We’ve long known that Torquay is a top choice for a UK staycation. Basking on the world-famous English Riviera, with Paignton and Brixham alongside, it offers fantastic all year round holidays for everyone, is surrounded by beautiful beaches and stunning countryside, and is within a UNESCO-recognised Global Geopark.
Recently its attractions were also recognised by TripAdvisor, which named Torquay as the UK’s top seaside resort – an award that’s very much worth having: “These awards are based on millions of reviews and ratings by those that really matter – travellers themselves,” said TripAdvisor spokesperson James Kay. “Torquay’s strong showing, the highest of any town in the UK, is testament to the unquestionable appeal of this seaside destination.”
With events and festivals going on all year round, more attractions than any other resort in the UK, bundles of beauty spots, oodles of outdoor activities, and the wonderful sea to harvest for excellent food, plus a huge range of accommodation, it’s no surprise that it’s seen as the heart of the British seaside holiday. Read on for the Visit Devon guide to Torquay and what it has to offer, whether you’re into attractions, culture, adventure, food – and links to help you find much more.
Torquay’s hugely popular with families and anyone looking for a fun-filled time and beautiful beaches, plus there’s a great choice of family hotels, holiday parks, campsites and holiday cottages – perfect if you’re on a budget.
New for this year – and already a big hit – is the Smugglers and Pirates Experience in nearby Brixham, which takes visitors on a journey through 18th Century Devon, where smuggling was a way of life and pirates ruled the high seas (as does the Pirate Festival, May 3-5 2014, pictured). Also scary-yet-exciting is Kents Cavern, a labyrinth of stone age caves which offers tours and hands-on activities, making it great for both kids and adults. Fans of (fun!) history will also enjoy the Victorian journey at Bygones, whilst Babbacombe Model Village has to be experienced for the detail and thought that’s gone into it – and because even the smallest child gets to feel like a giant there!
Animal-lovers will enjoy Paignton Zoo – home to some of the planet’s rarest and most amazing creatures, including gorillas, giraffes, lions, tigers and rhinos. Or try Living Coasts, an award-winning coastal zoo which is home to a magnificent array of marine life from around the world – as well as Devonian seals and otters.
And if you’re looking for a fun way to appreciate the whole of Torquay, hop onto the English Riviera Wheel, which will show you spectacular scenes from a great height – or take a boat trip around the bay.
More things to do in Torquay
Having the famous harbour and fish market of Brixham nearby means that Torquay has lots of amazing food on offer. There are few things as nice than watching the boats with a fresh South Devon Crab (one of the local specialties) sandwich in hand – except perhaps a big local steak and chips with a pint of beer in a cosy pub.
Foodie visitors can take a tour of Brixham Fish Market or visit Occombe Farm, a working organic show farm with exhibits and activities, before visiting a local restaurant to taste what they’ve seen. Great places to try local seafood include The Cary Arms (amazing clifftop location, see pic above), Hanbury’s (award-winning fish and chips), No 7 Fish Bistro, and The Harbour Light Restaurant – but there are many more to choose from.
Of course, high on the must-visit list for foodies in Torquay is Simon Hustone’s Michelin-starred The Elephant. And do catch TorqEat in May, if you’re a fan of excellent food festivals in beautiful locations – and who isn’t?
More Torquay food and drink
For active holidays
Think of the Devon coast and of course you think of watersports – and there are plenty of watersports companies around Torquay who are only too happy to help you get out in the ocean, whether that’s by offering advice, lessons or equipment hire, and whether you want to go surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, coasteering, or take part in (almost) 101 other watersports.
But of course, you don’t have to get wet to enjoy the coast around Torquay. The area is a UNESCO-recognised Global Geopark, and there are beautiful walks to take within it, whether that’s along the South West Coast Path, in Berry Head National Nature Reserve, along one of the beautiful nearby beaches or wherever your feet might take you.
More Torquay activities
Torquay is the birthplace of crime writer Agatha Christie, and the whole resort is the location for a packed programme of events, festivals and attractions, culminating in the week-long Agatha Christie Festival in September.
Christie buffs can also visit her holiday home, the beautifully restored mansion house Greenway, walk the Agatha Christie Mile, and follow the Agatha Christie Literary Trail. There’s even an Agatha Christie experience via steam train or vintage bus to Greenway.
While you’re out and about do pop over to nearby Cockington Village – nothing to do with Agatha Christie but it’s the prettiest chocolate-box village you’ll ever have seen (and we expect she thought so too)!
Going to a show is a popular way to pass a Torquay evening – and there are a few to choose from: take a look at the programmes of the Princess Theatre, The Little Theatre, the Palace Theatre in Paignton and Babbacombe Theatre.
More shows and theatres in Torquay