Tourists have been flocking to Torquay since the Victorian era, and you can see why. This is a serene haven of glittering water, swaying palms, long promenades, and craggy coves – no wonder they call the area the "English Riviera". While the beaches are naturally the biggest draw, there's plenty more to Torquay than sun-worshipping such as Kents Cavern, an underground wonderland of ornate rock, featured in a story by Agatha Christie (perhaps Torquay's most famous resident). Hikers will love exploring the rustic areas away from the seafront, and there are shops a-plenty in the city center.
Things to see
Whether you're a seasoned scuba diver or have always wanted to have a go, Babbacombe Beach is an ideal spot for watery fun. As well as being a lovely section of coastline, it also leads up to Babbacombe Downs, which give you stunning views across the sea (look out for glimpses of frolicking dolphins). Right next door is Oddicombe Beach, with its striking, red sandstone cliffs. Then there's Meadfoot Beach, where you can while away the hours on a deck chair. The whole family will adore Living Coasts, a coastal zoo and aquarium, where you can get close to penguins in a special area created to look like the South African coast, as well admire the exotic residents of the giant aquarium itself. You can splash about in the pool or enjoy the gym facilities at the Riviera International Conference Centre, or you can get back in the sea at Torre Abbey Sands, which remain Torquay's most popular and most bustling beach.
Hotels in Torquay
A glance at some of the hotels in Torquay will remind you of the area's history and heritage – the ivory-white Victorian villas offer time-honored comfort and luxury, including their own fitness centers, golf courses, and swimming pools. Not to mention award-winning restaurants and gobsmacking sea views. When it comes to finding a Torquay hotel you don't need to push the boat out, though, with very affordable bed and breakfasts dotted around the Riviera, many offering great amenities such as free WiFi, as well as a cosy personal touch that can really add to the charm of the area.
Where to stay
Booking a Torquay hotel in the city center and its immediate environs will mean you're never far from one of the numerous beaches that have made the English Riviera a favorite getaway spot for more than a century. You'll also be within strolling distance of Torquay Harbor, a busy working port which is a feast for the eyes. There are plenty of restaurants and bars close by – ideal for returning to after you've spent a day enjoying the beaches or walking the Downs. High street names and independent boutiques can be found in the Fleet Walk shopping area.
How to get to
If you're flying in from international destinations like Paris, Amsterdam or Dublin, or even UK cities like Manchester and London, Exeter International Airport offers good access to Torquay. There is regular public transport to Exeter city center, from which you can get a bus or train straight to the Riviera. Torquay Station also has connections to many cities (though you may have to change for certain major destinations). Once in Torquay, you probably won't even have to worry about transport – leisurely walking is the best possible way to see the area.