Top Devon harbours to visit holiday cottages

Top Devon harbours to visit

Cath 27 July 2023

Devon has two coastlines and is surrounded by the sea on both sides so it’s only natural that we have some stunning harbours and marinas. 

From quaint fishing harbours in secluded coastal spots to marinas with 1,000 berths, these picturesque harbours are the perfect places to spend a few hours whilst on holiday.

Read on to discover our pick of top Devon harbours worth a visit:

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We have a fantastic range of holiday cottages for you to enjoy while exploring these gorgeous harbours in Devon:

North Devon

Ilfracombe Harbour

 Aerial view of Ilfracombe harbour

Ilfracombe is a popular seaside town in North Devon with stunning beaches and coves including the renowned Tunnels Beaches, great eateries, art and craft galleries, independent shops, activities and attractions.    

The town is also home to the largest harbour on the North Devon coastline which has been there since at least the 12th century. Today, the main use of the harbour is for leisure and tourism trips, although it is still a working harbour too with fish and seafood landed daily.

From Ilfracombe Harbour, you can catch a boat to Lundy with fishing trips, sea-life safaris and diving experiences all available too. Be sure to also visit Damien Hirst’s ‘Verity’, a 20-metre-tall bronze statue which overlooks the harbour.

Where to stay nearby

Clovelly Harbour

 Clovelly harbour with boats and buildings

Clovelly is a picturesque, fishing village in North Devon which was once owned by the Queen of England. The village is still privately owned today, which has helped preserve its uniquely special atmosphere.

The harbour in Clovelly was once a bustling fishing port renowned for its herring and mackerel and, although fishing has declined, it is still very much a part of the village life. Today, Clovelly is famous for its lobsters and crabs which are sent as far afield as France and Spain. 

In the past, the coastline was once notorious for smuggling, wrecking, piracy and shipwrecks, so since 1870, Clovelly has also had its own lifeboat. 

Where to stay nearby

Watermouth Harbour

 Aerial shot of Watermouth harbour with boats surrounded by cliffs

Watermouth is a lovely hamlet halfway between the village of Combe Martin, known as the Gateway to Exmoor, and Ilfracombe. The harbour is one of the most stunning locations along this area of coastline and is very sheltered as it’s shielded by the natural breakwater of Sexton’s Burrows. This has created an ecosystem for many rare marine species which attract visitors.

Opposite the harbour is Watermouth Castle, a delightful Victorian castle which has been transformed into a family theme park with something for all ages to enjoy.

Where to stay nearby

South Devon

Brixham Harbour

 Brixham harbour, full of boats and surrounded by bright buildings

Brixham is a quintessential harbour town on South Devon’s beautiful English Riviera. The colourful houses that surround the harbour are the first things you notice, but the real stars of this town aren’t the buildings – it’s the seafood.

Brixham Harbour is one of the busiest fishing ports in the UK which means the freshest fish and most delicious seafood is on the menu everywhere. The town has a thriving fish market which supports the local fishing fleet, made up of large beam trawlers and smaller day boats.

Some of the smaller day boats can be seen working at various vantage points around Tor Bay e.g., Berry Head, Fishcombe Cove and Hope’s Nose.

Where to stay nearby

Dartmouth Harbour

 View taken from above Dartmouth harbour and estuary

Situated at the mouth of the River Dart, Dartmouth is one of South Devon’s most popular and beautiful towns. This ancient market town is steeped in history, with its charming streets and scenic riverside location in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The natural port, which was once the home of the Royal Navy in the reign of Edward III, has been a working harbour with ships having been built here as far back as the 12th century. The town is home to the Britannia Royal Naval College which has been at the forefront of the education and development of world-class naval officers since 1863 and where Queen Elizabeth II met her future husband. 

Where to stay nearby

Paignton Harbour

 Paignton harbour on a bright day full of boats

Paignton is a traditional seaside town in South Devon, renowned for its bustling pier, promenade and beach. Originally a Celtic settlement, Paignton was a fishing village right up until the 19th century when the harbour was built. The arrival of the railway in 1859 brought crowds of visitors and the town quickly became a favourite tourist destination for the Victorians.

Today, the harbour remains a hive of activity, especially during the summer months, when there are plenty of fishing and diving trips on offer. The historic harbour is also surrounded by delightful restaurants and cafes where you can sample the day’s catch! Check out our guide on things to do in Paignton for more ideas if you are visiting the area. 

Where to stay nearby

Torquay Harbour

 Aerial view of Torquay harbour full of boats with estuary behind

Torquay is a thriving seaside town, set on Devon’s English Riviera, famous for its sandy beaches, busy harbour, family attractions and Victorian appearance. Torquay’s harbour lies at the heart of the town and only a short walk will lead visitors to a wide variety of facilities. 

With almost 1,000 berths available, Torquay Harbour is a hive of activity and offers a well-protected yacht haven. During the summer season, boat trips are also available from Torquay’s Old Harbour to nearby Paignton, Brixham and Dartmouth. Be sure to check out our guide on things to do in Torquay for more ideas on how to spend your time in the town!

Where to stay nearby

East/Mid Devon

Cockwood Harbour, Exeter

 Cockwood village and estuary in front

Cockwood is a small village on the west side of the Exe Estuary, near Dawlish Warren, set around a lovely tidal harbour. It is a popular boating spot with a church, a village green and several pubs. The harbour is separated from the estuary by the main railway line between Exeter and Torquay, and boats can only reach the harbour via a bridge under the railway line. The railway line can be crossed south of the village centre by a pedestrian track leading to Cockwood Steps, with a landing for small boats and a view over the estuary.

Where to stay nearby

Axmouth Harbour

 Axmouth village with estuary

Axmouth is an attractive village, near Seaton on the banks of the Axe Estuary, about 1 mile from the sea. It was once one of the most important harbours in Devon, a role that it lost in the 14th century when a part of the cliff fell into the harbour. The harbour is now only used by small boats and the Axmouth Harbour Yacht Club.

The village is small, centred around an attractive church (the Church of Saint Michael) with two pubs in the village which are perfect for a drink or a bite to eat.

Where to stay nearby

Exmouth Harbour

 Exmouth harbour, full of boats backed by bright buildings

Exmouth is one of the oldest seaside towns in Devon where the River Exe meets the sea. The town is the gateway to the World Heritage Jurassic Coast and has miles of beautiful golden sands, perfect for walkers and water sports.

Exmouth Harbour evolved from the Exmouth docks, which were built in the 1860s. The docks had their own railway line to transport coal, herring and other cargo up to Exeter. Today, Exmouth Harbour offers pontoon berths for commercial and casual visitors and makes for a pleasant afternoon with restaurants and pubs surrounding the harbour. 

Where to stay nearby

Map of Devon harbours

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Stay with us in Devon

Are you ready to book a holiday cottage in Devon and perhaps discover some of these wonderful harbours for yourself? Browse our wide range of self-catering holiday homes and cottages today. From romantic cottages for a weekend escape just for two, to larger properties for the whole family, we have a great selection of cottages in Devon for your next break. For more inspiration, read our guide on our most popular properties and our guide on the top places to stay in Devon here!

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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