How long is the Dartmouth River cruise? Facts, Prices and Guide




dartmouth pontoon looking towards Kingswear

The river Dart is one of the most scenic river boat trips you can take, it is on the most beautiful estuaries in Europe. The main circular cruise between the Greenway Estate home of Agatha Christie and Dartmouth takes about an hour. You can board at Dartmouth or Greenway. There are lots of other options for visitors, choosing and understanding what is on offer is a bit confusing if you do not know the area. I took a visit to find out for myself and have delved into the details, to help you plan your perfect trip.

Perfect Day Out on the River Dart

It was late summer, the trees were still green and the sky was a perfect blue. I felt like the experience was just the most perfect of days.

Whilst I have lived in Devon for nearly 20 years I had never taken this river cruise, my first thought whilst cruising down this most picturesque of rivers was, why hadn’t we done this before? I can’t answer that and I am not a fan of the Dart and will return as much as possible.

River Dart, towards Dartmouth
River Dart, sailing towards Dartmouth

Travelling and Parking | River Dart Cruise

If you are travelling from Exeter by car my advice is to go via Totnes, sat-navs have a nasty habit of choosing the shortest duration which isn’t necessarily the best. Devon has some pretty narrow lanes which can make the journey difficult, so always check the routing suggested.

If you do travel to Dartmouth by car, allow plenty of time for parking as the town has limited parking options especially if you are looking to stay for more than two hours. There is a long term car park in the centre of the town, close to the riverfront, but demand is high at weekends and high season. We struggled to get parking on a Sunday in September. The Park and Ride service that is operated by South Hams District Council is recommended.

Paignton to Dartmouth by Steam Train

For travel with a but extra adventure why not take the steam train from Paignton to Kingswear, then the short ferry journey across the Dart to Dartmouth. The cost is £18.90 for an adult return which includes the foot passenger ferry crossing to Dartmouth. See here for further information.

Kingswear and Paignton are on the opposite side of the Estuary to that of Dartmouth. Once in Dartmouth you can have lunch, or a short break, then take one of the various riverboat cruises up the Dart, returning later to Kingswear to catch the return steam train back to Paignton. The crossing between Kingswear and Dartmouth only takes five minutes, but allow thirty minutes for connections.

You can see the steam train chugging its way back to Paignton from Kingswear.

What to See on The River Dart

Most of the boat operators sail between Dartmouth and further upstream to Greenway / Dittisham. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic cruise options also included travel further upstream still to Totnes another pretty town on the river Dart.

Along the river, you will see a lush forest line, with landmarks such as the Greenway Estate, and Sir Walter Raleigh’s boathouse. Closer to Dartmouth you can see the landmark Britannia Royal Naval College, which was built in 1905.

For nature watchers, you can see herons, little egrets, and cormorants. If lucky you might catch kingfishers catching small fish on the estuary banks. Dolphins and basking sharks are regularly spotted in the Dart’s waters the ferry operators are accustomed to navigating around these visitors and will be sure to point them out if you are lucky to cross their path.

Greenway is where you will find the house of the famous author ‘Agatha Christie.’ This National Trust house is a must for those who are fans of the author. If you do disembark at Greenway the main attraction is the house and it’s gardens, to access the house you will need to pay the National Trust entrance fee. Opposite Greenway on the other side of the estuary is the picturesque town of Dittisham.

Budget River Dart River Cruise

There are several cruise providers on the river front competing for your trade which makes the options a little confusing. Not only that but each ticket booth looks quite similar to the other.

One such operator, Greenway & Dittisham Ferry River Boat Cruises (look for the ‘G F’ Logo) for an amazing cost of £5 will give you an hour long cruise between Greenway / Dittisham and Dartmouth. Most people embark at Dartmouth and take the boat up to Greenway and return. You will not be permitted to get off at Greenway on this value ticket but you will get to enjoy the river for a bargain price.

If you wish you can board at the other end either Dittisham or Greenway this is an option. This cruise route is covered by the Christie Bell which is a smaller boat and has an upper and small lower deck as well as covered seating for times of poor weather.

The G&F ferry can be booked online, or on the day, report to the ticket booth 15 minutes before sailing times. This booth (pictured below) is situated alongside the inner harbour area, in front of Boot’s chemist.

Cruise the Dart on a Paddle Steamer Boat

The Dartmouth Rail River operator operates two boats one of which is the paddle boat steamer Kingswear Castle on most routes. Please check at point of sale or by calling the operator in advance to confirm the boat on your chosen date/time. Days Out Advisors from the operator can be contacted on 0044 (0) 1803 555872. Adult return between Dartmouth and Greenway is £8.50, this service does not visit Dittisham. For wheelchair access a ramp is available, please call ahead for confirmation.

Steam Train and Cruise Along the River Dart

For an extra treat, you can take a steam train from Paignton to Dartmouth then cruise along the Dart. This combined steam and river experience is offered by the Dartmouth Rail River company and a return adult ticket is £27. Go here for information.

This operator also offers a number of other events such as the extremely popular ‘Santa Express’ that can be combined with a river cruise, as well as an opportunity to book a visit to the footplate a must for those rail enthusiasts.

(All events and costs are subject to change, please phone ahead and check the latest details with the operators. Covid-19 and the need to social distance may impact sailings.)

Where to Eat in Dartmouth Whilst taking the River Cruise

There is a good choice of dining and food take away options in Dartmouth is well known for good quality restaurants and food outlets.

For fine dining by the river the Dart Marina Hotel is open to non-residents. This luxury hotel has a prime riverside location and is within walking distance to the main Dartmouth attractions and boat departure point. The menu prides itself on sourcing the best local ingredients from local farms and waters.

Something less formal but certainly excellent then why not visit Saveurs a small French patisserie and cafe, they offer delicious cakes and bread as well as light lunches.

If you are looking for a pic-nic take out there is a small sandwich bar called the Crab Shell often has a queue of people outside waiting patiently for sandwiches. Locals consider these crab sandwiches the best for miles!

Walking around Dartmouth you will see a good choice for food, many of the buildings are hundreds of years old and are brimming with history. Nothing is too far and if you like old historical towns this has enough historical curiosities to keep you reading those blue plaques.

Monument marks where the Mayflower and Speedwell were moored before their departure to America

Historical Tour of Dartmouth, 400th Mayflower Year Heritage Trail

If you are looking to complete your day in Dartmouth with a guided walk consider the Heritage Trail. There are three historical walks to choose from, all of which are mapped carefully on a map which you can access free of charge here, or indeed if you choose you can download an app for your phone from here.

Please note I do try to keep this site up to date, but as things change often, it is recommended that before travelling any distance you do your own checks.

If you wish to feedback on the site content please get in touch.

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