The Ultimate Cornwall Travel Guide
Ah, Cornwall – how trendy, tasty and beautiful thou art.
Adorned with crystal blue waters and golden beaches, celebrity chefs, boutique hotels, the Eden Project, art galleries and, more recently, Dawn French – for an unforgettable family holiday in the UK, Cornwall’s where it’s at.
So, as the UK trades stints in St Kitts for a summer in St Ives, we’ve done our research to create the ultimate Cornwall travel guide for your staycation pleasure! From the best beaches and where to stay, to things to do and places to visit, we’ve got you covered.
Places to visit
Cornwall has everything you’d ever want from a holiday at home. We’re talking beaches to rival the Caribbean, a thriving foodie and arts scene, activities galore and a pretty banging microclimate to help you get your tan on. But with so much on offer, where should you visit?
Nestled around a quaint harbour, Padstow is a foodie’s paradise, playing host to celebrity chefs such as Paul Ainsworth and Rick Stein, who both own hotels and restaurants in the centre of town. Brimming with amazing eateries, you'd be hard-pushed to find better quality fish and chips elsewhere. But that's not all, Padstow is a great launchpad to head out on a cute boat trip to the nearby village of Rock, venture to the gorgeous Polzeath Beach or make strides along the stunning South West Coast Path.
Heading further down the North Coast of Cornwall will land you in one of the UK's most adored family hotspots, Newquay! With adventure playgrounds, the Oasis Fun Pools and a zoo to boot, it's easy to see why Newquay is popular with mums, dads and sprogs alike! It is also home to the iconic Fistral Beach, a stretch of gloriously golden sand with arguably some of the best surfing waves in the country and a pretty unforgettable Cornish sunset.
As the saying goes, "It's always sunny in St Ives" – but whilst the moody Atlantic coastline might have something to say about that, it's no surprise this slice of heaven has a steady stream of visitors leaving with a big smile on their faces. Located in the South West of Cornwall, St Ives is famous for its stunning beaches, cobbled boutique shopping streets and bustling art scene. Whether it’s roaming around the Tate St Ives, catching a wave on Porthmeor Beach, eating a pasty on the picturesque harbour or heading to Seal Island, St Ives has something for everyone.
Things to do in Cornwall
When we say that Cornwall has something for everyone, we’re not messing about. The surfers seek out the best waves from Praa Sands to Fistral Beach and the foodies prowl the streets of Padstow for hidden-gem pasty haunts. The arty types lose themselves in Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden and the history buffs catch a show at the Minack Theatre to learn about Cornish kings and folklore. And the rest? They head to the beach to kick back and doggy paddle!
But if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten track, why not discover one of our unforgettable Cornish experience days?
2 Hour Surf Lesson
Surf’s up! Whether this is your first time on the waves or you’re a seasoned pro, this two-hour surfing lesson is sure to float your boat (or board). Led by a qualified instructor, you’ll team up with a small group of a similar ability to learn the tricks of the tide.
Cornwall Land, Sea and Air Adventure Package with Cream Tea for Two
If you think St Ives is beautiful at sea level, just wait until you see it from the skies! Perfect for adrenaline junkies, this experience will have you trekking on an eight-mile hike, jumping in a helicopter for a bird’s eye tour and setting sail on your choice of boat trip before settling down for a delicious cream tea for two. What a day!
Dolphin Watching for Two
Join your savvy skipper up on deck for a fin-tastic two-hour adventure in either Penzance or Newquay. Expect to see bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise and a variety of seabirds and marvel at these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Don’t forget your camera!
After you’ve ticked off all the main seaside family escapades (buried Dad in the sand, played ten rounds of beach cricket and bought enough ice cream to open your own shop), it’s time to think outside the box to keep the kids entertained. Fortunately for you, Cornwall is the land of many a family-friendly and fun activity. Check these out:
Family Entrance to The Eden Project
Are you raising the next Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough? If so, it’s time to visit The Eden Project. Wander through rainforests, gawk at waterfalls and experience tropical climes at these wondrous domes dedicated to environmental conservation.
2 Hour Sealife Safari Boat Trip for Two Adults and Two Children
Get your life jackets on and head out on to the Seven Seas for an unforgettable sea life safari boat trip! Take family time to the next level as you gallivant across the Atlantic Ocean to see who can be the first to spot seals, dolphins or even a basking shark!
Full Day Paintballing Experience For Two Adults and Two Children at Bedlam
For the thrill-seeking family, it doesn’t get much more action-packed than a full day of paintballing! Kit up for combat and get ready to dive, dodge, duck and roll to defeat the enemy as a family – move over The Incredibles.
Best beaches in Cornwall
Cornwall has a glorious coastline, jam-packed with stunning golden sand beaches, crystal blue shores, dramatic cliff faces and thousands of hidden coves to explore. To help you discover your very own slice of the Med on UK home turf, here’s our pick of Cornwall’s best beaches!
1. Porthcurno Beach We know what you’re thinking – this is in England? Tucked in between towering granite cliffs in the shade of the gorgeous Minack Theatre, the golden sands of Porthcurno Beach are a must-visit. A south-facing suntrap, this beach is perfect for catching some rays. But do bear in mind that due to its position, Porthcurno’s hide tide can cause quite the steep shelf and can be tricky for less experienced swimmers.
2. Perranporth Beach Widely regarded as Cornwall’s best beach, Perranporth is a charming little jewel, just a stone’s throw south of Newquay. If you fancy a dip, the waves are very swimmer and surfer-friendly with lifeguards on patrol in summer months, as well as an open-air seawater swimming pool that heats naturally in the Cornish sun! To top it off, there’s even a pub on the beach for when you need to wet your whistle and cool down after your beach day bonanza.
3. Kynance Cove If this isn’t the most Insta-worthy beach in the UK, we’ll eat our sun hats. With sparkling aquamarine waters to rival those of Sardinia, moss-covered, wrap-around rock formations and colourful wildflowers, the breathtaking vistas of Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula are probably the most convincing argument that heaven really is a place on Earth. Don’t fancy sunbathing all day? Head north to Asparagus Island and explore the hidden treasures of its many rock pools and sea caves.
4. Porthmeor BeachStunning fishing village and celeb spot, St Ives is blessed with several picturesque beaches for sandy toes to tread. But its largest beach, Porthmeor, which can be found at the foot of the striking white architecture of the Tate St Ives, is widely regarded as its best, with Porthminster and Carbis Bay just missing out on the top spot. Blue Flag-awarded, Porthmeor is a safe and well-cared-for beach that’s a huge hit with surfers and sunbathers alike. After a good bask in the St Ives sunshine, why not head up to the Porthmeor Beach Cafe for a cake or a cocktail? Just make sure to book first!
When to visit Cornwall
The short answer is anytime!
In spring or summer, Cornwall is sure to give you a sun-kissed glow that’ll have your friends and family convinced you’ve spent a fortnight in Fuerteventura. Grab your windbreaker and sun yourself on one of Cornwall’s many gorgeous beaches and bays. And with temperatures reaching heights of 30°C in the summer, it’s no wonder why more and more holidaymakers are opting for a stress-free staycation.
But that's not to say that Cornwall is to be avoided in the autumn and winter – after all, the surf never sleeps! There’s something to be said for watching the Atlantic Ocean crash against the shore from a cosy Cornish coffee shop after a long ramble along the beautiful South West Coast Path. And for the culture vultures out there, winter is a great time to take in a bit of sea air as you discover Cornwall’s vibrant art scene. Why not swerve the summer crowds and visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Tate St Ives or unleash your inner conservationist at the Eden Project?
Where to stay in Cornwall
Now you’ve packed your bucket and spade and you can practically taste the scones, it’s time to decide where you’re going to stay in glorious Kernow. There are plenty of spectacular holiday homes to rent, but sometimes it's nice to get pampered at a plush boutique hotel or even indulge in a spot of Hobbit Hut glamping. Here’s our pick of the best:
Two Night Indulgent Escape for Two
Grab your lover, mother, friend or fancy and recharge those batteries at one of our carefully selected luxurious hotels and B&Bs on the Cornish coast. Whether you opt for a country house retreat in Truro or a sensational sea view in Kingsbridge, you can relax in the knowledge that soon you’ll be enjoying a peaceful two-night stay and a delicious breakfast each morning.
Overnight Indulgent Escape with Dinner for Two
Wanting to make a flying visit? Say no more. Our choice of overnight escapes at some of Cornwall’s most characterful hotels is just the ticket. Plus, wherever you choose to lay your head in luxury, you’ll also get to tuck into a delicious dinner for two at the hotel restaurant. Fancy, huh?
Boutique Escape for Two at The Lugger
For the full Cornish experience, you need look no further than The Lugger, the stylish hotspot hotel perched on the water’s edge of Portloe. Picture the charming character of this stunning 17th-century smuggler’s inn, the wind in your hair as you trek the nearby coastal path and the smile on your face as you indulge in a hearty breakfast at The Lugger’s AA Rosette restaurant. Divine.
Two Night Coastal Escape for Two
If you’re dead set on hearing the waves crash against the Cornish coastline, one of our handpicked seaside retreats will be sure to tickle your fancy. Breathe in the sea air as you enjoy two unforgettable days of fun in the sun and let all your worries melt away. You’ll be able to unwind with a two-night stay for two at a hotel of your choice, available at some of the UK’s most picturesque seaside locations – treat yourself!
Two Night Stay in a Hobbit Hut at Acorn Camping
Who said camping was drab? Put your phone on silent and glamp away to your heart’s content with this glorious getaway experience for two in rural Cornwall. With a TripAdvisor Hall of Fame Certificate of Excellence, these unique 11 square-meter Hobbit Huts are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by untouched woodland for you to discover. Don’t fret – you’ll have everything you need for a cosy stay. Each hut has its own hot shower room, with a washbasin and toilet, as well as camping stoves, comfy futons and a communal fire pit!