Days out Plymouth: things to do

By Discover More UK


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Many people head down to the south coast of the UK for a coastal getaway, but Plymouth is often overlooked as a city to visit as people continue on to Devon and Cornwall. But there are countless days out Plymouth has to offer.

With coastal outdoor activities, Plymouth combines with the perks of city living, giving you plenty of options for things to do in Plymouth and the surrounding area, whether you’re a first time visitor or looking to discover more of what’s on your doorstep.

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Plymouth: things to do

Drake’s Island 

Drake’s Island is a tiny island located in the Plymouth Sound and despite its proximity to the mainland, most locals have never even visited because it’s been closed to the public for decades and only opened for public guided tours in 2021.

The history of the island is fascinating and has been a chapel as early as 1135, then a safe haven for protestants, it also housed a prison for some time and has previously formed part of the coastal defenses for the south coast of England.

Tours leave by boat from Mountbatten Pier in Plymouth and you will need to book in advance on their website.

The guides are incredibly informative and you can be one of the first people to set foot on this historic island in over 30 years. Keep an eye on their website for events happening too. In summer 2021 they hosted a Paranormal Investigation event!

Plymouth Lido

Of course Tinside Lido has to be included on this list!

This Lido in Plymouth is one of the largest outdoor salt water lidos in the UK and has been voted one of the top 10 outdoor pools in Europe!

The Lido’s art deco style is an iconic feature of the Plymouth and it’s one of the best things to do in Plymouth with kids, especially because it’s a great budget activity, adults cost £5 and children £4.

The pool is only open in summer months so make sure to book your slot on their website.

a view of the domed Plymouth lido with the sea beyond and sailboats in the sea
Plymouth Lido

The Box Museum

The Box Museum is a great option if you’re looking for indoor activities Plymouth has to offer. The best part is, this is one of the free things to do in Plymouth and there’s no need to book in advance!

The museum is a fascinating and eclectic mix of local and international history, with everything from local maritime history to Greece and Egyptian archaeology. You’ll also find natural history, cultural collections from every continent as well as photography and filmography collections – there really is something for everyone at The Box.

This is another option for Plymouth days out that you might not have considered, even if you’re a local, as it’s a relatively new venture by Plymouth Council and the Lottery Fund.

small cobbled alleyway with union jack bunting across the alley
Barbican Area

Plymouth Gin Distillery Tours

Plymouth Gin has a long history that runs alongside the maritime history of the area. The gin has been distilled here since 1793 and the famous Black Friars building where the distillery is housed has stood since the 1400s.

General tours start from £11 per person and there are other, more specialist tours such as the Gin Connoisseur Tour or the Master Distiller Tour. The general tours give an overview of the history of Plymouth Gin and the distilling process. There’s also the choice of a miniature takeaway gin or a gin at the bar.

Plymouth Scuba Diving Day Trips

Did you know Plymouth is a hotspot for scuba diving?

If you’re a diver or want to learn to dive and get your PADI diving qualification, then you can do so with Aquanauts or Plymouth Diving Centre.

Diving in the Plymouth Sound you can see the protected pink sea fan species and the amazing corals here. Eddystone Lighthouse is a great area to dive around and the Sound is a great area to dive especially if you’re new to diving.

Smeaton’s Tower, Plymouth

The iconic red and white lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe is actually called Smeatons Tower and you can climb it for amazing views across the coastline, it’s one of the unmissable things to see in Plymouth.

The Lighthouse was originally situated on Eddystone Reef but was deconstructed and moved in the 1700s. 

Adult tickets are £5 and children cost £2.50. There’s also no need to book, you can just turn up. Climbing the tower is a great addition to a stroll along the waterfront and a picnic on the Hoe.

a red and white striped lighthouse with views of the coast and sailboats in the sea beyond
Smeaton’s Tower

Plymouth Sound boat trip

For fun things to do in Plymouth, a boat trip on the Sound is a must! Plymouth’s location on the coast means it’s the perfect opportunity to get out on the water!

Plymouth Boat Trips has several boat trips to choose from so you can really make the most of your day out in Plymouth.

Their Harbour Cruise departs daily from the Barbican or you can cruise across the River Tamar to discover Mt Edgecumbe in Cornwall. Or go further afield to discover more of Cornwall and Devon on their Cawsands Cruise or Sundowner Cruise which includes a drink too!

Brunch at Early Bird Cafe

If you’re perhaps spending a weekend in Plymouth and you’re looking for a local’s favourite, don’t miss the Early Bird Cafe on Mutley Plain.

Early Bird is the place to go for brunch in Plymouth, the cafe is inspired by the brunch culture in Australia and serves amazing, fresh breakfast and coffee all day long.

They also have an artisan bakery on site so you can pick up some fresh bread and baked goods as you go about your day!

Explore the Barbican

a small alleyway with steps and a sign reading Barbican Theatre

A favourite area of the city, the Barbican is the old town area of Plymouth and was the original Plymouth harbour, it’s very well preserved as it miraculously was able to escape much of the bombing during WWII.

The Barbican is characterised with cobbled streets, narrow alleys and plenty of bars and pubs.

In the summer you’ll find the waterfront area of the Barbican buzzing with alfresco dining, free music festivals, flower displays and much more.

You could easily spend a whole day just in the Barbican!

Things to do at Plymouth Barbican:

  • Visit the National Marine Aquarium
  • Here is where you’ll find the Plymouth Boat Trips for a boat day trip 
  • The Mayflower Museum
  • Merchants House – Plymouth’s most well-preserved residence from the 16th century
  • Plymouth Gin Distillery
  • The Elizabethan Gardens are a hidden gem in the centre of the city
  • Enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants in the area

The National Marine Aquarium

The aquarium in Plymouth deserves its own paragraph as it’s one of the best Plymouth attractions for families and is home to the largest fish tank in the UK!

It’s also the deepest tank in Europe and there’s not only fascinating marine wildlife to see, but also amazing events like Shark Nights, Beach Discovery with their Ocean Rangers and special events for Toddlers and young children.

The aquarium isn’t just for families and children though. The aquarium also offers Dine At The Aquarium experiences which is without a doubt one of the most unusual things to do in Plymouth.

General admission varies depending on the time of year you visit, check their website for the latest ticket prices. All tickets come with complimentary 12-month passes so you can return and visit again anytime in the following year.

Enjoy a Roast at the Fisherman’s Arms

With an open wood burning fire, classic roast dinners and plenty of British ales and food on the menu, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled on an English countryside pub in the middle of Plymouth city!

The pub is a staple for visits to Plymouth, loved by locals and tourists alike – don’t miss their Sunday Roasts!

Cosmic Kitchen

Cosmic Kitchen is a vegan restaurant in Plymouth, but even if you’re not vegan, their middle-eastern inspired menu is worth trying!

The bistro is family-run and is such a warm and welcoming place, you absolutely don’t have to be plant-based to enjoy a meal here!

Royal William Yard

Traditionally part of a military base that once sat here, the area has now been modernised and updated with residential apartments, shops and restaurants. 

If you’re looking for a casual afternoon or evening out in Plymouth for couples, this unique location is so vibrant to spend some time in!

Home to classics like Wagamama and Prezzo, there’s also wine merchants Le Vignoble or the beachy vibes at Club House to give you that coastal getaway feeling in the heart of Plymouth!

The area is also home to Stonehouse Barracks, the famous home of Plymouth’s Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade. You can’t visit the Barracks sadly as they’re active military buildings, but they’re certainly a sight to see as you wander past the gated entrance!

view of an old canon with plymouth sound in the background

Swim in Firestone Bay

If you’re feeling adventurous and you’re an open water swimming enthusiast, taking a dip in Firestone Bay within the Sound is a much loved activity by locals!

There is an official swimming area which is marked by yellow buoys which boat traffic cannot pass. Swimming at high tide is best as the area is pretty rocky.

If you’d like to swim here but not in the open water, check out Devil’s Point tidal pool which is part of the Devil’s Point Cafe. Here you can enjoy a saltwater dip without the concern of open water and there’s food and drink refreshments to enjoy afterwards!

Things to do around Plymouth

Plymouth is a great and affordable base to stay at if you’re wanting to explore the delights of Devon and Cornwall and little more but without the cost of many holiday homes in those areas!

So if you’re visiting Plymouth, here are a few ideas for things to do near Plymouth and further afield in the south of England.

Go walking in Dartmoor 

To the north of Plymouth you’ll find the famous Dartmoor National Park landscapes. The Park is full of quaint villages, beautiful moors and so many different walks that are suitable for most people.

The park has ‘Miles without Stiles’ walks which are for those with limited mobility or families with young children so you don’t have to climb over any stiles on the whole route! Check out these routes on the Dartmoor website.

Check out these Dartmoor Walks for all abilities.

Also don’t miss the many great attractions and outdoor activities in Dartmoor which are perfect if you’re looking for an active day out or more activities to add to your outdoor holiday:

  • Burrator Reservoir
  • Bellever Forest
  • The eerie Wistman’s Wood
  • The gardens at The Garden House
  • The Meldon Viaduct Cycle Route

Explore Cornwall to the West

Of course to the west of Plymouth is Cornwall which you can reach from Plymouth via a longer road route across the famous Royal Albert Bridge which was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Or a more direct route is on the Torpoint Ferry which is a unique chain ferry with a small toll fee that crosses the Tamar River between Plymouth and Cornwall.

Places to visit in Cornwall on a day trip from Plymouth:

view of a sunny bay with calm turquoise blue water on the cornwall coast

Kingsand and Cawsand 

If you’re looking for a beach day trip from Plymouth that isn’t too far away, Kingsand and Cawsand are the places to go.

These are twinned villages in Cornwall that overlook Plymouth city and it’s a great beach getaway for a day to enjoy the beaches, watersports activities like SUP and sea kayaking, plus lovely pubs and cafes to enjoy on your day out.

Don’t miss Cawsand Beach, The Minnadhu Gardens along the coast or the coastal paths up to the battery which offers lovely views.

Whitsands Bay

Another great option for a short beach day out from Plymouth is Whitsands Bay and Tregantle Beach. This stunning stretch of beach is 3 miles long and has lifeguards on duty, so it’s a great option for families too.

The long stretch of sand is popular for joggers, walkers and even yoga! You’ll see people in the calm bay water swimming, SUPing, diving and snorkelling around the tidal pools you’ll find in the bay too.

The Cliff Top Cafe or the View Restaurant are two great options for a light bite with amazing views of the beach and coastline.

view of a harbour surrounded by buildings with the tide out and the boats resting on the sand
Ilfracombe, Devon

Devon day trips

To the north of Plymouth you’ll find the beautiful county of Devon which offers many options for day trips from Plymouth.

  • Torquay
  • Dartmoor
  • Tamar Valley AONB

For trips further afield, check out these ideas for things to do in North Devon.

Summary: The best activities in Plymouth and surrounds

The southwest coast of England offers so much for visitors and locals alike and hopefully these tips from a local will give you plenty of ideas to help you plan the perfect days out in Plymouth and in the surrounding area.

Pin this for later to help you plan your future trip!

pinnable image with 9 images of plymouth devon. Overlay text reads THe Best Plymouth UK days out

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