- Want to know how to get to Torquay and then get around? Start here!
- Summer or winter? Here’s guidance on the best times to visit
- A little Torquay history
- Fun things to see and do in Torquay
- Days out from Torquay
- Best kept secrets in Torquay
- Where and what to eat in Torquay
- Best place for a Devon cream tea
- Bars and night spots in Torquay
- Celebrate cultural events and festivals Torbay-style!
- Best beaches in and around Torquay
- Make a splash with Torquay watersports
- Cool things to do with kids so they’ll never be bored!
- Must-photograph spots in Torquay
Torquay: Getting there and getting around
Torquay may be a long way from everywhere, but it’s easy to reach by plane, train, bus, coach and car. Exeter Airport is a 40-minute taxi ride away. If you prefer to arrive by train, Torquay’s main railway station is less than three hours from London Paddington.
By road, take the M5 to Exeter and continue on the A380 for the final 20 miles. For those on a budget, Torquay is well served by several coach companies including Stagecoach and National Express.
Once you’ve arrived in Torquay you can easily get around on foot, taxi / Uber or bus. You only need a car if you want to explore coastal villages and quiet coves further afield, or to visit Dartmoor.
Best time to visit
Torquay has its own sheltered microclimate with some of the longest days of sunlight in the UK. It enjoys a long summer season with warm temperatures from May to late September.
Like most of the UK, Torquay has rainfall year-round. The driest and warmest month is July (average max. 19.2ºC / 59mm rain) and the wettest months are October through January.
For outdoor activities and beach days, July and August are the best months to visit Torquay, but with school holidays in full swing, they are also the busiest by far.
The shoulder months in late spring and early autumn are a great time to enjoy exploring South Devon, especially if you enjoy walking and visiting cultural attractions. Torquay hosts several local festivals and events to fill your days in all seasons.
A little Torquay history
Torquay history dates back to the Stone Age, as the award-winning Kent’s Cavern attraction reveals. As well as stalactites and geological formations, archaeologists discovered simple hand tools. They also uncovered the oldest human fossil ever found in the UK, suggesting people lived in "Torre Quay" over 40,000 years ago.
Fast forward a few millennia to 1196 when Torre Abbey was founded. By the 19th century, thanks in part to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railway, Torquay was already attracting visitors. It became a sought-after convalescent spa retreat and a place to escape from harsh winter weather further north. Many wealthy families built Italianate mansions as holiday homes in the area.
Torquay attracted many writers and literary figures including poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Thriller novelist Agatha Christie was born in Torquay and later built a home (NT Greenway) on the nearby Dart Estuary.
By 1887, the population had reached over 24,000 and the seafront was buzzing. As the town expanded, it incorporated other small hamlets and communities nearby including Upton, Ellacombe and St Marychurch. In the early 1900s, Chelston, Livermead and Cockington (now a country park attraction), were annexed by the town.
During both world wars, Torquay hosted troops and evacuees. It escaped with minor bomb damage compared to neighbouring Plymouth with its naval port. After training in the area, over 23,000 American troops departed Torquay for Utah Beach as part of the D-Day Landings. One little-known fact is that Torquay hosted the water-sports events for the 1948 Summer Olympics.
Unlike many other Victorian resorts that went into a state of decline, Torquay remained a popular seaside resort. Development continued, adding Fleet Walk Shopping Centre in the 1980s and major investment in the harbour and marina. It remains a thriving town of over 65,000 permanent residents while attracting families, couples and retirees to visit and enjoy its beautiful beaches and attractions.
Fun things to see and do in Torquay
History, art and literature feature in these unique Torquay attractions…
Prehistoric Kent’s Cavern is an outstanding attraction east of the town. The sprawling cave complex has traces of habitation dating back over 40,000 years. Guided tours provide insight into how the caverns were formed and show some of the stalactites and unique geological formations. See ancient inscriptions and hand tools discovered by archaeologists in 1927. Back in daylight, follow the Woodland Trail in the footsteps of Ice Age beasts – you’ll be surprised what’s lurking around each corner!
Established as a religious community in 1196, Torre Abbey is now a museum of history and art within an Ancient Scheduled Monument. Explore the 19th century art collections and interactive displays in the 800 Years Exhibition before enjoying the 18-acre Torre Abbey Gardens in the heart of Torquay. Check out the Garden of Potent Plants, Palm House and Cafe.
Visit many of the highlights of Torquay along the Agatha Christie Mile. Follow in the footsteps of this local author with 12 stopping points along the way. Start at the Grand Hotel where she spent her honeymoon with first husband Archie, in 1914. Visit places she frequented (roller skating on Princess Pier, Pavilion Theatre, Beacon Cove and the Royal Torbay Yacht Club) along with Princess Gardens and the Imperial Hotel which were used in many of her novels. End at the Torquay Museum which has a gallery of props including Poirot’s walking stick and Miss Marple’s outfits.
Babbacombe Model Village has been delighting generations of visitors with its miniature houses, British landmarks and 13,000 figures. It’s a time capsule of Britain in the 1960s, when this Babbacombe attraction first opened. The gardens are lovely and if you’re visiting after dark, the illuminations and fairy lights are enchanting!
Mentioned in the Domesday Book, Cockington Country Park turns back time to rural village life circa the 1800s. Set in 460 acres of parkland around the Grade II listed Cockington Court manor house (now a wedding venue) there’s a host of activities. Explore the chocolate-box-pretty village with its thatched cottages and gift shops, explore the Sculpture Garden, peek inside the 11th century country chapel, take a horse-drawn carriage ride and browse the craft studios in the former stable-yard. See glass blowers and blacksmiths at the forge in this authentic setting and enjoy refreshments at the tea rooms or dine at the idyllic Drum Inn and beer garden.
Days out from Torquay…
There are so many great places to visit just a short drive from Torquay!
Splashdown Quay West is the UK’s largest totally outdoor waterpark. Right next to Goodrington Beach, Paignton, it offers many slides, flumes and chutes that you can ride on tyres or mats. The Screamer and Wild Kamikaze give a taster of what’s instore on eight adrenaline-pumping rides. Plunge 20 metes down a near-vertical Devil’s Drop into a black hole if you dare! There’s also a swimming area, sun terrace, arcade, submarine play zone and Toddler Splash Pool.
Dartmoor National Park is the place to enjoy hikes and fresh air in the company of shaggy sheep, wild ponies and soaring birds of prey. See clapper bridges, babbling streams, remote villages and craggy rock formations in this wild landscape. Visit during one of the festivals for a closer insight into life in this scenic national park.
Paignton Zoo is one of the most fun days out, just four miles from Torquay. It provides a natural setting for over 2,500 animals in the 80-acre park. With an emphasis on conservation, it has a successful breeding programme for rare breeds. From lions and monkeys to giraffes and Komodo Dragons, it covers a huge spectrum of wildlife. Check out the latest arrivals – cute dik-diks from the antelope family.
Best kept secrets in Torquay
You need a local to help you find some of Torquay’s best kept secrets. Check out these…
One of the easiest (and most overlooked) ways to get around Torquay is via the Land Train. It completes a circular route in 40 minutes connecting the Strand and Seafront with Torre Abbey. It includes an informative audio commentary. Hop on and off as you wish.
Visit Tessier Gardens, a hidden park with a pond and fragrant sensory garden. It’s free to visit, just off Lindridge Road in St Marychurch.
Another local secret is the Western Lady ferry which has been connecting Torquay’s Harbour Bridge (North Quay) with Brixham since the 1940s. It’s a great way to avoid parking hassle and climbing steep hills that visits to Brixham generally entail.
Spend a spa day at the luxury Imperial Hotel as a non-resident. Make use of the indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room as part of a Mini Spa Retreat which includes robes, a treatment of your choice and a two-course lunch!
The Gin Nest on Woodland Road offers gin-making classes at Torquay’s premier distillery. Learn to design and make your own craft gin in an authentic copper still. Hear about the different methods and botanicals used and take home a 500ml bottle of your own hand-crafted gin.
Eating and drinking
Torquay boasts some of the best restaurants and cafes in the UK, thanks to the outstanding local produce that’s locally available from land and sea. From big-chain eateries and fine restaurants to independent cafes and hidden gems, we’ve picked out our favourites…
Casual dining and takeaways
If you’re renting a holiday cottage or chic apartment in Torquay, you might enjoy informal dining or a take-away. From Indian curries to fish and chips, we’ve a few suggestions to tempt you.
Small World Tapas
Small World Tapas brings flavoursome Mediterranean small plates to Abbey Road, Torquay. Order up a selection of tapas to share, then sit back and enjoy with a glass of local beer or wine. Flavours of fresh seafood, juicy jumbo prawns, melt-in-the-mouth octopus and peppery chorizo will momentarily transport you to the Spanish Costas! Since opening in 2017, Small World Tapas has netted Trip Advisor #1 in Torquay for three consecutive years and Top 5 Best Restaurants in Devon award twice.
If you want the best fish and chips in Torbay, head to Hanbury’s in Princes Street, Babbacombe. People travel for miles to dine at this award-winning chippie which does a lot more besides serving mega portions of the best fish and chips. The licensed premises serve their own recipe Hanbury’s Amber Ale & Hanbury’s Craft Lager and a selection of beers, lagers and wine. They pride themselves on serving perfectly cooked sustainable fish including gluten free options on Fridays and Saturdays (just ask). Order online and pickup, or sit in the restaurant and enjoy the ambience.
There’s ample parking nearby, a waiting area with TV and they even provide newspapers to read (not to wrap your fish in!). Not cheap, but you get what you pay for!
If you fancy a pizza night (or calzone, lasagne, pasta and more), Avanti has a reputation for large portions of hot and tasty Italian staples. Create your own pizza or choose one of their tried and tested combos. They also do burgers, kebabs and soft drinks.
Recommended restaurants in Torquay
Torquay has attracted many renowned and up-and-coming chefs to the area, either working in luxury hotels or starting their own restaurant. Abbey Sands Torquay is getting quite a reputation as a foodie venue with several topnotch restaurants such as On the Rocks sharing this wonderful coastal location.
The Orange Tree Restaurant
Ask any local for recommendations, and they will all mention the Orange Tree Restaurant on Park Hill Road. Serving Mediterranean inspired cuisine with vegan and vegetarian options, discerning diners will appreciate the elegant surroundings lit by candlelight. Owner Vittorio Melis keeps a close eye on his team of chefs ensuring every meal is cooked to perfection and served with panache. Check out the local options such as Pan-Seared John Dorey with Saffron and Pea Risotto and Squid Ink Tuile or the flavoursome Loin of Westcountry Lamb with Rosemary Jus.
On The Rocks
Hand-built seats, fine food and wonderful sea views are all on the menu at the innovative On The Rocks Restaurant on Abbey Crescent. The chef is obsessive about sourcing the best local produce (even personally visiting the farms, fisheries and breweries in the area). Great for Sunday lunches (book ahead) they take you from Nibbles and Starters to Mains and Sharing Platters before tempting you with decadent desserts. There’s a strong emphasis on seafood with Devon Crab Crumpets and Seafood Paella making full use of the day’s local catch. Try the Whole Roasted Brixham Fish (1kg to share) with a choice of sauces and sides to die for. It’s a nice change from a Chateaubriand Steak for two (but they do that too!).
Address: 1 Abbey Crescent, Torquay, TQ2 5HB
Open: April to October: Monday to Sunday 12:00 until 24:00 – November to March: Monday to Thursday 17:00 until 23:00, Friday & Saturday 12:00 until 24:00, Sunday 12:00 until 18:00
Book a table at On The Rocks
The Waddling Duck Bistro
Located close to Kent’s Cavern, the Waddling Duck Bistro on Ilsham Road is the place for local cuisine including vegan options. This friendly restaurant focuses on local produce such as wild Devon venison, rare breed pork, free range chicken (and eggs!) and beef and lamb from Exmoor. Their burgers and sausages are made using family recipes showing that even humble fare can be big on taste. Try the Courgette and Leek Soup with Goats Cheese Croutons followed by Venison Loin, brought to life with West Country Stilton Sauce. Delivering an outstanding epicurean experience, prices are surprisingly reasonable.
Address: 35 Ilsham Road, Wellswood, Torquay, TQ1 2JG
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 18:00 until 22:00
Call 01803 203778 to book a table at The Waddling Duck Bistro
Richie South is one of the most popular authentic Indian restaurants in Torquay. Loyal customers wax lyrical about the excellent service and home-cooked dishes that are made to order from fresh ingredients. Located on Braddons Hill Road, this is the place to find satisfyingly good South Indian cuisine including Tikka Marsala (the secret’s in the marinade, apparently), creamy Prawn Dosa or Korma Curries. Try the Tamil Nadu Special or some of the delicious starters such as Onion Bhajis and Samosas while you wait.
Top places for breakfast & brunch in Torquay
You’re on holiday in Torquay, so what better than a late breakfast or leisurely brunch with great views? Here are a few places worth getting out of bed for!
Green Leaf Cafe
Located on Union Street in the heart of Torquay’s shopping district, the Green Leaf Cafe is a top spot for brunch and lunch to eat in or take away. This friendly family-run business serves Fairtrade coffee, "proper" loose leaf tea, herbal tea and soft drinks accompanied by a range of delicious cakes. They do sandwiches, wraps and salads, but breakfast is their forte. Try the fresh muffins topped with sausage, egg and cheese and you’ll be good till nighttime.
Address: 22b Union Street, Torquay, TQ2 5PW
Open: Monday to Friday 10:00 until 14:15, Saturday 09:00 until 12:00
Meadfoot Beach Cafe
If you’re spending the day on Meadfoot Beach, skip cereal and enjoy having breakfast freshly cooked for you as a treat. Relax at a table on the terrace with restful sea views before the crowds arrive. Tuck into a full English (the aroma will overwhelm any hesitancy!) or try the mouthwatering bacon baps crammed with tasty filling. It’s said to be the best breakfast in town, but there’s some stiff competition!
Address: Meadfoot Sea Road, Torquay, TQ1 2LQ
Open: Monday to Sunday 09:00 until 17:30
Calypso Coffee Company
Located on Fleet Street, this contemporary coffee shop serves amazing fare including some less traditional breakfast goodies. If you fancy a warm croissant to dunk in your coffee, this is the place to find it. Their pro baristas serve a full range of speciality coffee to accompany your cooked breakfast, morning muffin or seriously good bagel.
Address: 45 Fleet Street, Torquay, TQ2 5DW
Open: Monday to Saturday 08:30 until 17:30, Sunday 09:00 until 17:00
Best place for a Devon cream tea
Fresh baked scones warm from the oven, a generous topping of thick clotted cream and lashings of strawberry conserve on top (that’s the Devon way!). These cream teas are so worth the calories!
Weavers Cottage Tea Shoppe
When in Devon, a cream tea is imperative, at least once. Located in Cockington Village, the thatched 18th century Weavers Cottage provides the perfect old-world ambience for a cream tea. Sit in the parlour or outdoors in the pretty courtyard garden. Award-winning scones are topped with thick Devon cream and a generous spoonful of fruit-filled strawberry jam. You can’t beat it!
Address: Cockington Village, Torquay, TQ2 6XA
Open: Friday 10:00 until 16:00, Saturday 10:15 until 16:00, Sunday 10:30 until 16:00
Luxury hotels are always a good pick if you want afternoon tea with great service, elegant silver coffee pots and all the bells and whistles. The Imperial Torquay is no exception. Their afternoon teas (from £22.95) include a tiered stand of freshly made sandwiches followed by a selection of traditional sweet cakes, meringues, fruit tarts, battenburg, etc. Then there’s a platter of warm fruit scones with a dish of clotted cream, individual pots of strawberry conserve and a pot of tea or coffee. It’s served in the amazing Palm Court Lounge with stunning sea views adding to the ambience. They also offer Prosecco or Champagne Afternoon Teas so you can trade a hot drink for a glass of bubbly. Now that’s civilised!
Bars and night spots
Torquay has dozens of pubs, theatres, entertainment venues and some excellent night clubs and bars, especially around Torquay Harbourside. There are four independent nightclubs in the Harbourside music complex (The Foundry, Decades, Park Lane and The Attic) which strive hard to put the region where it deserves to be on the national music scene.
Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall is Torquay’s oldest pub (since 1540) and was serving ale when Walter Raleigh was a lad. Located near the harbour on Park Lane, it’s also TripAdvisor #1 for nightlife. Original cobbled floors and low ceilings create an intimate ambience for food, drinks and socialising. If you’re looking for a pub that serves a great selection of local ales, guest beers and real cider, it’s right up your street, or should I say "Lane". It has live music Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Address: 6 Park Lane, Torquay, TQ1 2AU
Open: Monday to Sunday 12:00 until 22:00
The Foundry is the most happening nightclub in Torbay (and probably the whole of the Westcountry). Located in the Scala building on Harbourside, it’s a state-of-the-art nightclub in a multifunctional events space. It regularly hosts guest DJs and top performers and is known for its electronic and dance genres.
Hailed as Torquay’s sexiest nightclub, Park Lane is a trendy bar with four party rooms and a private roof terrace. Add an extra bit of fun to the night by booking a Mixology Masterclass. Get behind the bar and mix your own signature creations and it could be the start of a whole new career!
Address: 1 Torwood Street, Torquay, TQ1 1ED
Open: Wednesday to Friday 17:00 until 03:00, Saturday 12:00 until 03:30 & Sunday 12:00 until 19:00
Home of electrifying underground electronic music The Attic attracts some impressive headliners. This is the place for serious music enthusiasts looking to let their hair down and party the night away.
Address: 13 Torwood Street, Torquay, TQ1 1ED
Open: Friday to Saturday and 19:00 until 03:00<
This retro lounge and nightclub is Torquay’s top party destination. It does Ladies Nights for hen parties (cue buckets of glitter) as well as Cocktail Masterclasses (move over Tom Cruise). Fancy dress adds to the party atmosphere.
Address: 13 Torwood Street, Torquay, TQ1 1ED
Open: Friday 19:00 until 02:30, Saturday 19:00 until 03:00
Celebrate cultural events and festivals Torbay-style!
Torquay’s calendar is full of events, theatre productions and festivals for visitors to join in. Here’s a selection of our favourites…
English Riviera Airshow
Devon’s largest outdoor event is the English Riviera Airshow (formerly Torbay Airshow) which is hosted by Torquay and its neighbour, Paignton. Held the first weekend in June (coinciding with the Queen’s Platinum (70th) Jubilee in 2022) this aerial event includes displays by the RAF Typhoon Display Team, the Red Arrows flying in formation and the Tigers Freefall Parachute Display Team. There will also be static displays in the town with visiting and support aircraft.
English Riviera Film Festival
Hosted at various locations in Torquay, the English Riviera Film Festival is held each year in November. Join film fans to celebrate and promote film-making with talent from around the globe. This week-long programme of film-related content comprises of screening events, workshops, panels and networking opportunities, culminating in the English Riviera Film Awards including Best Film Maker.
Held at Torre Abbey, Winterfest is a giant Christmas Fair in the stunning Spanish Barn and Abbey itself. Held the last weekend of November, it’s a great place to do some Christmas shopping, sip mulled wine, admire local arts and crafts and enjoy carols and seasonal entertainment.
International Agatha Christie Festival (IACF)
Every September, Torquay is flooded with crime fiction lovers eager to visit the "crime scene" of Devon’s most famous crime writer. ICAF celebrates the life and works of Agatha Christie with plays, readings, short mystery story competitions, celebrity talks, guided tours and more.
Another popular one-day festival in September is TQSUN. Hosted on the lawn at Torre Abbey in mid-September, this family friendly event has lots going on. The Family Fun Lunch is followed by bands, kids shows and a bouncy castle village. In the evening, headline bands and top DJs host an amazing concert and lightshow from the Big Stage. Tickets required.
Best beaches in and around Torquay
Torquay is lucky enough to have several gorgeous sandy beaches and coves along this sheltered South Devon coast. Several of these Torquay beaches hold European Blue Flag status including Meadfoot, Abbey Sands, Anstey’s Cove and Maidencombe Beach.
Starting just north of Paignton Beach, there’s Livermead Sands which has a narrow strip of the reddish coloured sand that features in this area.
The next main beach is Meadfoot Beach with its sand and shingle beach, cafe and amenities. Beyond Hope’s Nose is beautiful Hope Cove and Anstey’s Cove, both accessible from the South West Coast Path. Finally, Oddicombe Beach is a lovely beach at Babbacombe, accessed by a cliff railway down the steep red cliffs.
With so many beaches to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Make a splash with Torquay watersports
Torquay has generally calm waters so although surfing’s out, there are plenty of other watersports to try out. Never been stand-up paddleboarding or windsurfing before? This is the place to take a few lessons and spend happy days honing your skills.
How about renting sea bikes (with stabilizers!) and enjoying a sea safari with Torquay Watersports? They also do exhilarating rib rides around the bay aboard the well-named high-performance Raptor.
You can hire equipment and go sea kayaking from Oddicombe Beach, or sign up for sailing lessons at the International Sailing School.
Things to do with kids in Torquay
We’ve already covered some of the main family-friendly attractions above such as Splashdown Quaywest and Paignton Zoo. Here are a few more fun places to visit…
- Visit Dinosaur World with its life-size models and fossils – it’s a giant success!
- Head to the Play Cafe which has indoor soft play areas for toddlers and older kids.
- The Boulder Bunker encourages wannabe climbers to scale climbing walls up to 4½m high. As well as a Bouldering Wall, there’s a Traversing Wall, Finger Boards and equipment. There’s no safety ropes, just a deep foam landing mat!
- Take a boat trip or Wildlife Cruise from Torquay Marina with FunFish Trips. Spot seals and dolphins or take a two hour Mackerel Fishing Trip – all equipment included.
- Waves Leisure Pool is a fun place to swim and play at the Leisure Centre on Chestnut Avenue. There’s a flume, water jets, fill ‘n spill buckets and a water wheel.
- Go Ten Pin Bowling at AMF Bowling Alley on Torwood Street. It also has an arcade, Quasar Racing Experience and more. Great for a rainy day.
- Visit Bygones Victorian Museum at Babbacombe. See replica shops including an Apothecary, General Store, Toy Shop and various period display rooms. It’s full of fascinating memorabilia from yesteryear.
- Babbacombe Model Village is delightful for little ones to see the world on their own miniature scale.
- Spend a day at Occumbe Farm, between Torquay and Paignton. Free to visit, this working farm has a 2km walking trail, a wartime bunker and vegetable gardens. Join a Cookery Class or support the attraction by enjoying lunch at the Farm Cafe.
Must-photograph spots in Torquay
No Torquay holiday is complete without a few photos and selfies to share with envious colleagues, family and friends back home. Here are a few suggestion for grabbing your camera and sharing a snap or two…
- Lover’s Ledge is a great place to catch the moment while coasteering or walking the coast path near Seal Cove.
- Thatcher Point near Marine Drive, Ilsham looks out to the green-clad Thatchers Rock just offshore. On a calm day, it’s serene.
- Take the Western Lady ferry from Torquay Harbour to Brixham. Have your camera ready to snap the approaching view of the working fishing harbour with its colourful backdrop of tiered multicoloured cottages. It’s picture paradise!
- Visit Cockington Country Park and you’ll be surrounded by photo ops. Thatched cottages with country gardens and a quaint pub are just for starters
Book a holiday cottage in Torquay and you’ll find so many things to do in all seasons in this lively coastal town. Your cottage rental could be photo-worthy too!