The best things to do in Plymouth

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by Hertz - 30 January 2020

The city of Plymouth on the southwest of England boasts an array of coastal wonders and is rich in history, all of which can be easily discovered in your rental car.

From its vibrant maritime heritage, world-renowned museums and aquarium, and popular Hoe promenade, it’s a place that flawlessly marries the old with the new.

Follow our guide to discover the best of Plymouth on your next visit.

Naval heritage

With such a rich maritime history, a trip to Plymouth wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of its many naval sites.

The Devonport Naval Heritage Centre is a treasure trove of information and great place to start.  The museum records the development of Plymouth’s Dockyard and the city’s pivotal role in supporting major conflicts since 1300. Visitors can uncover the history of shipbuilding and the transition of ships from white sails to billowing plumes of steam. Tours are conducted by Royal Navy personnel, offering a glimpse of the modern Navy.

Plymouth Naval Memorial commemorates those lost at sea during the First and Second World Wars. It’s located centrally, overlooking the Hoe and Plymouth Sound bay area.

Wembury Beach

Just a 15-minute drive from Plymouth in the South Devon Area sits the quaint village of Wembury.

The village is surrounded by rolling countryside hills and rugged cliffs that line the rocky coast. Wembury Beach is especially popular with families, as the low tide uncovers a field of Lower Devonian reef that’s perfect for rock pooling. Look closely into the glittering water to find starfish, sea scorpions and crabs among other sea critters.

Wembury is also an active surfing spot, thanks to its swells reaching up to two metres. If you prefer dry land, a cliff-top walk on the Southwest Coast Path offers awe-inspiring views of the Great Mew Stone, which was famously painted by English watercolourist, J.M.W. Turner.

National Marine Aquarium

Plymouth is known for having the biggest and – arguably - one of the best marine aquariums in Europe. Dive into an underwater dream to discover highlights like the Atlantic Ocean Tank.

With your nose pressed against the glass, you can bask in the beauty of some of the world’s most mystifying sea creatures. Gaze at sand tiger sharks, lemon sharks and barracuda as they glide through the water, in and around the featured WWII seaplane.

Shows on the Eddystone Reef shed light on Britain’s marine life, while the Blue Planet area uncovers the biodiversity of the world’s oceans. You can also find the Great Barrier Reef tank here, home to 70 different species including the giant pacific octopus and the clownfish.

The Hoe

The Hoe became an important site in 1577, when Francis Drake spied oncoming Spanish invaders from its grassy headland. Today, the promenade features scores of landmarks, including several war memorials, the iconic red and white striped Smeaton’s Tower and The Royal Citadel on the eastern end.

Tinside Lido was built here in 1935 in an art-deco design featuring sleek white curves and blue candy-striped tiles. The sun deck is one of the best places in the city to soak up rays, while the selection of snacks and sweet treats from the café will keep you going for a full day of fun.

Barbican Waterfront

Plymouth’s energetic waterside neighbourhood hosts much of the city’s heritage. It was from here on the Mayflower Steps the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World on that monumental day in 1620. While the original steps no longer exist, the new versions are lined with British and American flags to mark the famous departure. Stop by the Mayflower Museum to explore uncover the Pilgrims’ voyage across the ocean to America.

Foodies will be spoilt for choice in the Barbican. Satiate your tastes at one of the many cafes or restaurants, such as the popular Cracking Crab Company specializing in local seafood. There’s also the Barbican Pasta Bar, one of Plymouth’s best-loved restaurants, where authentic Italian dishes are made fresh to serve.

The city after dark…

Experience a different side the Plymouth when the sun goes down. A city rich with history, it has its fair share of hauntings. The Haunted Plymouth Company will take you on a journey to discover supernatural phenomena of the ancient port on their thrilling ghost walks and investigations.

Your guide will regale you with a vivid account of the city’s local ghosts while you wander down the atmospheric cobbled streets.

A view from the sea

Plymouth may be a city that loves looking out over the water, but it’s also worth taking a trip on one of its many boat journeys to enjoy the views from the deck.

Bob across the River Tamar to The Rame Peninsula, Plymouth’s forgotten corner, against a backdrop of Royal William Yard and Plymouth Sound. Or, take the Cawsand Ferry to blast across the water to local fishing villages, Cawsand and Kingsand. Here, you’ll find secluded beaches and exquisite scenery before getting a warm welcome at one of the many cafes.

When visiting a new city, it helps to plan your trip around popular attractions. Plymouth is compact enough for a short itinerary and a great base to explore further afield with car rental. Book with Hertz today to start your trip.