How to Holiday in Devon Without a Car | Car Free Options




east devon beach

Looking for a car free holiday in Devon? No problem. Trains have been bringing tourists to Devon since the mid 1800s, tourism was built on public transport. Many of our fantastic resorts have direct rail network access, allowing you to be in the beach in a few hours from London or Birmingham. No holiday traffic hold-ups here. If you are looking for a traditional seaside holiday with a good variety of options then South Devon wins easily. For those who are looking for different scenery, mid and north Devon are not forgotten and also included in this guide.

Looking for a holiday in Devon without a car?  As a local, I can give you the detail on how to get here, where you can go, accommodation, days out and activities, all without a car. I will also give you tips on how to save money as you go. 

I have covered all modes of transport from coach holidays, local bus services, and even open top touring buses, as well advice on how to save money or find the easiest route.

How Easy is Public Transport in Devon?

Public transport in Devon is generally adequate in our built up towns and cities, it is only when you need to get to our quieter rural areas that public transport gets trickier. There are buses to many outlying towns and villages, however, they are less frequent so more careful analysis of the timetable is needed. A hire car or taxi in these instances will give you more flexibility.

South Devon is crammed in particular with attractions and you do not need to wander too far if you do not wish to. You can also get to some beautiful mid Devon villages on the train using the Traka line, and there is also a train route into Dartmoor.

TIP: The hop 122 bus is an ideal way to explore Torbay linking all the main attractions. What is even better its an open top bus. Perfect way to get an overview of the area.

Dawlish Warren & Dawlish Brunel Holiday ParkTrainspotters, (you could stay in a train carriage!) nature lovers, special interest for bird watchers, blue flag beach, golden sands, golf course. Dawlish Warren has an amusement arcade, fun fair and facilities then further along the boardwalk you leave the crowds and find yourself in a nature reserve.
OkehamptonYouth Hostel / YHA OkehamptonBest for a short family Adventure holiday, walking groups, cyclists, and lovers of Dartmoor. Organised Adventure / sports holiday. Just over 3 hours by train from London.
IfracombeOcean Backpackers HostelIf you are looking for a wilder Devon, or are interested in surfing. There is a difference between the north and south coast of Devon. If you do not know the north is just a bit ‘wilder.’ The north also feels a less developed in terms of tourism attractions overall. Ilfracombe is a picturesque historic harbour, that is directly on the South West Coastal Path. There are a lot of options catered for in this resort.
TorquayThe Belgrave Sands Hotel & SpaArrive by National Express or Train. A traditional seaside resort with a wide range of accommodation and attractions nearby. Or if you want a more laid back resort head for Babbacombe. Torquay also has a wide range of accommodation from grand luxury to smaller traditional B&Bs
TeignmouthBrunswick House
(traditional B&B on back beach)
Crab Shack Apartments
A traditional seaside resort but with a much more laid back feel than Torquay. Teignmouth has an independent atmosphere about it. Lots of independent small shops, lovely beach side play/park – good for young kids, Jazz festival once a year. Teignmouth is just a bit arty all round. There is an area called the ‘back beach’ – you will find the locals hanging out there, also look out for the ‘crab shack’ restaurant.

Helpful Information For Your Car-Free Holiday

Here is a short round-up of useful official advice and guidance to help with your car-free holiday in Devon.

  • Rome2rio is helpful if you want to view your best public transport route options. This will give you out of country travel information, eg travel from Birmingham or London to your holiday destination.
  • Install Moovit a bus and rail timetable phone app for local transport in the South West. Perfect for when you are in Devon as it will give you the detail.
  • Dartmoor Line for train connections to Dartmoor, from Exeter or Plymouth
  • Dartmoor Explorer – seasonal bus
  • Tarka Rail Line – stop off at pretty mid Devon villages & pubs on route.
  • North Devon – by train OR
  • Steam Railway to Dartmouth, you will see absolutely stunning scenery. Take a riverboat cruise.
  • Get a rail card for discounts
  • Unison member? Get discounts when staying at Croyde Bay in North Devon
  • Teignmouth Jazz Festival
  • Stuart Line Cruises do a range of all year-round cruises off the south Devon coast. The list of cruises is extensive and covers a wide range of destinations.
  • Devon as a county has some of the best cycling and walking routes. Hire a bike and try a cycle route.

Check List for Saving Money on your Devon Holiday

If you can, book your train travel three months in advance, as this is when the tickets are released and are at their lowest price. You can sign up for an alert that will let you know when the train tickets go on sale. Combine this with a family & friends rail card you can save up to a third-off the fare.

  • Sign up for a train ticket alert – get notified when the tickets go on sale. The earlier the better for cost.
  • Install the trainline app to utilise their fare finder. I found I could say a small amount off the price from the main trainline website.
  • Want to try and save more money on the rail fare look at ‘split ticketing’ options, where you receive multiple tickets for the same route of travel. You need to ensure you understand the route plan – to check if there are any restrictions. See the example below.
  • Get a Family & Friends rail card to receive a 1/3 off travel costs.
  • Get a weekly bus ticket for savings.

Train to Devon – Example of Saving on Rail Fare

In this example: family of two adults and two children travelling from ‘London’ to Dawlish. Prices checked just under 12 weeks from departure

outward Sat 13th August 2022 return 20th August 2022

  1. trainline quoted £245.75 – a group save ticket (all travel together), departing from London Paddington. Travel time 2 hours 47 mins.
  2. Add the friends and family rail card and this cost goes down to £170.39 with the e-ticket option (ticket on phone app)

Want to Save More Money on Rail Fair to Devon?

With the example above it is possible to save even more money off the rail fare. Travelling from London Euston into Devon is nearly always cheaper than departing from Paddington.

Using split ticketing I managed to get the ticket for 2 adults, 2 children with a friends and family rail card down to £132.50, a saving of £113.25 on the original £245.75 that trainline quoted without the rail card (£37.89 saving using a rail card on trainline). Look at mytrainpal for split ticketing prices and purchase.

Split ticketing does not always increase the travel journey, often there is no noticeable difference other than the use of more than one ticket. It is worth checking out the options and deciding what is suitable.

What’s the snag?

The ‘snag’ on this occasion is that this journey length is just over 4 hours, additionally there is a change of trains at Exeter St Davids for onward travel to Dawlish.

Holiday Via Coach – Devon

There are a number of coach operators national and local that run services to and within Devon.

Coach Services to or in Devon

Falcon Coaches – a fast route that operates 7 days a week connecting: Plymouth, Exeter, Cullompton, Wellington and Taunton with Bristol Airport.

Megabus – London to Exeter in 4 hours 52. Megabus also go to Barnstaple and Plymouth. The Exeter drop off point is the Honiton Road stop just minutes outside of the city centre, get the local park and ride bus into Exeter or arrange a taxi for onward travel.

National Express – services to Exeter, Newton Abbott, Torquay, Paignton, Totnes, Ivybridge, Plymouth, and Exeter. The Honiton Road park and ride stop is just a short drive outside of Exeter city centre. You can use the local bus or the park and ride local bus to get into Exeter centre. The Sidwell St and Cheeke street stops are in the centre of the city. Look for Sidwell Street destination in Exeter when buying your ticket if you wish to arrive in the city centre.

  • National Express has a number of discounts for coachcard holders, students who are TOTUM members can also receive a discount.

Escorted or Package Holidays in Devon

There are many reputable coach operators that operate holidays by coach, some of these also provide daily activities. I’ve just listed a few here, do check your local area for coach operators to Devon. They work out very good value when you consider the overall package and ease of transportation.

Majestic Tours provide several options for coach holidays including Torquay. Pick up points include Liverpool and Stoke on Trent.

Tallyho do a holiday package in Sidmouth – to the east of Exeter on the south coast.

Toureasy has a range of holidays across Devon, including their Tinsel and Turkey holiday in North Devon at Christmas.

Shearings offer 28 different escorted holidays throughout Devon.

Acklams Holidays which operate out of the North East, Hull, West Yorkshire region provide escorted holidays to Devon.

Leger Holidays do an escorted tour with a daily day trip included within the holiday: Coastal Exmouth, Buckland Abbey and Bicton Park Gardens.

Itinerary For Car Free Devon Holiday

To design your best holiday itinerary consider the various attractions, make a note of their post code and use the moovit app mentioned above, this clever mobile app combines rail and bus options for travel. There is also a desktop or regular website version as well.

Stagecoach the local bus operator has listed 40 attractions with postcode.

I hope this guide is of help. Please get in touch and let me know your thoughts.

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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