A Couchsurfer’s guide to… Torbay

By: Rhiane Winter

Brixham, one of three towns in Torbay, By photo.eccles/shutterstock

Best Breakfast in town!
Brody’s Breakfast Bistro in Torquay: a brekkie heaven tucked away out of sight. All you can eat breakfast or options such as all you can eat pancakes or all you can eat toast. They have a pancake and waffle machine, full English breakfast options, a wall full of cereal, as well as all the jams, spreads and sauces you can think of. Unlimited tea, coffee, and orange juice, and they also do burgers in the evening.

1 Museum not to miss!
Torquay was the birthplace of Dame Agatha Christie, the author of dozens of detective novels and creator of Poirot and Miss Marple. She has a dedicated gallery in Torquay Museum, and her holiday home in Greenway is now a National Trust property overlooking the River Dart, which can be reached by riverboat or steam train from Paignton – a great way to arrive at a great museum!

River Dart at Totnes By jennyt/shutterstock

Best place to grab a drink!
Liberty cocktail bar in Brixham – probably the coolest thing to come to Brixham since William of Orange in 1688. Step inside and the super stylish decor will make you forget you’re in a quaint seaside town. They have almost any alcoholic or caffeinated drink you can imagine, which is rather a lot!

Where to dance!
Torquay harbour is brimming with bars and clubs, so much so that there is an ambulance stationed there on Friday and Saturday nights. While that doesn’t look favourably on our British tendency to under-think and over-drink, you’ll find many places to have a light boogie or hardcore dance sesh, with the assurance that help is never too far away if your dancing gets the better of you. Check out The Foundry and The Attic for an adventurous night out.

Torquay Harbor at sunset by Roberto La Rosa/shutterstock

A treat-yourself-meal!
For a bite of history, try the Old Market House in Brixham. They have both pub food and fine-dining options to suit everyone, set in a charming stone market house. For a real taste of haute cuisine, book a table at the Elephant in Torquay. Unfortunately, I’ve never been, but if there’s one fancy place anyone mentions, it’s the Elephant.

Best Quick Bite!
You’re in Devon. Go eat a pasty. ‘Nuff said! Here are the best of the best in each town (so you have no excuse not to try one!):
Fuller’s Pasties in Brixham
Hallet’s Bakery in Paignton
Oggy Oggy in Paignton and Torquay
The Cornish Bakery in Torquay
And a bonus… you’re in Devon. It’s Devonshire cream tea time!

A pasty on the beach By Jeanette Teare/shutterstock

Where to sweat!
Shoalstone pool in Brixham – a free outdoor seawater pool. This pool is run by volunteers and is only open during the summer months, but it’s a rare gem that’s hard to find anywhere else. I spent most of my summer holidays there with my friends, daring each other to jump off Ladybird Rock. Come by in the early morning for an invigorating swim before everyone else arrives, or take your kids there to have a splash, finishing with a picnic on the beach or lunch at the café. When the wind is strong the waves crash over the side into the pool which is quite dramatic! There are changing rooms, toilets, a café and a car park. For the winter or bad weather, check out Torbay Leisure Centre in Paignton, or the Riviera Centre in Torquay for a huge choice of sports and activities. The Riveria Centre has a wave pool and slides, so great for kids!

Best View in the City!
Name me a place with seven hills… No, not Rome, Torbay! You’re bound to be walking either uphill or downhill, and with so many uphills there are plenty of breathtaking views to be found. Head to Hope’s Nose and Thatcher Point on a clear day for a panorama of not just Torbay, but the whole of Lyme Bay too.

Thatcher Point By BerndBrueggemann/shutterstock

Cute Cafe!
The Lion’s Monocle in Paignton – perhaps a bit pricey, but definitely cute and cosy, and full of curiosities to catch your attention. Instead of setting up shop somewhere cool and hip, the owner brought something cool and hip to a town that could benefit from it. Their cakes and coffee are quite delicious. If you’re looking for somewhere a tad more affordable but still cosy and busy, head to Coffee#1 around the corner. They also have a coffee shop in Torquay and all around the South West.

Best day-trip out of town!
The town of Totnes is just a half hour bus ride away. Hop on the Stagecoach Gold double-decker – don’t let the free wi-fi tempt you, but do sit on the upper deck and admire the lush rolling hills. Totnes is a haven for anyone living an alternative lifestyle, packed full of vegan cafés, buskers, artisan artifacts, and quirky clothing. Their busy Christmas market is one of the most unique and interesting in the country. Beyond Totnes lies Dartmoor, a national park known for its tors, which are hills topped with outcrops of bedrock. It’s also the setting for the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles‘.

Totnes By Samot/shutterstock

Where to try the local cuisine!
Brixham is renowned for its fish, for good reason. It often ends up all the way in London, but you don’t have to go there to try it – just pop to the London Fryer in Paignton. You can’t come to Torbay without trying the best fish and chips in town, as rated by me, my family, friends, and everyone who queues out the door on a Friday night. I recommend booking ahead if you want to get a table in their cosy restaurant; otherwise, head down to the beach huts and have tea by the sea.

The perfect picture!
Probably any of the ample beaches that Torbay has to offer, showcasing the rich red sandstone cliffs and, well, sand! Take a look at the music video of ‘The Bay‘ by Metronomy for some inspiration.

Paignton coastline By BerndBrueggemann/shutterstock

Family Fun!
For the summer, Quaywest in Paignton is the obvious choice, a waterpark parked right next to the beach. If your little ones love pirates, make sure to plan your trip in May, when the annual Brixham Pirate Festival is held. It’s an attempt to break the world record for the number of pirates in one place! There are all sorts of events and stalls and things to do. Some people take this very seriously – one man even dresses up as Jack Sparrow and never breaks character. For the most adventurous Couchsurfing kids, and especially larger groups, check out Grenville House for some awesome outdoor experiences.

Historic Moment!
William of Orange was the last person to successfully invade Britain, and he landed at Brixham in 1688. There is a statue commemorating this historic moment and his declaration: “the liberties of England and the Protestant religion I will maintain.” Dwarfing the monument is a full-sized replica of the Golden Hind, whose captain, Sir Francis Drake, was the second person in history to circumnavigate the globe.

William of Orange by RogerMechan/shutterstock

One experience not to miss!
Torbay is home to a number of tall ships, or traditional sailboats. These ships enter races, various events and offer programmes throughout the year. You can book some of these boats, learn to sail, and turn your trip into a real voyage!

A tourists trap to avoid!
British seaside towns are chock-full of piers and penny arcades, and Torbay is no exception. They can be a fun way to pass the time, especially when the weather doesn’t turn out how you hoped… but be aware that you will never get all your money back!

Paignton Pier By Simon Day/shutterstock

Anything else to add…
Sure, it’s not New York or Barcelona (although there is a Barcelona in Cornwall!) but we still have a lot of things to offer. Why not skip London and explore the other corners of our lovely country? The southwest corner first, of course!

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