Looking for things to do in Devon? In this article, we will discover the best this beautiful British county has to offer.
Devon is a county in the southwest of England and is famed for its beautiful stretches of coastline, fishing villages and the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. The county is packed with interesting things to do from swimming and surfing to visiting stately homes and castles.
Devon’s towns and villages date back centuries and you can find a unique assortment of shops, cafes and restaurants along cobbled streets selling local produce.
Fishing has been a huge part of Devon’s economy for hundreds of years, and you will not fail to notice the trawlers and crab pots dotted around the many harbours across the county.
Spending some more time in the UK? Don’t miss out on some of our favourite content from near Devon.
The Best Things to do in Devon
- Jurassic Coast
- English Riviera
- Dartmoor National Park
- Exmoor National Park
- Visit the beach
- Cream tea
- Buckfast Abbey
- Plymouth gin distillery
- South Devon Railway
- Kents Cavern
1. Explore Devon’s County Town; Exeter
Exeter is the county town of Devon and no trip to the area is complete without exploring this charming, laid-back city. The grandiose and gothic Exeter Cathedral dates back to 1133 and is one of the top things to see in Devon thanks to its impressive architecture.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum gives an insightful glimpse into the history of the city through a series of displays, galleries and exhibitions. A great option for the whole family and what’s more, it’s totally free!
Exeter is also packed with boutique shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes serving the famous cream tea. There are plenty of green spaces in and around the city and the cultural area around the quay makes for a perfect stroll before stopping for a bite to eat along the river Exe.
Although Devon is packed with outdoor activities, if you are looking for things to do in Devon in the rain, then Exeter is full of great indoor options from the above cathedral and museum to wander the shops or diving into a traditional pub for the afternoon!
2. Search for Fossils along the Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site that comprises 95 miles of coastline on the English Channel and stretches from Studland Bay in Dorset to Exmouth. Natural erosion of the cliffs has exposed layers of rock dating back over 185 million years and the fossilised remains of animals have been preserved in the rocks.
If you’ve ever dreamt of finding the tooth of a megalodon, then this is the place to find it (though permission may be needed in some places for fossil hunting – see the official website for details)! Fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast is one of the best Devon things to do for the whole family!
Some popular towns along the Jurassic Coast include Exmouth, Sidmouth and Beer and there are plenty of beautiful stretches of sandy beach for sunbathing and swimming.
3. Relax on the English Riviera
The English Riviera encompasses the towns of Paignton, Torquay and Brixham on a beautiful stretch of the south Devon coastline. The area is home to many popular seaside resorts, sandy beaches and picturesque fishing villages.
The English Riviera Visitor Information Centre is located in the centre of Torquay and should be your first stop for exploring this unique area. Activities on offer include boat trips, kayaking, sunbathing, swimming, coastal walks, wildlife spotting and much more.
There are a host of award-winning restaurants, cafes, B&Bs and hotels along the Riviera making it the perfect place to stay when visiting Devon. What’s more, the area has the mildest climate in the whole of the UK meaning you can enjoy plenty of sunny days down at the beach or on the water.
4. Explore Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor is the wildest part of the county and on a grey day you could be forgiven for thinking you have stepped into a Jane Austin or Arthur Conan Doyle novel as you explore the dramatic and brooding moorland. When the sun shines, the moor is transformed into a beautiful landscape of river valleys and woods perfect for hiking and picnics.
Oakhampton is the perfect starting point for a trip onto the moor with great connections to the rest of Devon. But pay attention to the weather, and ensure you have a map and adequate clothing if you plan on a serious foray onto the moors, as it can become inhospitable at the drop of a hat (the British army uses the moor for training its soldiers).
Princetown is the home of the infamous Dartmoor Prison and also the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre and is well worth a visit.
5. Visit Exmoor National Park
Exmoor is the little brother to the more famous Dartmoor, but no less impressive for it. In fact, the moor stretches right along the north coast and is arguably more picturesque and serene, compared to its brooding and rugged neighbour. Here you can hike through small villages and find rustic old farms made of local stone and slate.
There are plenty of pubs and tea rooms on the moor, plus there is even the option of camping if you want to get right into nature. Other activities on offer include pony trekking, hiking and cycling making it one of the best Devon places to visit!
6. Have a Day at the Beach
Devon benefits from not one, but two coastlines making a day at the beach one of the top things to do in Devon. While we love the towns and beaches in Cornwall, Devon has something about it that has to be seen for yourself.
The North Atlantic coastline is famed for stretches of golden, sandy beach such as at Woolacombe where the unique climate allows palms to grow. Explore clifftop paths, and hidden coves, try your hand at surfing or even take a sea safari to sea seals, dolphins and whales if you are lucky.
The more serene southern coastline is home to the world-famous Jurassic Coast; a geological feature dating back 185 million years!
The south coast is home to quaint fishing villages, and popular holiday towns such as Dawlish, Exmouth and Torquay. Here you can find beautiful stretches of beach perfect for swimming as it is more sheltered than the wild Atlantic coastline.
Top Beaches in Devon
- Croyde Bay Beach
- Saunton Sands
- Exmouth Beach
7. Indulge in a Cream Tea
Devon’s neighbour Cornwall may claim to be the home of the cream tea, but evidence suggests this popular British tradition started in Devon over 1,000 years ago when monks from the Benedictine Monastery in Tavistock fed workers bread, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
But what is a cream tea?
For the uninitiated, a cream tea consists of a pot of tea (earl grey being a firm favourite) and freshly-baked scones served with thick, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
These simple ingredients combine to make heaven on a plate and sampling this noblest of afternoon snacks is a must when visiting Devon!
You won’t have to look far to find the perfect place to find a cream tea as the county is dotted with tea rooms from Totnes to Torquay and Exmouth to Exmoor.
8. Take Some Time Out at Buckfast Abbey
If you are looking for an escape from the fast pace and busy resorts, then a trip to gorgeous Buckfast Abbey is a must. The Abbey is home to an order of Benedictine monks who have been the guardians of the place for centuries.
The Abbey sits on acres of beautiful grounds on the edge of Dartmoor and includes a restaurant, shops and a hotel. Entrance to the Abbey and grounds is completely free, but visitors are reminded to be respectful as it is a working monastery.
9. Have a Tipple at the Plymouth Gin Distillery
It’s no secret that gin has become a hugely popular drink in recent years, so do yourself a favour and impress your friends with first-hand knowledge of this most British of drinks by paying a visit the Plymouth Gin Distillery.
This is the oldest working gin distillery in Britain and the building dates back to the early 15th century. Taking a tour of this hallowed site is one of the top Devon activities and includes a tasting session and tour of the distillery.
The distillery is open seven days a week and there are three tours available starting from £15 and including a tasting session and complimentary gin and tonic at the end of the tour.
Booking is advisable and you can find more info and book online at the official distillery website. Definitely one of the top days out in Devon, and if the British weather isn’t playing ball, the distillery is one of the best things to do in Devon in the rain!
10. Ride the South Devon Railway
Want to explore the gorgeous Devon countryside at a comfortable pace? Then all aboard the South Devon Railway steam train for a 14-mile round-trip along the River Dart Valley.
One of the best things to do in Devon is to take one of the special dining trains. Here you can enjoy a Sunday lunch or afternoon tea as you steam along with gorgeous views out the window.
The line has stations at Buckfastleigh (close to Buckfast Abbey), Staverton and Totnes making it a great way to explore some of the best Devon places to visit.
11. Wander the Cobbled Streets of Clovelly
Clovelly is by far one of the most beautiful towns in Devon (well, more of a village actually).
This small settlement clings to the cliffs above the south coast and is probably the most “Instagramable” spot in the entire county!
Cars are banned so you will be sharing the cobbled lanes with horses and ponies instead; the only means to get deliveries into the village.
Unusual Things to Do in Devon
If you have more time, check out these fun and unusual things to do in Devon, too.
12. Kent’s Cavern
One of the more unusual things to do in Devon is to explore the caves at Kent’s Cavern (don’t let the name fool you, they are definitely in Devon, and not Kent)! Kent’s Cavern is a series of caves that were once home to stone age man (and woman) and ice age animals.
Here early explorers found the remains and artifacts from our prehistoric ancestors.
This top Devon attraction is a must for history lovers of all ages. The tour will take in stalagmites and stalactites. Then out into woodland and along the coast.
The tour lasts one hour and costs £14 for adults and £13 for children. You can book online on the official website.
13. Step Back in Time at Bygones
Another one of the slightly unusual things to do in Devon is to take a step back in time to a bygone era at Bygones! With over 2,000 artifacts, displays and dioramas charting the Victorian era, Second World War and later history, this is one of the great days out in Devon for the whole family.
Tickets are £11.50 for adults and £7.95 for children and can be booked online.
Visit Devon Now!
We hope we’ve answered all your questions about what to do in Devon.
With so many exciting days out in Devon, you are spoiled for choice!
From the beaches north and south to the two moors, national parks, UNESCO sites, quaint villages, indulgent cream teas and more, there is certainly something for everyone in this beautiful part of the UK. So, what are you waiting for, book your trip to Devon today!