Everything You Need To Know About Exmouth
With 3 kilometres of sandy beaches stretching along a seafront that’s drenched in sunshine (in the summer months, anyway!), Devon’s oldest beach town is ready to hit the big time again.
New beach bars sit alongside historic Victorian hotels in a destination that has an unusual mix of history, natural beauty, and fantastic food.
From hiking the red cliffs of the Jurassic Coast to picking the best pub in town, here’s everything you need to know about Exmouth.
A brief history of Exmouth
Is Exmouth really Devon’s oldest beach town? As far as we’ve discovered digging back into the records, yes it is!
Exmouth’s supposed ‘healing waters’ drew in the Georgian crowds way back in 1760, with a personal recommendation from King George III’s physician who described the town as having a climate to match the south of France.
But Exmouth’s history begins, many, many years before this. Millions of years before, in fact. Exmouth is at the start (or the end) of the Jurassic Coast, and the rocks you’ll see here started to form at least 185 million years ago.
Fast forward, and the earliest Britons likely built trading posts and ferry crossings here, while the Romans founded Exeter to the north around 55 AD. Byzantine coins dating to the 5th century AD were once found on an Exmouth beach, but the town really began to take shape in the medieval period.
By Walter Raleigh’s day (the famous Elizabethan privateer was born near here and sailed regularly from Exmouth), the harbour had expanded into a bustling port. Barbary pirates occasionally ravaged the coast, and then in the 18th century, wealthy tourists began searching out England’s best beaches when the European continent was closed due to Napolean’s endless wars.
The medical tourists of the Georgian era became Victorian sunbathers (although it was illegal for men to sunbathe right the way through the 19th century), World War II saw Exmouth bombed by the Luftwaffe and now, in 2023, revitalisation projects along the seafront are turning the town into a seriously hot ticket on the South Devon coast!
Where is Exmouth, UK?
Beautifully located on Devon’s south coast, you’ll find Exmouth (population: 34,000) where the River Exe meets the English Channel (this is literally the ‘mouth’ of the River Exe). Situated around 10 miles south of Exeter, Exmouth is well-connected by bus and train to the rest of the United Kingdom.
Exmouth’s very own train station is just a ten-minute walk from the nearest beach, and right next to the town centre. Regular train connections (every half hour or so) whisk holidaymakers from Exeter St David’s Station and Exeter Central Station to Exmouth in around 30 minutes. Direct trains link London to Exeter St David’s in around 2.5 hours, while other direct routes include Bristol, Plymouth, Penzance, and more.
Bus No.57 also connects Exmouth to Exeter’s Central Bus Station, from where you can hop on National Express Services to destinations across the United Kingdom. If you’re driving, there’s plenty of parking along Exmouth’s beaches.
Our top picks
There’s no doubt the beaches get busy in summer, but compared to more traditional beach destinations like Salcombe, Sidmouth, and Torquay, Exmouth has never had anywhere near the same hype.
That’s just perfect – because there’s more beach here for those in the know – but we’re certain things are going to change. A new watersports complex, new beach bar, kilometres of sandy beaches, and easy train connections to the rest of the UK mean that Exmouth is making a serious rebound as a beach getaway destination.
Here are our top picks to show you why we think Exmouth is the next big thing in beach towns!
Things to do in Exmouth
Explore Exmouth on a walking tour
What’s the best way to explore Exmouth, old and new? On a walking tour, of course! We moved to Exmouth during the pandemic, we fell in love with the town’s laid-back beach vibes and fascinating history, and we decided to start a Walking Tour!
We think it’s one of the best things to do in Exmouth, but why not join a tour to find out for yourself? You’ll delve into millions of years of history (185 million years, in fact), discover why Lady Nelson is buried in Exmouth and find out what the town’s link to Papua New Guinea is – and much, much more!
Hike to Orcombe Point
Red cliffs rise high above the eastern end of Exmouth Beach at Orcombe Point. On top of the cliffs, a tall pointy ‘Geoneedle’ marks the start (or end) of the Jurassic Coast. Take a hike to the top, where you can join the South West Coast Path and continue on towards Devon Cliffs Holiday Park or to the village of Budleigh Salterton.
Take a Stuart Line Cruise
Stuart Line Cruises are an Exmouth institution. They’ve been ferrying tourists and locals alike up and down the Exe Estuary, along the Jurassic Coast and on day trips to English Riviera towns like Brixham and Torquay for decades. Just remember to book your cream tea in advance.
Visit the Exmouth Museum
Have you still got burning questions about Exmouth’s history that you just need an answer to? Perhaps you just love a good museum or have an hour to kill before your train. Whatever your reasons, a visit to the Exmouth Museum is guaranteed to leave you with more knowledge than before!
Go to the beach
Okay we know, you’re really here for the beach. From the marina all the way east to Orcombe Point, you’ve got uninterrupted white sands stretching for at least 3 kilometres. Sunbathe, have a barbecue, go for a swim, rent a paddleboard or kayak – whatever you fancy! In summer, sections of the beach are watched by lifeguards, and given the fierce tides, make sure you only swim in the flagged areas.
Hire a bike
You can hire a bike from the rental hut next to Mickey’s Beach Bar, and cruise along the seafront in style. The seafront boulevard connects to the Exe Estuary Trail, meaning you could cycle all the way up to Exeter, then down to the Dawlish Warren on the other side of the estuary. Then catch the Starcross Ferry back over to Exmouth again!
Where to eat in Exmouth
We love Exmouth’s ever more delightful dining scene. From a classic fish and chip lunch by the beach to fine dining in the Strand, here are our favourite restaurants in Exmouth:
- Krispies: For award-winning fish and ‘battered chips’.
- Spoken: For tapas and Mediterranean vibes.
- Vino 32: For Malaysian-fusion food and handpicked wines.
- The Chronicle: For art-deco fine dining.
- Bumble and Bee: For the best cream tea in Exmouth.
- Sundowners: For veggie and vegan breakfast, brunch and lunch.
- Lympstone Manor: For celebrity Chef Michael Caines’ gourmet tasting menu.
Where to drink in Exmouth
From beers by the beach to alfresco cocktails in the sunshine, here are the best drinking spots in Exmouth:
- The Grapevine: For locally brewed beers (take the microbrewery tour to find out more).
- The Palm: For late-night cocktails.
- Mickey’s Beach Bar: For an Aperol Spritz or cold IPA by the beach.
- Powder Monkey: For low prices in Exmouth’s surprisingly historic Wetherspoons (join the Walking Tour to find out more!).
- The Point: For a glass of wine by the marina.
So are you ready to visit Exmouth?
There we have it! From prehistory to sunbathing Victorians, we hope we’ve inspired you to visit Exmouth. This fascinating beach town has a sunny future ahead of it, and we can’t wait to show you around on a walking tour.