With its rocky headlands and sheltered coves, it has been popular with visitors since the 1830s, and grew swiftly after the coming of the railway in 1874.
From the old harbour boats can be taken to Lundy Island. Behind the harbour is a rocky headland crowned with the little St. Nicholas` Chapel that was used from the 14th century as a lighthouse.
Holy Trinity Church dates from the 15th century, and has an Elizabethan pulpit and waggon-roof timbers.
There are old cottages in the streets around the harbour, but from the High Street inland most of the development is Victorian.
Ilfracombe has some fine public gardens, and the Tunnels Beaches are approached by tunnels through the rock.
A large treasure ship, captured from the Franco-Spanish fleet, was sunk just off the coast. Gold and silver coins still sometimes turn up on the beach.