Paddle, swell… paddle, sun… paddle, sky… paddle, breathe… paddle, coast… paddle, peace… paddle, joy.

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Sea kayaking is one of the most delightful ways to spend a day outdoors. It’s open to people of all ages, it’s easy to pick up the basics and it offers you access to hidden coves and beaches that you’d otherwise find impossible to reach.

Kayaking along the South Devon coast is a great place to start your sea odyssey. With Sea Kayak Devon, you can be kitted up and on the water of Dartmouth harbour by 10am. You’re taught the strokes and safety advice that you need to enjoy your adventure and from there, the day is up to you and your group.

DARTMOUTH, DEVON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2015/05/09: (EDITORS NOTE: A polarizing filter was used for this image.) View at Harbor and Kingswear at the River Dart. (Photo by Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Dartmouth Harbour (©Getty Images)

Families may enjoy a relaxed paddle to a beach for a picnic. More seasoned kayakers can stretch their sea legs further and explore the striking coastline towards Brixham and Berry Head. Nervous novices or those out in inclement weather may turn away from the sea and instead head up the river Dart, which offers tranquil conditions and equally gorgeous views.

Basking seals

On my visit, kayak instructor James and I paddle out from the harbour on a sun-dazzled day, passing Dartmouth Castle, a fortress that has guarded the Dart estuary for over 600 years, to reach open water. Conditions are beautifully balmy as we continue to the protruding Mew Stone, a rocky islet to the east of the entrance.

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Out on the water near Dartmouth

Here seals idle on rocks, raising their heads with languorous interest, before settling back to bask. A few more inquisitive characters bob up behind to stare intently at our backs, rapidly ducking out of sight at the slightest hint of eye contact. Gulls drift on air currents and cormorants stand unruffled on the jagged peaks, unperturbed by the presence of kayakers.

A further pull along the coast to Pudcombe Cove and around the headland towards Scabbacombe Head offers wide views of the swelling sea channel and rolling limestone cliffs, where walkers and a wild pony appear on the South West Coast Path above.

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Limestone cliffs

Despite help from the tide on the return haul, my energy levels lag as the wind picks up by Inner Point, but a pit stop at Newfoundland Cove proves perfect timing. After wolfing down a kayak-packed lunch and guzzling marshmallows over a driftwood fire, I’m fuelled up for the last leg, and paddle back into Dartmouth harbour brimming with wellbeing.
A magical active adventure.

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Sea Kayak Devon offers a range of courses, from beginners to advanced kayakers.

Authors

Maria Hodson is production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine, alongside Margaret Bartlett. Since moving to Bristol in 2014, Maria has made every effort to escape into nature and loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking. Her adventure highlight in recent years was sea kayaking around remote St Kilda, off the coast north-west Scotland, in 2016. Most weekends, however, are spent exploring the great outdoors with her small child and doing accessible walks. Favourite family adventures are bird-watching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre and exploring the Forest of Dean, as well as an annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration on the Somerset Levels.

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