A local

A local's guide to Dawlish

The traditional seaside resort of Dawlish sits at the mouth of the Exe Estuary on the south coast of Devon. Just 15 miles from the ancient city of Exeter, it is known for its lovely golden sand beach and welcoming atmosphere. A great family holiday destination, with or without the family dog, it's packed with a brilliant selection of shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes to keep all members of the family happy, as well as some great seaside attractions to give you that holiday feeling.

A 2-mile walk along the sea wall will bring you to the beautiful Dawlish Warren beach and nature reserve, a hugely important ecological site and a great starting point for some wonderful coastal walks along the South West Coast Path. Walkers and cyclists alike will find this part of the country an excellent choice for an outdoors holiday.

Have a peek at our local’s guide of the best things to do in Dawlish to see why you should choose this mellow seaside town for your next holiday.

About the town:

Dawlish beach

This traditional seaside town, with its interesting early Victorian and classic Regency style, is centred around The Lawn, a spacious open green which has a pretty brook running through it. Home to an interesting variety of wildlife, it’s the place to look out for the famous black swans with their deep orange-red beaks, gliding along the river as well as being a good spot to bring everybody together for a picnic in the sun. Take a stroll along the brook, where children will delight in spotting fluffy ducklings at the hatchery.

Black swan and chick

The beach is just a short walk from the centre of the town, so popping in for lunch after an energetic morning of swimming and sandcastle building is easy. Take a browse around the shops before heading back to the sands as there are lots of interesting little places to pick up a souvenir or two.

The history:

Steam train leaving Dawlish

Dawlish has a fascinating fishing and railway history which you will encounter as you explore the town. The first inhabitants of the area were fishermen as well as salt makers, and this, alongside the agricultural industry, continued through Roman times. As with many seaside towns, the addition of a railway transformed the town’s destiny, bringing visitors to experience a little sea air. It was first constructed as part of the Atmospheric Railway which used pumping stations and pipes, and though it was later abandoned for being too expensive, you can still see the pumping stations and other artefacts both along the railway line and in local museums.

The beaches:

Aerial view of Dawlish Warren

Dominated by majestic cliffs and rows of colourful houses, the main stretch of sand in the area, Dawlish Town Beach is an excellent spot to have a family day out or just to escape for a couple of hours with a book. With a promenade running directly behind it, it’s easily accessed from the town. Railway tracks run behind the beach, giving the area a magical vintage feel.

Get children to wave at the steam trains that go by, as many generations of little ones before them will have done. They’ll also love building sandcastles, exploring the craggy rock pools at low tide, as well as splashing about in the surf – all the things that really make a special seaside holiday. If you need somewhere to leave your buckets and spades, why not hire one of the colourful beach huts: just the place to change before heading into town for a bite to eat.

Row of colourful beach huts

Just 2 miles along the coast, Dawlish Warren Beach offers everything you could need from a beach. One and a half miles of sands backed by sheltered dunes, it currently has award-winning clean bathing water as well as lots of fun activities, such as go-karts, mini golf and a variety of water sports. The beach attracts the surfing crowd who come to ride its waves, but if that isn’t your thing, take a Sea Safari from nearby Teignmouth to discover the wonders of the South Devon coastline and its magnificent wildlife.

The nature:

Dawlish Warren

A haven for birdwatchers, Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve is a hugely important area for wildfowl and wading birds. As part of the Exe Estuary, it attracts thousands of birds who come to spend the winter as well as a multitude of nature lovers who come to watch them. The warren is internationally recognised as an important ecological site, with dunes and grassland being home to over 600 types of flowering plants, freshwater pools and woodland.

Ask for more information at the visitor centre, from where you can also access the best hides peppered throughout the area. See if you can spot a rare broad-billed sandpiper or stone curlew while there.

The outdoors:

Once you've had your fill of sitting still, you can’t beat the fantastic walks along the South West Coast Path, including eastwards towards Dawlish Warren and its fabulous beach and nature reserve. 2 miles on, you will see the town of Exmouth just across the Exe Estuary. Westwards, you can reach both Holcombe and Teignmouth on the Railway Walk, one of Britain’s most photographed stretches of railway line.

couple cycling

Cycling enthusiasts will love the routes in and around Dawlish. Off-roaders can cycle the 20 miles along the Exe Estuary Trail to Exmouth enjoying some of the most spectacular scenery of the south coast. If this all sounds like too much hard work, why not check out the scenery from a train? No ordinary route, the South Devon Railway Line from Exeter to Newton Abbot boasts stunning views of both the Exe Estuary and the South Devon coast. Running under the unique red cliffs and through a series of dramatic tunnels, it gives visitors the chance to see the area without having to move an inch.

The food and drink:

Whatever time of year you visit Dawlish, you’ll find somewhere to taste the local cuisine. Hot summer days will take you to one of the sweet ice cream parlours to sample some of the area’s famous ice creams and on cold winter afternoons, the town’s huge selection of tea rooms provide the perfect alternative to frozen treats. Have a scrumptious cream tea at A Piece of Cake or Old Mill Tea Rooms, both in Brunswick Place or head to The Strand to Daisy’s Tea Room, Sea Light, or The Strand Café for a huge slice of homemade cake and a steaming pot of tea.

people holding ice cream cones

You aren’t short of pubs in Dawlish, with The Landsdowne, The Brunswick Arms and The Marine Tavern all being popular choices. Dining options include some great fish and chip restaurants, usually on The Strand or Park Road. If you want to do it properly, take some local fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper down to the seafront and enjoy them with a taste of the salty sea air.

The accommodation:

There’s a great selection of Dawlish holiday parks in and around Dawlish and Dawlish Warren, all within walking distance of the beaches and nature reserve. Ideal for groups of families and friends, the facilities on site mean that even though you’ll want to explore the area, you’ll be just as happy not to move! With swimming pools, kids’ activities and restaurants, you have all you need should you wish to enjoy time off. Some even allow the family dog which is especially lovely off-season, when beaches are empty, and restrictions are lifted.

Coften holidays

For a little luxury try Cofton Holidays which has a number of gorgeous cottages surrounded by acres of beautiful countryside. If their private hot tubs don’t tempt you, the heated indoor pool, sauna and steam room just might. Or pitch your tent at Lady’s Mile Touring and Camping Park, where peaceful pitches and scenic parkland welcome friends old and new. Great for kids with its 63-metre water flume with plunge pool, adventure playground and indoor soft play area, evenings are taken care of with a bar and nightly entertainment.

We also have a great selection of Dawlish holiday cottages in and around both Dawlish and Dawlish Warren. From lodges nestled away in country lanes to contemporary spaces overlooking the sea, we have a great portfolio of properties, whether you come as a family, a group of friends or just for a romantic escape with a loved one.

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