Car-free adventures aroundTorquayDevon

book trains

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay in 1890 and the town’s landmarks feature in her mysteries. The palm trees and art nouveau pavilion, the elegant hotels and seaside promenades all feel like something from a novel. Great Western Railway's stations on the coastal Riveria Line are all part of the retro vibe. With a balmy south-facing microclimate in the shelter of Dartmoor, the area is known as the English Riviera and tropical plants flourish in the Victorian villa gardens. Torquay is an ideal staycation town for a car-free holiday, with buses, boats, a mini-train, some fabulous walks, and two railway stations – with a great scenic ride along the coast on the way. Scroll to the end for tips on bargain train and bus tickets and handy places to stay.

  • County: Devon
  • Great for: Art Gallery | boat rides | good cafés | museums | seaside | steam railway | walking |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Please note: researched/updated November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
Grilled fish on plate - Torquay car-free adventures
  1. 3. Get the boat to piratical Brixham

    A 15-minute walk or short bus ride from Torquay train station, the Western Lady ferry service between Torquay and Brixham has been running since the 1940s. Of all the boat trips on offer from Torquay, this one is probably the best value.

    • The cream and blue boats run seasonally with more frequent trips in peak season.
    • The ferry leaves from next to the harbour bridge (North Quay) frequently or so at the busiest times (regularly in low season).
    • Coming back, boats leaves from Brixham’s New Pier. While you’re over there, you can stroll through the shops or hike the coast path.
    • Or follow the circular, two-mile Blackbeard’s Trail or the Buccaneers’ Way, with views of town, harbour and sea, both starting and ending the statue of William of Orange by the harbour. There’s an annual Pirate Festival in Brixham’s Old Fish Market, with pirate-themed stalls and costumes.
    • Brixham’s other harbour-side attraction is a full-size reconstruction of the Golden Hind.
    • For fresh seafood, in Brixham or Torquay, head to Rockfish, serving fresh caught fish and local beer. Find out what’s been landed and chose it chargrilled or battered with salad or unlimited chips.
  1. 4. Open top buses

    The bus routes on offer around Torquay are spectacular, including some with open tops to enjoy the wind in your hair and the views across the sea.

    • In particular, bus 22 (and open top 122 in summer) run north along the coast, passing Kents Cavern, to Babbacombe, where there’s a model village and cliff railway.
    • Heading the other way, they call at the Dart Valley Railway and Paignton Zoo. The cheerful yellow 122, painted with Zoo animals, runs every 20 minutes all summer, seven days a week. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
  1. 5. South West Coast Path

    This 630-mile long distance route is justly famous as one of the world’s most beautiful paths and the last in our roundup of Torquay car-free adventures. It’s also one of the more gruelling – walking the whole thing is the equivalent of climbing four Everests (in terms of ascent). But the 1½ mile section from Torquay harbour to Meadfoot Beach is a relatively easy smorgasbord of coastal delights past boats, birds and cliff-top gardens; it’s got a really great café at the end and a regular Monday to Saturday bus back.

    • Start by the Harbour on Victoria Parade and climb Beacon Hill above the Living Coasts aviary, where you can see the penguins jumping into their pools.
    • Turn right beyond the Imperial Hotel to pick up the Coast Path, which runs along Rock End Walk, an old Victorian pleasure garden. Detour right before the steps for a good view of the natural archway in the cliffs, known as London Bridge.
    • The path leads through thickets of holm oaks and past the National Coastwatch Institute‘s visitor centre. Eventually, it leads down onto Daddyhole Road (Daddy is an old Devonian name for the Devil, whose “hole” was a limestone cave below the cliffs).
    • Turn right downhill for the Meadfoot Beach café, offering fine food and spectacular views daily until 4pm (and later on Wednesday, which is pizza night). The open sandwiches – from chicken and pesto to goat’s cheese and beetroot are particularly recommended.
    • You can walk straight back a mile or so up Meadfoot Sea Road into town or catch the 64 bus (not Sunday) from Hesketh Crescent, opposite the Osbourne Hotel.
  1. Bargain buses and places to stay

    Here’s a bit more practical info if you’re planning a staycation in Torquay

    • The Devon day ranger train ticket gives you unlimited travel across the whole county.
    • If you’re taking several bus rides around Torquay and beyond there are good value Stagecoach dayrider tickets giving unlimited trips around the whole Torbay area, from Kingswear in the south right up to Dawlish Warren.
    • If the bus journeys are on the same day that you arrive by train, get a bargain PlusBus ticket for unlimited bus rides around Newton Abbot, Paignton and Torquay.
    • There are lots of places to stay in Torquay, including the Elmington Hotel, right next to the station with sea views and a swimming pool. Or, for the full Agatha Christie experience, splash out at The Grand, which is also right by the station.
  • Boat in Torquay - Torquay car-free adventures
  • Sea view in Torquay - Torquay car-free adventures
  • Grilled fish on plate - Torquay car-free adventures
  • Agatha Christie statue - Torquay car-free adventures
  • Coastal path - Torquay car-free adventures