Nestled on the gorgeous North Devon coastline, Ilfracombe is a historic fishing town that’s well worth a gander when exploring this picturesque region of England. In fact, there’s a heap of the best things to do in Ilfracombe all around the town – but that’s not where it ends! All around the town, there are the most gorgeous coves; trails and little villages which make for a great day trip whilst visiting wider Ilfracombe.
Now, it’s no surprise that we love this area of England! In fact, we spent a whole trip just in this corner of Devon alone; it was so lovely and totally picturesque. I’m pretty sure we ate our weight in seafood whilst exploring all the little gems in and around the town.
From iconic pieces of art, historic sites and gorgeous bays, you’re going to be spoilt for choice when you visit for a day trip or a long weekend break.
So, to help you get the most out of your time once you arrive, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Ilfracombe when you visit.
Have the best trip!
1.) Tunnels and Ilfracombe Beaches
With its cliffside settings and dramatic coast, Tunnels and Ilfracombe Beaches might be pebbly but they’re totally pristine. Not only that, there’s a Victorian bathing pool that’s filled with the incoming tidal waters.
Even on a not-so-sunny day, this is one of the best things to do in Ilfracombe for a little stroll. Just off the beach, you’ve also got part of the South West Coast and some gorgeous views from this viewpoint.
Feeling peckish? Grab a table at Antidote for their seasonal British menu. Their seafood dishes are always so fresh and tasty.
Overlooking the historic harbour of Ilfracombe, Verity is a 20.25-meter tall sculpture (by Damien Hirst) made of stainless steel and bronze which is pretty hard to miss.
Now, Verity herself is a sculpture of a pregnant woman standing on a heap of books, holding the Sword of Justice with one arm. The other side of Verity shows the exposed muscles and the fetus in her womb and it’s pretty impressive to see.
You can easily spot her by taking a stroll down the pier and it’s right next to the Chapel of St Nicholas, too.
3.) South West Coast Path
Spanning a whopping 630 miles National Trail, the South West Coast Path is one of the best things to do in Ilfracombe if you want to explore the unspoilt coastline nearby.
With cliffside view, hidden coves and an easy trail to follow, it’s a totally great way to get immersed in the dazzling natural beauty of Devon.
You’ll come across places like the; Watermouth, Valley of Rocks, Lynton and Lynmouth (to the east) which are totally picturesque and with their own cliff railway, too!
Just be aware, the walk to the latter points can take upwards of 7-hours (30-minutes in the car).
If you want somewhere a little closer for a stroll, head to see the cliff views across Broadsands Beach. It’s stunning.
Just shy of Ilfracombe itself, Watermouth is a gem of a place to visit for a few hours trip from Ilfracombe. Easily walked along the South West Coast Path (or by driving) you’ll get to visit Watermouth Castle with its beautifully landscaped gardens and take in the views from Watermouth Bay itself.
Just be sure to grab a cuppa at the cosy, Storm In A Teacup Cafe. Perched on the most adorable little boat, it’s one of those finds that makes Watermouth so unique.
5.) Ilfracombe Museum
Filled with a treasure-trove of curiosities, visiting the museum is one of the best things to do in Ilfracombe if you’re a keen lover of history.
From vintage home appliances, fossils and rare antiques from Ilfracombe’s history, it’s well worth a little gander for an hour or so.
6.) Ilfracombe Harbour
With Ilfracombe Harbour being the largest harbour on the North Devon coastline, it’s a spot you probably won’t miss when exploring the town.
It’s the perfect spot to grab an ice cream or a bag of chips and wander the pier area. Just watch out for those pesky seagulls; their chip thieves!
Also, just around the Quay, you’ll find lots of little boat tours heading out on trips. Some look for dolphins, whilst others follow the coastline.
We headed on the coastal tour (but didn’t see any dolphins)! 🙁
7.) Chambercombe Manor
Nestled away from the coastline itself, Chambercombe Manor is a Norman manor house that dates all the way back to the 11th century.
Here, you’ll learn many interesting tales and information about the history of the manor and eerie rooms. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in the country. Boo!
Afterwards, for a proper pub lunch, head to the harbour and visit the Smugglers Restaurant for a pint and pie!
8.) Hillsborough Nature Reserve
Situated on the coastal area overlooking Ilfracombe, strolling Hillsborough is one of the best things to do in Ilfracombe on a sunny day.
You see, it’s a local nature reserve in which is perfect for walking, bird watching, or to eat your fish and chips! From here, you’ll have some stunning views of the North Devonshire coast and Ilfracombe Harbour.
For a yummy lunch, head to the Hele Bay Pub, the grill up a mean Westcountry steak.
9.) Chapel of St Nicholas
The Chapel of St Nicholas is believed to be the UK’s oldest working lighthouse which dates back to 1321. Built as a place of worship, for the people of Ilfracombe, it’s not an iconic landmark overlooking the harbour that you really can’t miss.
Best of all, you can easily include a stroll up to the chapel with a wider walk around the pier, seeing Verity and exploring the historic harbourfront. It’s all in the same area.
10.) Landmark Theatre
The Landmark Theatre is an award-winning theatre in Ilfracombe which offers a heap of seasonal programs and shows from; music, drama, comedy, dance, film, festivals (you name it, it goes on here).
Double-check their listings before you visit Ilfracombe and book your tickets in advance. In the busier months, tickets can sell out much faster.