10 of the best things to do in Dartmouth, Devon
10 of the best things to do in Dartmouth Devon
Holidays in Dartmouth, Devon, can be as fast or slow-paced as you like. Whether you’re visiting as a couple for a romanic break, or pet owners looking for dog-friendly places to visit, or you are bringing the whole family for a fun-packed holiday, Dartmouth ticks all the boxes as the perfect UK staycation destination. Here are our favourite things to do in Dartmouth, with something for everyone:
Explore Dartmouth history
Dartmouth Museum is a great place to start discovering this medieval town’s history. You’ll find it on the first floor of a timber framed Tudor building in the centre of Dartmouth. The museum is small but packed with curiosities that tell the story of Dartmouth’s place in history and the characters who have lived and visited here over the centuries.
From the museum you can walk to Bayards Cove Fort, which was built in Tudor times and was the town’s last line of defence should it be attacked from the sea. In 1620, the Mayflower moored in front of the Fort before continuing her journey to Plymouth and then America. Read more about Dartmouth’s connections to the Mayflower Pilgrims.
A 10 minute walk further up the River Dart will bring you to Dartmouth Castle which, with Kingswear Castle on the opposite side, was Dartmouth’s first line of defence against foreign invaders. It was built in the 14th Century to defend what was then a very significant port. Today you can visit the ammunition stores, find out about the lifestyle of the small group of soldiers stationed here and climb up to the roof for fabulous views of the river, town and English Channel.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Dartmouth’s Royal Navy connections then a visit to Britannia Royal Naval College is a must. This is where all RN officers go for their initial training and it is steeped in history. HRH The Queen and Prince Philip met here for the first time. Guided tours happen on set days, so make sure you book in advance with The Britannia Association.
Visit a beach
If you’ve got kids, and even if you’ve not, one of the best things to do in Dartmouth is visit the beaches. A short drive or bus journey from Dartmouth is one of the UK’s best beaches: Blackpool Sands. This Blue Flag beach is in a sunny cove that feels more like the Mediterranean than England. Visit during the summer and you’ll find it packed with holiday-makers lounging on the pebbles, hiring water sports equipment and paddling in the fresh water river.
Dogs are allowed on the beach from November to March, but not at all during the summer months. There is a restaurant, toilet block and beach shop here. Life guards are on duty in the summer.
If you are looking for dog-friendly beaches then seek out Sugary Cove, Strete Gate and Slapton Sands. Dogs are welcome on these beaches all year round. Take a look at our guide to dog-friendly holidays in South Devon.
Relax in the parks
Dartmouth’s parks are the ideal place to chill out during your visit. Royal Avenue Gardens in the centre of town has ornamental gardens broken up by shady lawns and paths dotted with benches. There’s also a bandstand, which is a focal point for entertainment during Dartmouth’s many festivals. Buskers also hang out here to entertain visitors.
On the main road into Dartmouth you’ll find Coronation Park. This is the ideal space for young children to let off some steam on the playground and for parents to refuel at the Anchor Stone Cafe on the corner of the park.
Visit a theme park
Woodlands Family Theme Park is a must-visit if you are visiting Dartmouth with kids. The park is packed with adventure playgrounds, giant soft play areas and its fair share of thrill rides. There’s also a the farm, splash pool and slides to entertain younger children, and seasonal events during the school holidays.
Dartmouth has an array of independent boutiques, delis and interior shops to tempt you to make a holiday purchase. Wander Foss Street, The Old Market Square and the twice weekly markets for unique souvenirs, Devon produce and crafts.
Walk the coast and countryside
Make the most of Dartmouth’s surrounding coast and countryside by walking the many public footpaths in the area.
The Dart Valley Trail along the River Dart is perfect for spotting wildlife like grey seals, spoonbills and kingfishers. There are many hills to climb but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with spectacular views of the valley and river on the nine mile circular route. Cross the River Dart at Dittisham for your return hike on the opposite bank.
If sea views are more your thing then one of the best things to do in Dartmouth is join the South West Coast Path for some of the best vistas of the South Devon coastline. There’s a National Trust car park at Little Dartmouth on the south side of the River Dart. From here you can join the South West Coast Path and wander across fields and along the cliff until you reach Dartmouth Castle.
On the opposite side of the river the Coast Path takes you towards the iconic Daymark, which was built in 1864 as a navigational point for sailors. You you don’t fancy the full walk from Dartmouth you can access it from Brownstone and Coleton car park near Kingswear. Beyond the Daymark it is possible to walk to Coleton Fishacre, then all the way to Berry Head and Brixham beyond.
Catch a show or film
The Flaval Arts Centre is the place to go to see the latest films, live music and performances all year round in Dartmouth. During the school holidays there are also plenty of workshops and activities for families.
Find out what’s on at The Flaval during your Dartmouth holiday.
Call in at the homes of celebs
You’re not the only holiday-makers to be drawn to the charms of Dartmouth and South Devon. Household names have lived here too. Crime writer Dame Agatha Christie had her holiday home at Greenway on the River Dart.
You can catch a ferry boat from Dartmouth to Greenway. The trip takes about 30 minutes each way, giving you a few hours to explore this fascinating house full of curious collectibles, stroll through the landscaped gardens and see the boathouse overlooking the River Dart.
The D’Oyly Carte family, which owned a theatre company of the same name in the 19th Century, also fell in love with South Devon and built Coleton Fishacre near Kingswear. This country retreat can be easily reached by car from Dartmouth’s Lower Ferry or by walking along the South West Coast Path if you have a bit more energy.
If you enjoy country houses and National Trust properties then these are top things to do in Dartmouth.
Take a boat trip
Its location on the River Dart makes Dartmouth the ideal place to start a boat trip. You’ll find tickets for sale at booths along the embankment. There are trips to Greenway, fishing boat trips, and the Round Robin tour of South Devon incorporating a boat, bus and steam train ride to bring you full circle.
It’s also possible to book a boat trip to neighbouring Brixham and Paignton where you can pick up other services to Torquay.
Or why not take to the water under your own steam? There’s plenty of water sports you can try in Devon.
Enjoy Dartmouth festivals and events
There’s always something going on in Dartmouth.
If you enjoy live music then Dartmouth Music Festival gives you plenty of reason to book a Devon holiday here in May. The festival is free to attend and runs over a weekend with bands in the streets and in venues across town.
The annual Royal Dartmouth Regatta in August is by far the biggest event in this South Devon town, attracting tens of thousands of people to watch gig racing, rowing competitions and live music. Here’s a taster of what’s on at Dartmouth Regatta in 2019. If you are looking for Dartmouth accommodation during the Regatta be sure to book well ahead of August.
In the autumn, Dartmouth Food Festival celebrates the county’s produce, artisan treats and talented chefs. It takes place in October each year with cookery demonstrations, food-themed family activities and more producers of Devon delicacies than you’ll be able to sample in a weekend.
Every year the Christmas season begins with Candlelit Dartmouth at the end of November – it’s quite a spectacle. The town comes alight with Christmas lights and a candlelit procession of lanterns through the streets. A highlight for younger attendees is Santa arriving by boat.
Where to stay in Dartmouth
Book a Dartmouth cottage holiday with Dart Valley Cottages. We have family-friendly cottages, small retreats for couples and dog-friendly places to stay in Dartmouth. See all our South Devon holiday cottages.