Looking beyond buckets and spades, Emilia Harris finds out what’s new in this popular Devon resort

The cold wind whips around my ears and violently shakes the branches overhead. Right now, I’m unsure whether the bead plummeting down my cheek is sweat or rain.

As my feet weigh down on the pedals and my legs start to burn, I activate ‘turbo mode’ and battery power aids my climb to the top of the hill. I’m on an e-bike and that bead slipping down my cheek is most certainly rain – even on the steepest of South Devon hills, I’ve barely broken a sweat.

It’s my second morning in the South Hams region of Devon, located between Torbay and Plymouth and bordering the Dartmoor National Park to the north.

It’s an area with a strong rural and maritime heritage, where sandy beaches rub up against rich coastal grasslands, so pretty, it’s a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Naturally beautiful it may be, but exploring on two wheels has largely lacked appeal to the average South Devon visitor, due to the relentless and often steep hills. Thankfully, e-Xplore Devon (e-xploredevon.co.uk; from £50 per bike per day) has made cycling here more accessible.

There are suggested routes on the e-Xplore website, and the 21-mile Beach Circuit is a delicious amble along coastal roads and through quaint villages. I dismount in the tiny hamlet of Thurlestone and admire its 17th century thatched roofs and it’s glorious bay, before continuing to Bolberry Down, a long stretch of rugged coastline.

The route continues east and I refuel at The Winking Prawn (winkingprawngroup.co.uk/winking-prawn; seafood mains from approx £10), a family-run seafood restaurant on Salcombe North Sands beach. Beer fans should order the aptly named Prawn Juice, which is brewed in partnership with the South Hams Brewery.

The route flanks the Salcombe estuary – its vibrant blue waters punctuated with small white sailing boats – before turning back inland. I finish back at the e-Xplore showroom in Kingsdown. The crew can also drop your bike directly to your accommodation.

The rainy weather and long cycle have me craving some home comforts, so I head back to my rustic but extremely cosy shepherds hut. The Salcombe Shepherds Huts (salcombeshepherdhuts.co.uk; from £200 for Monday-Friday and weekend visits, and from £325 for a week) are an excellent choice if you want a slightly more luxurious camping experience. Handcrafted using local and sustainable wood, each includes a log burner and fully-equipped kitchen. I’m in the Foxes Den which has an en-suite toilet, double bed, and small leather couch.

The next morning I’m zipping along country roads to Bigbury-on-Sea, where I’m booked in for a surfing lesson with Discovery Surf School (discoverysurf.com; from £35 for a 1.5-hour lesson). All equipment is provided and I’m thankful for a super thick wetsuit, as the temperature is barely hitting double digits.

We start on the beach as Matt, our instructor, guides us through the basics. We’re soon in the water and Matt’s constant encouragement fills us with enthusiasm and motivation, even after numerous wipeouts. Slowly but surely we start to stand, unsteady but feeling accomplished. There are just three of us in my group, but the maximum size is six, so expect lots of useful feedback (the team also offer Surf Courses and 1:1 sessions).

Catching waves makes me hungry and I drive 30 minutes to Hope Cove, an old fishing village with two sheltered beaches. I settle in at the Lobster Pod Bistro (lobster-pod.co.uk; seafood mains from £8.50), perched on the hillside above Harbour Beach and gorge on the Seafood Platter, which includes today’s catch (Gurnard and Mackeral), alongside potted crab, prawns and a selection of salads.

Visitors can sit on outdoor benches or self-contained pods (seating up to 10) all with views of the ocean and the grassy Bolt Tail headland. The sun has made an appearance and I’m lapping it up with a pint of Salcombe Pale Ale.

Salcombe is one of South Devon’s most popular, and its independent shops, award-winning restaurants and waterside cafes make it worth a day or two of exploring.

Parking can be hectic, so leave the car and jump on the number 606 ‘Tally Ho!’ bus from Yarde Gate Nursery (£1.80 per person, each way). Alternatively, you can take the scenic, but extremely hilly, 40-minute walk into town via the village of Batson.

Gin fans should visit the Salcombe Distilling Co. (salcombegin.com). Every bottle of Salcombe Gin is distilled on-site using a single copper still. Tasting Sessions include a tour and lots of samples (including the limited-edition Voyager Series and the zero alcohol, New London Light).

Along the street, you’ll find the Salcombe Dairy (salcombedairy.co.uk), which has been churning ice cream for over 40 years. Over half a million litres of the stuff is pasteurised, churned and packaged each year beneath their shop, and they’ve recently started making bean to bar chocolate.

My final evening is spent at waterside restaurant Dick and Wills (dickandwills.co.uk; mains from £15.95). It’s April and government guidelines mean we’re sitting outside in the freezing wind, but luckily the team are on hand with heaters. The salad from my Asian Chilli Beef starter gets blown into the estuary, but luckily my main course, a Prime Devonshire Steak Burger topped with Vintage Cheddar and a side of chips, proves to be a sturdier and equally delicious option.

The rain arrives, but I’ve learnt to embrace it this time, because it’s not a British trip to the seaside without a healthy serving of wind, rain and well, soggy chips.