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Did you know that the picturesque region of Devon in southwest England is the only county in the country with two separate coastlines?
It’s also a region known for its many rivers that meander through the countryside towards the sea, providing habitats for countless species of local wildlife – and what better way to explore these beautiful coastlines and waterways than on a boat trip?
There are several fantastic boat trips in North Devon to choose from, from exhilarating RIB rides along the dramatic coastline to scenic riverboat tours with a local fisherman. You might even spot some of the area’s amazing wildlife, such as sea birds, otters, seals, and dolphins.
1. Ilfracombe Sea Safari
⏱️ Duration: 1 hour
The Ilfracombe Sea Safari combines a thrilling high-speed RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) ride with the opportunity to get up close and personal with North Devon’s wildlife.
Sea Safari has a variety of exciting Ilfracombe boat trips to choose from, from a one-hour journey along the beautiful North Devon coastline to a half-day trip out into the Bristol Channel to Lundy Island and back.
All of the boat trips give you the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the area’s spectacular wildlife, including seals, dolphins, porpoises, and a wide array of seabirds. You might even spot a whale if you’re lucky.
You’ll be accompanied by a qualified skipper and crew, who will provide commentary about the local marine life, geological formations, and historical landmarks along the way.
The boats fit small groups of up to 12 people and are suitable for all ages (there are kid’s life jackets available). You can also book a private charter for a more personal experience.
Just remember, RIB boats can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and the waters can be choppy. So if you suffer from seasickness, this might not be the boat trip for you.
2. Ilfracombe Princess Cruises
⏱️ Duration: 2 hours
For something a little calmer, Ilfracombe Princess Cruises offer relaxing wildlife cruises along the stunning North Devon coast on their Big Yellow Sightseeing Boat.
Carrying up to 100 passengers, the boat has a rooftop terrace and an outdoor area on the lower deck for taking in the views, as well as an indoor area to escape the breeze and sea splash. Dogs are welcome on the lower deck.
You can pick from several different coastal cruises. Some head east past Hele Bay and Watermouth Harbour to reach the famous smuggler’s caves and the dramatic Exmoor cliffs.
Other trips head west past Bull Point Lighthouse and the famous Tunnels Beaches to reach Rockham Beach and its colony Atlantic Grey Seals.
The Ilfracombe Princess also runs an evening cruise, so you enjoy the local landmarks in a different light while enjoying a drink and some relaxing music on board.
3. Visit Lundy Island on the MS Oldenburg
⏱️ Duration: 2 hours
Lundy Island sits just off the North Devon coastline, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel. The national-trust-owned island is known for its untouched natural beauty and amazing wildlife, including its famous puffin population and many rare bird species.
The best way to visit Lundy Island is on board MS Oldenburg, Lundy’s very own passenger and supply ship with all of its original 1950s brass and wooden fittings.
The historic ship leaves from either Ilfracombe or Bideford just a few times a week between March and October. It then returns later the same day, giving you time to explore the island.
The boat trip takes around 2 hours each way. You can use this time to enjoy the boat’s amenities, including a bar, buffet, shop, and information centre. There’s also plenty of space outside to enjoy the scenic views and maybe even catch a glimpse of the dolphins who often swim alongside the ship.
4. Appledore to Instow Ferry
⏱️ Duration: 3 to 4 hours
The Appledore to Instow Ferry is a small ferry service that connects these two villages just north of the historic port town of Bideford. It’s run by volunteers and takes around 10 minutes to cross the River Torridge.
The ferry runs from the beginning of April until October for around three to four hours during the high tide – which changes each day, so make sure to check the timetable.
The short and smooth crossing is a great option for young children or those who don’t quite have their sea legs yet. Bikes, buggies, and dogs are welcome on the ferry too.
There are plenty of things to do on either side of the ferry crossing, such as crabbing in the estuary, enjoying Instow’s long, sandy beach, and visiting the North Devon Maritime Museum in Appledore.
5. Cheeky Monkey Pleasure Cruises
⏱️ Duration: 3 hours
The Cheeky Monkey is a traditional wooden fishing boat skippered by local fisherman Dave Gabe. Dave offers three-hour river trips along the Torridge River from the village of Appledore, as well as charter fishing trips into the Torridge estuary.
On a river cruise on the Cheeky Monkey, you’ll get to explore the beautiful countryside and abundant wildlife along the historic river. Dave will tell you about the local history while pointing out places of interest and helping identify the many birds that call the river home.
Trips on the Cheeky Monkey run from May to October. You can make a booking by calling in advance or heading to the Appledore Quay Gift Shop. The fishing boat fits up to 10 people, so is a great choice for large groups.
And Dave isn’t the only skipper in Appledore offering boat trips along the river. If the Cheeky Monkey isn’t available, ask on Quay to see which other boats might be running.