Dawlish is a product of the Victorian era and the coming of the railway. The railway, opened in 1848, was the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It ran between the land and the sea behind a specially constructed sea wall. For the first two years it used the atmospheric system before being converted to conventional steam trains. The Great Western Railway took it over in 1876.
During the storms of early 2014, this sea wall was famously breached and the railway left dangling over the resulting chasm. However, prompt repairs enabled the line to be re-opened within two months.
Dawlish Warren, as well as being a popular beach, is a National Nature Reserve. It is an area of grassland, sand dunes and mudflats. It centres on a 1½ mile long sandspit and beach across the mouth of the Exe Estuary which 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.