21+ fun things to do in Dartmouth with kids
If you’re planning to visit Dartmouth in South Devon then you’re in for a treat. We fell in love with the medieval streets and stunning coastal views of this historic UK town long before we moved here. It’s incredible that we now get to call this gem on the South West coast home. As someone who has lived and breathed Devon life for three years now, I thought I’d share our favourite things to do in Dartmouth with kids.
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Things to do in Dartmouth, England
Visit Dartmouth Castle
More of a fort than somewhere you’d expect to find knights and princesses, Dartmouth Castle 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 feeling peckish the tiny cafe does awesome milkshakes and cream teas. You can walk to Dartmouth Castle from the town or catch a ferry from the quayside.
Relax at Blackpool Sands
Unlike its name suggests Blackpool Sands is not in the more famous seaside resort of Blackpool in the north west. And it’s not sandy. However, it is one our favourite beaches on the English Riviera and ranked as one of Britain’s top beaches. 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. There’s an excellent cafe, toilets and showers. Dogs are allowed on the beach from November to March. You can park on a sloped, concrete car park open all year round or a large grass car park which is available during busier holiday periods. Parking charges apply from late spring and throughout the summer.
Play at Coronation Park
If you’re looking for free things to do in Dartmouth Coronation Park is the ideal space for young children to let off some steam on the beach and boat themed playground. There’s also plenty of room for older kids to have a knock about with a football or a game of rounders on the adjacent field. The Anchor Stone Cafe on the corner of the park is open for breakfast and light meals from 7am in the summer until late afternoon. If you’re refuelling on the go we can recommend grabbing a takeaway coffee and a delicious Salcombe ice cream or Dart Farm ice lolly for the kids.
Sail to Greenway by boat
You can catch a boat from Dartmouth up the river to where crime writer Dame Agatha Christie had her holiday home at Greenway. The trip takes about 30 minutes each way giving you a few hours to explore this fascinating house full of curious collectibles. Also allow yourself plenty of time for a stroll through the gardens to the boathouse and battery overlooking the River Dart. If you’re feeling sporty you can hit about some balls on Agatha’s tennis court. Our girls discovered some hobby horses to help them make it round the gardens on our most recent visit. The boat ride is dog friendly as are the grounds of Greenway.
Hop on the Round Robin
Dartmouth is one of several starting points for the Round Robin tour of South Devon by river boat, steam train and bus. You can buy your tickets on the quayside in town and either take a voyage up river to Totnes from where you catch the bus to Paignton and coastal steam train to Kingswear, or do it in reverse by taking the Dartmouth to Kingswear passenger ferry over to the station. If you’re looking for somewhere for a bite half way we can recommend the Royal Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes. Each stage of the Round Robin tour is dog friendly.
Visit Dartmouth Ice Cream Company
If you have a sweet tooth (and what kid doesn’t?!) you must call into the home of the Dartmouth Ice Cream Company, The Good Intent, on Lower Street. It’s close to the Lower Ferry. They have a wide range of treats and ice creams. They even have frozen desserts suitable for dogs.
There’s plenty of crabs to be caught in the River Dart that runs inbetween Dartmouth and Kingswear. Bring your crab line and bait, or buy them from the shops in town. Then find a spot along the quayside. Be warned that there’s a long drop and some sections aren’t fenced off. Keep kids under close supervision at all times.
Have fun at Woodlands Family Theme Park
If you’re looking for a full family day out during your visit to South Devon then Woodlands Family Theme Park must be on your bucket list. It’s also a great things to do in Dartmouth when it’s raining as it has a lot of indoor play areas. The park is packed with opportunities for kids tire themselves out with adventure playgrounds, giant soft play areas and thrill rides. Young kids will also enjoy the farm, splash pool and slides. There’s always seasonal events during the school holidays. We can recommend a visit to the grotto at Christmas, the monster house at Halloween and the Easter Bunny’s Warren.
Discover local heritage at Dartmouth Museum
There are just a few small rooms in this museum but they are lined with curiosities and history. The Tudor merchants house that holds Dartmouth Museum was used as a refuge by King Charles II when his fleet came into Dartmouth during a storm. The walls of what’s now known as the King’s Room are adorned with cabinets containing model ships commemorating various points in Dartmouth’s maritime history such as the Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower which called in the town on the way to America. There’s also a room dedicated to curiosities collated by Victorian collector William Cumming Henley. Kids can look at smaller items under microscopes and investigate artefacts in draws.
Chill out at Sugary Cove
This hidden shingle and sand beach on the South Devon coast is just a short walk from Dartmouth Castle has plenty of rock pools to explore. Small children will need help down the steps into the cove. Dogs are also welcome on this beach all year round.
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Experience Dartmouth Regatta
On or around the August Bank Holiday weekend Dartmouth is a hive of activity on land and water. The Regatta is more than 170-years-old and attracts tens of thousands of people to watch gig racing, rowing competitions and live music. There’s always a programme of activities for families with entertainment, children’s competitions and an area where they can take part in crafts. Don’t miss the firework displays and aircraft fly pasts.
Enjoy Devon delicacies at Dartmouth Food Festival
Devon is a foodie paradise and Dartmouth Food Festival is just one of many top annual events celebrating 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. Bring your elasticated trousers!
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Follow the Dart Valley Trail
For a walk to challenge the whole family why not follow the Dart Valley Trail along the River Dart and spot wildlife along the way. It’s common to see grey seals, spoonbills, kingfishers and even, escaped mandarine ducks along the river banks. 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.
Experience Candlelit Dartmouth
This cockle warming event kicks off the Christmas season in Dartmouth and usually happens at the end of November. For 48 hours the town comes alight with Christmas lights and a candlelit procession of lanterns through the streets. Don’t miss Santa arriving by boat on the Friday or the children’s entertainment on the Saturday before the procession. Here’s a taster of what you can expect:
Dartmouth is home to the Royal Navy’s officer training college, BRNC. It is steeped in history that you can discover by booking a guided tour with The Britannia Association. The College was originally located on HMS Hinderstan and HMS Britannia both moored on the River Dart but moved into a purpose built college on the hill above when recruits started to become ill in the cramped quarters on the ships. If your kids are at all interested in a military career then this is an inspiring and impressive place to visit.
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Take a dip at Dartmouth outdoor pool
This heated outdoor pool outside Dartmouth Academy is the perfect place to enjoy an alfresco dip in the summer. It is open from 1 July to 2 September 2018.
Go for a swim at Dartmouth Leisure Centre
A swim at this relatively new Dartmouth indoor pool is an ideal wet day activity in Dartmouth. The modern changing rooms come larger family cubicles, hard dryers and lockers. There are fun sessions with floats once a week during term time and more often in the school holidays. Check the leisure centre website for the up-to-date timetable.
Walk Little Dartmouth
Pull on your hiking boots and take a walk to see some of the best views 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. This isn’t a walk suitable for pushchairs and dogs may need to be put on leads at some points due to live stock. Keep an eye out for signs.
Take a ferry ride or two
Dartmouth has two vehicle ferries – the Higher Ferry and the Lower Ferry – plus a passenger ferry to Kingswear. You can hop on either the Lower Ferry or passenger ferry, walk along the riverside between Dartmouth and Kingswear, and catch the Higher Ferry back across. This route also works in reverse and takes you right next to the Dartmouth Steam Railway Line. You might be lucky to see one of the vintage engines and a string of carriages puffing out of Kingswear Station.
The Higher Ferry is a chain ferry crossing the river from the Floating Bridge pub at Dartmouth Marina. The Lower Ferry is a floating barge which is pushed across the river to Kingswear by a tug boat. If you’re on foot you can take any of the ferries but the dedicated passenger ferry leaves the pontoon next to the Platform 1 restaurant and crosses over to Kingswear Station.
Visit Coleton Fishacre
Colton Fishacre is a National Trust property on the Kingswear side of the River Dart and can be easily reached by car from the Lower Ferry or by walking along the South West Coast Path if you have a bit more energy. It was built by the D’Oyly Carte family which owned a theatre company of the same name in the 19th Century. Coleton in South Devon was their country retreat – a place for relaxation and entertainment. We love visiting Coleton in all seasons as the gardens are incredible. Christmas is a particularly favourite time though as the gardens have been lit up for the past few years.
Board a boat and explore the coast
As well as boat trips up the River Dart to Greenway, Dittisham and Totnes you can ride out of the river mouth to neighbouring Brixham and Paignton where you can pick up other services to Torquay. Buy tickets from the booths along the quayside.
Or you can bring your own boat or paddle board.
Walk to the Daymark
It’s possible to see this jutting landmark for miles but it’s also an incredible sight up close. The Daymark was built in 1864 as a navigational point for sailors. You can access it from Brownstone and Coleton car park near Kingswear. Beyond the Daymark is the South West Coast Path which is not suitable for pushchairs. Pack little ones into baby or toddler carriers.
So much to do in and around Dartmouth
This is a round up of things to do in Dartmouth that we have experienced in three years of living here. I’m sure there’s more to add and we can’t wait to give it all a go. Let me know what’s missing and we’ll add it to our adventure list.
If you’re looking for Devon attractions to visit in other parts of the county then check out my tried and tested family days out in Devon. If you’re holidaying in North Devon take a look at these great Devon attractions around Bideford, Ilfracombe and Barnstable. I can also recommend you visit some of Devon’s lesser known beaches. And if you’re unlucky to visit South Devon on a damp day don’t despair! I can point you in the direction of things to do on wet days in South Devon.
Here’ some more reading about our fantastic home county of Devon:
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