Award-winning sandy beaches, exotic palm trees and a coastline that has been designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark; the English Riviera has all the ingredients for a memorable holiday in the UK, any time of year. But with so many picturesque villages and towns to discover in this beautiful part of South Devon, which one do you choose for your perfect break away?
We’re shining the spotlight on a destination which has a wonderful blend of exciting attractions, sweeping beaches, award-winning restaurants and spectacular coastal walks – the traditional seaside town of Paignton. Our local’s guide will give you an insider’s glance at the town, showcasing some unique hotspots that you might not have heard about.
About the town:
Perched in the middle of Torbay between Brixham and Torquay, Paignton is one of the jewels in the English Riviera’s crown and has been delighting visitors for decades. Loved for its friendly atmosphere, lively pier and colourful beach huts, this South Devon holiday resort offers the ultimate in bucket and spade vacations. With its mild climate and sub-tropical palm trees, there is a real continental feel here making it the perfect year-round destination for both families looking for a coastal break and couples enjoying a romantic getaway.
A long stretch of sand, perfect for sandcastle building and with safe waters for swimming, Paignton Beach is a firm family favourite. It also has easy access for those with pushchairs and wheelchairs. The famous Paignton Pier, packed with amusements, sits right in the centre of the beach where you’ll find entertainment for all ages, as well as cafes serving fresh fish and traditional seaside treats.
If you fancy making the most of the crystal-clear waters of the bay, there’s water skiing, paddle boarding, windsurfing and pedalos for hire, while if you prefer having fun on dry land, Paignton Green is adjacent to the beach with its sprawling Geopark play area, adventure golf course and plenty of space for a game of football, cricket or rounders. Dogs are banned from the beach during the summer season, however, if your four-legged best friend is joining you on holiday, there is an area for them to explore freely on the green.
One of Paignton’s best-known attractions is Paignton Zoo Environmental Park which is home to over 2,500 animals, a Jungle Express train and play areas for kids. Spread across 80 acres, there are six specially designed animal habitat zones to explore, from the steamy tropical Wetlands with its colourful birds and reptiles, to the dry plains of the Savannah where majestic giraffes tower over ostriches, black rhinos and cheetahs. One of the UK’s top zoos, Paignton looks after many species of endangered animals and you can find out more about their vital conservation work on your visit.
At the southern end of the town is the 18th century Paignton Harbour, a real maritime gem with a bevvy of pleasure boats offering day trips along the rugged Devon coastline, as well as wildlife and fishing excursions and unforgettable cruises to Torquay, Brixham and Dartmouth. There is also a great selection of restaurants and cafes where you sample fresh seafood while admiring the view. And when you need to walk off your lunch, there is a hidden Devon beach to discover, Fairy Cove, tucked away behind the harbour walls.
Step back in time and take a voyage of discovery on the Dartmouth Steam Railway which runs from Paignton Train Station. Enjoying some of Britain’s most breathtaking coastline, the train chugs by enchanting coves and beaches, along the spectacular Torbay coast to Churston, through wooded slopes bordering the Dart estuary and over historic viaducts to Kingswear. You can even combine a trip on board the steam train with a river boat cruise and visit Agatha Christie’s famous residence at Greenway - now owned by the National Trust - completing the ‘Round Robin’ with a bus journey back to Paignton.
For those interested in local history, the National Trust’s Compton Castle lies just outside the town and makes for a great family day out - children are sure to love trying on the medieval costumes! This dramatic fortified manor house dating from 1340-1480 with high curtain walls, imposing towers and a portcullis was originally the home of seafarer Sir Humphrey Gilbert (the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh) who colonised Newfoundland. As well as discovering the treasures within the walls of the fortress, there are also some beautiful gardens to enjoy a peaceful wander.
After a day exploring the local area, Beverley Holiday Park in Paignton is the perfect base to relax and unwind. Overlooking the sparkling sea, you can choose from a wide array of self-catering accommodation, from holiday caravans and sea view lodges with hot tubs, to camping and touring options. A multitude of on-site facilities, activities and entertainment for all ages will keep everyone happy including indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, play areas and crazy golf, and when you fancy a bite to eat, there is a bar, restaurant and takeaway. Furthermore, there are dog-friendly caravans, so your canine companion need never miss out on the fun.
If you prefer home comforts and a cooked breakfast every morning, we also have a range of Devon B&Bs to choose from. With everything from inns, farmhouses and guest houses, to luxury and boutique B&B's packed with original features and dog-friendly accommodation, there's something to suit every kind of short break.
The food and drink:
Locally caught seafood in ocean-front restaurants, afternoon tea in vintage themed cafes and traditional pub grub in friendly inns; there are plenty of choices of places to eat in Paignton for families, friends or those seeking a quiet, romantic evening.
Enjoy the catch of the day at The Boathouse located beside Preston Beach, with views stretching from Thatcher’s Rock in Torquay to Berry Head. You might even spot one of the fishing boats bringing in the next haul of delicious fish ready for tomorrow's menu.
Cupcake Café and Victorian Times both serve up a decadent selection of homemade cakes and scones in cosy surroundings or if you prefer tastes from around the world, there’s Spanish Tapas at Restaurant 59, traditional Nepalese cooking at Nepalese Gurkha and Mediterranean cuisine at La Scala.
Paignton is part of the UNESCO accredited English Riviera Global Geopark which celebrates its extraordinary history and natural beauty. One of the best ways to experience the spectacular sights of the area is to take advantage of the South West Coast Path.
Starting at Paignton Harbour, you can either follow the path towards Brixham (5 miles) which passes by Goodrington Sands and Broadsands, both beautiful, long sandy beaches where you can stop for a dip in the sea, or head in the opposite direction along the trail to Torquay (3 miles) via Preston Sands, a great family beach with rock pools at low tide.
The events and festivals:
Throughout the year, Paignton has a packed calendar of events and festivals taking place around the town’s parks, beaches and harbour. Meet familiar faces from children’s books, films and TV at Torbay Children’s Week every August, join in the carnival fun at Paignton Festival at the end of July and watch incredible aerial displays at The Torbay Airshow at the start of June.
For foodies, the annual Paignton Harbour Festival is a wonderful celebration of England's Seafood Coast, featuring live cookery demonstrations, a large pop-up restaurant, food and drink stalls, live entertainment, boat and fishing trips, a sculling competition and children's entertainment. We also recommend The Paignton Regatta, which promises nine days of fun and games around Paignton Green with a funfair, fireworks, a dog show and hilarious competitions.
Inspired to take a holiday to this wonderful South Devon resort? Browse our fantastic range of accommodation in Paignton to discover your perfect seaside getaway.