If you're looking for a route to follow on your bike that'll take you through some of the best parts of Devon, then look no further than the Exe Estuary Trail. Looping around the Exe Estuary, cycling along this 26km long trail is a perfect way to spend a few hours of your time, and we definitely consider it to be one of the best things to do in Devon. This trail links Exmouth, Exeter, and Dawlish, and includes a number of excellent stops along the route.
We wanted to highlight this trail and what there is too see along the way, let's get into the guide:
Where is the Exe Estuary Trail?
What is there to see along the Exe Estuary Trail?
Because the trail takes you past so many towns and villages, there is the opportunity to see quite a lot if you wished. However, we wanted to highlight a few of the things which we think are the best to see along the trail. We'll also be listing them in the order that you'll see them if you start in Dawlish. Keep in mind that some of these locations and attractions might require you to leave the route briefly, which is well worth doing if you have the time! Let's take a look:
Dawlish is a great place to start on the Exe Estuary Trail, the only issue being that you might not want to leave! It's what we'd describe as a proper seaside town - golden sandy beaches, ice creams and chips. In the centre of Dawlish you'll find an area known as The Lawn, home to the famous black swans. Another great area to visit is the Dawlish Warren, a lovely nature reserve.
This waterside village is especially interesting to visit if you're a fan of trains and railways - the station which originally opened in the 19th century is lovely to see. You've also got the remains of one of Brunel's railway pumping stations here, as well as the chance to see heritage trains running along the routes. Starcross is also a great place to stop if you're looking to do some bird watching on the Exe Estuary.
You'll need to head off the trail for a couple of hours to properly see Powderham Castle, but we think it is absolutely worth it. The castle sits within an ancient deer park and is really very picturesque, and it's also one of Devon's oldest family homes. You'll also be right next to the village of Kenton, famous for its red sandstone church. Learn more here - powderham.co.uk
River Exe County Park
This park runs parallel to the bike trail and is perfect for a stroll through some interesting terrain. If you've got a picnic with you then this is a great place to stop also! Keep an eye out for the cows and the buttercups.
Ok, so this might just be a plants and flowers store, but we love it! We think it has a certain charm. Grab yourself some lovely plants for your home or garden, and if you've got your dog with you then no worries, they're dog friendly. Plus, you get a free tea or coffee as you walk around the place! Lovely.
The trail will take you right through Topsham which is an excellent place for a stop. Despite being a town, it has a real cosmopolitan feel to it, with plenty of bars and places to eat. If you want to experience a bit of culture then Topsham Museum is a nice place to visit.
RSPB Bowling Green Marsh
If there is one place you're going to visit during your trip along the Exe Estuary Trail, we'd make it the RSPB Bowling Green Marsh, especially if you're an avid bird watcher. It's an ideal area to see interesting birds up close as they have a lookout hide. Expect to see birds like waders, ducks, and geese feeding and resting, as well as more interesting birds like godwits, avocets, and wigeons.
Lympstone is another village that you'll pass right through on the trail, but despite being small there are a few great things to see here. Peter's Tower, a 19th-century clock tower, is pretty well known and easy to get to. If you fancy staying overnight in the village then you can actually book a stay in the tower which we imagine would be very cool. The harbour is also a lovely place to explore or to just sit at, watching the sea and boats.
Exmouth is a great place to finish the trail in because it is very picturesque and there is plenty to see and do. It's generally regarded as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast and has 2 miles of beach to walk along. You might even feel like jumping in the sea after all that cycling! If you've still got some energy then Exmouth is a mecca for watersports, including kayaking, windsurfing, and even kite surfing.
Things to be aware of before heading on the Exe Estuary Trail
Obviously, if you're cycling then you want to bring some water and snacks with you, and always come prepared with a first aid kit. Many of the locations we've recommended in this guide will require you to stray off the trail somewhat, so if you're going to visit them then set aside a good amount of time and book some accommodation too. If you don't have a bike, there are hire options in Dawlish. Other than that, enjoy yourself!
Hiring push and electric bikes in and around Exeter (2023 options)
If you're visiting Exeter and you want to travel along the Exe Estuary Trail, it's very doable for all levels of cyclists because the trail is under 30 miles in length and relatively flat. If you haven't brought your bike with you then Exeter is probably your best bet for hiring bikes, as many of the smaller towns and villages along the route don't have many hiring options. Previously, you could hire both manual and electric bikes from Co Bikes in Exeter, but that scheme has now ended. Here are some alternatives within Exeter and the surrounding area:
- Saddles & Paddles - starts from £24 for a full day hire of a push bike, and £50 per day for an electric bike hire, both very reasonable prices
- Forest Cycle Hire - based in Haldon Forest, you can hire push bikes for £20 for a half day, and electric bikes for £40 for 3 hours
- Darts Farm - an adult push bike is £22 per day, there are no electric bike options but you can get a tandem for £40 per day (lots of fun)
- Route 2 Bikes - this place is closer to Topsham than Exeter, but it's such a great option for electric bike hire. You can hire an electric bike for just £35 per day, but if you really want to explore the area you can hire an electric bike for 7 days which will cost you £110
- Fat Llama - many Exeter locals will hire out their push and electric bikes for visitors who want to borrow them to enjoy cycling during their stay. Fat Llama is a good website to check out, and we've seen electric bikes for hire on there for as little as £35 per day