Sea kayaking holidays in Devon guide

Devon is a bit of a mecca for kayaking, whether you're battling the torrents of white water in a play boat on the mighty River Dart or blissfully navigating the beaches of England's very own Riviera. And, when it comes to discovering its secret bays and the birds and marine life obscured from the shore, there's no better way to see it all than by sea kayak.

Compared to open top kayaks and canoes, sea kayaks are the athletes of flat water kayaking. Long, pointed and narrow, they're built for smooth and easy paddling over long stretches of water, making them the vessel of choice for adventurous sea loving folk.

They're also unquestionably the lowest impact way to explore Devon's coastal environment. There aren't many sites listed as a UNESCO Global Geopark, and the area around Torbay is one of just four in the UK. Unique to Western Europe, it's a region of huge historic importance, where unparalleled views from the quiet of a sea kayak will unveil an almost alien world of ancient geology and watery wildlife.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Sea kayaking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

What do sea kayaking holidays in Devon entail?

All abilities welcome

Sea kayaking holidays are available to anyone who can confidently swim 50m, regardless of your boating abilities. Sea kayaks are made for stability and their shape makes them easy to paddle in a straight line, so they're suitable for complete beginners. They also make great holidays for families with older teens, with tours available for ages 16 to 18, when accompanied by an adult.

Your qualified tour leaders will provide you with coaching to develop your skills or, if you have kayaked before, you can join a more experienced group and work on improving your paddle strokes or rescue techniques. You'll need a reasonable level of fitness, as sea kayaking requires some endurance, but you're unlikely to come home any trimmer with all those deliciously tempting Devon cream teas waiting onshore.

Small group holidays

Holidays tend to last either two or five days, offering inquisitive kayakers a weekend microadventure or allowing for a longer holiday, with four days on the water and a rest day for delving into Devon's other sights. Groups are kept small, with a maximum of six participants per tour, to minimise the impact of your arrival on secluded beaches and coves not used to human activity.

You'll spend a full day out on the water, meeting in the morning to determine the most suitable locations depending on sea conditions, weather and how the group is feeling. Then you'll be kitted out in more neoprene than you've ever seen, before a safety briefing and the day's coastal exploration, pausing only to enjoy your private picnic lunch.

Accommodation & equipment

If crowds aren't your thing you're in luck. You'll be staying in quiet B&B accommodation in the rural Devon countryside, with only the sound of swallows and the clack of traditional linen looms to disturb you. Nearby villages and local markets are a source of fresh local produce that you can cook up on an evening, as well as family-owned restaurants to try after a tiring day on the sea.

On top of your kayak, you'll also be provided with all your equipment and safety gear, from helmets and buoyancy aids to dry bags and windproof jackets. You'll need to bring with you plenty of thin, quick drying layers – such as rash vests and non chaffing base layers – and some quick draining trainers, or neoprene boots if you have them.

Where to go sea kayaking in Devon

Torbay's sheltered waters are a welcoming starting place for new paddlers, as well as being one of Devon's more scenic sea kayaking spots. Here you can practice your turns as you weave in and out of otherwise inaccessible rocky coves, watching out for curious seals and Devon's short snouted and spiny seahorses. Wildlife spotting doesn't get much better than along the Dart Estuary, where kingfishers and herons can be seen among the reeds. But the more adventurous, and experienced, kayakers will be enchanted by the exposed and rugged cliffs and sea caves of the South Hams coastline.

When to go sea kayaking in Devon

Paddlers aren’t usually perturbed by a bit of precipitation, there’s always a good chance of getting wet on the water.
Fair weather paddlers are taking chances anywhere in the UK but, since it really is nicer to be out on the sea in the sun, sea kayaking tours in Devon run between April and September, when there’s a reduced chance of rain. It’s also when the weather, and the water, is warmer, rising from an average air temperature of 12°C in April to 20°C by July. The sea tends to be flatter too.

July and August are obviously busiest, when the crowds descend on Devon's coasts – but what do you care? You’ll be out on the ocean, while onlookers watch in envy from the water's edge. But it's worth bearing in mind when booking a longer holiday and spending a day sightseeing.

You may want to time your weekend, or week, for when local wildlife watching is at its best. With a bit of luck, some seaside inhabitants can be spotted all year round, such as dolphins, porpoise, seals and basking sharks. Spring and summer are the busiest time for seabirds, when large colonies of guillemots, cormorants and kittiwake congregate, September means magnificent swallow murmurations and even humpbacked whales have summered along this coast.

“Obviously a sea kayaking holiday is very weather and wind dependent. Be prepared to be flexible with routes and lengths of trips and just enjoy the experience.” – Andy Miller on a sea kayaking holiday in Devon
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: reijotelaranta] [Intro: Nilfanion] [All abilities welcome: KajakFreak] [When to go: Robert Bye]