour Beach Club Spa
  16. Don’t Miss Salcombe Dairy Ice Cream and Chocolate Factory

Read More

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Do you know any more great things to do in or near Salcombe? Scroll down to share your recommendations in the comments!



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