Fuelled by the sea and charmed by a Celtic culture, there are a host of wonderful things to do in Cornwall. See them all in our guide to getting the most out of Britain’s sunny county.

The picturesque triangle of southwest England is defined by the elements.

Golden sun-soaked beaches, coastal trails framed with heather, spring-fed natural swimming holes, wooded glens teeming with wild garlic and the remnants of Cornwall’s mining industry.  

With a justified reputation for being one of the best places to visit in the UK, there are a host of interesting things to do in Cornwall.  

Go off-grid on the wild open moors or wander the manicured grounds of manor houses with subtropical gardens. Capture the mighty rock formation on the rugged coastline or stroll bohemian villages with a cool, independent art scene.  

Our guide to Cornwall covers some of the most popular attractions, as well as off-the-beaten-track activities. Try our latest food finds, enjoy the best outdoor activities, wander the most authentic villages and enjoy this beautiful corner of England.

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narrow gap in rocks on a shallow beach in Cornwall


We have included our list of the best things to do in Cornwall on the below map to help you find all the main attractions dotted along this rugged & beautiful county.  

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


There are few finer surfing beaches in the UK than Watergate Bay. Facing southwest towards the Atlantic rollers, the gently sloping sandy beach and consistent swell provide the perfect conditions.

But you don’t need to be a pro to surf here. Different parts of the beach have different levels of swell, suitable for all levels of ability.

We took surf lessons with Wavehunters at the Extreme Academy who got us complete amateurs standing for a few seconds.   

Even if you don’t surf, Watergate Bay is one of Cornwall’s premier attractions and a beautiful place to visit in England.

The beach is excellent, the coastal path on the cliffs has superb views and it’s one of the best locations in the UK to catch a magnificent sunset.


St Ives is a charming, bohemian town, squeezed in the middle by two sandy beaches.

After the decline of the fishing industry, disused lofts behind the main beach – Porthmeor Beach – were transformed into artist studios. This re-purposing gave St Ives a new lease of life, blessing the town with a creative, independent spirit that remains despite its increasing popularity.

Here are some great things to do in St Ives:

  • Visit Tate St Ives, housed in a beautiful art deco building overlooking the sea.
  • Stroll the down-a-long, a maze of narrow lanes bursting with shops, galleries, and cafes.
  • Take a boat trip to Seal Island to see the grey seal colony.
  • Hit Porthminster Beach, a golden sweep of sand under verdant cliffs.

Read more in our guide to the best things to do in St Ives.


Cornwall is blessed with magnificent beaches, however, our top pick would be Pedn Vounder. Tucked under the cliffs in a remote location, it could easily be the most beautiful beach in the UK.  

At high tide, you wouldn’t even know it was there, but at low tide, mother nature transforms a rocky cove into a beautiful untouched corner of paradise.

When the sun’s shining, light glistens off a central sandbar with hidden coves in rocky walls and jagged headlands overhead.  

How to get to Pedn Vounder — Park at Treen Car Park (20p, coin only), then follow the signs to Pedn Vounder. From the car park, it’s a 20-minute walk. There is a short scramble down some large boulders to get to the beach.

The Scramble — Please note, getting to Pedn Vounder requires a short but steep scramble down some large boulders. You’ll need to use both hands to lower yourself down.

Facilities at Pedn Vounder — There are no facilities on the beach so you’ll need to take everything with you. There are toilets in the car park and a cafe in the village nearby.


If the scramble down to the beach is not possible for you, park at the car park and walk 20 minutes to the cliff tops above the beach. The views are breathtaking.


The humble fishing village of Porthleven has a thriving local restaurant industry that, in our opinion, it’s rapidly outshining Padstow.

A host of diverse food joints are dotted around the working fishing harbour, here are some to check out.

  • Kota is quality Asian dining that has been awarded a Bib Gourmand – Michelin’s quality at affordable rating accolade – every year since 2013.
  • The more affordable, Kota Kai Bar & Kitchen has similar flavours in a more relaxed setting. 
  • Join the locals leaning against the harbour wall munching on the daily specials from Mussel Shoal.
  • Try Cornwall’s freshest lobster served in front of colourful bobbing boats from Dan’s Van.

We also highly recommend the coffee and pastries from Origin and an on-the-go lunch from Ced’s Bagels. There are a few small outlets in Shipyard – a warehouse-style market – including Radish, with a great vegetarian menu.

Porthleven is one of our favourite things to do in Cornwall that’s still a bit of a secret. Go before it’s too late.


For centuries Cornwall was sustained by the ocean. A legacy now found in working fishing villages with a side hustle in tourism. Visiting the local villages is one of the best ways to experience Cornish culture.

Here are some of our favourites:

Port Isaac // As one of the most charming things to do in Cornwall, Porta Isaac has a maze of tiny alleyways wedged between cliffs, hidden behind a tiny harbour.

Mousehole // In the west of Cornwall, the village of Mousehole has a relaxed untouched vibe with a few great places to eat.  

Polperro // Probably our favourite village in Cornwall, Polperro has a series of narrow lanes that navigate towards the sea, collecting charming flower-adorned cottages. A labyrinth of medieval buildings surrounds the small harbour filled with bobbing boats.   


The entire Cornish Coast is rugged and dramatic, but one of the most picturesque areas is Kynance Cove. Battered by the surging surf, the coastline forms a curve of multi-coloured rocky outcrops.  

As the tide retreats, swathes of golden sand appear between the rugged crags. Explore the caves at low tide, or head over the headlands for a superb coastal view.

Swimming at Kynance Cove — It’s one of our favourite places to wild swim in Cornwall, however at high tide the beach is completely covered.

Parking at Kynance Cove — The National Trust car park (post code: TR12 7PJ) is 10 minutes’ walk from the cove and it’s free for National Trust members. Noon-members need to pay with cash or via the app.

Hours – The cove is accessible from dawn to dusk.

Cafe – There’s a cafe near the car park (not run by the National Trust) which is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily.


Cornwall is blessed with grand houses and gardens, many run and owned by the National Trust. Lanhydrock is one of the finest.

The house was built in 1642 but it was severely destroyed by a fire in 1881. Although rebuilt to a very high standard, only the magnificent 116-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling remains.

Several rooms are open to the public including the Billiard Room, Smoking Room, and huge Gallery. The house is set amongst manicured gardens and a wooded estate with views over the river and estuary.

Mountain Biking Trail — For a family excursion in Cornwall, rent bikes at the entrance to Lanhydrock House and try one of the relatively easy mountain bike trails around the grounds.



11 am to 5:30 pm (daily). The grounds are open from dawn to dusk.


£19/£9 free for National Trust members.


PL30 4AB


£1.50 per hour or £6 per day. Pay & display machines take cash only but you can download the PayByPhone App


Crowning a rocky island rising out of the sea, the medieval church and castle of St. Michaels Mount is one of the iconic things to do in Cornwall.

Building on the church and priory began in 1135 but over time the priory was converted into a castle.

At high tide, the island is cut off from the mainland, but at low tide, a causeway stretches across the water from Marazion to the castle.

It’s well worth strolling over the causeway to explore the island and you can pay to enter the castle itself.  

Where to photograph St Michael’s Mount — The best way to capture this castellated Cornwall attraction is to explore the lanes along the seafront in Marazion. There are several good vantage points near the start of the causeway that are especially good for sunrise photography.



9:30 am to 5 pm (Sunday to Monday). Closed Saturday.


9:30 am to 5 pm (Sunday to Monday). Closed Saturday. The garden is open from May through to September.


Castle £15 | Garden £11 | Combi £26


Bodmin Moor, one of the wildest and most remote places in England, is a wilderness area in the heart of Cornwall.

Swathes of heather and bracken are broken by rocky tors and ruined tin mines. Hiking on the moor is a wonderful remote thing to do in Cornwall.  

Don’t miss the Cheesewring where natural slabs of granite have been smoothed into strange towers. Nearby, Goldiggins Quarry is a deep and wide spring-fed quarry that is a great place to swim on a sunny day.  

One of the highlights of Bodmin Moor is Golitha Falls, a tranquil section of a secluded wooded glen.

The quarry and the falls are two wonderful places to swim in Cornwall.  


Padstow is a popular coastal town in Cornwall, known for its picturesque harbour, narrow streets, and renowned culinary scene.

Explore the waterfront, take a leisurely stroll along the charming streets, and immerse yourself in the maritime atmosphere. One of the must-do activities in Padstow is indulging in the culinary creations of renowned chef Rick Stein.

While Padstow has undeniable charm, it attracts a huge number of tourists, and the town centre can get rammed. We highly recommended to booking restaurants well in advance, as it can be difficult to get in anywhere without on.

Here are a few great things to do in Padstow:

  • Hire a bike and enjoy a scenic ride along the Camel Trail.
  • Visit Rock Beach, located just across the estuary, for a relaxing retreat on its sandy shores.
  • Explore Prideaux Place, a magnificent manor house with beautiful gardens.


The Minack Theatre is a spectacular amphitheatre carved into the coastal cliffs near Porthcurno Beach in Cornwall.

Following the natural contour of the bay, the grand outdoor terraced seating set amongst beautifully maintained gardens, welcomes around 250,000 visitors a year.  

During the day you can pay £10 to look around in pre-booked slots between 10 am to 4:30 pm or you can come and see a show with tickets often as little as £20.

Season — The season runs from May to September, and performances will continue in all weather (including rain) unless it’s dangerous.

What to bring — The seat are concret, so bring a cushion to sit on and a blanket to stay warm.

Drinks + Snacks — There’s a small bar where you can pick up snacks and drinks on the way in, but you can also take food and drinks in with you.

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Cornwall is host to some of the finest gardens in Britain, with ideal conditions for a wide variety of plants rarely seen in the rest of the country.

One of the best is the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Spread over 200 acres, walk through jungle terrain over raised wooden boardwalk past giant rhubarb plants and towering bamboo trees.

Explore the lost valley and smell the colourful blooms in the English country garden; wander the kitchen garden bursting with herbs and stroll through the ornate Italian gardens.  

Its magnificently maintained, gloriously diverse and teeming with quirky and unusual plants.



10 am to 6 pm (last entry 4:30 pm)


Adult £22.50 | Child £9.50 | Family £58


PL26 6EN


Two onsite cafes serve food and drink throughout the day, plus there’s a bakery.


There are few more dramatic coastal sights than Bedruthan. Pounding surf has split several enormous rocky stacks away from the main headland, leaving them stranded in the sea.

The views are magnificent all the way along the clifftop walk and it’s well worth spending an hour or two strolling around. At high tide, the rocks rise out of the sea, but at low tide, the bases are surrounded by sand.  

Step Closure at Carnewas — The main footpath down to Bedruthan Rocks from Carnewas was blocked by landslides in 2019 and 2021 and remains closed while restoration works take place.

Access to the beach — There is another path down to the beach a little further north (see our map above), but you need to allow plenty of time to get back up before the tide comes in.  


The Eden Project is a unique attraction in Cornwall that fuses art, nature, and environmental education.

Iconic biomes, resembling giant bubbles, recreate diverse ecosystems from around the world. Wander through the lush rainforest and marvel at exotic plants, then continue through the Mediterranean.

Outdoor gardens showcase sustainable gardening practices and native plant species. There are interactive exhibits for the kids and educational workshops.

While it’s a very popular thing to do in Cornwall, to be honest, we found the whole experience a little more theme park than eco-sanctuary, nonetheless the biodomes are very impressive.


HOURS – 1 MAY to 26 JULY

9:30 am – 6 pm (last entry 4:30 pm)


9 am – 6 pm (last entry 4:30 pm)


Adult £33 | Young adult £28 | Child £11 (please note, they increase the price during busy periods)


PL24 2SG


Parking is free with buses to take you to the visitor entrance.


Only 6 miles from Newquay, Holywell Bay is a beautiful beach that attracts far fewer visitors.

A huge sweep of golden sand is backed by 60-foot dunes, with cliffs on either side and two rocky promontories out at sea.

It’s a gloriously sheltered beach and a thoroughly scenic place to relax in Cornwall.

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 beautiful untouched beach. Its turquoise waters, funneled by two headlands, lap at pristine sands.

Parking at Holywell Bay — There’s a National Trust car park (post code: TR8 5PF) which cost £2 for 1 hour, £4 for 4 hours or £8 all day. Pay and Display machines only accept coin, however you can also pay with the PaybyPhone App – location code: 803548. Parking is free for National Trust members.

Beach Kiosk — There’s a small kiosk selling drinks and snacks near the car park.


The Southwest Coastal path stretches over 600 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. During its journey, it passes some of the country’s finest scenery, including the iconic Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.  

Walking the entire route takes around 50 days, but many of the highlights are in Cornwall and it’s well worth picking off a few of the best stretches. Our favourites are:  

  • Lizard Point to the glorious rocky boulders and pinnacles of Kynance Cove;  
  • The wild heather-strewn clifftops of the St Agnes Headland between Porthtowan and St Agnes;  
  • The clifftop path around the giant stepping-stones at Bedruthan Rocks;  
  • The magnificent sandy coves and hidden caves stretching between Mousehole and Sennen
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The best time to visit Cornwall is from May to early July when the days are long and dry, the gardens are at their most magnificent, and the school holidays have not yet begun. September and October are also good options.  

From mid-July to the end of August the weather is at its best and the outdoor cinemas and shows are in full swing. However, this is also peak tourist season, and the area can get incredibly busy. If you plan to visit over this time, be prepared for queues and make sure to book your trip well in advance.  

Winter months can be cold and wet, but if you can book late and wait for a window of good weather, it’s particularly good for photography with lovely winter light.  


Timing your visit to coincide with one of Cornwall’s festivals is a great way to get under the skin of the Celtic culture of the area.

Eden Sessions // From early to late June, international bands and artists perform in front of the Eden Biodomes at the Eden Sessions. Previous acts have included Diana Ross and Bryan Adams. The 2023 line-up is headlined by Lionel Richie on 7 June 2023.

St Endellion Summer Music Festival // A symphony orchestra and a world-class chorus of 75 voices provide uplifting classical, choral and chamber recitals for the St Endellion Summer Festival in northern Cornwall.

Boardmasters Festival // Held on Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay, the Boardmasters Festival celebrates surfing and skateboarding with live music on panoramic beach stages. The 2023 line-up includes Liam Gallagher and Florence + The Machine.

Porthleven Food Festival // For a taste of what Cornwall can deliver, the Porthleven Food Festival is a free-to-attend, 3-day celebration of food including, farmers markets, cooking demonstrations and celebrity chefs.


01 – The National Trust owns a lot of land and houses in Cornwall. Members can visit their properties and park for free. If you have ever thought about joining, it might make sense to do so before you visit Cornwall.  

02 – Driving times in Cornwall are often longer than you might think. At peak times the roads can get clogged and frustrating so try to arrive early or late in the day. Furthermore, keep to the main roads rather than follow the SatNav or Google Maps along single-lane tracks through tiny villages.

03 – Many car parks use the JustPark App. Download and enter your details before you travel to save some time. Also, some of the credit card facilities on the parking machines weren’t working on our last visit, so carry a bit of cash.  

04 – It is not always possible to get mobile data in Cornwall. The headlands and coves create plenty of dead spots, so download any information (like navigation maps or things to do) before you head off.  

05 – Time your activities with the tide. Many beaches and coves only reveal themselves at low tide.

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Fuelled by the sea and charmed by a Celtic culture, there are a host of wonderful things to do in Cornwall. See then all on our guide to getting the most out of Britain’s sunny county.