Top 10 things to do in Salcombe holiday cottages

Top 10 things to do in Salcombe

Ed Roberts 23 November 2023

Beautiful Salcombe is a seaside resort in South Hams, situated on the west bank of Kingsbridge Estuary. Close to a host of coastal walks and set within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), there is so much to see and do on a holiday to Salcombe.

With shopping prospects galore, and a great range of pubs, restaurants and cafes, Salcombe is a lively place to spend time. Salcombe is chiefly known for sailing, with a whole calendar of events throughout the year; it also has a growing reputation as a hub for small-scale, independent beverage production such as rum, gin and ale.

We have compiled a blog of great things to do in Salcombe, from sailing lessons to crabbing in the harbour or a day of building sandcastles on the estuarine beach. If you are planning a holiday, why not browse our collection of self-catering accommodation in Salcombe today?

Top 10 things to do in Salcombe:

1. Go to the beach

Calm waters at North Sands Beach in Salcombe

Salcombe is home to a few lovely beaches such as Salcombe North Sands and Salcombe South Sands. Of the two, North Sands is the closest to the centre of Salcombe. It is less than 1.5 miles from the centre of the town and when the tide pulls out, there is a wide run of sand to build sandcastles and relax. There are also rock pools to explore and reasonably shallow waters for swimming. And there are great sea views out to Wolf Rock and Sunny Cove which are very photogenic. 

Neighbouring South Sands is a bit further away (2 miles) but is less than half a mile from North Sands, so you can combine visits. The beach is smaller and is more of a cove, and a section of the sand is used for hauling out boats. For more beach-visiting inspiration, why not take a look at our Devon beach guide?

Good to know

  • Where is North Sands Beach and South Sands Beach? Cliff Road, Salcombe, TQ8 8LD 
  • What facilities are available at North Sands Beach? Parking, WCs, disabled access, cafe
  • What facilities are available at South Sands Beach? Parking, WCs, disabled access, cafe
  • Are both beaches dog friendly? Dogs are welcome all year round at North Sands, however, South Sands allows pets between October and March only
  • Is there a lifeguard service? No, there isn't a lifeguard service at North Sands or South Sands Beach
  • Stay nearby: Bay Anchorage | sleeps 2

2. Learn to sail 

Two people sailing in a yellow and white dinghy on the Kingsbridge Estuary

Learn how to sail with Salcombe Dinghy Sailing. They are a RYA (Royal Yacht Association) accredited company and have a wide range of courses for students of all ages, including kids. The Kingsbridge Estuary is a lovely place to spend time on the water too, sailing here is an exhilarating experience.

Good to know

  • Where is the Salcombe Dinghy Sailing School? Whitestrand Pontoon, Fore Street, Salcombe, TQ8 8JE
  • Can I book a course in advance? Yes, visit the website to check availability
  • Stay nearby: Magdala Garden | sleeps 4

3. Tour a distillery or brewery

Right-handed bar person peels an orange with a knife.

Salcombe is home to three producers of craft alcoholic beverages: Salcombe Gin Distillery, Salcombe Brewery, and the Devon Rum Co. All three establishments offer tours of their factories and have on-site shops where you can buy some gifts for friends (or yourself). You could visit all three, or just head over to the one that deals in your particular poison.

Good to know

  • Where is Salcombe Gin Distillery and can I book a tour? The Boathouse, 28 Island Street, Salcombe, TQ8 8DP | Book a tour by visiting the website 
  • Where is Salcombe Brewery and can I book a tour? Estuary View, Ledstone, TQ7 4BL | Book a tour by visiting the website
  • Where is Devon Rum Co. and can I book a tour? Hannaford’s Landing, Island Street, Salcombe, TQ8 8FE | Book a tour by visiting the website
  • Stay nearby: Ecila | sleeps 5  

4. Take a ferry 

South Sands Ferry seen from above

For a more relaxing way to take in the sights, hop aboard the South Sands Ferry which takes in the scenic estuary waters between Salcombe and Kingsbridge, also running evening trips through the creeks and out to sea. Because the estuary falls within the South Devon AONB, these trips are highly recommended for wildlife watching and bird spotting.

Good to know

  • Where can I catch the South Sands Ferry? Whitestrand Pontoon, Fore Street, Salcombe, TQ8 8JE
  • How often does the ferry run? The season runs between the end of March and late October | Check the timetable on the website 
  • How much does a trip on the South Sands Ferry cost? Adults ­£4.75, children ­­£3.75
  • Stay nearby: The Cabin | sleeps 2

5. Go for a walk  

The South West Coast Path close to Gara Rock in the South Devon AONB. Small beach with white buildings on the hillsides.

For the best views of Salcombe, the estuary, and the open sea, we’d recommend this lovely circular walk that originates in East Portlemouth. For two-thirds of the year, you could take the ferry across the water, or else you could park in the village. For some of its length, the path merges with the South West Coast Path. Highlights include Gara Rock, Rickham Common, and a landmark called The Bull.

Good to know

  • How long is the East Portlemouth to Gara Rock circular walk? It is 4 miles long
  • How difficult is the East Portlemouth to Gara Rock circular walk? Easy to moderate
  • What is the terrain on the East Portlemouth to Gara Rock circular walk? Pavement, tracks, grass, dirt, and some steep inclines
  • Stay nearby: Ivy Shepherds Hut | sleeps 2 + 1 dog 

6. Enjoy a swim

Child swimming in a pool with lanes

Salcombe Swimming Pool is an open-air heated pool in the centre of town that is open to the public during the spring and summer months (May–September). It’s a great place for all the family to enjoy time playing and swimming. The pool can also be hired privately for your use.

Good to know

  • Where is Salcombe Swimming Pool? Onslow Road, Salcombe, TQ8 8AG
  • When is Salcombe Swimming Pool open? Please check the website between May and September for opening times
  • How much does it cost to visit Salcombe Swimming Pool? Adults £5, children ­£4 (non-member prices)
  • Stay nearby: The Hayloft – Burton Farmhouse | sleeps 2 

7. Go crabbing at Salcombe Harbour 

Three children go crabbing along the harbour wall

Take a bit of bacon from the fridge for bait, dust off your bucket and crabbing line and head out to Salcombe Harbour, which is a prime crabbing spot. It’s a special childhood pastime to go crabbing, with the best spots to be found along Victoria Quay and around the lifeboat station. Time your crabbing session with a rising tide for the best results.

Good to know

  • Where can I go crabbing in Salcombe? Victoria Quay and off the harbour wall
  • Where can I buy a line and bucket? Salcombe Boat Store, Island Street, Salcombe, TQ8 8DP   
  • Stay nearby: Ferndale Orchard View | sleeps 3 + 2 dogs

8. Try coasteering 

Participant in a coasteering course takes a plunge into the sea

If you are a competent swimmer, then this next suggestion is for you. Embark on a true adventure with Salcombe’s Sea-n-Shore. They run half-day sessions for small groups running from Start Point Lighthouse car park. The activity includes cave exploration, open water swimming, rock climbing and sea plunges.

Good to know

9. Dine out in Salcombe

Four people dining together in a restaurant

There are some exceptional family-friendly restaurants and eateries in Salcombe where you can delight in tasty crab chowder or a Devon cream tea, including the beachside Venus Cafe and the Winking Prawn, a local’s favourite where you can enjoy the morning sun and coffee whilst watching the waves break on the shore.

If you’re looking to indulge in a glass of champagne with ocean views, then Dick and Wills Waterside Grill or The Ferry Inn, are both perched on the waterfront with outstanding panoramas over the sparkling water. And for al fresco dining, we recommend the Victoria Inn with their incredible seafood platters.

Good to know

  • Are the cafes and restaurants in Salcombe open all year round? Yes, all of the ones mentioned are open all year round
  • Are there any dog-friendly pubs and cafes in Salcombe? The Ferry Inn, The Fortescue, The Winking Prawn and Salcombe Harbour Hotel (to name a few) are all dog-friendly places to eat in Salcombe
  • Stay nearby: Ferndale Treetops View | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs 

10. Have a shopping spree

Young girl looks for this summer's reading book

Salcombe has a range of interesting shops to explore. The majority of Salcombe shops are independent businesses so there is a high chance you will be supporting local suppliers when you go shopping for souvenirs, gifts or something more essential. Everybody loves independent bookshops so make sure you pop into Salter's Bookshelf which specialises in new books and bespoke gifts - stock up on your holiday reading here. 

If you are on the run and are feeling peckish for something tasty, then stop in at Salcombe Delicatessen; you could also pick up something delicious and locally sourced for dinner! For modern women's clothing with an outdoorsy edge, stop in at Busby & Fox, a local chain with a branch in nearby Kingsbridge and Totnes. You never know what you'll find in the narrow lanes of Salcombe.

Good to know

  • When is the best day to visit Salcombe's shops? We'd suggest a visit on a Friday or Saturday
  • Does Salcombe have a supermarket? Yes, there is a Co-op in the centre of the town
  • Does Salcombe have cash points? Yes, for a full list visit this website
  • Stay nearby: 2 At The Beach | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Map of things to do in Salcombe

Check out our handy map that includes each of the places mentioned in this guide.

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Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Salcombe

Treat yourself and your loved ones to a stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in Salcombe and South Devon. We hope we have inspired your next break to the South Devon coast. Browse our collection of properties for your Salcombe holiday today by clicking on the button below.

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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