North Sands to Salcombe to South Sands and back (with a little help from the sea tractor and a passenger boat)

A walk with children in Salcombe. This is the second in our little legs series. When searching for walks in South Devon there is the pull of the South West Coast Path and Dartmoor, but with smaller people in tow we have identified some that are a little less strenuous, yet intrepid in the eyes of a preschooler.

North Sands beach

We love this walk. The views are fantastic and there are plenty of places to stop on the way (whether you’re after toilets, ice creams, original local artwork or luxury wellies!). The total distance to walk is around 1.5 miles. There are a couple of steep hills but the views are worth it.

As well as sailing, Salcombe is usually more closely associated with “seeing and being seen”. Most visits involve pottering about interesting shops and galleries and soaking up the sunshine in an alfresco café overlooking the water with a glass (or bottle) of something cold. However such days can seem like a distant memory when you have small children in tow. This walk is a good way of combining a mooch along the boutiques with tiring out little legs (and a bit of an adventure thrown in).

Let’s start with the admin:

Parking in Salcombe can be tough. We recommend starting the walk at North Sands where there is a car park (the car park is typically quieter at high tide (as the beach disappears) so that might be a good time to plan your walk – it only has 80 spaces so don’t expect to find one at lunchtime in August). Arriving around 10am or before in summertime will help a lot (but tie that in with the tide if you can).

Pitt Farm Holiday Cottages is just under 10 miles / 20 minutes from Salcombe.

Check you have some change for the car park (sat nav TQ8 8LD) – we took a 3 hour stay which was plenty for the walk, an ice cream, the boat trip and a splash on the beach but if you plan to stop for lunch you might want longer. The car park is also on the Myringgo App. There are some public toilets just up from North Sands beach and the famous Winking Prawn Café is located right next to it.

We have done this walk with a pushchair and it was easy enough – there are a couple of narrow pavements in Salcombe to navigate and as mentioned the walk does involve a couple of steep hills.

The Kingsbridge Estuary

An alternative option is to use the Salcombe Car Park at the top of Bonfire Hill (known locally as the Park & Ride – but there’s currently no bus) and walking down into the town. It’s a steep hill and will add about 10/15 minutes to your walk each way. Your walk will then start and finish from the centre of Salcombe; walking from Salcombe to North Sands, perhaps stopping for an ice cream or lunch along the way before continuing on to South Sands where you can pick up the ferry back to the centre of Salcombe.

Along Cliff Road

The walk itself…

From North Sands Beach head along Cliff Road which sticks tight to the coast and offers amazing views. The road is used by cars (but not many as it’s not very wide). There is a pavement initially but then the walkers share the road with cars so as long as everyone walks sensibly its fine. The steep initial few hundred yards give way to a gentler incline and the views to the right are breath-taking. You will see hundreds of little boats and the small beaches of Sunny Cove and Mill Bay beyond.

To the left are some fairly impressive properties with beautiful gardens with exotic tropical plants cascading towards the sea. One even has a little bridge forming an arch over the top of the road and down to the sea. These houses will sometimes put on “open gardens” offering cream teas.

The view of Mill Bay

Cliff Road continues for about a mile before you fork right (still Cliff Road but you go beyond a junction) and then down the hill (through the No Entry sign) into Salcombe. Here, Cliff Road becomes Fore Street, once you’re beyond the War Memorial. This is your moment to window shop (or actually shop if you’re feeling brave with children in tow). Fore Street has plenty of shops serving the thousands of visitors that visit each year for sophisticated sun, sea and sailing.

Things to do in Salcombe

Conscious of being mid-walk we opted for pasties from the Bake House and a new fridge magnet each for the children, and agreed that visits to the Distillery for Salcombe Gin, The Fortescue Inn for crab sandwiches and Jack Wills (Fore Street is the home of the Jack Wills brand) were for another time. After a quick visit to the lifeboat museum (20 minutes was enough time for our smallest companions to get dressed up in full life-saving gear) we headed to the South Sands Ferry stop on the quay (this is to the back of the Whitestrand Car Park).

The Ferry Terminal in Salcombe

The boat ride back to South Sands

The South Sands Ferry gives you a trip back along the coast to South Sands. The schedule and current pricing is published on their website (prices were £4.50 for adults and £3.50 for children when we made the journey). When we say the ferry takes you back to South Sands; that’s not quite true. It actually takes you to within a few hundred metres of South Sands, and the last bit of the journey has to be by Sea Tractor. The Sea Tractor will collect you from the ferry and drive you back to shore – in this case the sandy beach of South Sands. South Sands is a relatively small beach – no doubt your little people will wish to explore. You can do a bit of exploring here or head back to North Sands (where you started) – which should take no more than around 10 minutes.

Fun on the Sea Tractor at South Sands

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