The Cornish peninsular has a perimeter lined with unbeatable beaches, plus a multitude of characterful fishing villages. But it’s not all buckets, spades and crab lines – unless you want it to be. Consult our guide to places to visit and things to do in Cornwall, surely the UK’s finest family holiday destination.
Lay down a towel on the best beaches in Cornwall
The first and most important thing to do in Cornwall is identify your beach of choice. The County boasts more beautiful beaches than hot pasty suppers – one for every type of bather. Fancy trying out surfing? Head to Fistral, Watergate or Harlyn Bay on the north coast. Looking for azure seas and balmy climes? The South Coast is sheltered and spectacular – look to Praa Sands near Helston for possibly the best, certainly the whitest, beach in Great Britain. Work your way down the Lizard peninsular to see its spectacular turquoise rock formations – an Instagrammer’s paradise. Then head to Mount’s Bay, arriving at windsurfing hotspot Marazion, which at low tide gives you access to the historic Saint Michael’s Mount.
Fancy some island life? Croatia has nothing on Cornwall – from Penzance you can go island-hopping to the dreamy Isles of Scilly, crossing by boat or chopper. Back on the mainland, if you’re looking for family-friendly, popular sandy beaches surrounded by world-class pubs and restaurants, look to Trevone, the nearest beach to Padstow – or ‘Padstein’, as the locals have it since celebrity chef Rick Stein opened up his cluster of fishy businesses in the town. These include The Seafood Restaurant, a top-class chippy, The Cornish Pub and Stein’s own delicatessen. Finally, the beaches of Asia and Australasia have little on Gyllyngvase, a sandy bay with the most turquoise sea and just the calmest waters. Sublime.
Dine overlooking the oyster beds of the Helford River
The Duchy of Cornwall provides the UK’s finest restaurants with meaty oysters, sourced from the Helford River. You won’t eat fresher oysters than those served up at the Wright Brothers’ Ferryboat Inn – a 16th century pub overlooking the farm.
Discover the world at The Eden Project
It’s now 25 years since the extraordinary domed greenhouses of The Eden Project first opened their airlock doors to the public. The whole site is a temple to the wonders of Mother Nature – from examples of rare and spectacular plant species to exhibitions bringing to life the history of the dinosaurs and other incredible beasts. Even the most education-wary child will find something to thrill and delight in the interactive zones and activities on offer – from zip-wiring to tower-climbing.
Swim in a rock pool
Cornish locals learn to swim in the waters of Treyarnon – perfect natural swimming pools in the hollows of the ancient rock formations. The saltwater keeps you buoyant, but without the disruption of waves to throw you off course. A glorious – often bracing – way to cleave through the water.
Taste the UK’s best ice cream
They’ll hate us for telling you the secret, but true Cornwall-dwellers get their ice-cream from an unassuming spot in the fishing town of Newlyn. S Jelbert, or Jelberts, serves only one flavour: vanilla, with or without a flake and another Cornish speciality, clotted cream on top. Don’t be fooled by the shabby frontage – this is ice-cream non-pareil and the queues out the door are testimony to its legendary taste and authentically grainy consistency. And while you’re in Newlyn, have a peep at the fish market – it’s the biggest in Cornwall.
Cycle the Camel trail
See the spectacular coastline from the freedom of a saddle – and feel all the better for it. Take an afternoon and hire a bike from one of several Padstow rental shops, then pedal the coast from the pretty harbour town up to Wadebridge, alongside the River Camel. This pleasant amble also runs with the track of the old railway line, which serious cyclists can pursue all the way to Wenford Bridge, via Wadebridge and Bodmin. The more casual pedaller can pull off at Wadebridge (after 5.5 miles) and have a drink in one of its many pubs, before heading back for a takeaway from Stein’s Fish & Chips – conveniently located back at the start of the trail.
Have a rum, smuggler-style
Any Daphne Du Maurier fans will be excited to have a drink at the Jamaica Inn. This atmospheric spot on Bodmin Moor, shrouded in mist, was once frequented by swarthy smugglers. You won’t see such hearties here now, but complete your short break in Cornwall by raising a glass of grog (or something more appetising) to them – and to the 1930s novelist who made the place famous.
So if you like the sound of Cornish ice cream and picturesque beaches, then take a look at the hotels we have in Cornwall.