From adorable fishing villages and a coast filled with fossils, to rugged national parks, vibrant cities and pristine beaches, there are plenty of amazing places to visit in Devon.
Head to the south west of England, and you’re in for a treat! While many zoom straight past Devon in favour of Cornwall, I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t just pass through. Devon is an absolutely incredible county in its own right.
It’s long been popular with families who visit the same sandy beaches year after year. I should know, after all I was one of them! Every August, we’d pack the car up and drive the five hours to the South Devon coast. We’d rent a cottage near one of the county’s best beaches, Bantham, which sits in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
I have such happy memories of these trips, so much so I’m desperate to return. I’ve already got my eye on a few of these Classic Cottages in Devon, and can’t wait to head off on a trip down memory lane.
From the charming car-free fishing village of Clovelly and the vibrant city of Plymouth, to the raw and rugged natural beauty of Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, there are so many great destinations to choose from.
Whether you’re just starting to plan a trip or you’ve already got something booked and want to figure out your route, this guide to the best places to visit in Devon will definitely help inspire you!
13 Amazing Places To Visit In Devon
Devon’s Jurassic Coast
When people talk about the Jurassic Coast, my mind instantly thinks of Dorset. However, a big chunk of it lies in Devon. The Jurassic Coast stretches from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the best ways to explore the section in Devon is to walk along the South West Coast Path, taking in the views as you.
The start of the coast is marked by 5 metre Geo-needle at Orcombe Point in Exmouth. Highlights along Devon’s Jurassic Coast include the red rock stacks at Ladram Bay and the soft chalk cliffs around Branscombe Beach and Beer. There are pretty seaside resort towns along the way too, including Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth and Seaton.
This is a spot I have very fond memories of from my childhood. Every year we’d go on a day trip from Bantham to Bigbury-on-Sea, then make the crossing to this tidal island. Burgh Island is reachable at low tide by walking along the sand bar. At high tide though, it’s more of an adventure as you climb on board the famous sea tractor!
The island is very pretty too. One of the highlights is art deco masterpiece, The Burgh Island Hotel. It was built in 1929 and is steeped in 30s glamour. The interiors feature stunning chandeliers, vintage furniture, a retro bar area and the whole place oozes 5-star luxury.
It’s famed for hosting murder mystery nights too. Considering Poirot author Agatha Christie wrote two of her books here, I’d say it’s the perfect location for a whodunnit!
If you’re travelling around Devon on your trip, I’d recommend spending a day in Plymouth. This coastal city offers a lot, but life still moves at a comfortable and relaxed seaside pace. Visit Plymouth Hoe to take in the views across to Plymouth Sound, and take some photos of the iconic red and white striped lighthouse. Fancy a swim? You could take a dip in the iconic art deco swimming pool, Tinside Lido.
You could spend an afternoon shopping, go on a boat trip or even take a tour of the Plymouth Gin Distillery. Launching in 1793, it’s the oldest working gin distillery in England. Finishing the day with a G&T in the sunshine sounds pretty perfect to me!
Dartmoor National Park
Visit Dartmoor National Park and you’ll get to see Devon’s wild side! It’s vast, at 368 square miles, and the scenery is dramatic, with open moorlands, woodland, granite rocks, rolling hills, river valleys, ancient historic landmarks and more.
You could hop on two wheels and explore the national park on a mountain bike, walk one of the many miles of walking trails or visit one of the castles, which include Castle Drogo and Okehampton Castle.
Wildlife lovers will adore this region too! So many creatures call Dartmoor home including otters, bats, cows, horses, newts, frogs, lizards, birds, butterflies and dragonflies.
I can’t write about Devon without wandering off into a daydream about this beautiful coastal village. I honestly believe this is one of the best beaches in Devon! Huge, wide sand, great surf waves, rock pools at low tide, cliffs to clamber up, sand dunes, and the River Avon estuary make this a truly beautiful part of the county. If you visit on a sunny day, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled to somewhere a lot further afield!
As well as the beach there’s village pub The Sloop Inn and a village shop for any supplies you need. The walks around this area are breath-taking too. I’d recommend strolling along the headland from Bantham towards Thurlestone and Hope Cove. I might be a bit biased, but I believe this is one of the best places to visit in Devon.
If you’re thinking of visiting, I’d recommend taking a look at these gorgeous Devon cottages with sea views. There are so many picturesque options to choose from.
Did you know there’s a small island off the coast of North Devon that is famous for wildlife? Lundy Island is popular with divers, climbers and birdwatchers, and is one of the best places in the UK to see seals in their natural habitat. For one of the most memorable experiences, you can go diving with the seals here!
The crossing to Lundy takes around 2 hours by boat from Bideford or Ilfracombe. It’s a small island, but there’s plenty to see on a day trip, including the remains of Bronze Age settlements, a Medieval castle, a Georgian lighthouse and even a pub serving fine pub grub!
Exmoor National Park
If you’re looking for something a little different to Dartmoor, how about a trip to Exmoor National Park? It’s smaller than Dartmoor at just 267 square miles and doesn’t have the same wildness about it. It’s more like a pretty area of countryside, dotted with traditional villages, fields and coastline to explore.
One of my favourite things about Exmoor is that it’s known for having some of the darkest skies in the country. It was even named as Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. I’d recommend exploring the national park during the day, then returning after dinner for a spot of stargazing. You could even attend the annual Dark Skies Festival which takes place in October.
If you’re looking for one of the best surf beaches in the United Kingdom, definitely visit Croyde. Located on the North Devon Coast, Croyde is home to three sandy beaches and a lovely village with everything you could need for a relaxed break.
You don’t have to love surfing to appreciate this place either! The beaches are lovely for dog walks, swimming or just admiring from a bench! Croyde Bay and the other villages close by have lots of great independent shops and restaurants too. Stop by Croyde’s Ice Cream Parlour for a scoop of your favourite flavour or while away an afternoon at local pub The Thatch.
Clovelly in North Devon is one of those English seaside villages you see on postcards. It’s so perfect! There’s a feeling of turning back the clock when you visit, as even today it’s car-free. I watched a programme recently about the village where someone was moving in to a home there, and had to organise for all of their possessions to be delivered on old fashioned carts and sledges!
The village itself is perched on the edge of a 400-foot cliff and has steep, cobbled streets, historic houses, an ancient fishing harbour and stunning views. There’s a charge to enter the village (£8.50 per adult when I last checked) but this includes parking and entrance to the museums.
Clovelly is one of the best places to visit in Devon, but that means it can get extremely busy. I’d recommend visiting early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds.
If you fancy an upmarket holiday in Devon, I’d recommend staying in Salcombe. Life here centres around sailing, and the picturesque town becomes filled with the yachtie community over the summer months. The views over the estuary are magical, especially when the sun is shining.
There’s plenty to do in Salcombe too. You could hire a boat, go for a swim or try out stand up paddle boarding. There’s a great walking route from Salcombe, along the estuary to Hope Cove – ideal for anyone who loves photography.
The town has a few old-fashioned streets with chic independent stores, seafood restaurants and cafes. Plus, don’t forget to sample some of the local produce. Salcombe Gin has a great reputation, as does the delicious ice cream from Salcombe Dairy. That sounds like the perfect holiday diet to me!
If you’re looking for an historic market town to visit in Devon, I’d recommend taking a trip to Dartmouth.
Perched on the banks of the River Dart, this town offers a little bit of everything. There’s a castle, a few museums, great shopping and a handful of places to eat and drink.
Dartmouth Castle is one of the town’s most famous landmarks. First constructed in 1388, this castle has been guarding the entrance to the Dart Estuary for well over 600 years.
If you’re a foodie, I’d recommend visiting during October when the annual Dartmouth Food Festival takes place. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in getting out on the water, there’s a big regatta in the town every August.
The English Riviera
While our equivalent of St. Tropez and Cannes doesn’t quite have the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera, the English Riviera offers a lot to British tourists looking for beautiful places to visit in Devon. This section of the coast is protected by the hills in Dartmoor, and as a result it has a warmer microclimate.
Stretching for 22 miles along the South Devon coastline, the English Riviera includes the towns of Torquay, Babbacombe, Paignton and Brixham in the Torbay area. The Victorian’s loved visiting these seaside resort towns, and marked them firmly on the map. More recently, the English Riviera earned UNESCO Global Geopark status, meaning it’s globally recognised for being of unique geological interest. How amazing is that?
With charming towns, sandy beaches and lots of attractions, this area is still very popular with tourists. Highlights include the highest cliff-top promenade in England which is in Babbacombe Bay, Paignton Zoo, fresh fish in Brixham and Berry Head National Nature Reserve.
Exeter often plays second fiddle to Plymouth, but this city still has a lot to offer. The most prominent landmark is its spectacular cathedral. With over 900 years of history, Exeter Cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture. Inside you’ll see some unique items including the Exon Domesday, Shakespeare’s Second Folio and Medieval wax offerings. Fascinatingly, there’s also a working astronomical clock from the 1400s which gives you an idea of how people thought our solar system looked!
One of my top suggestions would be to take a tour of the roof. It’s amazing to get up there and see the cathedral and the city from above.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about all of these beautiful places to visit in Devon. Have an amazing trip, wherever you decide to travel to! If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my guides to unique places to visit in Cornwall and places to visit in Dorset.