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Exeter Quayside

exeter quayside

Exploring Historic Maritime Exeter Quayside

On the banks of the tidal River Exe, Exeter Quayside transports you back to the city’s heyday as a thriving medieval port. The historic warehouses lining the scenic waterfront have been converted into shops, cafes, museums and arts venues – making this lively and busy riverside quarter a focal point to experience Exeter’s maritime past and one of the best things to do in Exeter.

Watch boats unload fresh fish by the working quay, or simply soak up the atmosphere enjoying locally sourced food and independent stores in atmospheric buildings steeped in heritage. Here’s an in-depth guide to discovering this dynamic historic heart of Exeter.


Getting to Exeter Quayside

Exeter Quayside flanks the lowest bridging point on the River Exe, just a few minutes stroll from Exeter City Centre. Well signposted pedestrian paths connect the Quay to Exeter Central Station, High Street and Cathedral Green.

By Train

Exeter Central Station is just over half a mile walk from the Quayside via Gandy Street and Queen Street. Frequent direct train services arrive from Exmouth, London Paddington, Bristol, Bath and neighbouring Devon towns.

By Car

Visitors driving can use the onsite Quay Car Park or nearby Guildhall and Princesshay shopping centre car parks just a 5-10 minute walk away.

By Boat

For a scenic arrival, take a river cruise from Exmouth to Exeter Quay to admire the waterfront facades along the route.

Opening Times

Exeter Quayside is always open to explore. Historic buildings house shops, cafes and attractions open at varying times. See individual sites for detailed opening times or call the QuayTourist Information Office.

Key Highlights of Exeter Quayside

With over 900 years of history, Exeter’s Quayside incorporates fascinating landmarks from different eras. Must-see spots include:

  • The Custom House – Crowning the Quay, this iconic 17th century building controlled import taxes on exotic goods like spices, tea and brandy. Its grand position reflects when the city was one of England’s most influential ports. Climb the tower for panoramic views.
  • M5 Bridge – Admire the engineering of this 1972 tilting road bridge allowing ships upstream to Topsham. Look for interpretive panels explaining its counterbalance structure.
  • Cricklepit Mill – View the exterior of this relic watermill built in the 13th century to grind corn from the Quayside. Still operating commercially today producing oils, it represents Exeter’s historic industries.
  • The Prospect Inn – Grab a local ale at England’s oldest Quayside pub housed in a 14th century warehouse, with low beamed ceilings.
  • Cranes and Cargos – See diggers unloading sand dredged from the Exe, grain and other goods keeping the Quay thriving today. The cargo operation runs onsite.
shops at quay

Shopping and Dining

The historic warehousing lining the Quayside now contains independent shops, galleries, emporiums and eateries to browse. Find everything from antiques and bicycles to homewares and beauty products crafted locally.

Foodies are spoilt for choice with cosmopolitan restaurants ranging from authentic tapas and handcrafted pizzas to Asian fusion cuisine with river views. Or pop into bustling cafes for delicious brunches, coffee and cakes.

scallops at rockfish

Waterside Walks

The most popular and accessible way to explore is to simply follow the level scenic pathways meandering along the riverfront. Points of interest are well marked with interpretive signs delving into Exeter’s trading legacy.

Key walking routes:

  • Quay-Side Trail – Follows both sides of the waterfront stopping at historic buildings. Leaflet available.
  • Exe Estuary Trail – Multi-use paths to neighbouring settlements like Topsham and Starcross. Hire bikes from Exeter Quay.
  • Kayak tours – See the Quayside from the water.

Watch ships, swans and rowers glide by as you appreciate how the tidal River Exe shaped Exeter’s growth into a prosperous port city through the centuries.


Annual Events at Exeter Quayside

As well as historic atmosphere, Exeter Quayside comes to life with free annual events:

  • Art trails, outdoor sculpture expos and street entertainment like bands, circus skills and dancing.
  • Food festivals showcasing Devon produce from seafood to cider and cheese. With tastings.
  • Nostalgic festivities like 1940s weekends bringing the Blitz era to life.
  • Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink each September – hands-on foodie fun for all ages.

The buzzing events calendar makes the Quayside a dynamic, thriving district all year long, continuing a long tradition of commerce and community.

exeter quay from the sky

Insider Tips

  • Stop into the Quay Tourist Information Centre for maps guiding you to historic landmarks.
  • Take cash for car parks and market stalls which are often cash only.
  • Time your visit for low tide if wanting to see historic wrecks revealed in the exposed mudflats.
  • Consider staying nearby to enjoy lively Quayside nightlife after the daytime crowds have left.
  • Walk over the Lock Gates pedestrian bridge to reach peaceful countryside paths around Powderham Castle.

Immerse yourself in centuries of maritime heritage along the historic waterside that put Exeter on the map. With scenic strolling, independent shops, camel rides, boat tours, cycling and tempting eateries, the dynamic Quayside offers endless intrigue.

exeter quay

Frequently Asked Questions

How close is Exeter to the sea? – Just 10 miles down the River Exe and you will reach Exmouth or take the canal and you will enter the estuary near Topsham.

Is there disabled parking near the Quay? – Yes, there are plenty of spaces close to the quay for blue badge parking. The Quayside car park is the best place to look.

Other nearby attractions

If you are close to Exeter Quayside, then take the opportunity to visit some other nearby attractions, including:

  • Clip ‘n Climb Exeter – Indoor adventure centre featuring climbing walls and challenges for all abilities and ages to test their skills. Fun family activity.
  • Exeter Cathedral – Impressive medieval cathedral boasting England’s longest uninterrupted Gothic ceiling. Guided tours share the history and architecture.
  • RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum) – Eclectic museum with exhibits on world cultures, natural history and local heritage. Striking Gothic revival building.
  • Exeter Underground Passages – Explore medieval tunnels under the city on a costumed guided tour. Discover Exeter’s hidden history beneath the streets.
  • Custom House Visitor Centre – Dive into Exeter’s rich trading history at this interactive centre on Exeter’s historic quayside. Great for kids.
  • River Cruises – See Exeter from the water on a relaxing river cruise. Commentaries highlight the key sights along the Exe.

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