Here Are Some Top Tips for Great Places to Visit in Cornwall!
Looking to explore Cornwall? The famed county along the English coastline is a popular spot to visit. With rocky cliffs, sweeping sea views, sandy beaches, and cute little towns and villages, there is honestly something for everyone to enjoy.
That said, if you have never visited the area, Cornwall can be a tricky place to understand when you’re planning a trip. There are lots of things to do in Cornwall and the best place to base yourself in Cornwall really depends on your interests and how much time you have to stay!
Luckily for you, we’ve brought in traveller Laura from She Who Wanders, who used to live in England, to help make sense of this beautiful area. From advice on where to stay in Cornwall – complete with seaside hotels and cottages – to some of the top places to visit like Newquay and St. Ives, here’s Laura with her first-hand Cornwall travel knowledge!
Places to Visit in Cornwall
Cutting right to the chase, let’s dive into some of the top places to visit in Cornwall. You’ll find a healthy mix of towns and villages as well as more popular centres, attractions, and places of natural beauty that are worth checking out!
Located on the northern coast of Cornwall, St. Ives might be one of the stops you make as you head down the peninsula from places like London or Bristol. This seaside town has a super relaxed vibe and is full of amazing galleries like The Tate, adorable shops, and some fantastic restaurants.
Best known for its stunning beaches and coastal walks, there is a ton to do while you’re here. You can learn to surf at one of the many nearby beaches or head out for a beach walk (starting at Porthminster Beach) along the coastline to Smeatons Pier (or along the beach when the tide is out). Further on, you’ll find Porthgwidden Beach with its rainbow-coloured beach huts and an adorable cafe.
Rain or shine it’s definitely worth taking the coastal path out along The Point to Porthmeor Beach to watch the surfers – you can also try it yourself. If the weather takes a turn, duck into the Porthmeor Cafe for some amazing food and cozy ambiance.
Of course, no trip to Cornwall is complete without a Cornish pasty so head straight for St. Ives Bakery, or if you’re early enough get to Ferrell S H & Son Bakery. The unsuspecting storefront is home to some of the best pastries and baked goods in Cornwall, but they go quick!
Known to locals as “Meva”, which is also easier to pronounce, this seaside village is like something out of a movie. As one of the smallest villages in Cornwall (with less than 3,000 residents), it’s easy to get lost in the charm when you arrive.
The village is set in a small valley facing Mevagissey Bay and is the second-largest fishing port in all of the region. This also makes it a great place to get out for a day on a boat: Kayaks (if you have them) or larger vessels for those who want a little history lesson as well as a leisurely afternoon on the water.
There is a local museum to check out and a few galleries within the village. Your best bet to get a true feel for Mevagissey is to wander through the tight streets and get a little lost. For the perfect meal with a great view of the bay, head to The Sharksfin for great cocktails and awesome pub food. If you stick around for sunset, you’ll get dinner and a show!
If you’re looking for a surfer holiday, look no further! Newquay on the north coast of Cornwall is the perfect place to catch a few waves, and even do a few other fun things too.
Made famous for the annual Boardmasters surf contest, Newquay has been visited by UK and EU surfers for decades. During the contest, the town can be a tad hectic but it’s worth it for the atmosphere.
Fistral Beach is where you’ll find most people on a sunny day whether it’s warm or not. There’s a good reason for this: Golden sand backed by equally as golden dunes. The sea stretches out for miles and The Headland Hotel overlooks the beautiful coastline.
Newquay Harbour is a perfect spot to watch the boats, go for a stroll around the shops, and to grab a coffee or lunch in a cafe. This is also where you can pick up the iconic 630 Mile South West Coast Path. Even if you don’t do this hike in its entirety, the stretch of coastline here is something not to be missed.
A short stop from the much larger city of Penzance, Mousehole can often be overlooked but it’s more than worth stopping in to explore this beautiful town by the sea. Mousehole is a relatively quiet town with a sheltered harbour. This makes it popular for families as the water is quite calm. The calm water also means it’s a great spot to cozy up with a book.
The harbour is sheltered by a massive stone breakwater and if you visit during a relatively choppy day, you can walk up the breakwater and watch the waves crash which is a sight to see.
You can also wander through the cobbled streets admiring the charming and quaint houses, the local shops, and the most popular The Mousehole Shop with its blue shopfront.
During the Christmas period, the town is known for its Christmas Illuminations. One must-visit restaurant is The Rock Pool Cafe. Located right above a beautiful rock pool on the shoreline, you’ll be sure to have a great meal and one of the best hot chocolates in Cornwall.
One of the larger cities on the southern end of England, Penzance has been welcoming visitors from near and far for ages. Penzance is a great place to base yourself if you’re looking to get to Cornwall by train since it’s the last stop on the Great Western Train line. Penzance is also close to tons of attractions like St. Michael’s Mount and the famous Minnack Theatre so it’s a good place to head off on day trips from, too.
Chapel Street runs straight through town and is home to shops, hotels, and tons of fantastic restaurants and pubs. The Exchange Gallery is just down the road and quite impressive to see, especially at night. What used to be a telephone exchange has been converted into an art gallery with the exterior being covered in 100’s of illuminating coloured LED lights.
If you aren’t much for swimming in the sea, the Jubilee Pool – built in an appealing art deco style – can be found on the seafront with stunning views of the headland. And if the rain and wind come, their cafe is the perfect place to escape it all and watch the storm roll in. Penzance is also home to tons of lush parks and green spaces making it a great option if you need some time away from the beach life to nurse the sunburn.
Polzeath is a seaside resort village where you’ll be hard-pressed to find a swim-up bar or a glam club. What you will find are amazing caravan parks, camping spots, and sandy beaches.
On the Atlantic Coast near Wadebridge, Polzeath is also the perfect spot for anyone looking for a surf getaway. For some absolutely incredible views head to The Rumps, which you can access from Polzeath Beach and climbing up Pentire Head. The scenes around you are truly magical and will make you feel like somewhere from Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings reference).
There are also countless beaches to help you work on your tan an/or surf moves or to just enjoy a stroll along the sand. If you’ve finished on the sand, head for The Waterfront Restaurant to take in the views and enjoy some fantastic food and drink from the area.
You won’t find much in the form of major shops or shopping centers but everything you’d need while visiting you can find. A camping holiday is a perfect way to experience this part of the country and makes for a super fun adventure for anyone visiting.
Once upon a time, Falmouth was actually the second busiest port in the whole of the British Empire. These days, it’s still a highly sought after destination for a Cornish holiday. The major draw to the city – and what the city surrounds itself with – is the Fal Estuary.
Home to castles and regal-looking gardens, this is a great destination for anyone who loves an afternoon stroll. Pendennis Castle and St. Mawes Castle are a must-see for history buffs, as is the National Maritime Museum.
Glendurgan Garden is a hot spot for visitors with its incredible gardens that house different plants depending on the time of year of your visit. There’s also a really awesome maze you can get lost in! The Queen Mary Gardens have an incredible array of internationally curated plants and flowers that bloom in the spring and summer.
And of course, because you’re on the coast, you have to explore the beaches. Gyllyngvase has a stunning headland that overlooks the sea while Swanpool Beach is in a shady sheltered bay perfect for watching the day pass with a good book. All in all, you won’t be disappointed by a visit to Falmouth!
Built half on a rugged headland into the Cornish sea and half on the mainland, Tintagel is a must-visit destination on your Cornwall adventure. The area is best known for Tintagel Castle which was built in the 13th century and eventually fell into ruins. The castle is associated with King Arthur and the knights which leads to all sorts of incredible historical stories and facts.
In the 1930s, excavation work began and now – in its current state – the castle is a major tourist attraction in Cornwall. Besides this magical castle, there are still quite a few other things to do while in this small village.
You can pick up the South West Coast path here and continue on the coast for miles or head out only for a few hours for incredible views. St. Nectans Glen is a place where magic lives on with a beautiful waterfall cascading through rock formations and into a beautiful rock pool below.
St. Agnes is a tiny holiday village about 10 miles from Newquay. If you catch this place on a sunny day, you’ll think you’ve set foot in Greece and not England! The colour of the water here rivals many tropical islands and the calm waters are perfect for floating or boating.
With narrow streets, beautiful stone cottages, and holiday homes, the town itself is relatively small but still has all the things you need including a few pubs, restaurants, shops and – of course – a beach to die for. Less than two miles from town is the stunning Chapel Porth which is a huge draw for anyone who has seen the TV series Poldark. If you have not seen the show, the views speak for themselves here.
The Chapel is owned by the National Trust and features a rocky beach above a golden sandy cove. For the best pub in town, stop into The Taphouse. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch some fantastic live music there, too. Elsewhere, Trevaunance Cove has classic and lovely looking beach huts and calm waters perfect for a day out paddling. Oh, and you’ll find some of the best views in St. Agnes here, too.
In the north part of Cornwall, you can also check out Padstow – where you’ll find the perfect swells for beginner surfers and a beautiful estuary. The harbour is the hub of the town and a great place to catch a ferry ride. Situated on the only river estuary in the north of the county, the harbour is still functioning today for the fishermen who come and go.
The docks are buzzing with shops, cafes, and fantastic spots for good old fashioned Cornish ice cream. The Camel Trail is perfect for cyclists so if you’re touring with your bike get here ASAP. Starting in Padstow, the route is broken into three sections through Wadebridge, Bodim, and finally Wendfordbridge. This means that you can go as near or far as you please.
Hopping on a ferry across the estuary is a great way to see all that Padstow has to offer from a different perspective. You’ll arrive in the village of Rock within minutes, which is home to tons of Victorian-style holiday homes.
For views across the estuary, head out to Stepper Point on the South West Coast path where on clear days you can see for miles. If the weather takes a turn, there’s a cafe to cozy up in. Surfers – no matter how experienced – will be in heaven here as there are tons of different breaks to take advantage of.
St. Michael’s Mount
There is a good chance you’ve seen spectacular photos of Mont St. Michel in France. Lucky for you, St. Michael’s Mount is the sister site in Cornwall. As a tidal island near Marazion, you’ll get the feeling you’ve been transported to another century.
There is a car park nearby on shore – and if you’re lucky enough to stay at The Godolphin Arms Hotel, you’ll be able to see the Mount from your room. From the hotel/car park you can walk out to the island at low tide, which is a very cool experience.
There is a cobbled path leading the way and if you have wellies, you’ll be able to stroll on part of the beach. If the tide is in, you’ll have to take the ferry across.
Once you cross the sea/causeway, you’ll find a castle and the most stunning gardens to explore. A day is a great amount of time to spend here but if you just have a few hours you’ll get a good fill. If you’re short on time, then definitely opt for a sunset cocktail at The Godolphin Arms restaurant. Weather permitting, definitely opt for the patio for stunning views!
The Lizard is an odd name for a place to visit but it’s a place that you should definitely not miss out on. While this peninsula is made up of serpentine rock… this is totally a coincidence. The name is actually a miscommunication of the Cornish “Lys Ardh”, meaning high court. So there you have it, a very odd reason for the name of this place.
This part of Cornwall may not be massive, but there is plenty to do and see. Lizard Point is what draws most visitors to this part of Cornwall. It’s a National Trust site with some seriously incredible views. As the most southerly part of the UK, you’ll be gifted with panoramic views of turquoise seas and sandy beaches for miles from the point.
On any given day, you’ll see tons of ships as this is one of the busiest shipping passages in the world. The Coastal Walk is one not to be missed. At three hours round trip, it’s easily doable for all fitness levels.
From the clifftop paths, you may be able to spot seals and even sharks so definitely pack the binoculars! Bonython Estate Gardens are the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The beautiful grounds and three peaceful are a great location for afternoon tea.
If you’ve ever wondered where the very “end” of England is, Land’s End is it! To the east, you’ll find the English Channel and to the West the Celtic Sea – both of which can be seen from Land’s End. Viewed by most British holidaymakers as a very touristy vacation option, this might be just what you’re looking for.
With breathtaking viewpoints, amusement park rides, and so much more, this part of the country has something for everyone. If you like exploring Brighton, there’s a chance you’ll like it here, too! The landmark attractions here are free (except for the small parking fee) so even if you aren’t sold on the super cheesy tourist attractions, you may want to stop in just for the views.
The Land’s End viewpoint also comes with a cheesy but fun landmark sign that will show you just how far you are from other cities in the world. Plus, the 200-foot tall granite cliffs will give you some superb views out over the coastline.
From here, you can join a coastal path that will take you about 30 minutes along to Sennen Cove. You can also take advantage of the amusement park-style rides if that’s something you’re into.
If not, then why not learn more about the history of this area by visiting the Beacon, the Lighthouse, or maybe by visiting the first postbox of England set up by King George IV? Whatever you decide to do – and however long you decide to stay – it’s cool to be able to say you’ve been to the end of the country!
Near to Penzance, Porthcurno is a perfect spot for a day trip or even a pit stop on a Cornwall road trip. Porthcurno is not by any means a huge place, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in any way. The beach is a huge draw for people and when you see photos you’ll know exactly why. Soft white sand, turquoise seas on a sunny day, and high cliffs – what more could you want?
From the car park, you’ll get a stunning view from above but be sure to make it down to the shoreline as you may be lucky enough to spot some playful seals. The Minack Theatre (mentioned briefly above) is a slice of history tucked right onto the coastline and serves as something everyone should visit. So move over, Stonehenge!
Carved into the cliffs overlooking the beach, the amphitheatre was built in 1930. Plays are still staged here from May-September. If you’re lucky enough to book in for a show here, be sure to bring a cushion because granite doesn’t make for the comfiest seating.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot in Porthcurno without a magical view but some of the best can be found at Penberth Cove and Porthgwarra. Pack a picnic, grab the beach umbrella, and settle in for the perfect day or even evening by the sea. Even in the moodiest of weather, Porthcurno is a dream spot.
The Eden Project
Not only is this a great accommodation location, but it is truly one of the most unique attractions in Cornwall. Located about five kilometres from St. Austell, The Eden Project looks like a futuristic city nestled into the English countryside. The structure is dominated by two large adjoining domes with a hexagonal biome shape.
The larger of the domes houses a complete rainforest biosphere to explore and the second is a total beautiful Mediterranean atmosphere surrounded by stunning botanical gardens. With a mandate for providing an environment educational experience for visitors, this is a really amazing place to explore no matter the time of year.
The Eden Project hosts multiple music performances during the year which are streamed online, as well as onsite festivals and activities to take part in. The Skywire is the longest zipline in England and there’s a treetop rainforest walkway that will allow visitors to get up close and personal with the plant and tree life.
The natural blooms are related to the seasons so if there are specific plants/sections you’re hoping to see in bloom, make sure you arrange your trip around that season!
Located between Padstow and Newquay on the north Cornish Coast, the Bedruthan Steps are 150 steps (one way) to get down to explore one of the most beautifully rugged sections of the region.
This National Trust location can be visited in a few hours or you could spend a whole day here depending on the weather. You’ll immediately be taken aback by the views as you make your way down from the car park and you see the cliffs stretching out along the coastline in front of you.
You’ll have two options: To carry on across the clifftops on the walking paths or to head down to the beach. Luckily, there’s no need to choose as you’ll have more than enough time to take both routes on a day trip here. It’s also recommended to check the tide schedule so that you don’t end up too soaked. You can explore the beach and the caves at the bottom of the steps (keeping the tide in mind).
The area was once used for mining and legend has it that Bedruthan was actually a giant who used the beach stacks as stepping stones to make his way across the beach. So when you visit, keep an eye out for him, too. After a solid day of exploring/trail walking, head up to the cafe for a well-deserved cream tea!
Things to Consider When Travelling to Cornwall
If you’re thinking about travelling to Cornwall, there are a number of things you should consider – like the best time to visit, the best ways to get around, or where you should stay.
Best Time to Visit Cornwall
Cornwall, a part of England unknown to most international visitors, is a favourite holiday location for many British passport holders. Located on the rugged southern tip of the country, Cornwall is home to incredible beaches, beautiful coastal walks, charming villages, and some of the most stunning views in all of the UK.
And with all these things to do, see, and explore, there truly is no bad time to visit this part of the country. However what you hope to see and do may decide what time of year you make your trip to Cornwall.
Summers here can be incredible with turquoise seas, golden beaches, and perfect patio weather. However, with that sunshine brings all the school holiday goers and everyone who has been stuck inside with the rain for half the year. It can be quite busy this time of year but if you can sneak away for a mid-week getaway, you can avoid the hectic weekend crowds.
The colder months of November through to April can be quite wet and windy. While you may not get a suntan, the beaches are clear, the streets have parking, and the vibe is much more relaxed overall. With wellies and a good rain jacket, you could luck out with a sunny day or two throughout the winter and really get to enjoy Cornwall in all her beauty.
Getting To/Around Cornwall
If you are travelling to Cornwall from a major centre (like London) to start off a larger UK adventure, then Cornwall is about 4.5 hours drive south of the capital. Some might want to make Cornwall a day trip from London but it would make more sense to spend a night there since the drive is a little long for a day trip there and back.
If you fancy a quicker trip to Cornwall, the closest airport is in Newquay. From within the region, you can catch the train or rent a car to any number of destinations on the Cornish coastline. If you’re on a budget, the National Express coach (bus) service goes as far as Penzance, but it depends on the dates you’re looking to travel.
Once you arrive in your town of choice in Cornwall, getting around can be pretty straightforward with public buses or trains. If the town is small enough, all you’ll need are your two feet or a bike to enjoy all there is to enjoy!
Where to Stay in Cornwall
Since Cornwall is such a popular area among locals (and growing in popularity among international visitors), there are lots of places to stay around the Cornish coast. As for accommodations by type, there is a healthy mix of hotels, bed and breakfasts, seaside cottages, and even a number of budget accommodations like hostels.
If you are seeking out specific accommodation options around Cornwall, here are some top recommendations from different stops around the region.
The Godolphin Arms – St. Michael’s Mount
If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s close to one of the most amazing attractions in Cornwall, look no further than The Godolphin Arms Hotel in Marazion. If you get out of bed early enough, you can be among the first to get to St. Michael’s Mount.
This small hotel is not only a great accommodation option but also has a fabulous restaurant and bar to enjoy even if you aren’t a guest there. The best part? The views of the Mount at sunset are unrivaled!
Bay Hill Cottage – St. Ives
In the stunning town of St. Ives you’ll find the perfect home away from home with some of the best views around. With more than enough space to sleep six people, this cottage is more like a seaside mansion.
Complete with a gorgeous kitchen with a view out to sea, it’s the perfect place to spend a few days relaxing, enjoying company, and falling in love with St. Ives.
Trevalsa Court Hotel – Mevagissey
Posted up on a beautiful hill above Mevagissey Harbour is the charming and lovely Trevalsa Court Hotel. Want to have a cream tea in a cozy beach hut overlooking the ocean? You can do that here.
Would you love access to a private beach with beautifully clear waters? Yep, they’ve got that too. Pretty much anything you could wish for in the most picturesque Cornish village ever is here!
St. Christopher’s Hostel – Newquay
If you’re looking for a fun accommodation option that won’t break the bank, check out St. Christopher’s Hostel in Newquay. Known for its seriously epic swells, surfers flock to this Cornish town for fun in the sun – but it’s so much more than that! Book into a dorm to save a bit of money and use it to explore this part of the country.
YHA Eden Project
Part of the iconic Eden Project in Cornwall actually includes this a YHA (hostel) location. YHA Eden is a unique accommodation option that won’t break the bank and is super central to all the great things The Eden Project has to offer.
Just a few miles to a local brewery, a museum, and a beautiful coastal walk, this hostel was constructed using old shipping containers and is now something amazing.
And there you have it – a rundown of some of the best places to visit in Cornwall! This beautiful area is packed with things to see and picturesque scenery to discover. We hope this Cornwall guide serves as a great bit of inspiration to get you started exploring the region the right way. And a huge thanks again to Laura for sharing her Cornwall knowledge with us!
As always, Happy Cornwall Waddlin’,
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