Distilling the best things to do in Devon down to just ten? Treacherous. For every activity that’s made it here, there’s another ten waiting to take their spot. Days out in Devon are simply too numerous to catalogue. Whisk yourself to any patch of moor, coastline or city spot and you’ll see why. Endless possibilities are around every corner in this county that’s geared up to get you on the water, on the hiking trails or cycling to see its best bits. FOMO is inevitable.
Meet a giant donkey (or two)
Hanging out with the thousands of rescued donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth is one of the best things to do in Devon. The free day out comes with the feel-good factor of seeing the four legged cuties living their best life. But the best kept secret of the sanctuary? The huge and hairy Poitou donkeys. The French breed stands at up to 16h high – which, in horse and pony terms, is BIG. Trot around the fields, make some new friends and do drop a coin or two in the collection boxes if you can.
Orbzii tip: The swish onsite cafe (donated by a benefactor) is a handy spot for lunch, you’ll find local fayre that goes a step above the usual fodder. Forest fungi wild mushroom spaghetti anyone?
Ride on a century-old fairground attraction
Rarely will you find yourself wishing the ancient rides at the Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre would go faster. Despite some of the rides being over 100 years old, they still reach hair-raising speeds. Strictly speaking, this is a museum. Albeit one where you can bump around on ancient dodgems and ride a ghost train. The fairground art and machinery preservation is to be admired – if you can stop having fun long enough to take it all in.
Orbzii tip: Run almost entirely by volunteers, take a moment to chat to the ride operators. They won’t hesitate to tell you just how much faster these machines can go.
Visit a secret hide in the woods
Wind your way through the Mid-Devon lanes to his farm and Kevin will whisper badger intel to you in his secret hide. Devon Badger Watch is tucked away in a bluebell wood, near Tiverton. And, for a small ticket fee you can join Kevin in his purpose build hide. Fair warning though, Kevin’s quite strict on silence while you wait for the badgers to show up. He’s been watching over these fluffy bundles for thirty years – and is happy to share them – and their antics with visitors. A fascinating glimpse into a secret world.
Orbzii tip: For a much more elusive wildlife encounter, head to the banks of the River Otter. You’re on the look out for England’s only wild beaver population. Good luck!
Eat a Michelin-starred meal
Some of the best restaurants in Devon come with a Michelin-star. Which is no real surprise in this food-focused county. Pull up a chair at Lympstone Manor for an elegant romp through Michael Caines’ menu. Take a seat in a former police station to sample Thomas Carr’s interpretation of the county’s seasonal produce. Or take a slightly more relaxed approached to fine dining at the Mason’s Arms. A Westcounty pub with a side of swish.
Orbzii tip: If you like your menu to favour eco-eats, drop in to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Kitchen in Axminster. It’s picked up a green Michelin Star for sustainability.
Hop on a bird-watching cruise
Not all of Devon’s activities need the summer sun. The Stuart Line Cruises birdwatching trip sails from November to March to get you – and your binoculars, close to the migrating birds that swing by the River Exe. The 3 hour cruise is set to the soothing tones of onboard ornithologists – to help you tell your avocets from your egrets. And, if you’re in any doubt you’re in the Westcountry, you can pre-order an award winning pasty to munch while you sail.
Orbzii tip: If you’d rather bird watch in summer, head to Lundy Island instead. Seeing the resident puffin colony there has to be one of the best things to do in North Devon.
Cycle from city to coast
Harness some pedal power and cycle from Exeter’s glorious quayside to Dawlish Warren or Exmouth. A network of cycle paths leads you on a winding – and mostly traffic free route, through south Devon’s marshlands and estuary views. In Exmouth you can watch the kitesurfers or cycle the full length of the huge beach. Dawlish Warren is the place to look for rare orchids and sea birds or win a prize in the amusement arcade.
Orbzii tip: If you’re heading to Dawlish – make a stop at Turf Locks, a pub only reachable by bike, boat or on foot. Going to Exmouth? Pick up a picnic at Dart’s Farm – the place to snap up farm produce and Devon foodie treats.
Hike along a gorgeous gorge
A scamper along the Westcountry’s deepest gorge isn’t for the feint-hearted. You’ll be shimmying along narrow ledges, negotiating slippery paths and tottering up craggy steps – all set to the sound of rushing water. Your reward? A hike through some of Devon’s most beautiful and untouched scenery. There’s a handrail to help you along some of the slippiest sections – and an easier route that leads you straight to Lydford Gorge’s star attraction, the White Lady Waterfall.
Get some literary inspo
Fancy writing a book? You might after a visit to Devon. It’s rumoured J.K Rowling was inspired to conjure up Harry Potter during her time at Exeter University. Dartmoor’s Hound Tor is thought be be the inspo for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles and Agatha Christie lived and holidayed in the county. Soak up the views – in any location, and wait for the muse to arrive…
Orbzii tip: If you’re heading to Burgh Island, where Ms Christie regularly stayed, make sure you take the sea tractor to get there. The only working one in the world – this historic vehicle is the way to arrive at the hotel in style.
Ride the North coast waves
The best beaches in north Devon come with breakers, swells and barrels to surf. But, there’s also a purpose built aqua park waiting to get you wakeboarding. North Devon Wake Park is the place for beginners to pick up the sport. Not sure your shoulders and thighs have what it takes? Ride across the water on a Ringo raft or test your balance on the inflatable obstacle course.
Orbzii tip: Not ready to take on the wakes and swells? North Devon’s Roadford Lake is THE spot for calmer family-friendly watersports. Try and balance your whole group on a mega SUP – if you can get 4 – 8 people all to engage their core at once…
Brace your tastebuds for a tour of Devon’s tipples
There really isn’t a beverage that Devon’s drinkers won’t try to distil, brew, age or cultivate. Sip on botanicals in Plymouth’s gin distillery, sup on hops in Dartmoor’s brewery, pair wine and cheese in the county’s vineyards and head back to the moor for a nip of whiskey. If you like a cheeky half, shot, measure or 125ml glass, THIS is the county to try some of England’s finest and full bodied beverages.
Orbzii tip: Tee-total? No problem. Devon’s artisan soft drink makers have got you covered. Luscombe Drinks use organic ingredients and Dartmoor spring water in their bubblies, crushes and lemonades.