Visit blissfully untouched beaches, charming fishing villages, secluded scenic locations and the best of the local food scene in our 12 hidden places to visit in Cornwall.

There’s a lot to love about Cornwall.

The sunny county in England tapers out to the Atlantic Ocean, carrying a string of blissful beaches and picture-postcard harbours on its way to the far reaches of the British mainland. Untouched by the Romans, Cornwall remained the final haven for Celtic culture, a legacy still found in exotic placenames and historic mysticism.

While the ghosts of the mining industry have enhanced the dramatic scenery, its rebound industry, tourism, has cluttered some regions in tacky complexes and left locals outnumbered in towns converted to theme parks. But dotted amongst the packed tourist attractions, there are still plenty of places to visit in Cornwall where you can avoid the crowds, lose yourself and support wonderful local businesses.   

From our travels up and down this slender coastline, we’ve compiled our favourite out of the way swimming spots, the best secret beaches, and the local food scene’s most creative hidden gems.

Find a less-beaten track with these excellent places to visit in Cornwall.  

church tower above a forest
IN THIS GUIDE

HIDDEN PLACES TO VISIT IN CORNWALL


1 – PEDN VOUNDER BEACH

Pedn Vounder is a secret beach in Cornwall and possibly the most beautiful in the United Kingdom. Set under huge granite cliffs, the curve of sand is entirely covered at high tide. But as the water retreats, a golden sandbar rises out of the sea creating a shallow crystal-clear lagoon.

At low tide you can wade through the shallow water out to the sandbar or play in the surf that pounds the far side. With hidden coves either side of the beach, it’s the closest Britain gets to a Caribbean idyll and one of the most magical places to visit in Cornwall.

The beach begins to appear about 90 minutes after high tide, with the sandbar visible 2 hours either side of low tide. The descent onto the beach is a little tricky, but if you are sure on your feet, it’s worth the effort. Otherwise, the views of this hidden gem from the clifftop above are still staggering, especially at low tide.

Pedn Vounder is one of Britain’s naturist beaches, so swimming gear is optional.

HOW TO GET TO PEDN VOUNDER

Pedn Vouder is a 15-minute walk from either Treen or Porthcurno Car Park with the last section requiring a 15-metre scramble down to the beach below. You’ll need your hands and there are a couple of big steps, but if you are steady on your feet and careful, it’s very doable.

All the details are in our guide to visiting Pedn Vounder, Cornwall.

2 – PORTHLEVEN

Every year half a million people descend on Padstow, Cornwall’s food capital. The packed streets have taken on a theme park feel with queues forming in front of even the most basic chain outlets.

A much better foodie experience can be found in the humble fishing village of Porthleven where a host of diverse eateries are dotted around the working fishing harbour.

For high-end dining head to Kota. Awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide every year since 2013, Jude Keremea works his magic on local produce with an Asian twist. For similar flavours in a more affordable setting, Kota Kai Bar & Kitchen is just a few doors down.

Alternatively, join the locals leaning against the harbour wall munching on the daily specials from Mussel Shoal or try Dan’s Van with the freshest lobster served in front of colourful bobbing boats.

We recommend the coffee and pastries from Origin and an on-the-go lunch from Ced’s, a cool hole in the wall bagel shop. There are a few small outlets in Shipyard – a warehouse-style eating joint – including Radish, with a great vegetarian menu.  

Porthleven was one of our favourite places to visit in Cornwall thanks to its relaxed friendly vibe and great food options. Go before it changes.

3 – NANJIZAL SEA CAVE

Nanjizal Bay is set amongst some of the most rugged scenery Cornwall has to offer. It’s a small secret beach awash with boulders with a narrow sea cave at its eastern end.

Known as the ‘Song of the Sea,’ a towering wall of rock has been carved into a narrow passageway by the forces of nature. It can be seen at any time, but its best at low tide when you can wade through pools and scramble over rocks to explore under the arch.  

Nanjizal Sea Cave is a beautiful place to visit in Cornwall for lazing around, adventuring in hidden caves or photographing a natural scenic highlight. It takes around 25 minutes to walk from the nearest road, making something that would otherwise be teeming with people, delightfully quiet.  

HOW TO GET TO NANJIZAL SEA CAVE

It’s a 25-minute walk one way (via Trevilley Farmhouse) from the laybys in Trevescan. Alternatively, the beautiful coastal path from Porthgwarra will take around 50 minutes. Both the parking spots in Trevescan and Porthgwarra are marked on our map below.

READ NEXT – VISITING PORTHCURNO BEACH

4 – 45 QUEEN STREET, PENZANCE

Penzance is a real Cornish city which attracts significantly less tourists than other well-known places. The result is a hospitality sector that’s set up for locals rather than visitors. A delightful by-product of this is 45 Queen Street. Set in a repurposed warehouse, the cavernous interior with wooden tables, mismatched chairs, plants and mood-enhancing lighting, sets a cool mood in an age-old fishing town. 

The concept is simple. Select from a menu of 10 to 15 items, each costing £3 or £4, to construct a tasting board from the freshest local ingredients. We had vine tomatoes, crunchy corn, brie, olives and stuffed vine leaves. It lands somewhere between a basic charcuterie board and a cool Ploughmans. With well-priced local beer and good house wine, it’s a wallet-friendly alternative to another pub meal. 

Come to this hidden gem in Cornwall before it becomes impossible to snare a table.

HOW TO DINE AT 45 QUEEN STREET

They only take walk-ins at 45 Queen Street, but the place is large, and the turnover is quick. Leave your name at the door and head to the nearby Blacks of Chapel Street for a drink in the window while you wait for your table.

5 – SAINT JUST, ROSELAND

St Just Church in Roseland has been a place of worship since the 6th century. The current stone church – built in the 13th century – is surrounded by picturesque waterside grounds that make it an interesting place to visit in Cornwall.

Described by John Betjeman as, “to many people, the most beautiful churchyard on earth,” St Just is nestled under hills on the edge of a creek running into the River Fal. The gardens are revealed via a winding path that meanders along old stone graves covered with moss and conquered by twisted vines.

Bamboo, rhododendrons and camellias are mixed with azaleas, wild garlic and bluebells to create one of the most horticulturally interesting places to visit in Cornwall. The giant gunnera (Brazilian Rhubarb) looks like something from the Day of the Triffids and bestows an exotic mystery on St Just.

HOW TO GET TO ST JUST  

St. Just Church is tucked into the Roseland Peninsula. Entrance is free, but the car park asks for a donation for the upkeep of the church. Payment is made via a ticket machine which alleges to take card, but it wouldn’t take any of ours.

MORE READING – BEST THINGS TO DO IN PEMBROKESHIRE

6 – MOUSEHOLE TIDAL POOL

Mousehole is a charming fishing village just south of Penzance with a labyrinth of narrow streets converging on a tiny harbour. As bobbing boats shimmer in the morning light, tourists amble the boutiques and cafes that line cobblestone lanes.

Tucked a few steps down from the car park on the north side of town, the Rock Pool Café has an enviable position, perched on the rocks overlooking the sea. On the terrace, enjoy contemporary café goodness in a vibe that oozes Victorian seaside charm. The coffee is ok, the cakes are tasty, the cocktails creative and the views are splendid.  

The rock pool directly in front of the café starts to appear around three hours (or so) either side of low tide. While it may be more of a paddle than a swim, it’s one of the best places to visit in Cornwall with somewhere for the kids to play while adults relax with a coffee or cocktail in hand.

7 – LANTIC BAY BEACH

Compared to other parts of the country, fewer visitors make it to eastern Cornwall. Even less make it to Lantic Bay. This deep cove is surrounded on three sides by near-vertical 100 metre cliffs, making it one of the most dramatic, untouched places to visit in Cornwall. From the coastal path above the beach, wide-ranging views stretch across the bracken, gorse and heather strewn headlands.

There is a steep path that descends onto a pebbly/sandy secret beach that’s often empty thanks to the lack of facilities and remote location. Laze around or explore the rocky coves, swim across to nearby Little Lantic Bay, or just soak in those craggy cliff views draped in green. Spend the evening glamping with sea views in one of the unique places to stay on the coast.

HOW TO GET TO LANTIC BAY

Park in the National Trust Lantic Bay Car Park. It’s then a 15-minute walk from the car park to the beach. The last part is steep but there are steps and you won’t need to use your hands. Gravity helps you on the way down, less so on the way back up.

READ NEXT – VISITING BEAUTIFUL PEDN VOUNDER

8 – GOLITHA FALLS

The picturesque cascades that make up Golitha Falls is a popular tourist attraction in peak season. However, beyond the main waterfall, a secluded section of the river provides a tranquil escape and a surprising hidden gem in Cornwall.

Beyond the main waterfall, the path appears blocked by a fence. However, a rugged track continues for another 200 metres heading deeper into the ravine where several shallow hidden pools appear amongst the rocks. Shrouded in jungle-like scenery, moss clings to the rocky walls and vines hang from trees overhead. It’s a magical ancient oak and beech woodland and one of the most atmospheric places to visit in Cornwall for a picnic and a wild swim.

HOW TO GET TO GOLITHA FALLS  

Park at Golitha Falls Car Park in the southern section of Bodmin Moor. From here, it’s a 15m minute walk to the pool. We have marked the exact location on the map below. A couple of the pools have sandy bases, but be careful clambering on the rocks as they can be slippery.

9 – MOOMAID CAFÉ ZENNOR

The secret cove of Zennor, on the furthest reaches of the Penwith Peninsula, is steeped in Celtic mystery. Legend has it that the beautiful Mermaid of Zennor was continually courted by local lads. One day she lured a young man with the best singing voice into the sea and he was never seen again.

Today the village is home to the Moomaid of Zennor café. It’s known across the area for its quality ice cream and as one of the coolest places to visit in Cornwall.

You can pick up a coffee and cake to have in their little courtyard garden, which was pretty good. Surprisingly however, it was the gift shop that really won us over. Stacked with a wide range of oddities and carefully selected items, including a book called Cabin Porn (all about rustic cabins) and another called Norwegian Wood Stacking (yes, it’s about stacking wood), it’s quirky all the way.

10 – PORTHTOWAN TIDAL POOL

The St Agnes headland has some of the finest scenery in Cornwall. The ruins of old mines stand above the heather and gorse clad cliffs which are a swathe of colour in late summer. It’s a beautiful section of the coast that houses one of the best kept secrets in Cornwall.

Just northeast of Porthtowan, steep rocky steps descend the cliff face to a deep tidal pool walled off at one end. Only revealed a few hours either side of low tide, it’s an enticing way to cool off overlooking the sea and a lovely beach.

It can be a little tricky to find, which makes it fun to discover and possibly deserted when you do.  

HOW TO GET TO PORTHTOWAN TIDAL POOL  

We have marked the exact location on the map below. Access is via the beach from Porthtowan, or down the steep steps from the headland.

11 – HIDDEN HUT, PORTSCATHO

Word is spreading about the Hidden Hut at Portscatho. Perched above Porthcurnick Beach, deep in the Roseland peninsula, this wooden shack produces a tasty selection of creative dishes. Rotating the menu daily, we had a choice of beef chilli, chicken cacciatore and dahl with raita, plus a few other small bites.  

The dishes are simple but well put together, and easy to eat with one hand so you can sit on the wooden benches at the top of the beach overlooking superb views. There’s coffee, flavoured hot chocolates and a choice of cakes to finish up.

The Hidden Hut have their own cookbook with showcases their dedication to simply prepared beach/street food. They also have some of the friendliest staff we met in Cornwall.

HOW TO GET TO THE HIDDEN HUT

It’s an 8-minute walk from the car park in Portscatho or three minutes from one of the few parking spaces along the road opposite the Rosevine Hotel. There’s no covered area so you’re at the mercy of whatever weather you get, but even in the rain it’s a wonderful place to visit in Cornwall. The café has toilets.

READ NEXT – BEST THINGS TO DO IN TENBY

12 – HOLYWELL BAY & PORTH JOKE BEACH

This may not quite be a secret beach, but only 6 miles from Newquay, Holywell Bay is far less busy than many around it and its difficult to work out why. A huge sweep of golden sand, the largest on this stretch of coast, means there’s plenty of space for everyone.

Backed by 60 ft dunes, with cliffs on either side and two rocky promontories out at sea, it’s a gloriously sheltered beach, and a scenic place to relax. Stroll the rocky headlands, explore the tidal estuary, swim in the sea, take a surf lesson, or simply laze on the golden sands with a good book. At low tide you can explore grotto-like Holywell Cave and a 70-year-old wreck pokes out of the sea.

A 30 minute walk north around the headland brings you to Porth (Polly) Joke Beach, a hidden gem of a small cove completely untouched by commercialism. Its turquoise waters, funnelled by two headlands, lap at pristine sands. There are no facilities here, just a slice of heaven offering a break from the hectic pace of day-to-day life.

HOW TO GET TO HOLYWELL BAY BEACH

Holywell Bay is owned and run by the National Trust. The car park is free to members and there are toilets in Holywell village. Porth Joke beach can be accessed via a 30-minute walk around the headland or a 15-minute walk from the Polly Joke car park. 

MAP / SECRET PLACES TO VISIT IN CORNWALL

Download our map which includes all our top places to visit in Cornwall, plus where to park.

To save the map, make sure you are logged in to your Google account, then click on the star to the right of the title. To locate the map go to your Google Maps app, select saved, then maps.

WHERE TO STAY

There’s no shortage of places to stay, but to truly experience the secret side of Cornwall, we recommend a quirky escape in a Unique hideaway stay. Enjoy the heart and soul of Cornwall in perfectly positioned glamping, repurposed shepherd’s huts or a luxury pad with a hot tub.

Here are some recommendations from us.

GLAMPING POD

DEMELZA

Surrounded in rolling landscape, Demelza is a compact glamping pad with beautiful furnishings and enough facilities to whip up a romantic meal for two. It’s around 30 minutes from the stunning Lantic Bay.

UNIQUE HIDEAWAYS

RETRO CARAVAN

THE CORNISH AIRSTREAM

Complete with a hot tub, this shiny silver American dream is ideal for escaping the every day with a touch of retro charm. Fully refurbished with style, it has all the kitchen essentials you need to lock yourself away from the world for a weekend.

UNIQUE HIDEAWAYS

COSY NATURE

TREE TOPS CABIN

For a calm and cosy stay, Tree Tops Cabin is a charming cabin tucked in a forested area beside a small brook. Although it has all you need for a great stay, the nearby fishing village of Cadgwith has a top pub to complete your relaxing country getaway.   

UNIQUE HIDEAWAYS

MORE READING

As London based travel bloggers, we’re often exploring exotic destinations far from home, but there’s a wealth of great experiences to be had within the UK. Here are some of our favourite guides to our home country. For more see our Britain page.

HOW TO VISIT PEDN VOUNDER, CORNWALL – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACH IN THE UK
SECRET BEACHES & HIDDEN GEMS – BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN CORNWALL
OUR GUIDE TO PORTHCURNO BEACH AND ITS MAGICAL COASTLINE
MOST BEAUTIFUL LAKE DISTRICT VIEWS AND PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS
OUR GUIDE TO VISITING THE STUNNING SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK

This post was sponsored by Classic Cottages.


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