Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve on the Exe Estuary

500 Acres of Natural Beauty

Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve is an area of grassland, sand dunes, mudflats and centres on a 1½ mile long sandspit/beach across the mouth of the Exe Estuary.  Dawlish Warren is an important holiday resort and is visited by thousands of people each year.

As part of the Exe Estuary it is one of the most important places for wildfowl and wading birds in the whole of the South West.  Thousands of birds come to feed, on migration, or to spend the winter here.

The dunes and grassland have a host of special plants. Over 600 different types of flowering plants have been recorded on the Warren. This varied Reserve has many different habitats including salt marsh, fresh water ponds, wet meadows and woodland.

The Warren is so important that it is protected for its wildlife by both national and international law.

Around The Reserve

There is open access to most of the Reserve, including the bird hide, at all times. However, there is no public access to the golf course and mudflats. Dogs must be on a lead over most of the Reserve and are not allowed in some areas.

Admission to the Reserve is free, although there are car parking charges. (Free between 6pm and 9am). Also please avoid the bird resting area on the beach at sensitive times.

The Birds

Each autumn up to 23,000 wildfowl and wading birds travel to the Exe Estuary from the far north to escape the cold. They start arriving in August and stay until late March.

The Warren is vital for their survival providing the main roosting (or resting) place on high tides.

For about 3 hours before and after high tide several thousand birds gather on the Warren's shores. These include important flocks of Dunlin, Grey Plover, Bar Tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher. Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal also shelter inshore waters.


The Warren has a warm sunny climate and low rainfall. This allows some rare plants to grow her that couldn't withstand colder, wetter parts of Britain.

The Warren or Sand Crocus grows amongst the drier short dune grassland. It's tiny lilac flowers appear briefly around the end of March to early April.

In wet meadow and dune slacks, orchids are found such as Southern Marsh Orchids and Autumn Lady's tresses.

Visitor Centre

The Centre has displays about the Reserve and stocks a number of leaflets and other publications. The Wardens are based here and most events start from here. The Centre is open most days from April to September and on weekends only from October to March.  There are guided walks / events for all ages throughout the year - ask a Ranger for details.

Usual opening is 10:30am to 5pm (closed from 1-2pm for lunch). The centre is also closed when in use for groups or when Wardens are working on site.


Fishing is permitted but please follow the guidance on the leaflet "Guide for Sea Anglers" - (or download it above right).

School and Group Visits

Please refer to the Teignbridge District Council website

Please help us continue to balance visitor use with the needs of the rare and important wildlife:

  • Don't disturb the bird flocks on the beach
  • Comply with dog byelaws - view or download a leaflet
  • Follow the guidelines for using watercraft near the Warren - view or download a leaflet
  • Don't cycle, camp or light fires anywhere on the Warren
  • Take your litter home and use the dog bin
  • Keep to the paths and leave the flowers for others to enjoy
  • Follow the guidelines for fishing at the Warren - ask the Rangers for a leaflet
  • Horse riding is not permitted anywhere on the beach or dunes at any time.

Visitor Centre Tel: 01626 863980