12 Amazing Things to Do on the English Riviera

by Flora Backup
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The English Riviera had always been on my radar, but it wasn’t until I truly explored its nooks and crannies that I grasped its allure. Beyond the postcard-perfect beaches and bustling harbours, there’s an authenticity that many seaside destinations lack. It’s in the local cafes serving Devonshire cream teas, the fishermen bringing in the day’s catch, and the stories whispered in historic mansions.

From Torquay’s vibrant seafront to Paignton’s family-friendly attractions and Brixham’s fishing port charm, there’s a diverse tapestry of experiences awaiting every visitor. Dive into the literary world of Agatha Christie, indulge in the freshest seafood, or simply bask in the sun on a secluded cove. The Riviera isn’t just another coastal destination; it’s a journey through history, culture, and natural beauty.

With this guide, I’m taking you beyond the typical tourist trail, sharing the spots that made me fall in love with the English Riviera. So, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or someone just looking for a picturesque getaway, this corner of Devon promises a memorable adventure. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do on the English Riviera.

The best places to live in English Riviera right now
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Best Places to Visit on the English Riviera

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do on the English Riviera? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this picturesque vacation spot in the United Kingdom. So keep reading to discover all these unique English Riviera places to visit.

Are you interested in taking leisurely walks along the scenic coastline, trying watersports such as sailing and kayaking, and exploring charming seaside towns and historic attractions? Or would you rather indulge in local seafood, cultural events, and the area’s lush green spaces? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees on the English Riviera can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions on the English Riviera that you should know about.

1. Babbacombe Model Village

If you’re in Torquay, you can’t miss a trip to Babbacombe Model Village. It’s been around since 1963, and there’s a reason it’s stood the test of time. This isn’t your average model village. It’s a snapshot of English life, but in miniature. Think tiny thatched cottages, mini city scenes, and even a pint-sized Stonehenge.

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Walking through, you’ll be amazed at the attention to detail. It’s like stepping into a different world, where everything’s been shrunk down, but the stories remain just as big. Kids will love spotting the little characters, while adults will appreciate the craftsmanship. And for those who’ve been before? The village keeps evolving, so there’s always something new to see.

In an area brimming with attractions, Babbacombe Model Village truly distinguishes itself.
In an area brimming with attractions, Babbacombe Model Village truly distinguishes itself.

But it’s not just about the daytime. Come evening, the whole place lights up, offering a completely different vibe. And if you’re into movies, their 4D cinema is a quirky touch you won’t find elsewhere. In a region packed with attractions, Babbacombe Model Village stands out. It’s a slice of English charm, just on a smaller scale.

2. Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves

Dive deep into history at Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves. Located in Torquay, this underground wonder takes you back to the Stone Age. It’s not every day you get to walk through caves that were home to ancient humans over 40,000 years ago.

The guided tours are a must. Knowledgeable guides share fascinating tales of the early inhabitants. These tales range from the animals that roamed the area to the prehistoric humans who sought shelter in these caves. As you wander through, you’ll see impressive stalactites and stalagmites, some of which have been forming for millions of years.

Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves provide a new perspective, serving as a reminder of the endless opportunities for exploration. (
Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves provide a new perspective, serving as a reminder of the endless opportunities for exploration. (

Archaeology buffs will be thrilled to know that the caves have yielded some significant finds. We’re talking about tools, weapons, and even human remains that provide a glimpse into life during the Ice Age. It’s a hands-on history lesson that’s both educational and captivating.

For those who think they’ve seen all of the English Riviera, Kents Cavern Prehistoric Caves offer a fresh perspective. It’s a reminder that there’s always more to discover.

3. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park

When you think of the English Riviera, exotic animals might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is here to change that perception. Located in Paignton, this zoo is home to over 2,500 animals spread across 80 acres.

From African elephants to crocodiles, the variety is astounding. The zoo is divided into different habitats, allowing visitors to experience the diverse ecosystems from around the world. The savannah showcases giraffes and lions, while the tropical forest is home to gorillas and orangutans.

A trip to Paignton Zoo combines both amusement and learning in a perfect blend.
A trip to Paignton Zoo combines both amusement and learning in a perfect blend.

Beyond just viewing animals, the zoo places a strong emphasis on conservation. They’re involved in various projects aimed at preserving endangered species and their habitats. As you explore, you’ll learn about these efforts and the importance of biodiversity.

Among the coolest things to do on the English Riviera, a visit to Paignton Zoo offers a blend of entertainment and education. It’s a chance to get up close with nature and understand the broader impact of our actions on the environment. Whether you’re traveling with kids or just a kid at heart, the zoo promises a day of adventure and discovery.

4. Living Coasts

Torquay’s coastal zoo, Living Coasts, offers a unique marine experience that’s hard to match. Situated right on the harbor, this attraction gives visitors a chance to see a variety of marine life up close. From playful seals to waddling penguins, the exhibits are designed to mimic natural habitats, ensuring the animals feel at home.

The aviary is a standout feature, housing birds like puffins and guillemots. It’s designed in a way that lets these birds fly freely, replicating their natural cliff environment. For those interested in the mysteries of the deep, the aquarium showcases a range of fish and other underwater creatures.

Living Coasts, Torquay's coastal zoo, provides an unmatched marine experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.
Living Coasts, Torquay’s coastal zoo, provides an unmatched marine experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.

Living Coasts also emphasizes conservation. They run breeding programs for endangered species and work on various marine conservation projects. As you wander around, informative displays shed light on these efforts and the challenges marine life faces today.

For travelers, it’s not just about seeing animals. It’s about understanding the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and our role in preserving them. If you’re on the English Riviera and have a few hours to spare, Living Coasts is a must-visit. It’s educational, fun, and offers a perspective on marine life that few other places can.

5. Cockington Village

A stone’s throw away from Torquay’s bustling center lies the quaint Cockington Village, a delightful enclave that feels like a step back in time. With its thatched-roof cottages and serene green landscapes, it’s a refreshing contrast to the contemporary vibes of the nearby coast. Wander its narrow lanes, and you’ll quickly realize this isn’t your typical tourist spot.

Local artisans are the lifeblood of Cockington. From blacksmiths forging intricate designs to glassblowers creating shimmering masterpieces, there’s always a craftsperson showcasing their skills. These aren’t just demonstrations; they’re a living testament to the village’s rich heritage of craftsmanship.

Cockington Village is the ideal destination for travelers keen to immerse themselves in authentic English culture.
Cockington Village is the ideal destination for travelers keen to immerse themselves in authentic English culture.

At the village’s heart stands Cockington Court, a historic manor that’s more than just an architectural marvel. It offers a deep dive into the region’s storied past, and its surrounding gardens are a haven for those seeking a tranquil escape. And when hunger strikes? The village’s tea rooms and traditional pubs serve up some of the best local fare you’ll find on the English Riviera.

For travelers eager to experience authentic English culture, Cockington Village is the place. It’s away from the usual tourist traps and is a must-visit. And don’t forget to pick up a handcrafted souvenir to remember your visit!

6. Greenway House

If you’re a fan of mystery novels, then Greenway House should be high on your list. This Georgian mansion was the holiday home of the queen of mystery herself, Agatha Christie. Situated on the banks of the River Dart, the estate offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

The house is a treasure trove for Christie enthusiasts. As you explore its rooms, you’ll find personal items and mementos. These give you a glimpse into the mind of this literary genius. The library, in particular, is a highlight, showcasing first editions of many of her works.

To explore the realm of Agatha Christie, Greenway House is the destination for those seeking a deeper experience.
To explore the realm of Agatha Christie, Greenway House is the destination for those seeking a deeper experience.

The gardens surrounding Greenway are equally impressive. Spanning over 30 acres, they feature a mix of dense woodlands, vibrant flower beds, and even a peach house. As you stroll through, you’ll understand why Christie described this place as “the loveliest place in the world.”

For those looking to delve deeper into the world of Agatha Christie, Greenway House is the place. It’s perfect for those wanting to enjoy a day surrounded by natural beauty and literary history. And if you’re up for a little adventure, consider arriving by boat from Dartmouth for a scenic journey to the estate.

7. Torre Abbey

Torquay’s historic Torre Abbey, dating back to the 12th century, offers a blend of rich history and contemporary art. Originally founded as a monastery, it’s now one of the best-preserved medieval buildings in the region. As you wander through its stone-clad halls, you’ll come across a vast collection of art and antiques.

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This collection includes works by renowned artists like Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Luny.

The Abbey’s interactive displays provide insights into the lives of the monks who once resided here. You’ll learn about their daily routines, the challenges they faced, and their contributions to the local community. For those with a keen interest in history, the ancient Spanish Barn is a significant site. It once housed prisoners from the Spanish Armada and is a must-visit.

When pondering activities in the English Riviera, Torre Abbey's historical treasures should make it onto your list.
When pondering activities in the English Riviera, Torre Abbey’s historical treasures should make it onto your list.

The gardens surrounding the Abbey are a haven of tranquility.

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With themed areas like the Palm House, the Medieval Garden, and the Tropical Greenhouse, there’s plenty to explore. Whether you’re a history buff or an art lover, Torre Abbey is a destination to consider. For those just looking for a peaceful spot to relax, it also has something to offer. And when considering English Riviera things to do, this historic gem should definitely be on your list.

8. Brixham

Brixham, a picturesque fishing town on the English Riviera, is best known for its bustling harbour. As you stroll along the waterfront, you’ll observe a variety of boats. There’s a mix of pleasure boats and working trawlers, showcasing the town’s deep maritime roots. The harbour is the heart of Brixham, and it’s always alive with activity. Fishermen unload their catch, tourists snap photos, and locals catch up on the latest gossip.

Nearby, you’ll find a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind. It offers a glimpse into the life of sailors during the Elizabethan era. While in Brixham, don’t miss the chance to sample some fresh seafood. The town is renowned for its fish market. Here, you can sample the day’s catch, whether it’s mussels, crab, or the classic fish and chips.

Brixham Harbour is an essential destination on the English Riviera.
Brixham Harbour is an essential destination on the English Riviera.

For those interested in history, the Brixham Heritage Museum is a treasure trove. It provides insights into the town’s past, from its fishing heritage to its role in World War II. With its blend of history, scenic views, and delicious seafood, Brixham Harbour is a must-visit spot on the English Riviera.

9. Goodrington Sands

Goodrington Sands, located near Paignton, is one of the most popular beaches on the English Riviera. It’s divided into two areas: the North Beach, which is dog-friendly year-round, and the South Beach, a great spot for families. The sandy shores and calm waters make it ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and building sandcastles.

The backdrop of colorful beach huts adds to the charm. Additionally, the promenade is lined with cafes and kiosks selling ice creams and snacks. For those seeking more active pursuits, there’s pedal boating and paddleboarding available. Adjacent to the beach is Goodrington Park, a green space with boating lakes, gardens, and a mini-golf course.

Goodrington Sands, near Paignton, ranks among the English Riviera's most beloved and frequented beaches.
Goodrington Sands, near Paignton, ranks among the English Riviera’s most beloved and frequented beaches.

Beyond the immediate attractions, Goodrington Sands is also a gateway to the region’s rich maritime history. The nearby Paignton Harbour is a hub of activity. It offers boat trips and fishing excursions, allowing visitors to see the stunning coastline from a unique perspective. For wildlife enthusiasts, the area is truly special. It’s a haven for marine life, with seals, dolphins, and a variety of seabirds often spotted.

One of the standout attractions near the beach is Splashdown Quaywest, the UK’s largest outdoor water park. With slides, flumes, and a lazy river, it’s a hit with both kids and adults. If you’re visiting the English Riviera, spending a day at Goodrington Sands is a no-brainer. It encapsulates the laid-back, seaside vibe of the region, making it a top pick for beach lovers.

10. Berry Head National Nature Reserve

Berry Head National Nature Reserve is a haven for nature enthusiasts and those looking to escape the busier tourist spots. Located in Brixham, this limestone headland offers more than just scenic views. It’s a site steeped in history, showcasing remnants of ancient forts. Additionally, there’s a picturesque lighthouse that’s been guiding mariners since the 19th century.

Among the best things to do on the English Riviera, exploring Berry Head should be high on your list. The reserve is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Birdwatchers will be thrilled with the chance to spot guillemots, black-throated divers, and even the occasional peregrine falcon. The coastal paths are well-maintained, making it easy for visitors to wander and take in the panoramic views of Tor Bay.

Berry Head National Nature Reserve offers a refreshing glimpse of the English Riviera's natural beauty, perfect for scenic relaxation.
Berry Head National Nature Reserve offers a refreshing glimpse of the English Riviera’s natural beauty, perfect for scenic relaxation.

If you’re up for a bite, the Guardhouse Cafe offers delicious meals and treats with a side of sea views. For those interested in the area’s history, the visitor center provides insightful displays about the reserve’s past. Whether you’re hiking or birdwatching, Berry Head is a destination to consider.

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It offers a refreshing slice of the English Riviera’s natural beauty for those just looking to soak in the views.

11. Agatha Christie Mile

For fans of mystery and literature, the Agatha Christie Mile in Torquay is a must-visit. This trail is dedicated to the world-renowned mystery writer, Agatha Christie, who was born in this very town in 1890. The trail starts at the Torquay Tourist Information Centre. Along the way, it features plaques and information boards that highlight Christie’s connections to each location.

Starting at the Torquay Tourist Information Centre, the trail features plaques and information boards that delve into Christie’s connections to each spot. One highlight is the Princess Pier, where young Agatha enjoyed roller-skating. One notable spot is the Royal Torbay Yacht Club. Her father was a member there. Additionally, in the town center, there’s the Agatha Christie Bust, which pays tribute to the author’s legacy.

Touring the Agatha Christie Mile in Torquay offers a distinct view, intertwining literary history with the town's coastal allure.
Touring the Agatha Christie Mile in Torquay offers a distinct view, intertwining literary history with the town’s coastal allure.

For those seeking more, the annual Agatha Christie Festival is an option. It celebrates her life and works with events ranging from vintage bus rides to theatrical performances. Exploring the Agatha Christie Mile gives you a unique perspective on Torquay, blending literary history with the town’s coastal charm. It’s a walk that offers both a sense of nostalgia and a connection to one of the literary world’s brightest stars.

12. Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company

If you’re looking to experience the English Riviera in a unique way, hopping aboard the Dartmouth Steam Railway is a fantastic choice. This heritage railway offers a nostalgic journey, taking you from Paignton to Kingswear on a vintage steam train. As the train chugs along, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the coastline, verdant woodlands, and historic towns.

One of the coolest things to do on the English Riviera is to combine this train journey with a river boat trip. The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company offers combined tickets. These tickets allow you to explore the River Dart on a paddle steamer or river cruiser after your train journey. The boat trip offers a different perspective of the Riviera, showcasing its maritime heritage and natural beauty.

For a distinctive English Riviera experience, consider a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway – a fantastic option.
For a distinctive English Riviera experience, consider a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway – a fantastic option.

Whether you’re a train enthusiast or simply curious, this is a unique way to explore the area. This combined experience is a must-do. It’s not just a journey through the picturesque landscapes of the English Riviera. This journey is also a trip back in time, reminiscent of the golden age of rail travel and river cruising.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do on the English Riviera

Looking for more content on the top things to do on the English Riviera? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to English Riviera:

What is the English Riviera best known for?

The English Riviera is renowned for its stunning coastline, sandy beaches, and historic attractions. It’s a popular UK holiday destination, offering a mix of seaside fun, cultural experiences, and natural beauty. Towns like Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham add to its charm, making it a must-visit for those exploring Devon.

Is the English Riviera worth visiting?

Absolutely! The English Riviera offers something for everyone. From family-friendly beaches and water sports to historic sites and nature reserves, there’s plenty to see and do. Plus, with its mild climate, it’s a great destination year-round. Whether you’re a history buff, beach lover, or foodie, the Riviera won’t disappoint.

How long should I spend on the English Riviera?

A weekend can give you a taste, but to truly experience all that the English Riviera has to offer, consider staying for a week. This allows time to explore the main attractions, relax on different beaches, and even take a few day trips to nearby areas.

Embark on a journey to discover the finest the English Riviera has in store. You won't be disappointed.
Embark on a journey to discover the finest the English Riviera has in store. You won’t be disappointed.

Is the English Riviera family-friendly?

Yes, the English Riviera is perfect for families. With numerous beaches, kid-friendly attractions, and a range of accommodation options, it’s a hit with both kids and adults. Attractions like Paignton Zoo and the various model villages are especially popular with younger visitors.

What towns make up the English Riviera?

The English Riviera comprises three main towns: Torquay, Paignton, and Brixham. Each town has its unique charm, with Torquay known for its marina and shopping, Paignton for its pier and family-friendly attractions, and Brixham for its historic harbor and fishing heritage.

How long is the English Riviera?

The English Riviera stretches for approximately 22 miles along the South Devon coastline. This scenic stretch offers a mix of sandy beaches, hidden coves, and picturesque harbors, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

I’m planning a vacation on a budget. Are there any cheap places to fly from English Riviera, UK?

Several European cities consistently offer budget-friendly flights from the UK. These include Dublin, Amsterdam, Budapest, and Brussels.

Closing Thoughts on Exploring English Riviera

The English Riviera is a gem in the UK’s tourism crown. With its mix of sandy beaches, historic sites, and vibrant towns, it’s no wonder travelers flock here year after year. Whether you’re into water sports, history, or just soaking up the coastal vibes, there’s something for everyone.

If you’ve never been, it’s high time to add it to your travel list. And if you’re a returning visitor, there’s always something new to discover. So pack your bags, grab a map, and set out to explore the best of what the English Riviera has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.

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