Super Seaton: What to see, eat and do in the East Devon town
PUBLISHED: 16:47 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:47 20 July 2018
Trams, fossils and buckets of seaside charm, Seaton has a lot to offer - and there's more to come. Chrissy Harris took the family to visit this thriving East Devon town
I do hope my children have written a diary entry somewhere about the day we spent in Seaton because it will sound completely idyllic and I come off looking like the best parent ever.
First, we went fossil hunting along the stunning, mile-long pebble beach where the kids spent about two hours picking up stones and carefully studying them for traces of prehistoric life forms. We found a few keepers, bagged them up and sat down to enjoy a picnic, overlooking sparkling Lyme Bay.
Then we headed for a ride on the vintage trams at Seaton Tramway. From the top deck of these lovingly restored vehicles, we spotted birds and other wildlife as we pootled along the Axe Estuary.
Back in town, we stopped at Seaton Jurassic, an eye-catchingly modern new attraction designed to showcase the area’s rich geological heritage, with clever interactive displays about local fossil hunters, rocks and wildlife.
Education bit done, the children took to the zip-wire in the playground in Underfleet Park before getting back in the car, covered in mud.
What a day and what a great place to be, was the general consensus on the way home.
Seaton has long been regarded as the poor relation of the East coast, often left in the shadow of Sidmouth and Lyme Regis. But this proper Devon seaside town is getting its act together – a quick glance around is enough to see that.
Smart-looking houses are being built near the seafront (see page 225), which is also set to undergo a major facelift.
Seaton Tramway recently unveiled its new £2 million terminal in the town centre and a new 75-room hotel recently opened in Harbour Road.
New shops, cafés, a gym and a microbrewery have set up home here and there is now a packed calendar of events going on throughout the year, including an artisan market and the upcoming Seaton Cycle Fest.
“So much is happening now,” says Seaton town clerk Amy Tregellas. “It’s a place that is definitely on the up and it’s great to see. There’s been quite a lot of investment in the last two or three years and it shows.” One of the most obvious developments is Seaton Jurassic, a striking £4 million attraction that has proved to be a big hit since it opened in 2016.
The award-winning flagship centre has helped to put the town on the map for a new generation of visitors.
“It’s had a really positive impact,” says Jan Coman from the Devon Wildlife Trust, which runs Seaton Jurassic.
“Between us, the trams, the wetlands and the beach, people can enjoy a full day out. You’ve got that mix of the historical, the outdoors, combined with the beach and town as well and it’s all linked.
“Seaton has often been overlooked in the past and now it’s not,” she says. “We have something quite unique.”
Seaton Tramway’s new station, which opened in May, has added to the sense that this is a town that is playing to its strengths.
The much-loved vintage trams have been a part of life here for 48 years and its modern terminus, with café, gift shop and information centre is a response to rising visitor numbers.
“Things are changing here,” says Sue Bowman, from Seaton Tramway. “I can see lots of improvements going on, as well as our new station. All we need now is a lovely summer!”
With a packed schedule of events, the next few weeks will be busy, rain or shine.
My kids have already said they want to come back to find some more fossils and to check out Seaton Hole beach – a rock pooling paradise at low tide, so they say.
We’re not done here yet.
Five things you should know about Seaton and East Devon:
Seaton has one of the world’s first concrete bridges, built over the River Axe in 1877 by the Seaton and Beer Railway Company.
In 2007, an Audouin’s gull was seen in the Seaton Marshes – only the fourth recorded sighting in the UK.
Beer was named runner-up in a competition to find the UK’s best village in a Channel Four series earlier this year.
Up to 12 houses perched on cliffs at Sidmouth have all lost large parts of their gardens because of coastal erosion. The biggest single loss was a 10m (33ft) section.
A huge salmon weighing 64lb was caught in the Exe Estuary in 1924 by local fisherman Richard Voysey. It later became known as ‘The Famous Exe Salmon’.