Planning a Devon road trip? Wondering which part of Devon is best or where the best places to visit for a fun day out are? Here's everything you need to know to plan your trip!
We love Devon. I spent a great time here as part of my Navy training and my parents have lived in the county for 15+ years.
We regularly bring our motorhome to the area and enjoy exploring- there's always somewhere new to find and explore.
I know many people rush through Devon on their way to Cornwall, but there's a huge number of stunning places to explore here- and it's often much less crowded than Cornwall (although does get very busy in summer!)
Devon Road Trip- how to plan
When you're planning a road trip around Devon, the first thing to decide is how long you have.
If you only have a weekend or a few days to visit, pick one area in either North or South Devon and enjoy it. If you have a week or longer, you could probably do a few days in each, or explore one half in more detail. There are plenty of fantastic campsites in Devon to enjoy.
Both North and South Devon have incredible sandy beaches with turquoise waters and plenty of coves and things to see. There are also ice cream stalls, fish and chips and cream teas to be consumed everywhere. (On that note- Devonions have their cream first, then the jam… but you do it however you like!)
For the best surfing beaches, head to the north coast. If you want to hike, head to Dartmoor or Exmoor. For cute towns/ villages with good shops, my personal favourites are on the south coast. If you want nightlife, both Exeter and Plymouth are great nights out (not that I remember too much of them… ?) but you'll find live music, good local beer/ ales and decent hospitality in many pubs around the county, especially on a Friday/ Saturday night.
So it's really up to you where you want to go. The point of this post is to share some of our favourite places to visit in Devon, both for fun days out as part of your road trip, and also great campsites and places to stay with your motorhome, campervan, caravan or even tent!
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Roads in Devon
Word of caution- the roads in Devon (and Cornwall!) will probably be slower than you're used to. The only motorway is the M5, which ends near Exeter, and then there are only a couple of decent dual-carriageways where you can build up speed.
All this means you will be travelling a LOT slower than you might otherwise expect, and the roads are often small and windy, meaning you won't go as far as you might think you can. 50 miles is likely to take a couple of hours- on a good day.
Oh, and do not travel ANYWHERE on the first day of the school holidays, the last day or any bank holiday- unless you're willing to get up in the middle of the night. Seriously, the roads can be chaotic and the traffic jams are legendary. It's not a great start or end to your Devon road trip to get caught in those. If you're going on to road trip around Dorset and Hampshire, be sure to leave plenty of travel time.
Devon Road Trip with a motorhome
If you're exploring Devon by motorhome, you'll be pleased to know that most places are fine to access with a larger vehicle. I always suggest getting a proper motorhome sat-nav, so you can avoid low bridges, but on the whole you should be fine.
There are plenty of campsites and places to discover- we suggest joining a motorhome club so you can get the best deals (and early booking in school holidays!)
If you've done several UK motorhome holidays, you'll be pleased to know that Devon is quite welcoming to motorhomes and campervans, but there are strict restrictions on motorhome wild camping, especially on the moors and on the seafronts. Pay attention to the signs and use a campsite if you're in doubt.
Devon Road Trip itinerary ideas
To give you some help planning your itinerary, here are a couple of ideas for you:
Weekend in Devon ideas
- Weekend in North Devon: Enjoy the beaches of Croyde and Saunton Sands
- South Devon Weekend itinerary ideas: explore the area of Dartmouth, Salcombe and Brixham
- If you enjoy hiking, plan a weekend on Dartmoor and see how many tors you can cross off the list.
- For golf, there are a huge range of courses to enjoy (just ask my Dad- he's always off exploring one or another of them!!)
Week or longer itinerary ideas for Devon Road Trips
If you have longer, then you can either try and see a bit of both North and South Devon, or stay in one area and explore it in more detail. I would never suggest trying to combine a Devon road trip with a Cornwall road trip in just one week- there's too much to see.
We'll break down some of our favourite places to visit below.
North Devon Road Trip ideas
So, let's start at the top. North Devon is an unexpected treat. There are some wonderful bays and beaches to explore, as well as cute harbours. This is the side which has the best waves- perfect for surfing and confident swimmers, but weak swimmers or children might prefer the generally gentler beaches on the south coast.
In no particular order, here are some of our favourite places to visit in North Devon:
I'll just start with the obvious- yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name.
Westward Ho! is one of our favourite Devon beaches and is where we tried to learn to surf. Twice. (Still not any good at it, but we keep trying!)
The beach is sandy and there is plenty to do in the area. There are toilets, cafes, restaurants and arcades all along the beachfront, and it's a fun day out for all the family.
There is plenty of parking for Westward Ho! We've visited with both a motorhome and a car. Motorhome parking is day only in the town, but there are a couple of spots away from the town where you can stay overnight out of season- have a look on Park4night.
Clovelly is one of the most picturesque villages and harbours I've ever seen. We stayed here for a few nights with our boat and it was magical.
The village is on a STEEP hill and has stunning views over the Bristol Channel. The main street is cobbled, flanked by the cutest 16th whitewashed cottages and is usually full of tourists and donkeys giving rides up and down. (Warning: It's something like a 400ft drop very quickly and there's no easy way for anyone with reduced mobility to get down.)
The village has an incredible connection with the arts: Charles Kingsley lived here, Charles Dickens wrote about it and William Turner painted it.
There is day parking for cars and motorhomes at the top of the hill.
Saunton Sands is another stunning bay on the north coast of Devon. It's a long sandy beach with the UNESCO protected Braunton Burrows (sand dunes) at its back. This is a popular beach with beginner surfers and families due to the more protected waters- it's easier to surf and swim here than at nearby Croyde, which is more exposed.
For music fans, Robbie Williams filmed his video for ‘Angels' here… if that makes any difference at all to your Devon road trip itinerary! Far more importantly, it's also the beach I visit regularly when we've got Fish and Chips from Squires in Braunton- DEFINITELY worth the trip.
You can park your motorhome or camper in the car park for the day, but not overnight. There are a couple of great campsites and some of the best airBnBs in Devon nearby, within walking distance to the beach, which are well worth booking.
Appledore is a small fishing village on the North Devon coastline, right where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet before flowing into the sea.
Despite its size, Appledore used to be an important shipbuilding centre and is now home to the North Devon Maritime Museum- well worth a visit. The quay is full of fishing boats, plus private yachts and pleasure cruises- if you visit on a sunny calm day, we highly recommend a boat tour- it's a wonderful way to enjoy the coast.
In peak season, you can also take a small ferry to Instow, just down the coast, which has a lovely sandy beach, pier and a yacht club!
The town is popular with artists of all types, and regularly hosts arts and crafts festivals. There are also plenty of local shops and boutiques selling unique art.
For motorhome and campervan owners, there is parking right on the seafront. You used to be able to stay overnight, but I believe that has been changed to day parking only now.
Croyde is just around the corner from Saunton Sands (you can see Saunton in the background in the photo above.)
The village is nice enough, but the real draw is the bay and Baggy Point, a National Trust place within the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The surf here is likely to be bigger than Saunton (something to do with the coastline), but if you don't want to surf or play on the beach, there's plenty to do.
You can hike to Crow Point, where you'll be able to see across the estuary to Appledore and Instow. Or walk the spectacular cliff path to Baggy Point (about a 3mile round trip and takes about 2 hours). The seaviews and wildlife are well worth the effort- so is the ice cream at the end.
You can also go coasteering here- PLEASE book onto a proper tour and don't try and do it on your own. People die every year making that mistake.
For a good night out, visit The Thatch pub- famous in Devon for a good night out. There's usually live music or an open mic night on a weekend and they're famous for their delicious nachos.
Just to complete this stretch of coastline, Woolacombe Bay is a wonderful place to visit in Devon for a fun day out or a weekend.
The surf here is magic and there's plenty of facilities nearby- including some campsites if you're staying in the area. The beach is sandy and perfect for kids- but it gets CRAZY crowded in high summer, so arrive early to grab a spot.
Explored by Chris from A Brit & A Southerner
Ilfracombe is a stereotypical holiday resort that is definitely worth visiting during your next Devon road trip. From traditional Devonshire Cream Teas to day trips with local fishermen, Ilfracombe offers everything there is to love about Devon. The rugged cliffs along the Atlantic coast form a beautiful backdrop and, along with the myriad of rock pools and sandy inlets, creates a picture-perfect scene that is appealing for locals and visitors alike.
When it comes to the best things to do in Ilfracombe, you can certainly spend a couple of days experiencing the attractions here. Take a stroll along the South-West coastal path to admire the breathtaking views across the Atlantic, before heading inland to appreciate the rich history and heritage of Ilfracombe Harbour that is an active fishing area and where you can hop on a vessel to take a day trip to nearby Lundy Island.
From Ilfracombe Harbour, take the short stroll up “Lantern Hill” to visit the iconic Chapel of St. Nicholas which has been attracting local worshippers since the 14th century. After all this adventure, check out the collection of local cafes and restaurants to indulge in a cream tea and there is no better spot than “The Naked Cake” which offers decadent cuisine along with friendly service.
As well as the town itself, be sure to explore the many bays and coves around the nearby coast- there are plenty to discover.
Explored by Heather from Conversant Traveller
Exmoor National Park is one of the wildest places to visit in Devon, with miles of open moorland countryside, gently rolling hills and rocky outcrops. It was once a royal forest and hunting ground, and today is one of the most popular areas to explore in the county.
Some of the best things to do in Exmoor include:
- Visiting the picturesque coastal settlements of Lynton and Lynmouth to ride the cliffside funicular railway which is powered by water, and enjoying some of the best fish and chips in the area.
- Heading to Watersmeet for a dramatic gorge walk and a slab of cake at the National Trust tea shop beside the river.
- Hiking the Valley of Rocks – a craggy hillside where adventurous hikers who fancy a bit of a scramble are rewarded with sweeping sea views.
- For something a little gentler, check out the traditional village of Selworthy which boasts timeless thatched cottages on a rural estate, and a delightful little tea shop which is perfect for a spot of lunch.
- For watersports (and great dog walks!), head to Wimbleball Lake
- seeing the famous ponies galloping across the gorse dotted moorland
- walking along gently meandering riverside pathways in hidden valleys.
There's plenty to do around Exmoor. You could spend a couple of days on your Devon Road Trip exploring the area. There are plenty of great campsites- wild camping with a motorhome is tough on Exmoor; please do obey the restrictions and stay in appropriate places.
Dulverton & Tarr Steps
Dulverton is a small town right on the edge of Exmoor. There are loads of independant shops and one of the best tea rooms in the area- the Copper Kettle. My Dad, who was bought up in a bakers and is a scone connoisseur, says their scones are some of the best in the county (trust me, he's tried most of them!) There are also some award-winning restaurants and a couple of great pubs.
Dulverton is also really close to the famous Tarr Steps- one of the oldest medieval bridges in the UK. You can walk across the bridge as part of one of the many forest walks and there are loads of nearby waterfalls and paths to explore.
If you're visiting Dulverton by motorhome, caravan or campervan, there's a lovely campsite right in the town, which is a great base for a couple of days. If you're there at the end of the month, a popular Farmer's Market is held on the last Saturday (between April- September).
South Devon Road Trip Ideas
South Devon is a great place for a road trip. There are plenty of places to visit and things to do for all tastes.
Some of our favourite places to visit for fun days out (or longer visits) include:
Dartmouth & Kingswear
I love Dartmouth- it's one of the few places which feels like home, which is hilarious as I only lived here for about 9 months!
The town is set on the banks of the River Dart, surrounded by hills (trust me, I ran up them a lot!) The entire place is overlooked by Britannia Royal Naval College and occasionally you'll hear naval salutes, parades or even cannon fire. Heck, last time we visited a Merlin Helicopter flew overhead.
Dartmouth town is quite small and is easily seen in a couple of days. There are plenty of unique shops, galleries and craft stalls to occupy any shoppers, and enough historic houses and buildings to make the whole town feel utterly charming.
For more active activities, you can take a boat or car ferry across the river to Kingswear and then grab a steam train. They also do a 'round robin' trip in summer, where you get a boat down the river and then take the steam train back.
You can also visit nearby Greenways, holiday home of Agatha Christie and there are several animal parks in the area for younger children to enjoy. There's also the ruins of the 15th century Dartmouth Castle to visit- you can get a boat trip out and back, as well as boat trips to nearby Salcombe and Brixham.
There aren't any amazing campsites for Dartmouth- they're all a bit outside. Our favourite is Hillhead, which boasts amazing views!
Salcombe Harbour & Beaches
Salcombe is one of the prettiest harbours on the south coast of Devon. A water sports haven, there are plenty of places to go sailing, kayaking, surfing or even paddle boarding.
To be clear, Salcombe Harbour is where the quay and shops are and is NOT the same place as Salcombe Beaches, although they are close. There are several beaches within 10-15 minutes of the harbour/ town are a couple of smaller beaches within the harbour.
The best beaches for families are either North Sands or South Sands (shown above)and you can also take a ferry across the estuary to East Portlemouth.
There are some wonderful restaurants and bars in Salcombe, serving locally-caught seafood and local produce. Don’t forget to try some of the delicious Salcombe Dairy Ice-cream or the award-winning Salcombe Gin!
Again, there are no campsites right in the town- Start Bay has one a few miles away, or there are a couple in the other direction.
Exeter is one of my favourites cities in the UK. It dates back to the Roman era and has some beautiful buildings and monuments, including the gothic Exeter Cathedral. Don't forget to soak up the sun and people watch on the Cathedral green.
One of my favourite places is the University- parts of which were apparently inspiration for JK Rowling and Hogwarts. I also love winding through the back streets in the old town- the shops and building there are brilliant.
One of the most popular places to visit is the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery. Here, you'll find stunning displays and exhibitions and experience life in Victorian times.
Something not many people know about are the Underground passages- a network of spaces under the city which can only be accessed as part of a guided tour.
There are plenty of places to stay around the city as part of your Devon Road Trip. If you're a member of a motorhome club, there's a site at Exeter Racecourse which is lovely.
Explored by Jessie Moore of Pocket Wanderings
Totnes is a charming market town in South Devon. Located on the banks of the River Dart, it is a perfect place for riverside walks and dining, as well as kayaking and canoeing.
An eccentric town that offers something unique to the more traditional Devon towns, Totnes is a hub of creativity and vibrance. With a strong artistic influence, visitors will find a number of interesting museums and art galleries to explore.
For a more historic slant, step back in time at Totnes Castle – a classic Norman Motte and Bailey castle dating back to the 13th century. Or you can hop aboard the South Devon Railway to enjoy a steam train ride through the picturesque countryside.
For cheese and wine enthusiasts, a visit to Sharpham Vineyard is a wonderful fun day out. Take a tour of the winery and indulge in some wine-tasting with their delectable selection of English wines and local cheeses.
You won’t find many chain establishments in Totnes, as it has a strong independent feel with many boutique shops and restaurants. Totnes is famous for its admirable green and ethical credentials, so you can enjoy fresh produce from local farm shops in the cafes and eateries.
Steamer Quay campsite is an easy walk from the town, yet very peaceful for a stay.
By Nichola, Globalmouse Travels
Torquay is fantastic for day trips, weekends away or longer Devon road trips. This Victorian seaside town is packed full of character and still has the main reason visitors have been drawn here for centuries – its gorgeous beaches.
From Meadfoot Beach, Oddicombe Beach and Ansteys Cove there is a great variety here with plenty of lovely stretches of sand and pebbles to enjoy year-round. If you’re planning family holidays in Devon, you can’t go wrong with Torquay. It’s shaking off its slightly faded image and there are some fantastic restaurants and hotels in the area.
Don't miss the delightful Babbacombe Cliff Railway which has been running since 1926 and is a wonderful way to get down to Oddicombe Beach. Take a trip on the English Riviera Wheel on the waterfront for spectacular views across the town and beyond or lose yourself in the quirky history of Bygones.
If you’re a real history fan there’s also the Torquay Museum and the wonderful Torre Abbey, a thousand-year-old building which is now also a museum in its own right as well as being the best-preserved medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall. There’s plenty here to keep visitors occupied for as long as you can possibly stay.
Widdicombe Farm campsite is nearby and perfect for stays with a motorhome, campervan, touring caravan or tent.
Paignton- the beach with the red sand
Paignton is a seaside town within the Torbay area (otherwise known as the English Riviera, which is UNESCO recognised.)
It has a long sandy beachfront with a traditional promenade and green and there's plenty to do here year-round; and it’s dog friendly too! The beach is known for its reddish looking sand- especially noticeable at sunset.
As well as the beach, there's a steam train for a fun day our, a pier and even a zoo. As with all tourist towns, there are plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and ice-cream sellers!
Explored by Dymphe from Dymabroad
One of the best places to visit in Devon is the city of Plymouth. Plymouth is a port city with a very long history stretching back to the Bronze Age. Nowadays there are about 300,000 people in the city.
There are many things to do in Plymouth that make the city worthwhile to visit on your Devon Road Trip. For example, for those who like contemporary art, the Gallery at Plymouth College of Art is great! There are many exhibitions and events of this style.
Another thing to do in Plymouth is going to the Mayflower Steps. This is the place where the Pilgrim Fathers supposedly left England on the Mayflower ship. Also, the Barbican is worth visiting when in Plymouth. This is an old part of the city that is great to wander through. There are many historic buildings and cobblestone lanes. Moreover, this is a great part of the city for dinner as there are many restaurants here. Also, you'll find lots of shops, cafes and pubs.
There are many campsites around Plymouth for you to base yourself for a few days.
Exmouth – with its beautiful painted houses
Exmouth is a seaside resort 11 miles southeast of Exeter. It's famous for its watersports- particularly Kite surfing, kayaking and windsurfing.
Kids will love the beaches and activities on offer, including crazy golf, play parks and even a life-size dinosaur safari trail. For fun family days out, try Crealy Adventure Park or World of Country Life.
There are plenty of things to do in Exmouth, including visiting the popular indoor market and browsing the many unique shops. There's also a lot of heritage and history in the area- a Blue Plague heritage trail is available to follow if you're interested.
There's also the picturesque Exe Estuary cycle trail, running from Exmouth to Dawlish along the banks of the estuary. There's plenty to see along the route, making it an ideal fun day out in South Devon.
Dartmoor National Park is a vast area of moorland. It's not so much South Devon as central Devon, and it's easily reached as part of your Devon road trip from either the North or South coast.
The moor is famous for the Dartmoor ponies, which wander freely through the landscape. Expect them to wander onto the road with no regard whatsoever for cars or motorhomes!
There is plenty to see within Dartmoor. It's a hikers paradise, with many rock formations (called Tors) to climb- it's common for people to make a list and try to visit them all.
There are also trails which take you to Neolithic tombs, Bronze Age stone circles, abandoned medieval farmhouses and even the infamous Dartmoor prison.
Some of the activities you can enjoy at Dartmoor include:
- Horse riding (there are even places where you can bring and stable your own horse)
- Climbing/ Bouldering
- Camping- whether in a tent or motorhome but NOT motorhome wild camping- that's forbidden. Wild camping with a tent is fine.
- Canoeing/ Kayaking
Within the confines of the National Park, there are plenty of cute villages to visit and enjoy an ice-cream or cream tea.
I hope that's helped given you some ideas for places to visit on your Devon Road Trip. Let us know where you go!