The South Sands Ferry is simply magic and has been running for over 60 years. It’s an iconic boat brightly painted blue and yellow with red, blue and white bunting across the top. A trip aboard this ferry will make your Salcombe experience complete and its success is down to a combination of a beautiful journey along the Salcombe estuary and a fun ride up the beach on a sea tractor which travels out into the water to greet the ferry as it arrives at South Sands Beach.

Visitors to Salcombe who have been coming for 40+ years still make the pilgrimage aboard the ferry which is called Harvest Reaper. This yellow-and-blue passenger boat shuttles from Whitestrand Quay to South Sands, where an ingenious motor-powered landing platform trundles into the water to help you ashore. The ferry runs every half-hour with the trip takes 20 minutes.

Where

From Whitestrand pontoon in the centre of Salcombe to the picturesque South Sands beach. There you will find a sandy beach, two hotels (one under renovation at the time of writing) and a beach cafe which also offers kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. The National Trust property called Overbecks is close by with gardens, museum and cafe. South Sands is also at the start of the spectacular Southwest Coastal Path.

Cost

The fare for the 20-minute trip is £3.30 each way for adults, £2.30 for 3-16-year-olds and free for children under 3, pushchairs and dogs.

When

Runs from April to October. The ferry leaves every half hour (apart from lunchtime). Service starts from Whitestrand at 9:45am and from South Sands beach at 10am.
Last ferry run is 5:15 p.m. from Whitestrand and 5:30 p.m. from South Sands. There is an additional sailing, a half-hour later, in August.

Departing Salcombe – First trip departs Whitestrand pontoon at 09:45hrs then every half hour until 17:15hrs – Except 13:15hrs.
Departing South Sands – first trip departs at 10:00hrs then every half hour until 17:30hrs – Except 13:30hrs.

From August 1st to 31st an extra sailing is introduced extending the last departure from Salcombe to 17:45hrs and from South Sands to 18:00hrs.
From October, the last sailing will be 16:45hrs from Salcombe and 17:00hrs from South Sands.

Ring +44 (0)1548 561 035 for more information.

History

The South Sands ferry has been running for over sixty years. The original open boat carried up to twelve passengers who scrambled ashore across the rocks in the southern side of the bay.
In 1984 the present boat was commissioned by the then owner Gilbert Putt and carries up to thirty passengers and two crew. Rather than asking passengers to scramble across rocks, a modified ex-army amphibious DKW or ‘Duck’ was used as a mobile landing stage. It was not a success and soon afterwards a family who owned a military museum in Cornwall persuaded Gilbert Putt to sell the Duck in exchange for in improved docking system made out of an old World War II army truck chassis.

In 1986 the Tucker family bought the business and have continued to run it ever since, operating the popular service between Salcombe town centre and South Sands beach from April to the end of October. Mr Tucker is a very friendly and knowledgeable skipper always there with a smile and helping hand!

The journey

There is somewhat of an anomaly sitting on South Sands beach poised ready for action. It is somehow similar to Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine in the Salcombe Estuary. This strange, canopied contraption, with a set of stairs behind, appears to be heading out to meet a boat.

The odd-looking canopied vehicle is a sea tractor and the landing stage for the South Sands Ferry to the centre of Salcombe. During the spring and summer (April through October), the tractor is the first stage of a two-stage ferry trip to Whitestrand, the harbour at the heart of this pretty South Devon sailing resort. The ferry spares vacationers at the hotels and summer rentals along North and South Sands beaches the difficult journey up and over the steep narrow hills into the tiny village. And it’s also a great way to see the homes, estates, secret beaches and castle remain along the estuary. With no place to dock and a high tide that can completely swallow the flat sand beach, the tractor is the only way to board the little boat.

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