Known as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast, Sidmouth proudly sits in the middle of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has all the classic appeal of a traditional English seaside resort, blended with elegant Regency architecture and a genteel atmosphere. This lovely coastal town is one of Britain’s most beautiful holiday spots, ideal for visitors of all ages.
Read on to discover why so many holidaymakers choose Sidmouth to relax and unwind through all the seasons of the year. We’ve also added a few local secrets to help you make the most of your incredible stay.
About the town:
A jewel in East Devon’s crown, the unspoilt Regency coastal resort of Sidmouth boasts a fine array of period buildings, beautiful beaches, enchanting gardens, stylish eateries and great shopping. Backed by majestic red cliffs and the green hills of the glorious Sid Valley, it even has its own unique microclimate. This captivating place was once described by the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, as 'a town caught still in a timeless charm’.
As a regular winner of Britain in Bloom, Sidmouth is a floral spectacle with bursts of colour throughout the town. Relaxing days can be spent meandering along its ancient streets lined with over 500 listed buildings, wandering along its mile-long esplanade which overlooks a pebble beach or joining the South West Coast Path which passes by picturesque harbours, dramatic headlands, tranquil estuaries and secret coves of the Jurassic Coast.
Sidmouth is home to two beaches, both of which are clean and safe for bathing. Sidmouth Beach is a family-friendly stretch of sand and shingle which has great on-site facilities and lifeguards on duty during the summer. Framed by the picturesque Georgian promenade behind it, the beach starts at the River Sid to the east of the town centre and stretches all the way for around a mile to Chit Rocks and on to Jacob’s Ladder. The beach belongs to the East Devon World Heritage Coast Site, and it also connects to the South West Coast Path if you want to discover the area on foot. If you time your visit for when the tide’s just gone out, you’re more likely to find sand for children to build castles with.
Jacobs Ladder is Sidmouth’s second beach and features long stretches of sand and shingle and rock pools at low tide. Backed by steep cliffs, there is some shelter from the breeze, particularly at the western end of the beach and it can be accessed either by a series of wooden steps that lead down from Connaught Gardens or you can walk around from the town's main beach via a level path.
In Sidmouth and the surrounding countryside, you’ll find a great range of attractions and activities that the whole family can enjoy. A firm favourite with visitors is the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, home to over 500 rescue donkeys and the largest sanctuary of its kind. One of the most popular attractions in Devon, it is open every day of the year with free admission and dogs are more than welcome to visit too. The donkeys love attention and fuss, and you can spend your day cuddling your favourite residents, listening to daily talks and you can even sponsor your own donkey if you wish.
Housed in a Regency cottage in the town centre, Sidmouth Museum portrays the history of the town from its early era as a fishing village to its days as a bustling and fashionable Regency and Victorian resort. With something for all ages, you’ll find activities and events to bring the artefacts to life and fascinating displays including local fossils and rocks which date back millions of years (some all the way back to the Triassic period).
Connaught Gardens are the perfect spot to enjoy a summer’s day by the sea, especially when the town band perform every Sunday during the high season. There’s always something going on at these beautiful botanical gardens or you can simply wind down with a good book on a warm day and appreciate the glittering sea views.
Just outside of Sidmouth (1.5 miles) is the Norman Lockyer Observatory which regularly hosts interesting open evenings, where visitors can enjoy a planetarium show and visit the historic telescopes. This is the perfect place to get a 'hands-on' experience of science. Alternatively, if you’re a keen golfer, the Sidmouth Golf Club is sure to impress with its sensational views of the Jurassic Coast.
The food and drink:
With a plethora of places to eat in Sidmouth, including fine dining restaurants, cosy cafes and traditional pubs, you will be spoilt with choice for a delicious bite to eat. For a famous Devon cream tea and cake, The Dairy Shop is a popular café with views of the ocean. The pastries are fresh from the oven, and along with the nostalgic feel this café boasts, you’re sure to feel very welcome and well-fed.
Specialising in fresh seafood, Neil’s Restaurant is revered among locals and visitors, boasting an informal and contemporary atmosphere. The daily changing menu is created once the fishing boats have come in and the catch landed, so expect dishes such as local West Country mussels marinière, Lyme Bay scallops and Brixham monkfish medallions.
For a hearty pub meal, head to The Bowd Inn which serves a daily fresh meat carvery and pub classics including jumbo cod ‘n’ chips, steak and ale pie and rack of baby back ribs in a secret Bowd hickory BBQ sauce.
Sidmouth is a great town for walking and admiring the sights. Located to the east of the town is the South West Coast Path which leads to the picturesque villages of Branscombe and Beer and on to Seaton or in the opposite direction, Ladram Bay with its stunning red rock stacks and Budleigh Salterton.
The 10-mile route along the Jurassic Coast between Sidmouth and Seaton is particularly impressive. Following the cliff tops, there are steep climbs but the views of the 200-million-year-old coastline along the way make it one of the most popular sections of the whole path. Passing through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, keep your eyes peeled for peregrine falcons.
If you’re feeling energetic you can climb the 500 feet high Peak Hill to enjoy the magnificent panorama of Sidmouth and the coast far below. While in the other direction is the equally commanding Salcombe Hill, and inland are the lush green hills of the picturesque Sid Valley.
There are popular guided walks from the Heritage Centre taking in the main landmarks of the town. Plus, Sidmouth also has its own walking festival in September, with two walks every day including the East Devon Way.
Each year, Sidmouth hosts a vibrant range of events and festivals. In June the town welcomes the Sidmouth Literary Festival, while August sees the Sidmouth Folk Festival in full swing with local and multi-national bands, dancers and storytellers taking over hotel lounges, pubs and pavements, culminating in a torchlight procession through the town.
You can also expect to see the Sidmouth Sea Fest, the Red Arrows, Sidmouth Regatta, Sidbury Fair, Sidmouth Walking Festival and Sidmouth Science Festival on the town’s calendar of events.
Sidmouth holidays provide an idyllic opportunity to unwind and discover rural and coastal South Devon at your own pace. Surrounded by striking scenery and the architecture of elegant days gone by, our Sidmouth holiday cottages and hotels are perfectly placed to be able to enjoy the beaches, attractions and eateries of this lovely seaside town.
Whether it's a dog-friendly property, a romantic break for two or accommodation ideal for a family holiday, we're sure you'll find the best places to stay in Sidmouth within our collection.
Need some more inspiration?
If you want a little more information and inspiration about Devon, why not check out our handy handbook? We’ve created an ‘Insider’s guide to Devon’, but you may also be interested in ‘the best secret walks in Devon’ or ’days out in Devon for adults’.