Things to Do in Salcombe

Last updated on January 22, 2024

Things to do in Salcombe

We’ve been going to Salcombe several times a year since we first got together many moons ago, even living there for a few months at one point. Steve’s parents have a holiday home in the area, so we try to spend as much time there as possible, escaping down to the coast.

I realised it’s high time I put together a guide to all the best things to do in Salcombe, including all the best beaches, walks, restaurants, cafes, shops and places to stay in Salcombe. It’s funny how it often takes longest to get round to writing about the places you know best.

So here it is: our guide to the best of what to do in Salcombe, Devon.

Things to do in Salcombe, Devon

Things to do in Salcombe

What’s Salcombe like?

At the tip of South Devon on the south-west coast, Salcombe is a little harbourside village made up of cute and colourful streets backed by sweeping views of the glittering Kingsbridge estuary and its charming sandy coves. The winding paths are filled with boutiques, galleries, cafes and pubs, and as you walk along the coast, you can easily mistake it for the Mediterranean. It’s one of Devon’s most pretty destinations, and, come summertime, it fills with deck-shoe wearing tourists. I would go as far as saying it might be one of the most idyllic holiday spots in Britain.

Things to do in Salcombe

When to go to Salcombe?

Spring and Summer are when the tourists flood in and the town buzzes with activity – but I’m a fan of Salcombe all year round. We lived there during the winter and while some places close off-season, the area doesn’t stop being beautiful, and enough pubs, cafes and shops stay open for it not to feel like a ghost town.

I also love the winter for rugged coastal walks and getting cosy in front of the fire. So, in short, I don’t think there’s a bad time to go – it just depends on what you’re looking for – the vibes and vibrancy of summer or a more laidback (and cheaper) winter retreat. Spring is a good in-between, although the Bank Holidays and Easter are just as busy as summer.

Salcombe from Snapes Point

Bridges and Balloons favourites

  • Enjoy a beachside meal at the Winking Prawn
  • Wander the gardens and enjoy the views at Overbecks
  • Eat a pasty from Salcombe Bakehouse (potentially the best pasty in all the land)
  • Buy some treats from Cranch’s old-style sweet shop
  • Get an ice cream from Salcombe Dairy
  • Walk to North Sands beach along the coast
  • Take a ferry to East Portelmouth beach and visit the gorgeous Gara Rock Hotel
  • Order a meal from Wild Artichokes

Where to stay in Salcombe

Here are a few of our top picks for places to stay in Salcombe, and we also have a guide to the best Salcombe holiday homes.

Gara Rock Hotel & Spa

Gara Rock is a sumptuous, luxury clifftop hotel with impeccable style and stunning views. It’s just across the estuary from Salcombe in East Portlemouth. It’s easy to get the ferry across from Salcombe to East Portelmouth, but the drive takes around 30 mins because you have to go round the headland.

Check availability and prices now.

Salcombe Harbour Hotel

This four-star waterfront hotel, Salcombe Harbour Hotel, is in the heart of town and has gorgeous estuary views. It’s part of the Harbour Hotels’ group, which can be relied upon for comfortable luxury.

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The Bowline

This stylish three-bedroom apartment, The Bowline, has a gorgeous swimming pool that brings to mind Italy rather than Devon. The pool is shared with three other homes.

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Brightham House Boutique B&B

Located in Malborough, just two miles from Salcombe, the bright and fun Brightham House B&B offers a more budget option than the Harbour House and Gara Rock.

Check availability and prices now.

We also have a guide to the best Devon Airbnbs, including options in Salcombe.

Things to do in Salcombe

Things to do in Salcombe - North Sands

Spend the day at the beach

The number one thing to do in Salcombe is spend some time at the beach. From the sweeping Bantham Beach to the pretty cove at North Sands, there are lots of different options in the area.

The series of small coves at East Portlemouth across the estuary is a popular option.

Things to do in Salcombe - Fore Street

Wander Fore Street and Island Street

Fore Street, a charming narrow street parallel to the water, is Salcombe’s main road of shops, restaurants and pubs. It joins to Island Street, which holds another good collection of businesses, many housed in converted boat sheds.

Walking the length of both streets is a perfect introduction to Salcombe. Get an ice cream from Salcombe Dairy at the end of Island Street to enjoy along the way.

On Snape's Point, Salcombe

Take a coastal or countryside walk

There are so many beautiful walks in and around Salcombe. Simply walking along the coast from the centre to North Sands is one of my favourites, but there are also longer countryside and coastal walks.

Things to do in Salcombe - Overbecks

Visit Overbecks

One of my top things to do in Salcombe is visit Overbecks, a National Trust property perched high on the cliffs and with fabulous gardens to wander around. There’s also a little tea room where you can enjoy some tea and cake while taking in the views.

Things to do in Salcombe - Gin Distillery

Do a gin experience

Create your own bottle of gin at the Salcombe Distilling Co. A master distiller takes you through the process. And you can also do gin tastings or simply enjoy a drink at the bar.

What to do in Salcombe - East Soar Farm

Visit the walkers’ hut at East Soar Farm

I absolutely love the walkers’ hut at East Soar Farm, which has an honesty café offering cakes, teas, coffees and more. It’s a charming set up and is right opposite a small rustic playground and paddock with pet sheep, a pony, donkeys and pygmy goats. You can drive right there or walk from East Soar carpark or the coast.

What to do in Salcombe - Wood fired sauna

Refresh with a wood-fired sauna and river swim

For the ultimate experience in body detox and purification, try this forest wood-fired sauna and cold water river swim experience. Meeting around 20 minutes from Salcombe, the guided experience takes around 2.5 hours.

What to do in Salcombe - Visit Totnes

Visit a nearby market town

Salcombe is close to some of Devon’s pretty market towns, including my favourite, Totnes, which is about a 30-minute drive away. Totnes is an alternative bohemian enclave filled with artists and creative shops and restaurants – it’s one of the loveliest places to visit near Salcombe.

Also visit Kingsbridge, just 15 minute’s from Salcombe, which is a lively market town on the water. It’s much more lived-in than Salcombe and is also the place to go if you need a bigger supermarket.

Go for an afternoon tea

I’ll take any excuse for an afternoon tea and a holiday in Devon is surely one. There are great options at Salcombe Harbour Hotel, South Sands Hotel and Soar Mill Cove Hotel. You could also go for a simpler Devonshire cream tea option at Sailor V.

Go to the Salcombe Maritime Musuem

I haven’t actually been here, but if you have an interest in boating and local history then the Salcombe Maritime Museum is said to be “a treasure trove of models, paintings, photographs and artefacts which tell the story of Salcombe’s links with ships and the sea from ancient times to the Second World War”.

Things to do on the water in Salcombe

What to do in Salcombe - Ferry ride

Go for a ride on the ferry

There’s are two little ferry services from the centre of Salcombe that can take you to either East Portlemouth or South Sands beach.

Both trips make for a great beach day out, plus it’s fascinating to see Salcombe from the water – there are some incredible homes tucked into the cliffs!

For South Sands, you can take the ferry one way as it’s walkable from town, but East Portlemouth is a return journey as it’s on the opposite side of the estuary.

Go coasteering

For an ultimate adventure trip, go on this rib coasteering trip, which combines a high-speed rib ride with some epic coasteering, including 10-metre cliff jumps, and wild swimming.

Try surfing

You can’t surf in Salcombe but there are good options nearby. You can take lessons or hire equipment at Discovery Surf School in Bigbury on Sea or at Bantham Surfing Academy on Bantham Beach.

What to do in Salcombe - SUP

Try your hand at SUP

Salcombe is a great place to try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). At Salcombe Paddleboarding in East Portlemouth, you can take a lesson or hire the equipment you need to go out by yourself. The creek is a particularly popular place for paddleboarders and a super peaceful way to explore the area.

You can also hire paddleboards (and boats) on the other side of the estuary from Salcombe Boats and Boards. Or Adventure South will deliver a board straight to your door for a 24-hour hire.

Adventure South also have a mega board that can carry eight people at once and is available for guided trips at Hope Cove Beach and South Sands.

What to do in Salcombe - Rent a boat

Rent a boat

A fun way to explore the estuary is to hire your own boat for a few hours. No experience is necessary and you can hire boats for up to 8 passengers.

At Whitestrand Boat Hire or Salcombe Launch Co, they’ll give you advice on where to go – including local pubs you can sail to.

For something more in-depth, do a boat handling course at Salcombe Power Boats or Salcombe Dinghy Sailing.

Take a guided cruise

If you don’t fancy manning a boat yourself, you can take a guided cruise around the harbour, or another to Burgh Island.

Sea Kayaking Salcombe
Photography by Charles Ward

Go sea kayaking

Sea Kayak Salcombe offers guided kayak tours from 1.5-5 hours. Guides will take you on different routes around the bay, creeks or even on a white-knuckle “rock hopper” tour for the more adventurous.

Family travel in Salcombe

Salcombe family travel

The beaches, watersports and ice cream are more than enough to keep kids entertained in Salcombe, but other family-friendly ideas include:

  • Go crabbing on the water’s edge (pretty much a right of passage in Salcombe)
  • Go for a dip at Salcombe’s outdoor heated swimming pool
  • There is a playground at Salcombe’s Courtenay Park. And there’s another great one in Kingsbridge at the Kingsbridge Recreation Ground, which even includes a climbing wall. And the Victoria Inn pub also has a good garden for kids, which includes a play area and chickens.
  • Kingsbridge has a miniature train – the Kingsbridge and District Light Railway – which runs alongside the water’s edge and is a big hit with small children. Definitely one of the best things to do in Salcombe with toddlers.
  • Visit Pennywell Farm (40-minute drive from Salcombe) where you’ll find a little wonderland of tiny animals, including miniature horses, donkeys, goats and pigs. They also have tractor rides, a playground and a little train. Toddlers and kids love it.
  • There’s a good toy shop – The Treehouse – on Fore Street in Salcombe, and two more – The Trading Post and Nonsuch – in Kingsbridge.
  • There used to be a lovely place called Paper Bird Island where you could do lots of crafts, which was an especially handy thing to do in Salcombe on a rainy day. Unfortunately it’s currently closed as the building is being redeveloped. We’re hopeful it’ll re-open in the future.

Where to eat and drink in Salcombe

Things to do in Salcombe: Winking Prawn

The Winking Prawn

The Winking Prawn is perfectly located right next to North Sands Beach, making it the perfect spot for a casual beach day lunch or dinner. It has a lots of fresh seafood as well as sandwiches, soups and snacks. The vegetarian selection is limited, but adequate.

And they also have a Salcombe Dairy ice cream van next door. And in the summertime, they do barbeque nights where you can order a set menu.

It’s worth noting that when the tide comes in, this place fills up, so try and beat the crowds by watching the tides.

Victoria Inn

The Victoria Inn is my favourite of the pubs in town – cosy in the winter and with a big beer garden for the summer. The garden is particularly good for kids. And it’s dog-friendly too – they even have a doggie menu!

Salcombe Bakehouse

Salcombe Bakehouse

Home to my favourite cheese and onion pasty, I never go to Salcombe without getting at least one. The Bakehouse also does a great selection of pastries and cakes. There’s a second branch in Kingsbridge.

Salcombe Distillery & Bar

The Salcombe Gin Distillery has a stylish bar looking out over the water. Top choice is the signature gin and tonic, but they also serve cocktails, beers, wines and soft drinks.

The Crab Shed, Salcombe

The Crab Shed

As a vegetarian, this isn’t one I’ve been to, but people rave about The Crab Shed. As you’d expect, the bright seaside restaurant specialises in local crab meat as well as other seafood.

What to do in Salcombe - Salcombe Deli
Photo by Salcombe Delicatessen

Salcombe Delicattessen

This place has changed hands a few times since I’ve been coming to Salcombe, but seems to have finally found its groove as the Salcombe Delicatessen. I do miss the soft play area that used to be upstairs as it was handy for kids, but there’s no denying the new set-up is more stylish.

They serve a menu of sandwiches, pizzas and salads, and also have a shop serving high-end deli items. The cakes are also good.

Salcombe Dairy

Salcombe Dairy

You can’t go to Salcombe without getting an ice cream from the Salcombe Dairy. There are two main shops in Salcombe – one on Fore Street and one on Island Street in the Dairy’s factory, but you can also buy it in other outlets around Salcombe and the south west.

The peppermint flake flavour is my favourite. And for a true Devon experience, get a stick of fudge on top.

Wild Artichokes

Wild Artichokes - Things to do in Salcombe
Photo by Wild Artichokes

Pre-pandemic, Wild Artichokes did supper clubs, but they now deliver their amazing meals so you can enjoy them at home. It’s high-end delivery – like experiencing a fancy restaurant in the comfort of your own home.

Shopping in Salcombe

Cranch's Salcombe

Cranch’s pantry and sweet shop

Cranch’s pink and white candy stripe awning makes for one of Salcombe’s most iconic sights, and the inside is as charming as the out. A proper old fashioned sweet shop where you can buy-by-weight from a selection of all the old favourites.

Roly's Fudge Salcombe

Roly’s Fudge

The smell of fudge fills the air outside Roly’s, and you can see the shopkeepers rolling out huge slabs of the sweet Devonshire treat throughout the day. It’s all very tempting and makes for a perfect holiday gift.

Will Bees Bespoke

Will Bees Bespoke is an eye-catching shop on Island Street, selling a range of leather and fabric patterned bags, which can be personalised in the onsite workshop.

What to do in Salcombe - Busby and Fox
Photo by Busby and Fox

Busby & Fox

Independent boutique, Busby & Fox, sells a stylish selection of high-end clothing, accessories and homewares. The shop itself is a beautiful space.

Jack Wills

British clothing brand Jack Wills began in Salcombe, so if you’re a fan of their preppy style, here’s a chance to visit their first store. There are other similar well-heeled high street shops along Fore Street, including Joules and Crew Clothing.

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