Tucked away on the southern coast of Devon, Salcombe is an iconic seaside town and one of the county’s best-loved holiday destinations. Situated on the banks of the Salcombe Estuary, this Devonshire harbour town features pristine sandy beaches, calm turquoise waters and an abundance of traditional seafood shacks. Whether you enjoy a relaxing boat trip along the estuary, a thrilling surfing lesson, a day out in a local museum or a fun morning, building sandcastles with the kids, Salcombe is the perfect setting for a holiday in Devon.
Read on to find out why we think Salcombe should be on your bucket list for this year and discover a few local secrets, to help you make the most of your stay.
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Food and drink
About the town:
Sheltered by the majestic hills that make up the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and renowned for its picture-postcard harbour, sun-soaked beaches and idyllic coastal views, Salcombe is one of the prettiest towns in South Devon. Award-winning restaurants, pastel-coloured houses and independent boutiques line the seafront, the perfect spot to sample the delicious Salcombe Dairy ice cream. And with its very own microclimate, there is a Mediterranean feel about the town with balmy summers and mild winters.
The golden sands and azure waters of its surrounding beaches make Salcombe a paradise for water sports and the town has become famous as a sailing destination. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on dry land, the surrounding countryside in South Hams offers a variety of places to explore, from going for a walk and enjoying a picnic to visiting Totnes Castle or The South Devon Railway. This abundance of activities makes Salcombe an ideal holiday destination for families and a great place to create memories with your loved ones at any time of year.
Salcombe has a fine selection of glorious beaches. Whether you’re searching for a picturesque spot for family fun, a secluded cove for a day of total relaxation or somewhere to give a new water sport a go, you can find it here – all without having to get in the car.
On the Salcombe side of the estuary, you can enjoy a pleasant stroll out to North Sands and South Sands beaches or get the South Sands ferry there and back – a short but exceptionally scenic ride. You’ll be transferred to the boat via an old-fashioned sea tractor, adding greatly to the excitement. North Sands is a popular family beach whose shallow water makes it perfect for paddling and swimming safely, while South Sands is home to Sea Kayak Salcombe, from whom you can hire kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and more.
Take a look at our comprehensive Devon beach guide to find out more about the incredible beaches in Salcombe and across the South Devon coast!
Beautiful East Portlemouth Beach boasts excellent facilities, is dog-friendly and is also relatively quiet for most of the year. From here, you can take the East Portlemouth Ferry across the estuary to Mill Bay (or walk the 300 metres when the tide is out), where you’ll find a sweeping stretch of sandy beach that’s equally perfect for sunbathing or sandcastles. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can find many more beaches and coves by joining the South West Coast Path and dipping down from the path on to the sands.
A short drive from Salcombe, Gara Rock is one of South Devon’s best-kept secrets. Around 1 mile from Mill Bay car park, you’ll come to this secluded sandy cove, lined by craggy rocks bursting with intriguing rockpools. Also, a short drive away, are more of South Devon’s best beaches including those at Hope Cove, Thurlestone, Bantham, Bigbury-on-Sea and the famous Burgh Island which is accessed at high tide via a sea tractor. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, basking sharks and seals who are all frequent visitors to these waters.
With its estuary location, Salcombe is a water sports haven - whether it be sailing, kayaking, surfing, power boating or paddle boarding. There is a plethora of places offering classes for all levels of ability, so there’s always an excuse to have fun in the crystal-clear waters. Hire a self-drive motorboat or legendary Salcombe Yawl, book a day sail on a yacht, take a mackerel fishing trip or pump up the adrenaline on a fast RIB ride along the coast, the choices are endless! And don’t forget the annual regattas, including the Salcombe Town Regatta in August where you can spend an action-packed week cheering on your favourite teams.
For a more relaxing way to take in the sights, hop aboard the Rivermaid ferry cruise 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 Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has been designated a marine Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature, these trips are highly recommended for wildlife watching and bird spotting.
Run by the National Trust, Overbeck's Museum and Gardens is a paradise of subtropical gardens surrounding an Edwardian house containing the quirky collections of eccentric scientist and inventor, Otto Overbeck. Perched on the cliffs above Salcombe, the gardens enjoy a unique microclimate which encourages rare and tropical plants from all over the world. There are even banana trees growing in the open – a perfect day out for families who enjoy exploring or keen gardeners looking for inspiration.
The Salcombe Maritime Museum houses a treasure trove of paintings, photographs and artefacts, detailing the town’s fascinating sailing past. There is a wealth of pirate, smuggler and maritime stories to uncover as well as some lifelike models and pirates’ treasure in the ‘young sailors’ corner, sure to captivate all ages.
If you’re looking for a truly memorable experience in this beautiful part of South Devon, we offer a collection of self-catering holiday cottages in and around Salcombe which are guaranteed to make you feel right at home.
Whether you’re a couple searching for a luxury break or a family looking for spacious accommodation by the seaside, we have a holiday home to suit everyone’s needs. Many of our properties are dog-friendly too, meaning that the whole family can enjoy a fun and relaxing getaway. Whatever type of holiday home you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Salcombe.
The food and drink:
From beachside cafes to award-winning restaurants, cosy pubs and delicatessens, there is a myriad of places to eat in Salcombe where you can sample freshly landed seafood and delicious Devonshire produce including West Country steaks, burgers and chicken dishes. Salcombe is particularly famous for its crab. It has its own annual crab festival, usually on the first May bank holiday weekend, and many of Salcombe’s restaurants serve up enormous plates of whole crab accompanied by chips and mayonnaise.
If you’re staying in one of our Salcombe holiday cottages, why not pop to the fishmonger to pick up some freshly caught seafood, including scallops and prawns to cook up at home? Alternatively, you can’t beat the Devon tradition of paper-wrapped fish and chips on the beach. For a real taste of the sea, you can also take part in a ‘Catch it, cook it, eat it!’ experience where you can head off on a fishing trip with local fishermen to enjoy a unique seafood foraging escapade before learning how to prepare, cook and dress your catch.
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 beach-side Venus Café 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 brassiere 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.
At Salcombe Distilling Co.’s outstanding distilling laboratory for adults, you can take charge of a beautiful mini copper pot still to develop and distil your very own 70cl bottle of gin. Create your own gin recipe by choosing from an extensive range of citrus, herbal, floral and spice botanicals or get imaginative and experiment by bringing your own. Expert distillers will guide you throughout the process including when to make those all-important cuts which will influence your spirit’s flavour.
During distillation you will sample and name your unique creation before bottling your gin and placing it in a presentation box with a personalised bottle label. Your experience will conclude in the waterside bar, enjoying an additional measure of your gin with a choice of garnishes and tonics to complement your recipe.
Gin School lessons are typically available on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons at 2pm and Saturday mornings at 10am. From 1st January to 3rd March, afternoon lesson are also available on Sunday at 2pm.
Advance booking is essential. Please visit the Salcombe Gin website for more information, frequently asked questions and to book your place.
One of the best ways to see the picture-perfect sights in and around Salcombe is by foot along the South West Coast Path. The walk from Start Point Lighthouse to Mattiscombe Sands is a particularly lovely way to spend an afternoon, taking you along the windswept coast path and down to a secluded beach that’s the perfect spot for picnicking.
Or, you can follow the trail from Salcombe, past North and South Sands and out to dramatic Bolt Head, which can easily be covered (there and back) in half a day. On the East Portlemouth side of the water, you can walk high up along the sea-facing cliffs towards Gara Rock, admiring awe-inspiring panoramas, before rewarding yourself with a cream tea in one of the cafes at either end of the route.
Inspired to grab your bucket and spade and take a holiday in Salcombe? Browse our fantastic range of Devon cottages to discover your perfect getaway.
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.