What’s the best place in Cornwall? You know, that one sight or attraction you simply have to visit when you’re there?
Those are tricky questions to answer!
This glorious destination in the southwest of England is so saturated with things to see and do that narrowing things down to a single suggestion is all-but impossible. With beautiful beaches, ancient castles, quaint fishing villages, and all sorts of unique activities available, Cornwall simply has too much to offer
So, rather than restrict myself to one place, I’m going to do the exact opposite and provide a comprehensive rundown of the very best places to visit in Cornwall instead! Sound good?
Read on to discover 20 of the best Cornwall towns, beaches, and attractions.
The Best Cornwall Towns to Visit on Your Trip
I’ll admit, Cornwall’s towns aren’t its biggest allure! Some of them can feel a tad dreary in places – in stark contrast to its magnificent coastline and seaside villages.
Nevertheless, offering some combination of history, culture, nightlife, shopping opportunities, great restaurants, and sea views, a number of them are well worth visiting. Here are the Cornish towns I recommend you check out:
1. St. Ives
With stunning beaches, awesome places to eat, a lively art scene, a working harbour (did somebody say fresh seafood?), and a welcoming atmosphere, St. Ives is the perfect place to start this list. Whether you’ve taken time out of the school year to come to Cornwall with family or are travelling solo around the UK, it’s one of the most popular towns in Cornwall and a great base from which to explore the southwestern end of the county.
No list of the best towns in Cornwall would be complete without Newquay. Another popular tourist destination, we Brits flock there in summer to take advantage of its awesome beaches (if you enjoy surfing, you’re going to love it here), shops, restaurants, and lively nightlife.
Falmouth offers a great mix of Cornish charm, coastal beauty, and youthful energy (courtesy of the university there). It’s a colourful and artsy place that boasts a huge natural harbour, beautiful beaches, lots of independent shops, masses of local walks, and the award-winning National Maritime Museum that’s ideal on a rainy day.
Fancy some time away from the ocean? Head to Bodmin. From tours of Bodmin Jail (reportedly one of the most haunted places in the UK) and cycle rides along the Camel Trail to visiting Bodmin Moor (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), what it lacks in beaches and coastal views it more than makes up for in fun things to do.
There’s no doubt about it: Padstow is gorgeous. A picture-perfect Cornish town, it oozes charm! Get ready for golden sand beaches, boutique stores, a busy fishing port, and the lovely village of Rock that’s a short ferry ride away. With Michelin-Star restaurants around every corner, foodies are sure to love it here too.
The Best Places to Visit in Cornwall – Attractions
Okay, onto the attractions! One of the things I love most about Cornwall is the sheer array of unique sights and activities that are available. It sounds somewhat clichéd, but it’s no exaggeration to say there’s something for everyone – no matter your age or interests! Here’s a short selection of the many options I suggest you check out:
6. Port Isaac
An absolute gem on the northern coast, Port Isaac is a 14th Century fishing village that – in the best possible way – feels like the world’s moved on without it. Get ready for a quaint, gorgeous, and exceptionally hilly village with age-old buildings, lovely bars and eateries, top-notch seafood, and so much more. If you’ve seen clips of the TV series called Doc Martin on YouTube, you might even recognize it! Port Isaac plays the fictional village of Portwen.
7. The Minack Theatre
Thespians rejoice! Cornwall’s home to one of the most spectacular outdoor theatres in the entire country. The Minack Theatre has been carved into the rock itself and offers sublime views over the ocean. As an added bonus, you’ll find it at Porthcurno – a small village that’s one of the top tourist destinations in Cornwall. It’s complete with a stunning beach and more Cornish charm than you can shake a stick at.
8. Tintagel Castle
There can’t be many castles in the UK that are as impressive, striking, and shrouded in legend as this one. Perched high on the cliffs of north Cornwall and boasting outrageous views over the coast, Tintagel Castle is said to be the birthplace of none other than King Arthur. For the scenery, history, and general atmosphere of this magical place, this castle should be on everybody’s Cornwall bucket list.
9. St. Michael’s Mount
St. Michael’s Mount is another place that’s supremely picturesque and shrouded in myth. A unique little island that sits just off the coast of a town called Marazion, it has a 12th Century castle on top that wouldn’t be out of place in a Harry Potter movie. Make sure you time your visit though. It’s accessible by foot but cut off by the tides, which only adds to its mystical allure in my opinion!
10. The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Speaking of mystical tourist attractions, there’s something otherworldly about the Lost Gardens of Heligan too. Despite covering a huge 200 acres, this much-loved outdoor space – and the delightful sculptures scattered throughout it – became so overgrown in the last century that they were totally forgotten about (hence the name, “lost”) between the end of World War 1 and 1990, when they were rediscovered.
11. The Eden Project
The Eden Project is quite simply unmissable. Sometimes referred to as the 8th wonder of the world, it’s probably the most impressive botanical gardens you’ll ever go to! Housed inside two “Biome” buildings (think vast tent-like domes) and with a 30-acre Outdoor Garden to enjoy as well, it has the world’s largest captive rainforest, treetop walks, educational workshops, and a whole lot more.
12. Land’s End
The aptly-named Land’s End is the south-westernmost point of England. It’s a tad commercialized these days, but still worth visiting – if only to see the rugged natural beauty of the surrounding area. There’s the famous Land’s End sign here too, which tells you the distance and direction to famous places around the world.
13. The South West Coast Path
The award-winning South West Coast Path (SWCP) is England’s longest National Trail, stretching a whopping 630 miles from end to end. It extends the entire way around the Cornish coast (and into Devon, Somerset, and Dorset – the next counties along), providing constant access to walks, nature, and outstanding views. Be sure to walk a section of it if you like hiking (and don’t mind hills!).
14. The Lizard and Kynance Cove
Want to visit Britain’s most southerly point? Head to The Lizard Peninsula. Another magical place (that has nothing to do with lizards…), it has more spectacular scenery, masses of wildlife (keep your eyes out for dolphins and seals swimming off the coast!), quaint Cornish villages, and the all-popular Kynance Cove – a stretch of brilliant white sand with turquoise waters, rock pools, and caves.
The Best Places Cornwall Has To Offer – Beaches
I could easily have included any of the upcoming beaches on my previous list of Cornwall’s top attractions. However, Cornish beaches are so special they deserve their own section! Here are a few of the epic stretches of sand in this beautiful corner of the country that you really shouldn’t miss:
15. Gwithian Beach
Gwithian is one of my favourite beaches in Cornwall! A vast stretch of fine golden sand, it’s downright gorgeous – and epic for surfing. Whether you’re swimming or catching the waves, you’ll see seals drift right by too. A first-rate café sits just next to the beach, Godrevy Lighthouse cuts a striking sight off the coast, and there are some lovely pubs in the area as well.
16. Porthcurno Beach
I mentioned Porthcurno earlier when discussing the Minack Theatre. However, it’s such a well-known beach I think it deserves another shout out here! Close to Land’s End, it’s in a remote part of the county but still draws big crowds. Expect white sand and turquoise waters that’ll make you feel like you’re in the Mediterranean.
17. Praa Sands
Idyllic. That’s the word you’d likely use to describe Praa Sands if you decide to visit. This mile-long stretch of golden sand, backed the whole way by gorgeous dunes, is hard to beat. Surfers, young families, dog walkers, or anyone who fancies a swim in sheltered shallows is sure to love it.
18. Perranporth Beach
Another of my personal favourites, Perranporth Beach is big, wild, and breath-taking. You have to be a tad careful with the tides here, but the surf can be spectacular if you want to hire a board. On the roughest days, even watching the waves from the safety of the shore is fun. There’s a bar right on the beach as well, which is a bonus. And, with lots of cafes, independent stores, and ice cream parlours available, the little town of Perranporth’s worth exploring too.
19. Sandymouth Beach
Another huge and untouched beach of epic proportions, the aptly-named Sandymouth has rock pools, cliffs, awesome views, and wild vibes. Like all Cornwall beaches, it gets busy – especially in summer. But it’s big enough that you should be able to find your own slice of paradise.
20. Fistral Beach
You can’t have a list of the best beaches in Cornwall and fail to talk about Fistral Beach. A surfing hotspot, if ever that was one, it’s somewhat iconic in this neck of the woods. Whether you’re a total newbie or seasoned surfer, the waves won’t let you down. Likewise, with Newquay on its doorstep, it’s the best place in Cornwall if you want both golden sands and the bustle of town life.
Choose the Best Place in Cornwall to Visit First
As you can tell, there’s no shortage of incredible things to do in Cornwall. Hence why I found choosing the best place in Cornwall so difficult!
However, despite bowing out of my initial intention to narrow things down to a single attraction, I hope this list of the 20 best towns, sights, activities, and beaches in Cornwall will be a useful resource to anyone who’s planning a trip there.
Whether you include one or all of them on your Cornwall itinerary, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience that’ll leave you desperate to come back to this beautiful part of England ASAP.
This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved