Do it all or do nothing at all. That’s the beautiful town of Sidmouth’s motto, and it sums this place up very well indeed. Settled beneath red cliffs on the Jurassic coast and surrounded by rolling green landscape, the town’s location sports a photogenic combination of seascape and countryside, the perfect balance if you’re fond of both beach-based and nature-infused holidays.
On our visits to Sidmouth, we never pack light – there’s simply too much to do. We’re talking paddleboards, fishing nets, walking boots and bikes…and of course a good book or two. We like paddling out onto the water early in the morning when the seagulls are our only company, not only to take in the quiet, but also to enjoy the magic of such a gorgeous setting from our unique vantage point in the middle of the bay.
From here you can see the town’s Regency buildings and architecture, along with those dramatic cliffs of deep red and gold that tower over it. We pick out our favourite walking routes from the ones we can see undulating along the coast in the distance, and decide which one we’ll wander along later that afternoon. But first there’s the important matter of breakfast to consider.
Sidmouth has some amazing restaurants and although the first meal of the day is firmly on our minds (cue rumbling tummies), we can’t wait to settle ourselves at a table overlooking the sea to indulge in a delicious dinner together.
If you’re considering a holiday in Sidmouth or you’ve already booked a break with us in one of our gorgeous Sidmouth holiday cottages, we’d love to share our top picks for activities in the area as well as for eating out. You’ll also find a few practical tips on where to do a grocery shop if you’re planning on staying in town for a while as well.
There are two sides to Sidmouth beach – the Town side and Jacob’s Ladder. Both are shingle / sand beaches with clean, calm water, lovely views and rockpools to explore.
Branscombe. The shingle beach at Branscombe is also part of the famous Jurassic Coast and stretches just over a mile. It welcomes dogs all year round but there are some restrictions to be aware of like dogs are not allowed 150m east and west of the pole at the front of the café.
Exmouth Beach is the nearest sandy beach and is about 30 minutes’ drive away.
Seaton. This mile long beach can be easily reached by tram which is an adventure in itself. Made up of large pebbles, it overlooks Lyme Bay.
Topsham is a picturesque town on the east side of the River Ex with a slew of lovely shops and galleries to explore. Perhaps stop off at Darts Farm Shopping Village on the way where you’ll discover a fabulous deli, restaurant, gifts, homeware and a spa.
Beer Quarry caves. This vast man-made complex of underground caverns was created by centuries of quarrying the famous Beer Stone. Guided tours can be booked in advance.
One of our favourite family-friendly places, The Donkey Sanctuary at Slade House Farm offers free admission and has a good on-site restaurant. The sanctuary is a charity organisation and there wonderful work with these gentle animals is second to none. The views over the surrounding hills are terrific, and there’s plenty of fresh air and space for children to roam and enjoy.
Try a Llama walk – Peak Hill Llamas offer walks that are slow and gentle, and are all about spending quality time in the company of these lovely gentle animals whilst learning about their individual personalities.
Walk to Otterton Mill. This 7.5 mile circular walk with its mid point at the mill, features some staggering scenery along the way and is certainly well worth the trip as it passes along by the sea cliffs. You’ll be rewarded with an award-winning café/restaurant where you’ll be able to refuel for the journey home.
The Valley, Ridge and Jurassic Coast walk (5.5 miles)
This walk includes a sample of Sidmouth and the River Sid as well as one of the town’s neighbouring ridges, and links the two elements via the Coast Path which gives superb views along the Jurassic Coast.
The Salcombe Hill Circular walk (5 miles)
Following parts of the famous South West Coast Path, the views of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site cliffs and valleys are not to be missed.
Visit the South West Coast Path website for more information about these and other walks in Devon
Pea Green Boat – Offering the best locally sourced, fresh produce, on the Esplanade
The Loft – Situated on Olde Fore Street, this family-run restaurant is both dog and child friendly
The Marine Bar – Next door to the Pea Green Boat, the stylish Marine Bar has a beach-facing terrace and serves among other dishes, stone baked pizzas
Upper Deck at Harbour House Hotel – Steps from the beach and with sweeping sea views of the Jurassic Coast and Lyme Bay. Signature dishes include a Harbour fish pie, a seafood burger, and large cut, dry-eyed steaks.
The Dairy Shop Located on Church Street is a lovely place for a cream tea or bacon croissant in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere.
The Masons Arms – Award-winning gastro pub with a ‘village local’ vibe. The 14th-century Masons Arms nestles in the heart of Branscombe, one of Britain’s most picturesque villages and features fresh seafood, revamped pub classics and more. The kitchen sources its quality local produce from suppliers in the South West.
The Golden Lion – In the heart of Tipton St John, a picturesque village set in the glorious countryside of East Devon on the River Otter, you will find this wonderful family-run pub.
The Pig at Combe – Something of an icon, this characterful restaurant dishes up British kitchen garden food, true to the micro seasons and with a real focus on simple and fresh flavours.
Greendale Kitchen – Winner of the Taste of The West ‘Best Farm Shop’ award in 2021 / 2022. Tuck into a delicious home-cooked meals made from the freshest of farm produce.
The Rusty Pig – A casual setting and no set menu. Instead, the restaurant serves local and seasonal produce in the form a ‘surprise set tasting supper’.
The Diggers Rest – The Digger’s Rest, in the middle of the picturesque village of Woodbury Salterton, is a traditional thatched village pub with a beautiful beer garden.
Salutation Inn – Award-winning restaurant and deli in Topsham with an excellent menu and wine pairing. Lunch and Afternoon Tea can be enjoyed set in the light and airy GlassHouse, a historic courtyard under a modern glazed atrium.
The Puffing Billy – The Puffing Billy is located in the beautiful village of Exton on the east side of the Exe estuary. offering a dynamic, seasonal menu of locally sourced produce.
The Redwing Bar – A modern, dog-friendly restaurant and bar with an extensive gin menu and wide range of delicious eats.
Pig And Pallet – Also in Topsham, this is award-winning restaurant is a great place for meat eaters. Serving steaks, BBQ ribs, burgers, and craft beer offered in a rustic, environment.
Jack In The Green – This 30 year old gastropub in Rockbeare, Exeter has won just about every award there is. Well worth a visit.
Lympstone Manor – Possibly the best restaurant in East Devon. Owned by Michelin star chef Michael Caines. Booking well in advance is recommended.
River Exe Café – A custom built barge that floats well off-shore in the Exe Estuary. Usually opens from 1st April until the 30th September. Great food in a different and special setting – worth a visit. Needs booking, as does the water taxi which they will book for you.
Mickeys Beach Bar & Restaurant – Part of the Michael Caines Collection, this beach bar is in Exmouth and serves superb food in a superb venue.
There are a host of supermarkets in Sidmouth including Waitrose, Tesco Express, Spar, Lidl and Co-op so whether you need a quick top up or a full shop, one of these will do nicely.
For an incredible range of fresh fish visit Greendale Farm Shop where there is an amazing wet fish shop, a superb butchers and other food fayre as well as a very pleasant restaurant.
The Cheeseboard in Sidmouth town is a must-go if you’re a fan of independent shops and fresh produce. Delicious products including meats, groceries and of course cheese.
The Market Fish Stall in the square in the town centre by Fields department store.
Alternatively, there is another fish shop located at the far end of the sea front as you face the sea called Sidmouth Trawlers.
Darts Farm in Topsham’s food hall is an Aladdin’s cave filled with hundreds of local and artisan suppliers. Here you’ll find the finest West Country produce along with a cheesemonger, deli, butcher and restaurant
There are plenty of shops in Sidmouth but if you fancy browsing further afield:
Exeter city centre (about 30 minutes drive). A beautiful city whose main shopping skirts the cathedral. Lots of choice from big brands on its high street to indie shops down Gandy Street.
Topsham (about 30 minutes) Narrow streets and quaint architecture, Topsham is a favourite destination for those who love shopping independent and local. A good selection or delis, boutiques and galleries.
Totnes (about an hour’s drive) This historic town lies on the River Dart and has numerous lovely boutiques and independent shops to peruse. The Cider Press Centre at Dartington is a must-visit when you’re in the area.
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