Exmouth: The perfect place for year-round watersports

Immerse yourself in this guide to east Devon’s wild, water-based fun.

Exmouth is the perfect place for year-round watersports

Photo: Shutterstock


With 2 miles of sandy coast, Exmouth provides ample opportunities for water play.  There’s sailing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, paddlesports, jet skiing, rowing, swimming and diving to name a few. It’s therefore no surprise that this aquatic playground has produced a number of world champions and Olympic medallists including Joe Glanfield, Ben Rhodes, Stevie Morrison and three-times World Kitesurfing Champion Steph Bridge.

Kitesurfing and surfing are particularly good here in winter. Swimming and beach activities on Exmouth and Sandy Bay beaches are fantastic in summer, all under the watchful eye of RNLI lifeguards. 

Surfing in Exmouth

Photo: Shutterstock

Amblers stroll the promenade lined with shops, restaurants and pubs. Ramblers walk with dinosaurs along the coastal path marvelling at the 250M-year-old cliffs – Exmouth is a gateway to the UNESCO Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site, known as the Jurassic Coast. Orcombe Point with its distinct Geoneedle has spectacular views.

If you’re walking with dogs though, keep them on a leash. ‘Cliff edges are hidden by hedges – dogs run through and fall over the cliff – to be rescued by the Exmouth crew,’ says Kevin Riley MBE, Exmouth Lifeboat Operations Manager.

With its annual arts and music festival and Illuminated Carnival in autumn, Exmouth is lively year-round and a superb winter destination. ‘The Christmas Day Swim is great fun,’ enthuses Senior Lifeguard Conor Trapnell. ‘The whole town lines up on the beach in swimwear; the buzzer sounds; everyone charges into the sea – it’s freezing!’

However, for those who prefer dressing up, celebrate New Year in riotous fancy dress watching the firework display.

Get more ideas at exmouth-guide.co.uk

Top tip

Before putting your watersports kit or boat away for the winter, check all the equipment and winterise: then if you need any new kit you can put it on your birthday or Christmas list!

Two people racing personal watercraft

Photo: Shutterstock

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve sits on a sandspit facing Exmouth town and has lakes, grassland and ancient sand dunes stained pink from the underlying sandstone. This 500-acre site is a haven for plants and wildlife – especially in winter, with curlews, cormorants, little auks, oystercatchers. Ask for the latest sightings at the Visitor Centre.

The Blue Flag beach here is a family favourite from which the sea wall runs to the park and brook at Dawlish – a magical place where you’ll find black swans and which, at night, is lit by hundreds of fairy lights.

Find out more at dawlishwarren.info and dawlishwarren.co.uk.

Exe Estuary and River Exe

Exmouth’s 200-berth sheltered marina at the mouth of the River Exe allows access to fantastic sailing on the Exe Estuary year-round. For berthing, contact the Harbour Master on channel 14. There is a long-standing tradition of leisure sailing here with sailing clubs at Exmouth, Lympstone and Starcross – the latter reputed to be one of the oldest in the British Isles.

The flat waters of the 8-mile long estuary are ideal for learning to kitesurf, windsurf and paddleboard. Tuition is available in Exmouth and at Orcombe. If you want to hire equipment or charter a boat for fishing, diving, boating, canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing and wakeboarding, head to Exmouth. Or relax and let someone else do the work: ferry services and cruises operate around the estuary. 

Exmouth Harbour

Photo: RNLI/Mike Powell

Enjoy stunning scenery and wildlife with the experts – between September and March the RSPB runs bird-spotting cruises from along the Exe Estuary. Every winter, over 40,000 birds flock to the estuary from as far afield as Siberia and Greenland. Keep an eye out for grey seals. 

Ashore, hike or bike along the stunning Exe Estuary Trail to Exeter stopping off at the picturesque village of Lympstone where riverside houses back directly on to the shore. The passageways between homes have metal floodgates that homeowners close in high tides. 

And for a lavish slice of history visit 14th century Powderham Castle. Set in a beautiful deer park, this fairytale castle hosts a variety of events including music concerts, deer rut safaris and Hallowe’en fun.

Staying safe

One rescue by Exmouth lifeboat was to a man in an inflatable boat. His wife on shore waited 2 hours before calling for help, by which time he was 9 miles out!

Many people are reluctant to call for help at sea, but the crew say:

  • Never be embarrassed about calling for help.
  • Don’t wait. Call immediately. Water reduces body heat 26 times faster than air – hands will cease to function quickly.
  • Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

For more tips on enjoying the water safely, check out our activity pages.