Exeter Quayside

Grade I Listed Custom House on Exeter Quay

Grade I Listed Custom House on Exeter Quay

Exeter’s beautiful historic waterfront is just a 10 minute walk (or a short bus ride) from the city centre and is a hub area for activities, food and drink, shopping and events. The Quayside flanks the River Exe and sits at the beginning of the Exeter Ship Canal. Down on the waterfront you will find the Quay House Visitor Centre, cafes, craft workshops, independent arts and crafts shops, specialist antiques and collectables centres, tearooms, inns and restaurants. Many of the craft workshops, restaurants and inns are housed within old wharf buildings and 19th century warehouses. More independent shops and a selection of restaurants and cafes are accessible across the River Exe via the summer only Butts Pedestrian Ferry service. Particularly impressive historic buildings include the old Custom House which dates back to 1681. Outdoor activities available range from canoeing and kayaking to canal boat cruises or hire a bike and head off along the Exe Estuary Trail! Both the River Exe and the Exeter Ship Canal are also fishing hotspots popular with anglers.

Trails & Boat Cruises

Themed heritage trails feature all along the quayside including the Woollen Trail exploring Exeter’s boom wool trade era and the role of the quayside. At one time this quayside was crammed with unloading and loading barges, exporting finished cloth to various locations in Europe. Visit the two particular historic buildings at the heart of the Woollen industry – the Customs House and Wharfinger’s House. Exeter Quayside is the perfect spot to begin either a riverside or canal side walk and in the past this beautiful waterfront has featured in TV dramas including the popular series, The Onedin Line. Note the Roman Walls which stretch down to the Quay, a sign of original Roman use of Exeter’s waterside. A choice of canal and river cruises are available ranging from a gentle cruise from the Quayside to Double Locks or longer cruises to Exmouth.


Hire bikes on the quayside and head off through the Exeter Riverside Valley Park which runs along miles of towpath, passing fine inns enroute. More challenging cycling and walking trails accessible from the waterfront include the mostly traffic free Exe Estuary Trail. Cycling or walking to the pretty village of Topsham flanking the Exe Estuary is popular with visitors. Be your own guide and hire canoes or kayaks, and enjoy a host of leisure activities down here on Exeter’s quayside where you’ll find a choice of outdoor and watersports centres.

The river and canal combined offer ample opportunities for sailing, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and towpath cycling. Indoor challenges also feature in the area in the form of Devon’s largest indoor climbing wall at the Quay Climbing Centre at Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre near the waterfront. The circuit of themed climbs and inflatable walls here are perfect for all ages, from beginner climbers to those looking to improve. The centre also has an abseiling tower and an artificial cave!

Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.