Torbay has been attracting visitors in search of rest and relaxation since Victorian times when the phrase The English Riviera was first coined. In those days people came for gentle promenades along the beaches and coastal paths, a dip in the sea and to enjoy the wonderful views across Tor Bay.
Although you can still indulge in those very traditional pursuits, the English Riviera has moved with the times and fully deserves its long-standing reputation as one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations. Nowadays the three Torbay towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham offer so much more for the year-round visitor, ranging from internationally acclaimed tourist attractions to its many areas of special scientific interest.
Whether you want a day out, an afternoon’s diversion, or just a great way to spend a couple of hours, Torbay has it all. Here is our guide to all the best bits, from those located within the resort towns themselves, to some a little further afield.
Launching upwards from Torre Abbey gardens, just off Torquay seafront, this spectacular attraction offers 360 degree views across the whole of Torbay from 400ft up. With up to four flights per hour when the wind is low, you should not miss this chance to see the bay as the seagulls do. Adults £14; concessions £11; children £8 (children under five are free)
Splashdown Water Paark
For a wet and wild day out go to Splashdown. Splashdown Waterpark is a great day out for family and friends. Try some of the UK’s most exciting flume rides and some of the English Riviera’s most spectacular views out over Torbay; right next to Goodrington Beach it’s a winning combination! Thrill seekers try the heart stopping plummet the Devil’s Drop and terrifically tumbling tyre rides, that’ll have you hanging onto the edge of your tyre, literally, and the Wild Kamikaze – well the name says it all! Younger kids can get in the swim too with Submarine Splash and Tiddler’s Fun Pool – a perfect place for little ones to enjoy a good old splash about. Mum and Dad can relax on a sunbed by the pool. There’s so much more to enjoy than just the waterpark; brilliant beach for games and sandcastles and when the tide slips away rock pools teeming with creatures and crustaceans. Visit websitewww.quaywest.splashdownwaterparks.co.uk for opening times & other info.
Babbacombe Model Village
The model village is a unique journey into a miniature world. Picturesque by day, magical at night. Open all year. On the outskirts of Torquay, near the pretty shopping precinct of St Marychurch. Visit website for more detailswww.babbacombemodelvillage.co.uk or call 01803 315315
Recognised as the most important Stone Age cave in Britain, Kents Cavern has revealed more about palaeolithic Britain than anywhere else. Hand axes dating back almost 500,000 years have been found, as well as an upper jaw bone believed to be the oldest human remain in Europe! Visit www.kents-cavern.co.uk for more details
One of Europe’s finest zoos, focusing on conservation and habitat. Visit the new gorilla enclosure, enter the crocodile swamp, or just take a trip on the Jungle Express, there is so much to see and do here. Visitwww.paigntonzoo.org.uk for more details
A coastal zoo right on Torquay seafront, offering visitors the chance to experience the wildlife of our shores with birds and mammals in specially-designed naturalistic habitats, as well as some more exotic creatures, such as those found in the new mangrove exhibit. Visit www.livingcoasts.org.uk
Dart Valley Steam Railway
Travel Torbay’s spectacular coast and the beautiful River Dart by steam train from Paignton to Kingswear, then on to Dartmouth by passenger ferry. Combine this with a circular river cruise on a boat train service, or cruise up-river to Totnes and take an open-top bus back to Paignton for a complete day out on the Round Robin service. Visit www.paignton-steamrailway.co.uk/
South Devon Railway
Travel an historic line between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. The line closed to all traffic in 1962 with the South Devon Railway Trust taking over the running of the line in 1991. More details at www.southdevonrailway.org/
Houses many of the exciting finds and is also home to the Agatha Christie gallery, a fine collection of photographs and memorabilia linked to the life and times of Torquay’s most famous daughter.
Visit the place where Isaac Singer, whose name adorns sewing machines around the world, entertained his colourful friends and where his son, Paris, danced with the beautiful Isadora Duncan. Entry to the house is free and there is a small exhibition in the foyer
Brixham Heritage Museum
Worth a visit if you are in Brixham where the story of the port is charmingly told. On most days you will be able to see in port one or more of the restored heritage sailing trawlers.
A 450-acre park with Cockington Court Craft Centre at its heart, featuring demonstrations of a wide range of craft skills including a potter, glass-blower and blacksmith.
Berry Head nature reserve
Torbay’s most important wildlife site. The 65ft limestone headland defines Torbay’s southern-most tip, offering fantastic views. There are in fact two ruined forts to explore on this dramatic headland with stunning views to the east and south west along the coast towards Cornwall