10 Things You Must Do When You Visit Dartmouth
There is an almost endless list of reasons why you should visit Dartmouth in Devon. Its rich history, stunning scenery, maritime heritage, festivals and events, and culinary offerings make it a must-see when in the South Hams. Take in panoramic views of the surrounding rolling hills and countryside on a stroll along the colourful waterfront or on a boat trip on the River Dart.
1. Explore Dartmouth Castle
Dartmouth has a fascinating history that dates back to medieval times. The town is home to the landmark Dartmouth Castle, a fortress built in the 14th century. The castle sits proudly on a rocky promontory on the mouth of the River Dart, providing commanding views of the river and the entrance to Dartmouth Harbor. It was strategically positioned to protect the town and its bustling port from potential naval threats.
Today, Dartmouth Castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public as a historic site. From £8.50 per person, you can explore the castle’s towers and tunnels. After climbing to the top of its battlements to enjoy panoramic views of the river and surrounding landscape, you can reward yourself with a homemade traditional Devonshire cream tea in its riverside cafe. The castle also features exhibits showcasing its history and military significance.
From the castle, you can take leisurely walks along the nearby South West Coast Path, which offers stunning views of the River Dart estuary and the coastline. The castle is also just a stone’s throw from Dartmouth town, with its range of amenities, shops, and eateries.
2. Take a boat trip on the River Dart
A boat trip on the River Dart is a must-do when visiting the town. The picturesque waterway flows through scenic landscapes, with historic castles, charming villages, and lush greenery lining its banks. Dartmouth is always a great base for those looking to get on the water. There are a few different boat trips that run from the town:
The Dartmouth River Cruise takes you on a circular cruise along the lower part of the Dart from Dartmouth viewing the castles at the estuary, Britannia Royal Naval College and Agatha Christie’s Greenway Estate. The cruise provides a great opportunity to take in the sights that Dartmouth has to offer. The approximate sailing time is 1 hour and cruises operate daily at 11:00, 12:15, 13:30 and 15:15.
The Dartmouth to Totnes River Cruise takes you all the way up the Dart to the fascinating historic town of Totnes. Each way of the journey is approximately 90 minutes.
If you are looking to celebrate a special occasion, take a ride on The Fizz Boat. This Fizz and Food cruise offers private boat trips on the River Dart. Whether you are after a get-together or a romantic cruise for two, the friendly crew are on hand to make your experience on the water memorable.
3. Walk Dartmouth’s charming streets
Take a stroll down Dartmouth’s charming narrow streets and you will stumble across a delightful range of boutiques and galleries. The town’s cobbled alleys are brimming with heritage and secrets that reveal its rich, maritime past. Make sure to check out the building that houses the Dartmouth Museum on the Butterwalk, dating back to the mid-17th century.
Some of Dartmouth’s more recognisable spots include the Boat Float and Jawbone Hill. Make sure to visit Foss Street for its diverse collection of independent shops and colourful houses. Stop for a pint and a pie at the traditional Cherub Inn, Dartmouth’s oldest building!
4. Get on the water
Dartmouth is a must-visit for adventure-seekers and water enthusiasts alike. From kayaking and paddleboarding on the tranquil River Dart, to sailing, coasteering, and thrilling rib rides along the rugged coastline, there are plenty of options for both adrenaline-pumping adventures and more leisurely water-based fun.
With its maritime heritage and stunning surroundings, Dartmouth is a great destination for those looking to explore the waters, enjoy breathtaking views, and experience the thrill of various activities on offer. Make sure that you book with a reputable operator for a safe and enjoyable watersports experience.
5. Indulge in local cuisine
Dartmouth is becoming a renowned spot for foodies. Its restaurants offer diverse and delicious cuisine that caters to various tastes. As a coastal town, seafood is a highlight of Dartmouth’s culinary scene, with freshly caught fish and shellfish being featured in most local dishes. There really is something for everyone, whether you are after traditional fish and chips or hand-dived Torbay scallops!
With its waterfront location, Dartmouth’s restaurants often offer picturesque views of the River Dart, making for a really special dining experience. For a quick pit stop, be sure to check out the town’s range of cafes and pubs.
6. Take a steam train ride
The Dartmouth Steam Railway is a popular attraction that offers a nostalgic journey through the picturesque South Devon countryside. The vintage steam train, with its beautifully restored carriages, takes passengers on a scenic route along the River Dart, passing through stunning landscapes, rolling hills, and charming villages.
The journey includes a crossing on the unique Kingswear to Dartmouth Ferry, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the river and the surrounding countryside. The Dartmouth Steam Railway is a delightful way to step back in time, experience the charm of steam travel, and take in the beauty of Dartmouth.
7. Visit Dartmouth Royal Naval College
Dartmouth Naval College is a prestigious institution that serves as the officer training establishment of the British Royal Navy. The college has a rich history dating back to 1863 and is renowned for its rigorous officer training programs. The campus is situated on the banks of the River Dart and features stunning Georgian architecture, with impressive buildings and expansive grounds.
If you have an interest in British history and the local area, we recommend signing up for a guided tour of the college, where you can learn more about Dartmouth’s past and the role of the Royal Navy.
8. Explore the local area
Dartmouth is also well-connected to nearby towns and attractions, such as Salcombe, Totnes, and the Dartmoor National Park, making it an ideal base for exploring the beautiful South Devon region. Overall, Dartmouth and its local area offer a perfect blend of natural beauty, maritime history, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities, making it a charming place to explore and enjoy.
9. Explore Dartmouth’s art scene
Dartmouth boasts a vibrant and diverse art scene that draws inspiration from its picturesque coastal setting and rich maritime heritage. The town is home to numerous galleries, studios, and art shops that showcase a wide range of art. Local artists and craftsmen draw inspiration from the natural beauty of the River Dart, the rugged coastline, and the charming architecture of Dartmouth.
The art scene in Dartmouth also includes regular art exhibitions, events, and workshops that showcase the talents of local and visiting artists, providing opportunities for art enthusiasts to explore, appreciate, and buy unique works of art. Dartmouth is an exciting destination for art lovers and artists alike!
10. Relax at the beach
A visit to Dartmouth is not complete without a trip to one of its neighbouring beaches. The town is located on the picturesque South Devon coast, and there are several beaches within easy reach. Blackpool Sands, a Blue Flag awarded beach, is a popular choice with its golden sand, gin-clear waters, and surrounding woodland. It is family-friendly and offers various water sports activities, along with a café and parking and toilet facilities.
Another popular spot is Sugary Cove, a secluded pebble beach accessible only by boat or on foot, overlooked by the historic Dartmouth Castle. Dartmouth also has a number of other small coves and beaches dotted along its coastline, some more hidden than others, each with its own unique charm and character. Whether you’re looking for a day of sunbathing, swimming, beachcombing, or coastal walks, Dartmouth is a great place to visit for beachgoers of all ages.