Estuaries and Ferries
The route of the South West Coast Path meets a lot of rivers and streams as it skirts the coastline and 16 of these are crossed by ferries. Using one of these can make your day out even more memorable.
The frequency of ferry sailings varies through the year, with some closing during the winter, so be sure to check timetables before you set out. Please do this especially when a fairly late timing is expected and it is necessary to confirm the time of the last run. Also do this when using outside the main tourist season or if use by a party of walkers is planned. In bad weather, ferry services can be disrupted.
A couple of the estuaries can only be crossed at low tide by paddling across a ford or a via tidal footbridge, so for these you will need to consult tide tables. These can be found in 'The Complete Guide To The South West Coast Path' and refer to times of low water at Devonport. The tide tables act as a guide for those wishing to paddle across the Gannel (Newquay) or the Erme. Please note there can be considerable differences in tide heights between spring and neaps for both the Gannel & Erme and timings should only be used as general guidance:
Below are listed in path order each of the river crossings you’ll encounter and you can also find them on the relevant walk description pages.
Instow to Appledore (Torridge Estuary)
This ferry service, an optional means of crossing the Torridge without passing through Bideford. Since the ferry is bound by tides, operating times vary daily so walkers are urged to check the website for operating times, but it generally runs for 2 hours either side of high tide. The ferry will operate from early April 2017 until October.
Rock to Padstow (The Camel Estuary)
A ferry runs across the estuary from Rock to Padstow, 7 days a week, all year. On the Padstow side the ferry normally lands on the harbour wall, but during low tides it instead lands on the slipway near St Saviour's Point, a few hundred metres downstream. It runs roughly every 20 minutes from 8am onwards:-
- November to 31 March the last ferry from Padstow is at 4.50pm and from Rock at 4.30pm.
- April to 31 May the last ferry from Padstow is at 5.50pm and from Rock at 5.30pm.
- June to mid July and first two weeks in September the last ferry from Padstow is at 6.50pm and from Rock at 6.30pm.
- Mid July to 31 August the last ferry from Padstow is at 7.50pm and from Rock at 7.30pm.
In the evenings from Easter to the end of October, and between Christmas and the New Year (subject to weather and tides) you can catch a water taxi across the estuary.
Newquay to Crantock (The Gannel Estuary)
The ways you can cross the Gannel depend on the time of year and state of the tide. These are:
- Penpol tidal footbridge: The route of the SW Coast Path uses a tidal footbridge near Penpol Creek, which is passable for 3 - 4 hours either side of low water.
- Fern Pit Ferry Crossing: A shorter option is to cross by Fern Pit, which operates a ferry from the end of May to mid September. At low tide, you can cross via a footbridge, whilst at high tide the ferry operates continuously, 7 days a week, 10:00-18:00. Weather dependant. You can find more details at www.fernpit.co.uk or by phoning 01637 873181. Email [email protected]
- Trenance footbridge: About 1 mile upstream from Penpol, where the estuary turns into a river (Grid Ref SW 813 607) is another footbridge that is passable at almost all states of the tide. From here a bridleway via Trevemper takes you back to Penpol. on the rare occsions when this bridge is impassable, you can always cross using the A3075 road bridge a further ½mile upstream.
The BBC website has a tide table for Newquay covering the next 7 days.
Compared to the other estuaries, the Hayle estuary only extends a short way inland, and as there is no ferry, the Coast Path runs around the edge. Although suburban in places, it is a pleasant stroll which will take about an hour. At low tide it looks deceptively easy to wade across the mouth of the estuary - but this is VERY DANGEROUS and should NEVER be attempted due to the strong currents, deceptively deep water, very steep bank on the Lelant side and quicksand river bed.
Gillan to St Anthony (Gillan Creek)
The main Coast Path route runs around Gillan Creek, but for an hour either side of low tide (tide table), you can ford the creek, which cuts about 2 miles off the route. At the crossing point there are stepping stones, but they can be very slippery, and so its safer to paddle across beside them (it should be no more than knee deep). Between April 1st & October 31st a ferry is available on demand during normal office hours - phone Anthony Jenkin on 01326 231357 to check. It runs approx 3 hours either side of high tide when the stepping stones are submerged. Website: www.sailawaystanthony.co.uk/ferry/ Email: [email protected]
Helford to Helford Passage (Helford River)
The ferry operates from Good Friday/1st April to October 31st. The ferry will run daily on demand between 9:30 am and 5.00 pm. During July & August the ferry may run into the evening. You can find out more from the Helford Riverboats website at www.helford-river-boats.co.uk, by email at [email protected] or by phoning 01326 250770.
It is possible to use local taxi services if the ferry is not operating – Autocabs, tel: 01326 573773 or Trebleone Taxis: 01326 210111.
Falmouth to Place via St Mawes (Fal Estuary)
To cross the Fal Estuary you take a ferry from the bustling port of Falmouth across to the village of St Mawes, and then change to a smaller ferry that links to the other arm of the estuary at Place. The ferry between Falmouth and St Mawes runs every day throughout the year, From June to October there are 3 ferries per hour, fewer at other times. Ferries operate from Falmouth Prince of Wales Pier all year and Custom House Quay summer only. More details can be found at www.falriver.co.uk
The ferry to and from Place operates June 1 -September 30 from 09:00 – 17:00 running every ½ hour, subject to demand. You can find more details and timetables for both ferries on the Fal River Links website at www.falriver.co.uk, by email at [email protected]. or by phoning 01326 741194.
Falmouth Water Taxi service which operates between Falmouth and St Mawes or Place, weather permitting, between March and October, 9am – 6pm (until 10.30pm May-Sept). If needed, it is advisable to telephone 2-3 days in advance in the summer. Tel: 07522 446659 or visit www.falmouthwatertaxi.co.uk
St Mawes Kayaks also offer a water taxi service: Telephone 07971 846786 or visit www.stmaweskayaks.co.uk An out-of-hours alternative to the Place Ferry, they also run between November and early January, and can accommodate walkers who may want an early start from Falmouth i.e. before 0800.
Fowey to Polruan (River Fowey)
Polruan Ferry Co Ltd, Toms Yard, East Street Polruan-by-Fowey, Cornwall PL23 1PB. A ferry operates all year at 10-15 min intervals.
07:00 to 23:00 May 1st-September 30th (Saturdays 07:30 start, Sundays 09:00 start)
07:00 to 19:00 October 1st-April 30th (Saturdays 07:30 start, Sundays 10:00 to 17:00).
During winter months and summer evenings, ferry runs to Town Quay (centre of Fowey). During summer months, daytime service runs to Whitehouse slipway (situated on the Esplanade). You can find more details on the Fowey to Polruan Ferry website www.ctomsandson.co.uk, by email at [email protected] or by phoning 01726 870232. Please check the information boards at the landing points for current times before travelling especially during August when the service may alter to cater for local regattas.
Mount Edgcumbe to Plymouth Cremyll Ferry (River Tamar)
The passenger ferry operates depending on weather, tides and other circumstances permitting all year round at 30 minute intervals with an 8 minute crossing time. We urge you to contact the ferry operator direct if you are relying on this service, particularly if you are anticipating a fairly late finish and need to confirm the time of its last run.
Summer Service from April 1st to September 30th.
From Mt Edgcumbe: Weekdays 06:45 to 20:30, Saturdays 08:00 to 21:30, Sundays 09:00 to 21:00.
From Plymouth: Weekdays 07:15 to 20:45. Saturdays 08:15 to 21:45, Sundays 09:15 to 21:15.
Winter Service from October 1st to March 31st.
From Mt Edgcumbe: Weekdays 06:45 to 18:30. Saturdays 08:00 to 18:30. Sundays 09:00 to 18:00.
From Plymouth: Weekdays 07:15 to 18:45. Saturdays 08:15 to 18:45. Sundays 09:15 to 18:15.
Closed Christmas, Boxing & New Year Days.
Plymouth Barbican to Mount Batten Park (River Plym)
Although the main route of the Coast Path crosses the River Plym via Laira Bridge, you can take a 5 mile short cut by catching a ferry from the Barbican/ Sutton Harbour across to Mount Batten Park. The ferry runs daily thoughout the year every 30 minutes
Summer weekdays 07:45 to 23:00, Saturday 08:45 to 22:30 and Sunday 08:45 – 18:15
Winter weekdays 07:45 – 18:15, Saturday 08:45 - 23:00 and Sunday 08:45 – 18:15.
We urge you to contact the ferry operator direct if you are relying on this service, particularly if you are anticipating a fairly late finish and need to confirm the time of its last run. More details can be found on the Mount Batten Ferry website at www.mountbattenferry.co.uk, by email at [email protected], by phoning 0751 5370000 or by phoning the boat directly to the skipper on 07930838614.
Wembury Point to Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo (River Yealm)
A small ferry takes walkers across the mouth of the Yealm, seven days a week from Good Friday until September 24th. The core hours each day are 10 - 12 noon and 3 - 4pm each day, with the ferry running a continuous service on demand. During busier times such as school holidays, the hours of operation are extended to run continuously between 10am and 4pm daily - BUT use the signal board to call ferry if required or phone the ferryman, Bill Gregor, beforehand to check on 07817 132757. In bad weather, school, term-time & weekdays the ferry may be restricted to 10:00 – 12:00 & 15:00 – 16:00
Wembury Cars carry walkers round the South Hams estuaries - Tel 01752 863710. Alternatively, Eco-Taxi based in Kingsbridge will carry walkers between Plymouth and Dartmouth and from all estuaries in South Devon. Tel 07811 385275.
Mothecombe to Wonwell (River Erme)
This estuary has to be forded. At each side of the estuary, there are information panels with aerial photos showing the best route across - this is roughly between the old coastguard cottages on the Mothecombe side and the Wonwell slipway. If you cross within an hour of low tide (tide table), the water should be no more than knee deep, and underfoot are a mix of sand and pebbles. Occasionally, if there are gale force winds blowing sea water back up into the estuary, or if flood water is heading down stream, the ford may not be passable even at low tide - if it gets more than knee deep, you should check you are on the right route, or turn back. If you misjudge the tide, and don't want to wait, it is about an 8 mile walk around the estuary - mainly on minor lanes. Wembury Cars carry walkers round the South Hams estuaries - Tel 01752 863710.
Bigbury to Bantham (River Avon)
A seasonal ferry runs from Cockleridge Ham across the River Avon to Bantham Ham. It operates between 10 and 11am and 3 - 4pm, daily apart from Sundays from 25th April to 17th September. To check ring the ferryman Marsh Dawes, on 07837 361306 / 01548 561196. As the water in the main river channel is deep at all states of the tide it is not safe to try and ford the river. However as an alternative there is the attractive 9 mile waymarked Avon Estuary Walk that will take you take you up and back to the first bridging point at Aveton Gifford. Eco-Taxi based in Kingsbridge will carry walkers between Plymouth and Dartmouth and from all estuaries in South Devon. Tel: 07811 385275. Alternatively, Ivy Cabs may also carry walkers round the South Hams estuaries. Tel: 01752 696969
Salcombe to East Portlemouth (Kingsbridge Estuary)
This ferry runs all year round on the hour and half hourly when busy between 8am and 5.30pm, 7 days a week, with a continuous service during the summer holidays. Please note that the ferry point is Jubilee Pier in summer & Whitestrand Pontoon in winter. On the East Portlemouth side the ferry leaves from the pontoon next to the Venus beach cafe. We urge you to contact the ferry operator direct if you are relying on this service, particularly if you are anticipating a fairly late finish and need to confirm the time of its last run. The Salcombe Ferry, Simon Shortman Tel: 01548 842061/07769 319375.
Dartmouth to Kingswear (River Dart)
A passenger ferry operates about every 10 minutes, between 7.00 am (8am on Sundays) and 10.55pm everyday throughout the year . If you are lucky you may be joined by dolphins who are quite regularly seen playing in the bow wave. Contact by phone- 01803 752342 or visit Dartmouth Lower Ferry website.
Dartmouth Passenger Ferry (River Dart)
Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Co. Ferry operates all year on a continuous service 07:30 to 23:10, Sundays 09:00 to 23:10. Check website or phone 01803 555872 for specific times.
Shaldon to Teignmouth (River Teign)
This is England's longest running passenger ferry, with written records of the ferry dating back to 1296.
Ferry operated by Greg Allen. Tel: 07896 711822 www.teignmouthshaldonferry.co.uk Email: [email protected]. The ferry runs:- April – mid July 08:00 to 18:00; Mid July – end August 08:00 to 20:30; September – October 08:00 to 18:00; *November – January 08:00 to 16:30;February – March 08:00 to 17:00. *Closed Mon & Tues in December & January. If operating, the ferry runs from the beach opposite the Ferry Boat Inn. If the ferry is not running, there is a bridge across the river about 1/2 mile upstream.
Starcross to Exmouth (River Exe)
A passenger ferry runs across the Exe from Starcross Pier to Exmouth harbour. Ferry operates mid-April – end October, hourly, 7 days a week. From Starcross, on the hour from 10:10 until 16:10, until 17:10 (mid-May to mid September). From Exmouth, on the half hour from 10:40 until 16:40 (Easter and October), until 17:40 (mid-May and June-mid September). For more details see the Exmouth to Starcross ferry timetable. Contact Exe to Sea Cruises or phone 01626 774770 / 07974 022536 / 07974 772681 / 07779 157280 or email [email protected]. If the ferry is not running, the Exe Estuary Trail, is an off road cycle route that goes up to the Topsham Ferry (also seasonal), and to the first bridge across the Exe at Countess Weir. Alternatively you can catch a train or bus into Exeter and back to Exmouth. See Traveline for timetable information.
Turf/Topsham (River Exe)
Contact Steve Garrett on 07778 370582 or visit the Topsham to Turf Ferry website or email [email protected]. The Ferry operates weekends Easter holiday, end-May; Daily June – August. Weekends in September. From Turf 11:45 to 15:00 and from Topsham 11:30 to 14:15.
Topsham Ferry (River Exe)
The Topsham Ferry runs between Topsham Quay riverside and Topsham Lock canalside. Contact Exeter City Council, Canals and Rivers Department on 01392 274306 (office); 07801 203338 (ferryman) This service is tide dependant, please check tide times. The ferry operates Easter-September daily (except Tuesdays) 9:30 to 17:30. From October-March Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00 or sunset. Wave or phone for service. Between April and September the ferry may be available outside these hours, weather and tides permitting. Phone for further details.
Dawlish Warren to Exmouth (River Exe)
Although the official route of the SW Coast Path crosses the Exe at Starcross, between early April and the beginning of September you can save 3 miles of road walking (an off-road route is under development) by catching a water taxi from Dawlish Warren Point to Exmouth. To reach Dawlish Warren Point you pass through Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, and so to avoid disturbance to nesting birds and other wildlife, please keep out of fenced areas and no dogs are allowed on the ferry or the eastern half of the Nature Reserve. For more details see the Exeplorer water taxi website, or phone 07970 918418.
From April, ferries operate (rowing boats) across the harbour, but are weather dependant. www.harbour.weymouth.gov.uk. Alternatively, or if it is not running, you can cross using the bridge 100 metres upstream.
Studland to Sandbanks (Poole Harbour)
After finishing the path, most people continue across the Sandbanks ferry onwards into Bournemouth to pick up trains or coaches home. This ferry runs every 20 minutes from 7am to 11pm, every day. However note that every other year the ferry is taken out for a refit, usually in October or November. Phone 01929 450203. See the Sandbanks Ferry website for more details.
If you are relying on a ferry service we urge you to contact the ferry operator direct, particularly if you anticpate a fairly late finish and need to confirm the time of its last run.