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Torquay Harbour (and Marina)

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Courtesy Flag

Flag, Red Ensign


Haldon Pier Head 50:27'.43N 03:31'.74W


Admiralty, 26, SC5602 SC5903 SC5914

Rules & Regulations

5 Knots, minimal wash


Narrow entrance, approach questionable in strong SE winds, Inner Harbour has sill

Tidal Data Times & Range

HW Dover-0500 MHWS 4.9m MHWN 3.7m MLWN 2.0m MLWS 0.7m   (links)

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General Description

Torquay Harbour Office  tel 01803 292429, VHF #14,
Torquay Marina               tel 01803 200210  VHF #80,

Torquay is the prime resort of an area known as the English Riviera, to which visitors are attracted because of the mild climate and softness of the air. It's geographical location places it completely out of the way of the prevailing winds from the south-west swinging to Northwest. It was much used by the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars as a Fleet anchorage, although as a harbour it only had a small drying basin to offer.

When the railway arrived in 1848, Torquay's popularity really took off.  This once humble hamlet had already become popular with naval officers. Smart hotels and lodging houses had sprung up to cater for their shorebased accommodation, but the deluge of visitors arriving by railway transfigured the town into what it's become today.... a holiday resort.
At this time  visiting vessels had to lie at anchor offshore, which could quickly turn into a dangerous proposition if the winds piped up from the East. The building of an outer harbour in 1880 did much to improve matters, and the resort became popular amongst the owners of magnificent Edwardian yachts, no doubt catered for by the Royal Torquay Yacht Club.

An extension to Haldon Pier only completed in 1984 finally gave the harbour enough protection to complete the new Marina within, and gave the town another source of income..... well heeled yachtsmen.
As Torquay is a popular holiday resort, there is plenty to do and see, and will probably be popular with younger members of the crew as there is some night-life.... making a nice change from quiet creeks and anchorages. The place can get overcrowded at the height of the season.
The harbour is easy to enter in most weather conditions but with strong onshore winds the confused sea around the harbour walls,(clapoptic waves ?) combined with the very narrow entrance require extreme caution, probably making it more prudent to head for Brixham.

The Torbay Harbour website is at

and the Torbay Marina website is at


There are no hazards for the yachtsman or motorboater in the approach,....

.... but as already mentioned strong south-easterly's can make the entrance dangerous. The entrance is only 50 m wide and cannot be seen at a distance off, furthermore once inside there is very little room before you are on top of the Marina.

Further Pilotage Directions...

It is a requirement that all vessels within the Torbay Harbour Limits should monitor #14 and call for clearance to enter or leave any of the harbours within those limits.

To assist a green conical buoy (QG) is laid about 70 m west of the end of Haldon Pier during the summer. Rounding this buoy you will put you on track to approach the entrance, in such a way that you can get a good view of what is emerging. Leave this to starboard, then make your entry to the harbour being sure to keep on the starboard side. The entrance can be very busy, and being so narrow great care is needed.

Near the end of the 2013 season the HM issued two Notices to Mariners pertaining to the behaviour of boats in the Bay and on the approaches to the harbour. The first of these emphasised that boats should be established on an Easterly course and have slowed down before they reach the green conical buoy inbound and that, when exiting, you should continue west until well clear of it before turning on course out of the bay (it is quite obvious that there must have been some close calls in the vicinity of that buoy last summer necessitating the issue of that Notice.) The second Notice was about interference between moving vessels and vessels at anchor in the bay, either taking on stores or acting as dive boats - it was a reminder to pass well clear (200m) of such vessels and proceed slowly.

The yellow buoy nearby marked 5 kn, is one of a series marking the limits of the swimming areas around Torbay. All vessels need to keep under 5 kn in the areas marked by these buoys. Three vertical red balls shown on the Pier head (three vertical red lights at night), signify that the harbour is closed... do not enter.
For night entry Haldon Pier displays a green light (QG 6M) and Princess Pier a red one (QR 6M), although shore lights can confuse matters. Inside the harbour two sets of green lights (2FG vert) mark the ends of the Town Dock Pontoon and the three outer ends of the marina pontoons, are lit red (2FR vert). See charts.  The end of the "Passenger Boarding Pontoon" (adjacent to the visitors pontoon) has also been marked with vertical reds.

The harbour authorities can be contacted on VHF channel 14 callsign "Torquay Harbour" during office hours, telephone 01803 292429.  The marina is on VHF channel 80, 24 hours callsign "Torquay Marina" telephone 01803 200210.

Berthing, Mooring & Anchoring

Anchoring is not allowed within the harbour, but in....

.... settled westerly weather one can anchor outside with good holding off Princess Pier in at least 3.6 m.

As you pass between the pierheads you will see the Town Dock pontoons ahead on the port bow, and the MDL Marina pontoons open on the port beam behind the PHM on the end of the Princess pier.

If you are headed for the MDL Marina you need to turn ninety degrees to port once you have cleared Princess Pier, then the visitors berths are clearly marked ahead on the port bow, and can accommodate vessels up to 30 m long, with up to 60 berths set aside. Either call "Torquay marina" on VHF channel 80, or grab an empty one and report to the office. Charges (2021) are £4.25 per metre per night up to 12.5 metres, £5.45per metre per night up to 18m and £6.05 per metre per night up to 24m. 

More details:

The Town Dock on the Eastern side of the harbour was completed in 2009/10, is now a firm part of the local scenery and shown on AC 0026-4.  The visitors berths are dead ahead and to starboard as you enter the harbour. These pontoons are controlled by the harbour authority and the outside of the southern pontoon is where they park visitors (some times rafted)  VHF channel 14 callsign " Torquay Harbour". There is limited water and shore power (£1.00 electric card) on the visitor's pontoons but you need your own cables and hoses. Showers are available on an access code but the toilets are the public ones. The HM explained that in the Town Dock you get three star services compared to  the MDL Marina's five star services (and prices!) across the harbour. Harbour authority charges are £12 for any boats up to 5.5 metres per day and over 5.5 metres are £2.00 per metre

It was possible by arrangement with the harbour authorities to enter the previously drying inner harbour, this is accessible around three hours either side of high water, the water levels being maintained in this harbour by a hydraulic sill at the entrance. A footbridge above the sill opens when required during operational hours, and there are traffic controls on both sides of the bridge. The entrance to the inner docks is unmistakable, as it is marked either side by furturistic metal sculptures, purportedly representing sails...looking more like devil's horns to me.
This has all changed and, by the spring of 2014 there will be pontoons in the inner harbour but these will only be available to local boats on annual contract
Harbour regulations include a 5 kn speed limit, no discharge of marine toilets in the harbour (fine), and youngsters under 18 are banned from pottering round in tenders within the harbour.

Harbour Authority



Between the harbour authorities, Marina, and local businesses, most needs (with the exception of fuel) can be met in this town.  Freshwater is available on the harbour authorities visitors pontoon and in the marina. Calor and camping gas can be obtained from Torquay Chandlers at Beacon Quay.

Fuel  Diesel and petrol can be obtained from Marine Fuels Torquay located on the pontoon on the south side of South Pier (at the far end of the Harbour pontoons) Tel Number  01803 290624. The MDL marina does not have fuel (though they may direct you to their marina in Brixham for it!!)
Torquay Marina fills up most of the western side of the large outer harbour and its facilities include toilets, showers, shore power, freshwater, payphones, launderette and WiFi access .As with all MDL marinas there is excellent security with coded locks to the pontoons and onshore facilities.
The harbour authority's office is on Beacon Quay, and they have visitors showers and public toilets ... note that you are not allowed to discharge Marine toilets within the harbour and there are heavy penalties for doing so. Rubbish skips and waste oil disposal on Beacon Quay.
Royal Torbay Yacht Club is located at Beacon Hill, telephone 01803 292006. Visiting members of other yacht clubs can use the showers, bar, and restaurants. The club has a keen interest in racing, and it organises the annual Torbay Royal Regatta at the end of August.

Torbay Hospital has an A&E department and is about 2 miles from the town centre.
Transport... Torquay has regular branch line services that connect with the main railway network at Newton Abbot, telephone 0845 748 4950. The station itself is a short hop from the harbour in a bus or taxi. For bus service information try contacting Traveline on 0871 200 22 33. By road the M5 motorway is about 20 minutes away, and Exeter airport is about 45 minutes away. This has UK, Ireland, and Continental connections.
Taxis... try telephoning 01803 ...    292292,  297070,  211611,  390390,  393939.
The tourist information office is next to the inner harbour slipway, telephone 01803 211211.

This good-sized town has all the major banks with cashpoint machines, post office, launderette and provisions, but the only supermarkets within easy walking distance of the harbour are Tesco Metro in Fleet Street and Iceland in Union Square Mall.
For trailer sailors Torquay has slipways in the inner and outer harbours with dinghy parking space available, and these are accessible at all states of the site. Check with the harbour authorities, because we have heard that the vehicle slipway has been condemned as un-safe, and that traffic is being sent to Paignton harbour. Brixham, not too far has all tide access.


As you explore this harbour you may wonder about the heavy concrete launching ramps seen here and in many other harbours near by. These were built to load tanks and other armaments into landing vessels preparing for the D Day assault on Utah Beach. Thousands of young American servicemen were billeted in the area and were training hard for the forthcoming attack.

A terrible and devastating incident occurred in the early hours of 28 April 1944.... Exercise Tiger (a full-scale rehersal for the Utah beach landings) was well underway off the Devon coast when German E Boats fell upon the unsuspecting Americans. In the ensuing carnage two landing craft were sunk, one was badly damaged and 749 American servicemen (many of them teenagers) lost their lives. This was more than four times the casualties suffered than the actual D-Day assault on Utah beach. This tragedy was researched and publicised by a British man, Ken Small (sadly now dead). With the help of local residents he managed to salvage a Sherman tank and set it up as a War Memorial to those poor lads who perished that dreadful night. The website below covers this incident fully, with pictures and plenty of input from people who were there at the time:

The text below gives the bare facts:

In late 1943, as part of the war effort, the British Government evacuated approximately 3000 local residents in the area of Slapton, South Hams District of Devon. Some of them had never left their villages before.

Landing exercises had started in December 1943. Exercise Tiger was one of the larger exercises that would take place in April and May 1944. The make up of Slapton Beach was selected for its similarity to Utah beach, namely a gravel beach, followed by a strip of land and then a lake.

The exercise was to last from 22 April until 30 April 1944, at the Slapton Sands beach in Slapton, South Devon. On board nine large Tank landing ships (LSTs), the 30,000 troops prepared for their mock beach landing.

Protection for the exercise area came from the Royal Navy. Two destroyers, three Motor Torpedo Boats and two Motor Gun Boats patrolled the entrance to Lyme Bay and Motor Torpedo Boats were watching the Cherbourg area where German E-boats were based.

The first practice took place on the morning of 27 April. These proceeded successfully, but then early in the morning of 28 April, German E-boats that had left Cherbourg on patrol spotted a convoy of 8 LSTs carrying vehicles and combat engineers of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade in Lyme Bay and attacked. One of these E-Boats was S-130 now in dry dock in Plymouth UK. One transport caught fire and was abandoned, a second sank shortly after being torpedoed, a third was set on fire but eventually made it back to shore. The remaining ships and their escort fired back and the E-boats made no more attacks.

The attack caused over 600 casualties, compared to only about 200 in the Utah Beach invasion. 638 servicemen were killed - 441 U.S. Army and 197 U.S. Navy personnel. Many servicemen drowned in the cold sea waters while waiting to be rescued. Soldiers unused to being at sea panicked and put on their lifebelts incorrectly. In some cases this meant that when they jumped into the water, the weight of their combat packs flipped them onto their backs, pushing their heads underwater and drowning them. Dale Rodman, who travelled on LST 507, commented "The worst memory I have is setting off in the lifeboat away from the sinking ship and watching bodies float by."

Of the two ships assigned to protect the convoy, only one was present. HMS Azalea, a corvette was leading the nine LSTs in a straight line, a formation which later drew criticism since it presented an easy target to the E-boats. The second boat which was supposed to be present, HMS Scimitar, a World War I destroyer, had checked into Plymouth for minor repairs. The American forces had not been told this. When other British ships sighted the E-boats earlier in the night and told the corvette, its commander failed to tell the LST convoy, assuming incorrectly that they had already been told. This did not happen because the LSTs and British naval headquarters were operating on different frequencies. Also, British shore batteries defending Salcombe Harbour had seen silhouettes of the E-boats but had been instructed to hold fire so the Germans would not find that Salcombe was defended.

When the remaining LSTs landed on Slapton Beach, the blunders continued. The British heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins shelled the beach with live ammunition, following an order made by General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, who felt that the men must be hardened by exposure to real battle conditions. British marines on the boat recorded in its log book (the only log which has since been recovered from any of the boats) that men were being killed by friendly fire. "On the beaches they had a white tape line beyond which the Americans should not cross until the live firing had finished. But the Marines said they were going straight through the white tape line and getting blown up".

As a result of official embarrassment and concerns over possible leaks just prior to the real invasion, all survivors were sworn to secrecy by their superiors. Ten missing officers involved in the exercise had Bigot-level clearance for D-Day, meaning that they knew the invasion plans and could have compromised the invasion should they have been captured alive. As a result, the invasion was nearly called off until the bodies of all ten victims were found.

There is little information about how exactly individual soldiers and sailors died. Various eyewitness accounts detail hasty treatment of casualties and unmarked mass graves in Devon fields.

Several changes resulted from mistakes made in Exercise Tiger:

Radio frequencies were standardised; the British escort vessels were late and out of position due to radio problems, and a signal of the E-boats' presence was not picked up by the LSTs. Better life vest training for landing troops.
New plans for small craft to pick up floating survivors on D-Day.The casualty statistics from Tiger were not released until August 1944 along with the casualties of the actual D-Day landings themselves.

There is still very little documentation in official histories about the tragedy. Some commentators have called it a cover-up, but the initial critical secrecy about Tiger may have merely resulted in longer-term quietness. In his book The Forgotten Dead - Why 946 American Servicemen Died Off The Coast Of Devon In 1944 - And The Man Who Discovered Their True Story, published in 1988, Ken Small declares that the event "was never covered up; it was 'conveniently forgotten'". Charles B. MacDonald, author and former deputy chief historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, notes that the incident was reported in a press release issued from the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, and appeared in the July issue of Stars and Stripes. In addition, the story was detailed in at least three books at the end of the war, including, Captain Harry C. Butcher 's My Three Years With Eisenhower (1946), and in several publications and speeches in the intervening years. MacDonald surmises that the press release went largely unnoticed in light of the larger events that were occurring at the time, the battle for France in the summer of 1944, and the fact that they were just glad that the war was over in 1946.

Memorials to the victims
With little or no support from the American or British armed forces for any venture to recover remains or dedicate a memorial to the incident, Devon resident and civilian Ken Small took on the task of seeking to memorialize the event, after discovering evidence of the aftermath washed up on the shore while beachcombing in the early 1970s.

In 1974, Mr. Small bought from the U.S. Government the rights to a submerged tank from the 70th Tank Battalion discovered by his search efforts. In 1984, with the aid of local residents and diving firms, he finally raised the tank, which now stands as a memorial to the incident. The local authority provided a plinth on the seafront to put the tank on, and erected a plaque in memory of those men killed.
Ken Small died of cancer in March 2004, a few weeks before the 60th anniversary of the Exercise Tiger incident.

In 2006, the Slapton Sands Memorial Tank Limited (a non-profit organization, one of whose directors is Mr. Small's son Dean) are seeking to establish a more prominent memorial listing the names of all the victims of the attacks on Exercise Tiger.

A radio play 'The Tank Man' by Julia Stoneham, describing Ken Small's efforts was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 24th October 2007. Ken documents how the local villagers were of more assistance than either the US or UK military officials. Later the American military honored and supported him, when at the same time the UK military were snubbing his efforts.

Exercise Tiger recently formed the basis of the last episode of the BBC Series Foyle's War.

The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence

Torquay History

Believe it or not, Torquay was actually populated during prehistoric times. In the caves of Kents Cavern hand axes dating back almost 500,000 years have been found, as well as an upper jaw bone believed to be the oldest human remain in Europe!
Fast forward hundreds of thousands of years, and the Roman population that lived here laid offerings to their Gods in the caves.
The Domesday Book records the picture-postcard village of Cockington Country Park, a traditional country estate with thatched cottages and landscaped gardens still retaining much of its old world charm.
The manor was given to the 'de Cockington' family after the Norman Conquest, who lived there for 281 years; it was then owned by the Cary family until 1654, when the Mallocks took over the estate for a period of 279 years.
Cockington Manor and its outhouses are now the venue for a thriving tea room and Craft Centre, and the grounds are a delight to explore.
Torquay and its surroundings were for the most part still shrouded in deep countryside in the 12th Century. The historic Torre Abbey, an icon of Torquay's seafront, was originally constructed as a monastery in 1196, and was at one time the richest in England. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, it became a private residence and had a number of different owners, before remaining in the Cary family for almost 300 years. It was then donated to the local council. Currently, Torre Abbey is subject to a programme of extensive refurbishment, before reopening it's doors to the public in the Summer 2008.

The town was recognised as a desirable situation to rest and improve one's health in the late 18th Century, when it became popular with naval families during the Napoleonic Wars. An early visitor in 1794 is recorded as saying: "Instead of the poor uncomfortable village we had expected, how great it was our surprise at seeing a pretty range of neat new buildings, fitted up for summer visitors, who may certainly here enjoy carriage rides, bathing, retirement and a most romantic situation."

However, the principal shaping of Torquay into the tourist destination as we now know it came about during Victorian times. The town had already developed a reputation as a place to convalesce, but in the mid-1800s the arrival of the Great Western Railway, pioneered by engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, opened up the Bay to the wider holidaying public. Torquay soon became a favourite location of those unable to make the journey to the South of France.

Grand villas and terraces were built on Torquay's hills, bathing huts were wheeled down the beaches, and the inhabitants of the town were said to have the "highest class" of living.
Many of the fine Victorian buildings are now quality hotels, from the Bishop's Court which is Grade II listed, to the Osborne Hotel, part of an impressive terrace overlooking the sea, and the Livermead House Hotel, one of the first seafront buildings and frequented by Charles Kingsley, author of the Water Babies. Amongst the many hotels is of course the boutique Gleneagles Hotel, completely transformed since its name was rendered infamous by John Cleese's Fawlty Towers!

The maritime history of Torquay includes such highlights as the regattas of 1893 and 1894, when the Prince of Wales won the main events with his J Class yacht, and the formidable sight of 113 war ships that were anchored in the bay in 1905. Whilst not as commercial as nearby Brixham, the harbour at Torquay was heavily involved in importing coal and wool from Australia, which was then sent to the mills in the North of England. Torquay quickly became famed for its watersports, and had the honour of hosting those events for the 1948 Olympic Games, when the Olympic flame was burned in Torre Abbey Gardens. In the Bay today you will see a remnant of the past as three ex-Royal Navy motor launches, converted after the war, now run the Torquay to Brixham ferry route.

During the two World Wars, Torquay was an important base for both British and foreign soldiers. Hospitals were set up to aid casualties from France, Flanders and Gallipoli. Beacon Quay, now the location of the Living Coasts aquatic zoo, initially sheltered naval seaplanes, and in the Second World War was the site of the embarkations of many soldiers, including thousands of US Army personnel in 1944. Today a monument dedicated to the officers that served in World War II takes pride of place near the Harbour Master's Office.

When the all clear was given for holidaymakers to return to coastal resorts in 1944, Torquay received a flood of visitors!Nowadays the town continues to offer tourists a fantastic trip.
The text on this HISTORY page is covered by the following licence

Eating, Drinking & Entertainment

Torquay is a major holiday resort, and as such the choice of pubs and restaurants is vast, and most of the large retail outlets are located in the town centre.

Visitors will have no trouble finding a meal out, to their taste and pocket, ranging from humble fish and chips, and the usual range of fast food outlets including McDonald's, right up to a mediaeval style banquet at Camelot. Seafood specialists abound, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, and even North African at Al Beb complete with weekend bellydancing!

A recent tourist attraction is the Living Coasts Centre at the end of Beacon Quay, a maritime conservation exhibition including a large Aviary, and all kinds of seabirds can be viewed from glass tunnels which go under the artificial pools and lakes, and also from viewing platforms. Wave making machines and water being dumped at the rate of two tons at time, add to the realistic effects..... worth a visit, and close to the harbour.

The links below will give you more ideas of where to go and what to do.

Restaurants and bars...


Great site, photos, attractions, nightlife, ratings, articles and loads more,,,

Nightlife, late bars, dancing.....


Your Ratings & Comments

Written by Don Thomson 3 | 19th Apr 2021
I reviewed these notes in April 2021. THE GOOD NEWS; there is now fuel available in Torquay at the South Pier (I believe that is where it used to be). Prices as everywhere have increased, otherwise nothing has changed.
Update Spring 2016
Written by dononshytalk | 12th May 2016
These notes were reviewed by Don in May 2016. The pontoons in the inner harbour are now completed but they are still only for permanent moorings. I note that the Harbour now has showers for visiting yachties but you still have to use the public toilets. Prices have gone up a bit.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Update March 2014
Written by dononshytalk | 24th Mar 2014
I reviewed these notes in March 2014. Prices in the marina have increased. The promised pontoons in the inner harbour are appearing but not for the use of visitors. Please note the concerns of the HM about the operation of boats in the vicinity of the harbour entrance; some people were obviously not taking enough care there last summer.
2 of 2 people found this helpful
Update 2013
Written by dononshytalk | 11th Feb 2013
The Torbay harbour notes were updated by Don T on the 11th February 2013. Very little to change apart from updating the prices.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
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