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Exeter's Historic Quayside

Exeter's Historic Quayside is one of the most attractive areas of the city, popular with locals and visitors alike for its fascinating history, interesting architecture and lively pubs and restaurants.

Exeter's Historic Quayside (c) Dominic Lowther

It is also just a 10 minute walk, or short bus ride, from the city centre.

The Quayside has been enhanced to provide a fascinating mix of historic and contemporary design. It is the ideal place to browse in antique shops, walk and cycle, take a relaxing boat trip or find something good to eat.

There is an extensive programme of events on the River Exe, in the Transit Shed and Piazza Terracina, including dragon boat racing and art exhibitions. There is plenty to occupy families and children of all ages.

To find out more about Exeter's Historic Quayside, download a copy of our Historic Quayside leaflet below.

pdf icon Historic Quayside leaflet 2014/2015 [2Mb]

Shopping

Exeter's Historic Quayside is a great place for shopping. It has an eclectic mix of antiques and textiles, as well as clothing, home wares, and water sports equipment. It is the perfect place to pick up a special gift in small independent stores.

Most of the craft workshops are located in historic cellars and bonded warehouses on the River Exe. Many of the wares are made on site. It is the perfect place to find something beautiful and unusual.

Why not cross the river on Butts Ferry, one of only five floating bridges in the country, and visit the restaurants and galleries on Piazza Terracina and Haven Banks. There is a great view of the Historic Quayside and graceful Regency Colleton Crescent from this side of the river.

Eating & drinking

Eating Out on the Historic Quayside Whether you fancy brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner you will always find something good to eat on Exeter's Historic Quayside. There are a wide range of restaurants, teashops, and cafes, or why not grab some takeaway and have a riverside picnic.

Work up an appetite with a walk, canoe or cycle-ride around the quayside and stop for a breather at one of the historic riverside pubs, or treat yourself to a special dinner at one of the great restaurants on the Quayside.

The Historic Quayside has a great mix of cuisine from home made Westcountry specialties to Italian, Latin American and of course the traditional Devonshire Cream Tea. Most cafes and restaurants use fresh local produce wherever possible.

For Friday night cocktails, an al fresco summertime drink or in winter a cosy glass of wine by the fire, the Historic Quayside is hard to beat.

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Quay events

Dragon Boat Racing There is a regular programme of waterside, musical and charity events throughout the summer months. The Quayside is also the location for Red Coat Guided Tours from April to the end of September. 

Events on the River Exe and at the Transit Shed and Piazza Terracina include:

  • Dragon Boat Racing
  • Canoe shows and races
  • Quayside Red Coat Guided Tours (Summer programme only)
  • Inside Outside Summer Craft Fair (August)
  • Exe Descent (November)

For more information about these events and more please contact the Quay House Visitor Centre or Exeter Visitor Information & Tickets using the details on this page.

Outdoor activities

Take to the water for a unique view of the Historic Quayside and Exeter Ship Canal. Canoes and kayaks are available to hire from Saddles & Paddles, situated in the heart of the Quay, with safety equipment and basic tuition provided, with two great pubs (The Double Locks and the Turf Locks Inn) along the canal for a refreshment stop. For those that prefer dry land, there are bicycles to hire, with a wide range of bikes and equipment for all the family (inc trailers, child seats & tag-alongs for families, as well as electric bikes) to explore Exeter and the Exe Estuary Trail - a traffic-free leisure route from Exeter to Exmouth & Dawlish.

With no closed season, the river Exe and the canal are a paradise for anglers. Visitors will need a permit from the Civic Centre or contact the River and Canal Manager on 01392 274306.

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Cruises & canoeing

To experience the Historic Quayside from the water, why not take a boat trip along the River Exe and Ship Canal with Exeter Cruises. Take the 45 minute round trip, or stop for lunch and catch a later boat back. Cruises take place at weekends between Easter and October, and daily in July and August.

Hire a canoe or kayak from Saddles and Paddles and paddle along the calm waters of the Ship Canal. Single, double and family canoes are available, and basic instruction is provided. Pre-booking advisable.

Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre is situated on the canal and offers a variety of outdoor and adventure courses suitable for children and adults of all ages and abilities.

Cycling & walking

Cycling on Exeter's Historic Quayside The Historic Quayside is the ideal place for a relaxing walk or cycle ride. Take a stroll around the quay and stop for a drink in one of the many cafes and tearooms. Or why not hire a bike from Saddles and Paddles and head towards one of the two riverside pubs along the canal trail. There are bikes available for adults and children, with child seats for the under 5s.

The Exe Cycle Route runs for seven miles, and takes a flat, easy route along the River Exe and Ship Canal. Cycle through the Riverside Valley Park, Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, Exminster Marshes and RSPB Nature Reserve and look out for herons, kingfishers and dragonflies.

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Quay House Visitor Centre

The Quay House was built in 1680-1 at the height of Exeter's woollen cloth industry. The building was used to store cloth and other goods before being loaded and transported down the canal. The Quay House had a convenient overhanging roof, which enabled cargos to load and unload out of the rain.

Today the history and development of Exeter's Quayside is brought to life with lively displays, illustrations and artefacts. There is also the opportunity to view "Exeter - 2000 years of history," an exciting audio-visual presentation highlighting Exeter's history from Roman times to the present day.

The Quay House provides tourist information, Quayside treasure hunts, an accommodation booking service and gift shop selling local pottery, replica maps and a wide range of local interest books.

Opening times

  • April - October, daily 10am - 5pm
  • November - March, Saturday and Sunday 11am - 4pm.

Admission: Free
Tel: 01392 271611

Exeter Quay and Ship Canal

There has been a quay in Exeter since Roman times. However, by the 14th century boats could not get up the river to unload, because of weirs built across the river, so in the 1560s John Trew built a canal to provide access to the Quayside.

Custom House Exeter became a wealthy city because of the woollen cloth industry. Cloth produced in the local area was finished at Cricklepit Mill on Exe Island and loaded onto ships at the quay. In 1680 the Custom House was built to house the officials who collected taxes on traded goods.

By the 19th century, the woollen trade had seriously declined. However other goods were still traded, new warehouses were built, the canal basin was constructed and the canal was deepened and widened. Finally the arrival of the railway in the 1840s spelled the end for the canal trade as this was a much more efficient way of transporting goods.

Today the Quayside embraces its industrial heritage whilst providing a vibrant and modern area to shop, eat, relax and play.

Up-river are the medieval ruins of the original Exe Bridge - an 18 arched structure built to provide a safe river crossing for traders and citizens. Down-river you will find Trew's Weir and the Suspension Bridge, Belle Isle Park, the Double Locks Pub and Turf Locks Hotel. On the Exe estuary is the port of Topsham with its Dutch Houses, waterfront and museum.

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Parking

Cathedral and Quay Car Park has over 400 spaces. This award winning car park is just a two minute walk from the Quayside and also provides excellent access to the Cathedral and main shopping centre. There is a lift for wheelchairs and push chairs. Haven Banks Car Parks on the south side of the river offers economical parking with 300 spaces including some for coaches.

By bus

G Bus from the High Street to the Historic Quayside runs hourly between 10.15am and 3.15pm. The return service runs hourly between 10.30am and 3.30pm.

The Matford Park and Ride service between South Street and Haven Road runs every 10-12 minutes between 8am and 6pm, Mon - Sat.  For more details visit the Park and ride page.

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