Exmouth is a busy holiday resort at the mouth of the River Exe, with a long sandy beach and was always an important commercial port. This closed in the 1990s and is now a marina surrounded by upmarket modern housing.
The entrance to the marina is now used by the Starcross ferry, a water taxi service and Stuart Cruises, who run several different cruises around the area.
This describes the short 90 minute cruise which also included swinging along the sea front in Exmouth before heading back to the River Exe. There are views of the town, church tower and Victoria Jubilee clock tower.
On the way back, there are views of Dawlish and down to Berry Head.
Dawlish Warren is a massive sand spit stretching across the mouth of the river and the area behind the beach is a nature reserve.
The sheltered water behind the sand spit is a popular place for boats to anchor up. There are over 2000 moorings here. There are often a couple of scallop boats moored in the estuary. Scallop fishing is very destructive to the sea bed, so boats are only allowed to fish an area for six weeks in the year.
Towards Starcross there are two wrecks stranded on the shore. No-one knows who they belong to and they are left to rot.
The river is very wide and shallow and there are many sandbanks which are popular with oyster catchers and shags drying their wings.
On the far side of the estuary is the the small settlement of Cockswood climbing up the hill from the river. Apparently violets used to make Devon Violet perfume were grown here. It used to have a fishing harbour but when the main line was built it cut the harbour off from the river and have to reach it under a low bridge.
The west side of the estuary is fertile farmland with gentle hills with a lot of woodland. The main line runs close to the shore line.
After a short distance, Starcross comes into view
The tall stone built tower and buildings next to it were the pumping engine house for Brunel’s unsuccessful attempt of an Atmospheric Railway which used vacuum traction to move the trains. The animal fat used to keep the vacuum pipes supple was attractive to rats who ate it, breaking the vacuum. This is the only one of Brunel’s pumping stations to survive.
The River Exe Cafe is a custom built barge moored in the river which is open during the season as a very popular restaurant with a very long waiting list. It even has its own ferry, the Puffin Water Taxi, which is booked along with the meal!
Approaching Powderham Castle, set back in the trees away from the river, the cruise turns round and returns to Exmouth.
On a sunny day, this is a lovely way to enjoy the river, particularly from a seat out in the open air on the top deck. There is plenty to see and an informative commentary too.