Make this year’s summer vacation in Torbay a truly must-do experience with our local guide on what to do – and what not to do during your visit. Torbay is really great because it’s three very different resorts rolled into one.
Torquay, Paignton and Brixham each have their own special flavor. With our independent local knowledge, we can help you decide what to do and where to go. Follow our list of do’s and don’ts and make this vacation unforgettable. Once people know and love the bay, many return several times a year because there is so much to see and do.
Do – take pictures of our palm trees. It may be a cliché, but they will give your photos a tropical, Mediterranean flair. You are on the English Riviera after all.
Don’t be offended if you are called “my lover”. It is an old traditional Devon term of endearment and does not signify what it does elsewhere in the country.
Do – get on an open-top bus. There’s no better way to see the seaside than from the top of a big old double-decker bus.
Don’t – walk on the road without looking around. It may seem obvious, but when people are on vacation, they seem to forget the rules of the road. It is not uncommon for cars to have to negotiate swarms of people in the middle of the roads at busy holiday ports.
Do – find a place to sit and let the world escape you. Babbacombe Downs offers breathtaking views. Torquay Harbor has great cafes with views of dancing little boats – sunrise on one side and sunset on the other. Paignton Harbor is a hidden gem. Brixham is the place to go if you like fish and all the bustle of a fishing port. In Brixham you can take a lovely walk all around the harbor and along the breakwater, with plenty of places to stop and relax along the way.
Don’t stick to the Trip Advisor top 10 – yes the big attractions are awesome (I particularly recommend the Model Village, it’s sweet, fun and timeless; Paignton Zoo is huge and a great day out; Kents Cavern is fascinating and a really important site of scientific interest). But save them for cloudy, rainy days when you really can’t get out to see the bay’s natural beauty.
Do get out of the car – there are sections of the South West Coast Path suitable for all ages and fitness levels, from gentle seaside walks to challenging ‘goat paths’ (around Maidencombe and Berry Head ) for those who can tackle the infamous steep hills of Devon.
Don’t rely on your Sat Nav – bring a map. Sat Navs will take you on the winding and high country roads of Devon. They’re only OK if you were raised here, own a small vehicle, and have some proficiency in backing up.
Do – spend as many days as possible at the beach. There’s nothing like recharging your batteries and getting away from it all. Torbay has 22 miles of coastline and dozens of beaches between Maidnecombe in Torquay and St Mary’s Bay in Brixham. The largest and easiest to reach are Babbacombe (take the cliff railway), Meadfoot, Torre Abbey Sands, Hollicombe, Preston, Paignton Goodrington, Broadsands and Breakwater in Brixham. But in between, there’s a hidden cove around every corner if you want to explore on foot.
Don’t – complain about our hills. Torquay is supposed to be built on seven hills (like Rome). This is what gives us fantastic landscapes. Sorry but you will have to like them or group them.
Do – taste local dishes. Devon has become a foodie’s paradise, with small food producers producing some of the best beer, cheese, fish, bakers and delicatessens in the country. And Devon’s best pub is in Torquay (see below). The Thatched Tavern has a great beer garden and it’s also next to the beach (although there are a lot of steps down to the sea so be warned).
READ NEXT: The Thatched Tavern named best pub in Devon
Don’t – be too noisy. We’re nice but everyone comes to the seaside for a peaceful getaway
Do – read an Agatha Christie novel before coming (if you haven’t already). Torbay is ridiculously proud to be the home of the world’s most famous author. Fans come from all over the world to follow the trail of Agatha Christie and see the places where she grew up and they also love to spot the sets of many of her novels. If you’re a big fan, take a tour of the house where she spent much of her life in Greenway, on the banks of the River Dart. The house and gardens are lovely.
Don’t – feed the seagulls. This causes them to come back and look for more.
Do – watch your fish, chips, sandwiches and pastries at the restaurant. Gulls will swoop down and help themselves to any uncovered food. I once lost an entire packet of butter while buttering sandwiches at a camping table. I turned around to see a seagull with the whole package in its beak.
Don’t – complain about the weather. Yes, it really does look like the “English Riviera” when the sun is out. And no, you’re right, it’s just not the same on a wet and windy Wednesday. But hi. You’re on vacation. Go to the pub and have fun with your loved ones. Find a pub with a large old-fashioned fireplace and a wood-burning stove and make yourself comfortable.
Do – take a trip to Cockington Park and stroll through the gardens and lakes (especially in spring when the rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias and azaleas are in bloom). It’s free, which is an added bonus. The picturesque thatched-roof village center is home to tea rooms, a waterwheel and a classic country pub.
Don’t miss the nightlife. Torquay has a great clubbing vibe with people traveling from afar. Follow our ultimate guide to an all day pub crawl around Torquay seafront here.
Do – Even families with older children can enjoy early evenings in the pub gardens and al fresco dining as the sun sets. It is a resort and children are welcome.
Don’t forget that Torbay is listed by UNESCO as a Global Geopark due to our unique and often spectacular geology and natural environment. The English Riviera Geopark is one of only two ‘urban’ Geoparks in the UK, which makes it quite unique as most are more difficult to access.
Do – smile and say hello to everyone you meet. We are very friendly. Talk to other holidaymakers, too, especially those who return year after year – they’ll have their own favorite places to recommend.