Are you curious about the best places in Cornwall to visit? You are in for a treat, as Cornwall is a British daydream! You’ve come to the right place if you’re scratching your head over what to do in Cornwall and choosing between can’t-miss Cornwall attractions. This guide to the best things to do in Cornwall in the rain or shine highlights hidden gems in Cornwall and the best attractions Cornwall offers.
Having spent most of my adult life in Devon before traveling full-time, I was lucky to spend much time exploring all the things to see in Cornwall. I’ve experienced many Cornwall days out roaming the craggy cliffs, surfing the Cornish waves, and eating fish and chips while sipping cream teas.
Cornwall has a rugged beauty that makes me feel like I’m on a sailboat navigating uncharted waters, even when I’m just strolling through small seaside Cornwall destinations. The Cornish cliffs overlooking dramatic seascapes give any Caribbean beach a run for its money. Among the most fun things to do in Cornwall St. Ives is a must. Some of the most unusual things to do in Cornwall include scuba diving and surfing—the experience is worth the chilly temperatures!
Let’s talk about Cornish cuisine because culinary exploration is one of the top things to do in Cornwall. If you’re a seafood lover, welcome to heaven. The local grub is as good as it gets, from fish and chips to fresh oysters.
The best places to visit in Cornwall appeal to all your senses. Whether it’s adventure, peace, or culinary delights you seek, this charming county offers everything. Get ready for the top Cornwall things to do and the best places to go in Cornwall for families, couples, and solo travelers.
Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?
The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing
Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $39. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.
Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies.
How to Get to Cornwall
Driving is my preferred way to get to Cornwall as you can use your rental car to visit the nicest places in Cornwall. Take the M4 and M5 motorways, followed by the A30, into the heart of Cornwall. It’s about a 5-hour drive from London, but that’s what road trip playlists are for!
If you’re based in the UK, the train is a convenient and scenic way to travel. The mainline train service runs from London Paddington to Penzance and stops at several coastal towns like Truro, St. Austell, and Bodmin. I love gazing at the English countryside as it whizzes by. Trains in the UK can be expensive, so it’s worth booking in advance for the best price deals.
If you’re coming from another country to explore the top things to do in Cornwall, it may be easier to fly into Newquay Airport. Several UK cities have direct flights, and there are seasonal services from European destinations as well. Plus, there are many fun things to do in Newquay Cornwall! Renting a car or catching a local bus to your accommodations is easy from the airport.
Other than Newquay, the closest airports to Cornwall are:
Exeter: 100 miles
Bristol: 160 miles
National Express and Megabus offer Cornwall services from various UK cities. It’s a budget-friendly option, although it can take longer, especially if there are multiple stops along the way. If you plan a trip to check out things to do in Cornwall with kids, I don’t suggest taking the bus—it’s best for solo travelers.
If you’re coming from the Isles of Scilly, consider the ferry service that runs to Penzance. It’s a lovely way to travel, especially on a sunny day when the sea is calm and the coastline looks its best.
To save money and potentially make new friends, look into car-sharing. Websites like BlaBlaCar frequently offer rides to Cornwall. Book in advance and read reviews to ensure you ride with someone reputable.
Cycling to Cornwall is an option for adventurous types, although I only recommend this for experienced long-distance cyclists. It’s a serious trek, but the rewards are tremendous.
Yes, you read that right! If you stay at the Isles of Scilly, you can take a helicopter from Penzance. It’s not cheap, but it’s the most glamorous way to arrive!
Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress.
Best Cornwall Tours: Click here to check out the top Cornwall tours
Best Cornwall Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Cornwall
Best Cornwall Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Cornwall
Getting Around Cornwall
There are many places to visit in Cornwall, but getting to them can be challenging. Here’s the lowdown on the best and easiest ways to explore must see places in Cornwall.
Cars are a convenient option for the best places in Cornwall to visit, especially remote beaches and other Cornwall hidden gems. Driving here is a joy—the winding country roads and scenic coastal routes are worth the trip alone. Be cautious of narrow lanes and always have change for the occasional toll bridge or parking space.
2. Public Buses
If you’re not up for driving, Cornwall has a decent bus network that connects many of the top places to go in Cornwall. Services like First Kernow and Cornwall by Kernow operate various routes. However, the timetables aren’t always on time, so plan your day of sightseeing attractions in Cornwall accordingly.
Cornwall‘s train network can take you to top Cornwall places to visit, such as Penzance, St. Ives, and Falmouth. It’s a pretty way to travel, and the trains are generally comfortable. The branch line from St Erth to St. Ives offers stunning views, and there are several can’t-miss things to do in Cornwall St. Ives.
There is no need to book these local trains beforehand as the prices are fixed. Travel outside peak times to save money and minimize stress—the trains will be significantly less busy.
4. Ferries and Boats
Fancy a nautical mode of transport to Cornwall destinations? Cornwall has several ferry services, like Falmouth to St. Mawes and Padstow to Rock. Trains are charming, especially on a sunny day—plus, you won’t have to drive around the estuaries.
5. Taxis and Ridesharing
Finding taxis and rideshare services in bigger towns like Newquay and Truro is straightforward. They aren’t the cheapest for long distances but are convenient for short getaways. There’s no Uber there yet, but local taxi companies usually offer apps or websites for booking. I suggest asking the locals for their recommendations.
If you’re feeling energetic, Cornwall has lovely cycling routes, some of the most fun things to do in Cornwall for families. Be prepared for hilly terrain! Places like the Camel Trail offer flat, easy rides perfect for casual cyclists. Cycling is a must for Cornwall days out—you can rent bikes at either end of the trail.
Anyone seeking free things to do in Cornwall should consider walking between activities in Cornwall. Some of the nicest things to see in Cornwall (like the South West Coast Path) are best experienced on foot. Bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes and an adventurous spirit!
8. Local Tours
Let someone else take the reins by joining a guided tour of the best place to visit in Cornwall. They will take you to many of the top Cornwall things to do. Whether it’s a coastal hike, a food tour, or a historic sightseeing excursion, you’ll find various options that include transportation.
Best Times to Visit Cornwall Attractions
Don’t fancy exploring the best things to do in Cornwall in the rain? The time of year you visit will impact what to see in Cornwall. The warmer months are a no-brainer if your things to do in Cornwall include scuba diving, surfing, or sailing. But if you’re more of a culture vulture or a foodie, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy year-round.
Summer (June to August)
There is no surprise here; summer is peak season in Cornwall for a reason. You will find many places in Cornwall and plan many things to do in Cornwall. The weather is warm, the days are long, and everything is in full swing. It’s the best time for beach days, surfing, and sailing. But keep in mind, this is when Cornwall is at its busiest. Accommodation can be scarce and pricier, and you won’t have those famous beaches all to yourself. But oh, those Cornish sunsets!
Spring (March to May)
Spring is a seriously underrated time to visit Cornwall. You’ll get mild weather and fewer crowds—the scenic wonders are the best places in Cornwall to visit during this season. It will be easier for you to explore the gardens, hiking trails, and coastal paths. It’s also a fabulous time for bird-watching and, if you’re into it, spring surfing.
Autumn (September to November)
Autumn in Cornwall is like a well-kept secret—there are a lot of best places to visit in Cornwall during this season. The summer crowds have thinned out, but the weather is still reasonably mild. It’s an excellent time for outdoor activities like hiking and cycling, and you’ll get those golden autumnal hues as a backdrop.
Bonus: seafood lovers will relish the fresher-than-fresh catches during this season.
Winter (December to February)
It is a bit of a wildcard when considering places to visit in Cornwall in winter. Cornwall has a quiet charm in the colder months if you don’t mind swapping your swimsuit for a cozy sweater. Think dramatic coastlines, empty beaches, and cozy pubs with roaring fires. It’s also the best time for storm-watching, an activity that’s as awe-inspiring as it sounds.
I’ve had some of my favorite weekends away during the winter. Cozying up with a hot apple cider and an open fire is on my “top winter Cornwall things to do” list. Magical!
Special Events & Festivals
Cornwall has a robust calendar of events, from the Falmouth Oyster Festival in October to the colorful May Day celebrations. If you’re interested in local culture, you might want to time your visit to coincide with one of these.
You can learn more about what’s on in Cornwall here.
Best Place to Go in Cornwall for Comfortable Accommodations
From boutique hotels to idyllic campsites, Cornwall offers various accommodation options to fit any travel style or budget. Whether after romance, adventure, or simply a break from the daily grind, you will indeed find your perfect Cornish hideaway.
1. Boutique Hotels
Suppose you’re looking for chic and intimate places in Cornwall. Think ocean views, contemporary interiors, and superb dining. Since there are many fun things to do in St. Ives Cornwall, destinations like this and Falmouth are prime spots for this kind of stay.
2. Bed & Breakfasts
The B&B is a British classic and one of the must see places to visit Cornwall! They offer a cozy, home-away-from-home vibe and usually include a hearty breakfast to kickstart your day. There are some stunning options in quaint villages like Polperro and Mousehole.
3. Self-Catering Cottages
If you like freedom and have a DIY spirit, a self-catering cottage is among the best places to visit. These are great if you’re traveling with a group or want a more extended stay.
You’ll find various options, from rustic farmhouses to modern lofts. Bonus: visit the local markets and try cooking some Cornish delicacies!
For the budget-conscious or solo traveler, hostels can be a great way to save money and meet other adventurers.
Places like Newquay are famous for their surf hostels offering lessons and equipment rentals. You won’t get five-star luxury, but you’ll get a comfy bed and some new friends.
5. Camping and Caravanning
Nature lovers, this one’s for you! Camping is a beautiful thing to do in Cornwall and a way to connect with Cornwall’s stunning landscapes. Whether you pitch a tent or have a camper van, there are many equipped sites across the region. Just imagine waking up to the sound of the ocean or birdsong!
This was always our first choice when we would go surfing for the weekend, and you will find plenty of campsites ideally located next to some of the best surf spots in Cornwall. This is also an excellent option for families as many campsites are huge and have plenty of family-focused facilities like kids’ clubs and parks.
6. Luxury Resorts and Spas
Cornwall isn’t short on luxury if you’re up for some pampering. You’ll find upscale resorts complete with world-class spas, golf courses, gourmet dining, and many other things to do in Cornwall during your stay here. Places like St. Ives and Tintagel offer resorts with dramatic cliffside views of the ocean.
7. Farm Stays
For something a bit different, why not immerse yourself in Cornwall’s agricultural heritage? Farm stays could be one of the unique Cornwall places to visit. It offers exceptional accommodations in rural settings. It’s a wonderful way for kids to learn about farm life and is pretty cool for adults.
8. VRBO and Vacation Rentals
These days, you can find some seriously unique Airbnb listings. From converted barns to historic mansions, the sky’s the limit. It’s also a great way to feel like a local, especially if your host provides insider tips on what to see and do.
Family Days Out Cornwall: Things to Do in Cornwall With Kids
Ah, family days out in Cornwall! There’s so much to see and do, and trust me, the kids won’t have time to get bored.
Cornwall is a family-friendly destination that balances education with pure, unadulterated fun.
One of the must places to visit in Cornwall. I already mentioned this above. But I really can’t recommend this place enough for families. It’s educational but in the most fun way possible. Kids can learn about different climates and get hands-on with interactive exhibits.
If your little ones are animal lovers, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek is one of the places in Cornwall that will give a heartwarming experience. It’s a rescue and release center for seals, and you can learn all about these adorable creatures. It’s not just fun—it’s also about teaching compassion and conservation.
3. Paradise Park
Another top pick for the best places to visit in Cornwall if you love animals! This wildlife sanctuary in Hayle is more than just a bird park. From penguins to parrots, it’s a fantastic day for budding zoologists. They even have a JungleBarn indoor play center for when the kids need to let off some steam. It is another one of the great rainy day activities in Cornwall to do.
Wondering what to do in Cornwall if you love history? This one isn’t just for kids but will surely ignite their imaginations with the legends of King Arthur. The historic aspects are fun, but the dramatic cliffs, intriguing ruins, and the new footbridge make them feel like little explorers on an epic quest.
If your family is like mine and loves animals, DairyLand near Newquay offers a fantastic farm experience and must-visit places in Cornwall. From tractor rides to milking cows, the hands-on fun gives city kids a taste of country life.
For a full-on day of excitement touring places to visit in Cornwall, head to Flambards in Helston. It’s a win-win for everyone, with rides for all ages and even some educational exhibits.
Okay, so who doesn’t love a castle on an island? You can reach it by foot at low tide or by boat at high tide. It’s like a mini-adventure just getting there, and kids will love the sense of exploration.
Take a nostalgic journey on Cornwall’s only full-size railway still operated by steam locomotives. I strongly recommend you add this to your list of places to visit in Cornwall. You can sit back and enjoy the scenic countryside; it’s a relaxing trip that’ll charm the socks off both young and old.
Located in Newquay, this is a fabulous interactive pirate experience. It’s an hour-long guided tour where kids can learn about pirate history while on a treasure hunt. Perfect for those rainy days!
10. Newquay Zoo
Lastly, another of the top places to visit in Cornwall for animal lovers! The Newquay Zoo offers another fantastic animal-centric day out. With over 1,000 animals and lush subtropical gardens, it’s a little slice of the wild in the heart of Cornwall.
Cornwall Hidden Gems: Unexpected Places to Go Cornwall
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and discover some truly unique places in Cornwall, you’re in for a treat. Here’s my list of hidden gems in Cornwall that will give you bragging rights for discovering them first.
Hidden away on the edge of Bodmin Moor, this series of cascades along the River Fowey is like something out of a fairy tale. It’s one of the perfect places in Cornwall for a peaceful nature walk, and I swear the air feels cleaner there.
2. The Shipwreck & Heritage Centre of Cornwall
Other insightful places to visit in Cornwall! Located in Charlestown, this museum is brimming with nautical artifacts and shipwreck treasures. It’s the place that’ll make you want to grab a snorkel and start treasure-hunting yourself!
It isn’t a hidden gem, as it’s pretty famous. But I’m including it anyway since it’s one of the Cornwall attractions.
You might have heard of open-air theatres, but this one is carved into a granite cliff overlooking the sea. Located near Porthcurno, the views alone are worth the trip, and seeing a performance there is unforgettable.
The Minack had been on my bucket list for years, and when I finally went, it did not disappoint. It is a magical place. One day, I’d love to see a performance there, but tickets always sell out fast, and I’ve never been quick enough!
4. Polridmouth Beach
Forget the more popular beaches; this secluded spot near Fowey-inspired Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” is one of the best places to visit in Cornwall. It’s a romantic and secretive bay that offers a sense of solitude you won’t find on Cornwall’s more famous sands.
Looking for mystical Cornwall attractions? Try to go to St. Nectan’s Glen. This mystical waterfall and hermitage near Tintagel is said to have spiritual healing powers. Whether you believe in that or not, the tranquility and beauty of the place are undeniable.
6. Godolphin House
An often-overlooked historic estate, Godolphin House near Helston offers both stunning gardens and a peek into Cornwall’s past. It’s less crowded than other historical sites, making it ideal for history buffs who’d rather not share.
Wondering what are the fun Cornwall attractions that you can visit? This is a more low-key amusement park, but it’s chock-full of fun activities like go-karting, crazy golf, and arcade games. It’s not as flashy as Flambards, but that’s precisely why it’s so charming.
Located on an old WWII airfield, this small museum near Camelford is a treasure trove of wartime history. It’s one of the most unusual things to do in Cornwall, which means you can explore to your heart’s content without battling crowds.
9. St. Just’s Plain-an-Gwarry
This ancient open-air amphitheater in St. Just is one of only two in Cornwall. It’s a historical venue for Cornish plays and still hosts performances today. Very few tourists know about it, so it’s like having a slice of Cornish culture to yourself.
10. Trebah Garden
Everyone talks about the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, but Trebah Garden near Falmouth is an underrated paradise of exotic plants and flowers. Plus, it has a secluded beach!
Quick Tip: View my full Europe packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Europe Essentials shopping list here.
Free Things to Do in Cornwall
You might think that with all the Cornwall attractions, dining, and activities, but how wrong you’d be!
The beauty of Cornwall is its beauty! So, if you want to do some things that aren’t going to break the bank, it’s time to put on those walking shoes, grab a camera, and explore all the free delights Cornwall has to offer!
1. Coastal Walks
Having a tight budget and not knowing what to do in Cornwall that will fit your budget? Nothing beats the Cornish coastline, and the best part? It’s free to explore! My favorites include the walks around the Lizard Peninsula and the dramatic cliffs near Tintagel. Don’t forget to pack a picnic!
2. Explore Quaint Villages
If you’re looking for things to do in Cornwall that will give you lots of unique pictures, Cornwall is dotted with charming villages like Mousehole, Polperro, and St. Agnes. Walking through these villages is like stepping into a postcard. Window shop, take photos, and soak in the atmosphere.
3. Visit Poldark Filming Locations
For all the Poldark fans, this is one of the can’t-miss things to do in Cornwall. It is a self-guided tour of the series’ filming locations and can be a day well spent. Places like Charlestown, Bodmin Moor, and Porthgwarra are all free to visit.
This is one of the other free places to visit in Cornwall. Falmouth has some of the most vibrant art scenes in Cornwall. Galleries often have no entrance fee and offer a feast for the eyes. And hey, nobody said you have to buy anything, right?
5. Wild Swimming
What to do in Cornwall when you’re in the mood for a swim? Cornwall has plenty of secluded coves and beaches where you can go for a refreshing swim. Spots like Kynance Covev or the Helford River are best for wild swimming.
6. Bodmin Moor
If you’re into hiking or want to experience Cornwall’s untamed landscapes, then Bodmin Moor is one of the top places to visit in Cornwall. Ancient ruins, panoramic views, and a sense of solitude are all free of charge!
Okay, so watching a play at the Minack Theatre may cost you, but visiting the gardens is free when there isn’t a performance happening. The views are still just as breathtaking!
8. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St. Ives
The museum has an entrance fee, but you can see some of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures from the road! It’s a little cheeky, but art is meant to be enjoyed, right?
10. Visit Truro Cathedral
Last but not least, on this list of free places to visit in Cornwall, the Truro Cathedral is free to enter, although they appreciate donations. It’s an architectural marvel and provides a peaceful escape from the bustle of the town.
Adventure Things to Do Cornwall
Alright, adrenaline junkies, listen up! If you think Cornwall is all about quaint fishing villages and serene landscapes, you only get half the story. This beautiful corner of England is also a playground for all sorts of adventurous activities, and let me tell you, I’ve had some of my best thrills here.
Whether underwater, on the water, or high above it, there’s a thrill waiting for you here.
1. Scuba Diving in Falmouth
Diving into the deep blue waters off Falmouth would be my first recommendation for adventurous things to do in Cornwall. Here, you’ll find shipwrecks, reefs, and abundant marine life. I’ve done my share of diving worldwide, and Cornwall holds its own with some fascinating underwater sights!
Yes, it’s cold year-round, but that’s what wet suits are for, right?
2. Sailing in St. Mawes
Whether you’re an experienced or beginner sailor, this is one of the places in Cornwall to hoist your sail. St. Mawes is a sailor’s paradise, with its sheltered bays and scenic coastlines. Whether you’re an experienced sailor or a beginner, this is the place to hoist your sails.
3. Surfing in Newquay
Home to some of the UK’s best surfing spots, Newquay should be added to your places to visit in Cornwall list. Fistral Beach is legendary, but there are plenty of other beaches where you can catch a great wave.
I must admit, although Newquay is the surfing capital of Cornwall, I much prefer surfing at Sienna Cove or Polzeth. I used to go all the time with my friends, and we would camp in a campsite on the cliffs above the beach. The descent down is a bit rocky with a surfboard, but the views from the campsite make it worth it!
Imagine all the adventurous things to do in Cornwall, such as cliff-jumping, rock-climbing, and sea swimming, all rolled into one, and you’ve got coasteering. It’s an exhilarating way to explore Cornwall’s rugged coastline and be as adventurous as possible!
5. Kayaking in the Helford River
For more serene but equally adventurous things to surf in Polzeth do in Cornwall, kayaking in the Helford River lets you explore hidden coves and creeks. It’s an active way to enjoy Cornwall’s stunning natural beauty.
6. Mountain Biking on Bodmin Moor
Switch gears and head inland to Bodmin Moor, one of the most thrilling Cornwall attractions for mountain biking. The terrain is challenging, and the views are absolutely rewarding. Trust me; this isn’t your typical bike ride in the park.
7. Hang Gliding and Paragliding
For those who aren’t afraid of heights, hang gliding or paragliding off the cliffs of Cornwall offers a bird’s-eye view you won’t soon forget. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the experience is unbeatable.
8. Zip-lining at Adrenalin Quarry
What’s more thrilling than soaring over a flooded quarry on a zip line? Adrenalin Quarry near Liskeard offers just that and other heart-pounding activities like cliff-jumping.
9. Kite Surfing in Hayle
Hayle Estuary is known for its strong winds, making it an excellent spot for kite surfing and one of the most fantastic places in Cornwall to visit. If you’ve ever wanted to combine surfing with flying a kite, this is your chance!
10. Rock Climbing in Bosigran
Cornwall has some fantastic rock climbing locations, and Bosigran is one of the best places to visit for Cornwall days out if you’re into rock climbing. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, the granite cliffs offer routes that challenge and inspire you.
Cornwall Best Places to Visit: Final Thoughts
And there you have it, my friends—Cornwall in all its glory!
From its dramatic coastlines to the peaceful countryside, there are many amazing things to see in Cornwall. It’s an experience that caters to the adventurer, the peace seeker, and everyone in between.
With its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and delectable cuisine, Cornwall destinations are a must-visit for any traveler.
So pack your bags, grab your sense of adventure, and see why Cornwall is the jewel of the British Isles. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Cornwall Travel Guide Planning
🚗 Where can I book a bus or private transportation?
I recommend Bookaway. They have a lot of transport options all over Europe.
🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours?
👩⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?
I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here.
✈️ Any flight recommendations?
WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off.
📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?
I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices, and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I use GlocalMe to either pop in a physical SIM card or use their local carrier.
Regarding my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card rather than swapping out my regular sim card. I recommend using either Airhub or Alosim. Both have excellent coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.
🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?
🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?
This post was proofread by Grammarly.