8 of the best things to do in Paignton holiday cottages

8 of the best things to do in Paignton

Caroline Abbott 03 April 2024

The glorious sandy beaches of Paignton have attracted holidaymakers and day trippers for generations, but there are many more reasons to pay a visit to this town in the South Devon region of Torbay, also known as the English Riviera.

Families with young children in particular will find no shortage of ways to spend some quality time together, whatever the weather and budget. It’s a fantastic destination whether you’re booking a family holiday, a couple’s getaway or a break with a group of adult friends. There’s a wide variety of places to shop, eat and drink in the town centre, and although you could spend your entire holiday without leaving Paignton, there are plenty more attractions within easy reach if you wanted to explore a bit further afield.

We have selected some of the best things to do in Paignton. No matter if your party is large or small, we have a range of holiday cottages in the area, so you can spend less time travelling and more time having fun and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

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See the animals at Paignton Zoo

Photo of a red panda on a tree

Paignton Zoo, which celebrated its centenary in 2023, is an 80-acre site with more than 2,000 animals to be spotted in their enclosures, which are as close to their natural habitats as possible. The zoo has changed a lot over the past 100 years, and still has some improvements underway or planned, but as ever, it’s a place focused on education and conservation, where animal lovers of all ages can see some of our planet’s most wonderful, and most endangered, creatures. The botanical gardens help to make the zoo look beautiful as well as provide some of the animals’ food. The zoo also has plenty of playgrounds where children can burn off their excess energy.

You can expect to spend at least three or four hours going around the zoo, but you should leave a full day for your best chance of exploring everything on offer. For ticket prices and opening times, visit the website. You can find out the latest updates, including short-notice closures and animals off show, on the zoo’s Facebook page.

Build sandcastles at Paignton Beach

Photo of Paignton Sands beach

Paignton’s main beach, Paignton Sands, is only half a mile (and a relatively flat walk) from the town centre and railway station. It’s a relatively safe beach for swimming and it’s also a great place for building sandcastles, sunbathing on a deckchair and eating ice cream or fish and chips – just remember to protect your food from seagulls, who will pinch it if given half a chance!

It’s where you can find Paignton Pier (see below). At low tide, you can walk directly from Paignton Sands to Preston Sands, which is similar but also has rockpools to explore. Both have dog bans in the summer. Just behind Paignton Sands is a large area of grass where you could play instead, and which sometimes hosts a funfair. There is also the free geopark which has a range of play equipment for children of all ages.

Hide from the rain in Paignton’s cinema

Couple inside cinema with snacks and drinks

Right by Paignton Sands is Vue Cinema Torbay, which could be an option if the weather isn’t good enough to enjoy Paignton’s outdoor attractions, or you can’t wait to watch the latest blockbuster. For screening times and prices, visit Vue’s website.

Paignton also has a historic cinema by the railway station, Paignton Picture House, which opened in 1914 but closed down in 1999. Fun fact: best-selling crime novelist Agatha Christie used to enjoy visiting here. Efforts are underway to restore it to its former glory, and it is hoped that it will reopen to the public in 2025.

Enjoy traditional amusements on Paignton Pier

Photo of iconic Paignton Pier above the sea

You can’t visit the beach at Paignton without also taking in the sights and sounds of the iconic Paignton Pier. The traditional seaside pier has amusements for all ages, from video games and toy grabbers to fruit machines and coin pushers (which, for now at least, still take 2p pieces!).

There are plenty of outlets offering hot and cold food and drink (the warm doughnuts are especially popular), photo opportunities galore from favourite Marvel characters such as Spider-Man and Hulk to a giant heart installation, and an amazing new Jurassic Park themed crazy golf course which fans of the franchise simply mustn’t miss!

See a show at the Palace Theatre

An exterior image of the Palace Theatre in PaigntonPhoto credit: Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre isn’t the largest in Torbay, but it’s a friendly community theatre that also attracts plenty of household names from the world of showbiz. It’s certainly an option if the biggest shows have sold out or you’re looking for some indoor and/or evening entertainment. 

The theatre also hosts workshops, classes, exhibitions and festivals – including music, dance, comedy and so much more. To find out what’s on and purchase tickets, pop into the box office between Monday and Friday or visit the website.

Cool off at the waterpark Splashdown Quaywest

Slides at Splashdown Quaywest park

Splashdown Quaywest is the largest outdoor waterpark in the UK. It has been thrilling visitors for decades, but it recently expanded so there’s more to enjoy than ever before. In addition to the twisting tyre rides and slippery waterslides (at least one of which is not for the faint-hearted!), there’s a new aquaplay arena for the under-12s and their accompanying adults.

It’s right next to Goodrington Sands so why not make a day of it, or split your party if it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time? For opening times, ticket prices, and age restrictions, see the website.

Ride Dartmouth Steam Railway from Paignton

Aerial photo of Dartmouth Steam Railway

Dartmouth Steam Railway offers one of the country’s most spectacular steam train trips. It takes passengers along the coast of Torbay, through picturesque countryside and alongside the River Dart, all the way from Paignton to Dartmouth. You can read our guide to the best things to do in Dartmouth here.

Christmas is a particularly special time to see the steam train at Paignton, regardless of whether you intend to take a ride on it – the exterior and interior are decorated with thousands of lights, giving it the name Christmas Train of Lights

Go kayaking at Goodrington Sands

Photo of Goodrington Sands from above

Goodrington Sands, on the outskirts of Paignton, is one of Torbay’s most popular beaches. The North Beach is dog-friendly all year round – but it disappears completely at high tide, so remember to check the tide times! The South Beach is larger but only dog-friendly in the winter. It’s a relatively safe beach, with shallow waters and usually gentle waves, and it’s popular with swimmers, inflatables users, kayakers and paddleboarders. At low tide, there are lots of rockpools to check for marine life.

Splashdown Quaywest is on the doorstep, as is Youngs Park which has a lake with swan-shaped boats and pedalos to hire, a crazy golf course, a bouncy castle, and plenty of green space for games and picnics. There’s a variety of food and drink outlets, whether you’re looking for a takeaway or a sit-down meal. 

Map of things to do in Paignton

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Stay with us in Paignton

Paignton has absolutely all you need for a memorable holiday at the seaside, and this list of things to do should be just the starting point for planning your adventures. It’s no wonder that many of the people who enjoyed holidays in Paignton as a kid go on to bring their own children to experience the magic of the English Riviera, with its golden, sandy beaches and iconic palm trees. Our Paignton cottages offer the perfect base for your holiday, so click the button below to browse the full collection.

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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