England’s western extremity is blessed with some of the finest beaches and most unspoiled coastline in the country. From surfing to sampling the culinary creations of a celebrity chef, there’s no shortage of things to do in the ancient Celtic kingdom.
Want to see the best of this incredible region but want to see a few hidden gems too? We’ve chosen our collective favourite best and most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall…
1. Polperro Village – was voted one of the prettiest villages to visit in England
You won’t be in the gorgeous village of Polperro long before you see exactly why it was voted one of the prettiest villages in England.
Lying a few miles along the coast from Looe, it has been preserved from the ravages of time and tide by it’s surrounding cliffs, resulting in an enchanting plethora of unique, quaint cottages, narrow streets, sandy inlets, and secret caves.
This village too is steeped in a fascinating history of smuggling and trade which is evidenced all over the stonework. A small gangway across the beach at low tide conveys tourists to the fleet of boats available for trips on sunny days and for those missing their sea legs, there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore.
To experience Polperro at its best, we recommend approaching it from the sea – truly beautiful!
Our own Cornwall road trip to Polperro and Newquay…
2. Fistral Beach and Newquay – one of the world’s top surfing destinations
Surfs up dude! Alright, we may be a bit old for saying that, but Fistral Beach located in the famously lively surf resort of Newquay is cool!. If you want to pack your beads and be all ‘surfer-esque’, as the UK goes, this is the best place to do it.
A wide beach with a reef further out means swells from the Atlantic roll in making huge waves. Take a surfing lesson, or if you can’t stand getting your hair wet, it is still a good place to just sit and watch others.
If you want slightly more upmarket, pay a visit to neighbouring Lusty Glaze which is a private beach that has received more than a handful of awards, Lusty Glaze has its own bar and restaurant, watch the sun go down and enjoy some genuine authentic Cornish cuisine and maybe a cheeky cocktail.
3. St Mawes – a seriously pretty village located on the stunning Roseland Peninsula
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Mediterranean is the only place you can enjoy eating locally caught fresh fish beside the sea. Well, think again, you can enjoy all this and more without ever having to get on a plane.
St Mawes is a stereotypical seaside fishing village, just an amazingly pretty one complete with whitewashed matchbox houses, a beautiful harbour area, and rolling countryside surrounding the village.
It’s a beautiful place to explore and stay in Cornwall and you’ll find all styles of accommodation from luxurious hotels to simple guest-houses, or even a caravan!
4. Port Isaac – a pretty Cornish village that’s appeared in Doc Martin, Poldark and Saving Grace
Ever watched Doc Martin? For that authentic Cornish village vibe that you’ve witnessed in the series, go here, as it’s filmed in Port Isaac. Some scenes from Poldark and Saving Grace were also filmed here too! Which says a lot – this is a wonderful place to visit in Cornwall.
There are beautiful coves leading to sandy beaches, and due to Cornwall sitting slap bang in the gulf stream, in the summer months, you can enjoy a Mediterranean climate.
With authentic (and ancient) houses made from local Cornish stone and gentle walks along coastal paths, you can wander and explore from dawn to dusk. Make sure you bring your camera!
5. St Ives – the famous beach resort that’s easily one of the best places to visit in Cornwall
As we were going to St Ives, we met a man with seven wives..we figure they must have all wanted to come with him because St Ives is truly lovely and easily one of the best places to visit in Cornwall.
With a beach that has been voted one of the top-ten in Europe, sparkling ultramarine views of the sea, and a little bit of culture, St Ives is a must if you are visiting Cornwall.
If sand and sea have to make way for scones and tea, go exploring down its quaint little windy streets. There’s art galleries, little boutique shops, historic buildings and authentic mariners pubs, where you can indulge in a drop of proper Cornish ale. Cheers!
6. Constantine Bay – a beautiful unspoilt beach to visit in Cornwall
Rockpools, paddling, soft pale sand, beautiful clear water! Oh Constantine Bay we love you. If you want to go for a swim and indulge in all of the things you remember about UK beach holidays this place is perfect.
It’s also a great place to go surfing and this is supposedly one of the best surfing beaches in North Cornwall.
At low tide, you can even head to nearby Booby’s bay which is a good old walk across half a mile of open sand. Backed by dunes and with a gentle shelf, there is plenty of room for some traditional seaside fun.
7. Falmouth – one of Cornwall’s leading south coast resorts
Falmouth is a place that is synonymous with all things nautical and is definitely one of the most popular places to visit in beautiufl Cornwall.
Being the third deepest natural harbour in the world, it has a strong connection with many British maritime endeavours, so there’s a lot to see and do. The biggest draw of course is the spectacular long wide sandy beaches which offer a wide range of water sports.
If museums float your boat there’s a huge maritime museum offering a day of activity, even if it’s raining.
If you want to be transported even further back in time, visit Pendennis castle, and stare out to sea waiting for imaginary invaders on the horizon. Culture aside Falmouth is a beautiful spectacle.
The coastline is adorned along its length with garishly painted, multicoloured houses providing some colourful interest for a morning stroll.
8. Holywell Bay – a popular beautiful beach to visit in Cornwall where some scenes of Poldark was filmed
Holywell takes its name from a mystical spring that apparently had healing properties (it’s a shame that nobody agrees on where the spring is currently located).
Folklore aside, it is a cracking beach to visit in Cornwall, surrounded on headlands on both sides and backed by rolling sand dunes.
The beach also has a super nice feature, a shallow river that flows directly into the sea. Paddle away, keep your feet cool, and worry about how you are going to get back to the car without getting sand in between your toes.
It’s a popular place for families and it was also used for a number of beach scenes in Poldark series 3, so you might even recognise it before you even arrive!
9. Mevagissey – a very beautiful coastal village to visit in Cornwall
This gorgeous sleepy little fishing village has got roots going all the way back to the Bronze Age and formed the backbone of the Pilchard fishing industry until the turn of the 20th century.
It now makes the ideal base to take a day trip or sit on a quayside pub watching the world (and the boats) go by. This place is so beautiful and quaint it tops many great places to visit in Cornwall lists!
10. Penzance and St Michael’s Mount – a pretty market town and a tidal island
Both Penzance and St Michaels Mount are a real treat! Penzance is super because it’s actually quite compact, so you don’t feel like there is anything you have missed, which is good as there are bundles to see here.
Whether you want to wander around the harbour, go on a pirate smugglers tour, or explore neat little seaside gardens it’s all within a stone’s throw.
The famous and very striking nearby St Michael’s Mount is super unique. It is a deeply poignant and historic castle, located on a tidal island, at the end of a causeway, some three miles east of Penzance.
At high tide it is only accessible by boat, so time your visit wisely (or make sure you’re a quick walker if you are going along the causeway by foot).
11. Mousehole – a very beautiful village and fishing port to visit in Cornwall
“The loveliest village in England.” Not our words, but those of Dylan Thomas, and he was a proper poet, so he should know. Let’s supplement Mr. Thomas’s words with some of our own.
If traditional old-world allure is what you are after, look no further. With a teeny harbour and a few small boats bobbing in the picturesque harbour, you can almost imagine what it was like 300 years ago.
You’ll find this gem of a place located on the south coast of Cornwall between Penzance and Land’s End. Oh and don’t call it ‘mouse-hole’… Don your best Cornish twang and repeat after us… “Mow-zel.”
12. Porthcurno Beach – a paradise-like beautiful Cornwall beach
Another area of breathtaking beauty and scenery, the award-winning Porthcurno Beach located in the far west of Cornwall, is one of the best places to visit in the UK. Soft white sand and a jade-coloured sea make for a wonderful and relaxing day out.
Sand aside, forget the internet, if you want to be at the heart of the advent of transatlantic communication visit the Porthcurno telegraph museum, where the town’s claim to fame is being the first hub of an early communications systems that connected several continents.
If you want to be further impressed by human endeavour, check out the Minack theatre, created when a local resident decided she was going to build a clifftop theatre at the end of her garden.
Even if theatre isn’t your bag, the views alone from the top of the winding path make for amazing photographs.
13. Fowey and Fowey Estuary – a beautiful little town with fantastic views in Cornwall
Our list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a designated Area of Natural Beauty. Take one look at Fowey estuary located in Southern Cornwall and you will be able to tell why. It’s picture-perfect, especially when the sun is out.
The whole place feels like a little adventure, and the beautiful, historic harbour town is equally lovely.
Go exploring dappled and forested tributaries that feed into the length of the estuary, take a boat trip, go for a pint of ale by a harbourside pub, relax on Readymoney beach, or if you are feeling energetic, go paddleboarding in beautiful crystal clear water.
14. Padstow – a charming working fishing port and famous foodie destination
A wonderful and charming fishing port located on the north coast of Cornwall, pretty Padstow is a little town that packs a real punch, with loads going on. If you have a bike or even like a jog, the famous ‘Camel Trail’ starts in Padstow.
As part of the former North Cornwall railway, the terrain on the trail is flat and paved, making it ideal for a leisurely jaunt whilst taking in up to 17 miles of stunning Cornish scenery.
Make sure you check out at least one of the famous chef Rick Stein four seafood restaurants dotted around the town.
15. Looe – a favourite holiday destination in Cornwall
Looe is a wonderful town that is really divided… by a river! Fortunately, there is a super photogenic arched Victorian bridge connecting its East and Westside. The majority of amenities are located on the East side with a beach, pubs, and restaurants.
The Westside is ever so slightly quieter but has few cafes and restaurants too. If you simply can’t make up your mind, then jump on a boat and head over for a day trip to Looe Island.
You can birdwatch or just explore and at 150ft above sea level take in the amazing sea views, which reach all the way out into the Atlantic ocean. One of the most popular holiday resorts to visit and explore in Cornwall and once you’ve visited once you’ll see why!
16. The Lizard Peninsula – unique landscapes and stunning views
This is as far south as you can go in England without getting your feet wet. It is not that easy to get to, with one road, and one road only, leading to the point, but that has what has kept it from being heavily developed over the years, which is a reason we suggest that you go.
Let your mind wander as you stand on the headland looking out to sea, as you imagine torn sails and bedraggled ships listing and straying onto the rocks (which has happened plenty of times over the centuries).
If you want to be all inquisitive, go beach hopping and explore a multitude of bays and coves nestled along this incredible peninsula.
17. Porthbeor Beach – a quiet and secluded beach to explore in Cornwall
Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. If the weather is nice and your timing is a bit out, then a lot of places in Cornwall can get busy. Fortunately, you’ll have Porthbeor Beach (located in Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula) in your back pocket.
It is pretty remote, and this tends to keep the crowds away. Go at high tide to this beautiful Cornish gem and enjoy basking in relative peace and quiet on the beach.
If you are there with a younger crowd that might need a little entertaining, at low tide the sea reveals a good few hours of fun in the form of hidden rock pools. Have a competition to see who can find the biggest crab, just mind your fingers!
18. Tintagel – stunning landscapes that are linked with the legend of King Arthur
Two words. Truly-magical. And we mean that literally. Tintagel – located in on a dramatic coastline on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall – is home to a castle that is rumoured to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
Engage young and old minds alike as you wander dramatic cliff tops, and then cross a bridge over seaswept rocks to visit the ruins of the ancient castle.
Whilst no one is sure as to the origins of the myth, strolling around Tintagel certainly makes it believable. Below the castle are a series of caves, where Merlin lived apparently…we’d have just magicked up a nice bungalow personally.
19. Bude – a compact seaside resort town in northeast Cornwall
Bude is Cornish, but only just. It straddles the line between Devon and Cornwall, making it the ideal place if you want to explore both (and why shouldn’t you?).
This has been a popular seaside resort since the Victorian times and though it’s a little more developed so maybe isn’t quite as charming as some of our other suggestions, but it makes up for this in amenities, so if you need some essentials or just want to wander around the shops you’ll find what you need here.
There is actually a very beautiful sandy beach too, with a seawater pool carved from the rocks nearby, meaning you can swim regardless of the tide state.
20. Lantic Bay – a beautiful hidden gem to visit in Cornwall
Rolling green fields, jutting black rocks, wildflowers, and walks.
It’s not the easiest place to find, but as with some of our other suggestions, that’s a good thing as it means you might snag the place practically to yourself – this is a real hidden gem to explore in beautiful Cornwall. Follow the coastline for a walk, views, and fresh air that are all as pure as it comes.
Feel free to meander down to the beach where you’ll find powdery white sand and serenity. As we said, it’s a bit remote, but that’s exactly why you chose it right?
21. Cawsand and Kingsand Beaches – stunningly beautiful places to visit in Cornwall
Today, these unspoiled hidden gems are twinned but for many centuries they were on different sides of the border with only a tiny stream acting as a border.
In 1844, Kingsand rejoined Cornwall from Devon and now, only a sign on one of the pristine cottages is the only evidence of the divide.
The two villages are a superb option if you’re looking for unspoiled things to do in Cornwall – they are steeped in an exciting history of smuggling and fishing legends of which, the Pilchard Palaces now highlight.
The most beautiful thing about these historic villages is the view, from Kingsand there is a spectacular panorama over the breakwater to Jennycliff while in Cawsand a pub on the beach offers the perfect luncheon spot with breathtaking views of over the sea and the passing boats from Plymouth.
Both offer excellent watersports opportunities, safe and clear waters, and secluded bays. Perfect for a weekend away from it all!
22. Daymer Bay Beach – a paradise for beach lovers, surfers and sailing fans
It is hard to believe that Daymer Bay has remained so unspoiled and untouristy with its superb sandy beach and intricate network of rock pools, it is a must for a romantic peaceful getaway or for all the family.
At low tide, the sand stretches for miles and is encircled by powdery dunes and sandhills. It is secluded and sheltered thanks to the dunes, which makes it a more peaceful choice over its neighbours – Rock and Polzeath.
At the south end of the beach, there is a grassy mound of Bray Hill which, once climbed, offers an exceptional view of the surrounding area. It is also worth visiting St. Enodoc Church, affectionately nicknamed Sinking Neddy because of its intimate relationship with the tide.
The combination of local history, grassy knell, and tumbling dunes makes it the perfect family destination- something to keep everyone happy.
23. Mullion Cove – a pretty Cornish coastal escape perfect for both families and couples
Located on the delightfully named Lizard peninsula, is also known as Porth Mellin and the harbour was originally built in 1895 as compensation for fishermen for several disastrous pilchard seasons.
Since then, Mullion Cove and Island (half a mile offshore) have become popular tourist destinations due to their sheltered, peaceful vibe and lie within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It is easy to understand why- the old pilchard cellars and net store have been preserved in their original state and there are stunning walks along the coast and pier.
The area offers lots of eateries, elegant white-washed guest houses, and hotels, all offering the best of the best when it comes to seafood. Without a doubt, Mullion Cove should make it onto your bucket list of amazing places to visit in Cornwall!
24. Caerhays Castle – a semi-castellated manor house which are open to the public in the spring
Set in 140 acres of grounds, it will not come as a shock that Caerhays Castle is one of Britain’s horticultural treasures and is the stunning home of the Williams family.
Caerhays has it all- naturally beautiful coastline, green valleys, architectural wonders and interwoven into it all an overwhelming sense of history.
What more could one ask for? Wonder? Tick. 200-year-old castle! Exploration opportunities? Tick. Acres of the stunning garden! History? Tick. The breeding ground of the first Williamsii Camellias.
A trip to Caerhays is not a one-off, it’s a place you come back to over and over because there will always be a path you haven’t strolled along, a flower collection you haven’t seen, or corner of the Georgian estate you haven’t explored. Make it your family’s tradition now.
25. Helford Village – a pretty under-the-radar village to explore in Cornwall
This beautifully enchanting village in West Cornwall is located in the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Beauty and it a lovely unspoiled place to visit in Cornwall.
While it was once an important port for trade, now while its trading tradition has subsided it is now a sleepy, little village in retirement from a stellar trading history of rum, tobacco, and lace and the pirates who camped out here during the Napoleonic Wars are simply ghosts but in when the sea mist shimmers over the glassy waters.
Helford’s unique history doesn’t seem that far in the past and the perfect setting for a du Maurier novel- who incidentally spent her honeymoon here. If it’s good enough for Daphne.
The Helford River that snakes through the village is probably one of the most unspoiled in Cornwall and strolling along its banks will bring you into ancient oak forests, wooded tracks, and hidden creeks.
26. Walk the South West Coast Path – one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world
Ok, we understand that the whole 600+ mile stretch might be a bit ambitious, after all, it takes about three weeks to cover the entire path along the coast of Cornwall but it is possible to do it in sections at a time.
Get yourself a good map and plan your route. This amazing experience can be achieved anywhere along the South West coast of England, go either left or right and you are setting foot on the longest National Trail in the UK.
It is right here that heritage, wildlife, and geology collide into a kaleidoscope of natural beauty.
Whether you are an experienced hiker up for a new challenge or just looking to enjoy some of the best scenery that England has to offer, there is a walk just for you.
Hike around the shores of Poole Harbour or simply opt for the Tea Shop and Café walk which, incorporates some of the most pretty tea shops in the area so you can have a cream scone and a picturesque view!
There are various combinations to suit all walkers from dog walkers to family walkers to serious walkers. Chose yours now!
27. High Cliff at Crackington Haven – very impressive coastline and scenic views
Looking for more naturally beautiful things to explore in Cornwall? Then the aptly named High Cliff is the highest point on the Cornish coast and is one of the most stunning spots in England from which to see the sunset.
Settle yourself down to see one of the most unique natural phenomenon- the famous green flash that occurs seconds before the sunsets.
Following any of the paths in the area will bring you meandering along with the most scenic and beautiful sights.
Some of the paths require more care as the terrain can be quite rocky, especially along the cliff edge so it is important to stick to recognised paths and avoid doing too much exploring as the cliffs are brittle and some of the paths are treacherous.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the cliff in time of sunset, sit back, and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.
28. Downderry Village – a pretty coastal hidden gem in Cornwall
A delightful coastal village in southeast Cornwall which has a light shingle long beach, be warned though- the east beach has a reputation as a nudist beach so probably best to stick to the slipway or other parts if you are on a family stroll!
The village itself is home to tasty restaurants as well as spectacular views of Looe Island, Rame Head and on clear days, Eddystone Lighthouse blinking in the distance.
If the beauty of the area inspires you, you are within a short drive of other wonderful sights like; The Lost Gardens and the Eden Project.
29. St. Nectan’s Glen Waterfall – an area of outstanding natural beauty
History is omnipresent in St. Nectan’s Glen, from the eponymous saint himself to the supposed Celtic chapel secreted on the site but the most famous presence is the 60-foot waterfall that dominates the area.
It has gained a reputation as a key spiritual site and it is not unusual to find crystals, ribbons, and other mementoes littered around the area, which adds to the sense of otherness that emanates from the site.
A very beautiful place to vist in Cornwall, ultimately, the area of St. Nectan’s is geared towards those wishing to take time out and offers a plethora of opportunities and areas for inward reflection and meditation.
The ideal location for those looking to tap into themselves, find themselves, or simply switch off, surrounded by some of the most unique and interesting flora and fauna England has to offer.
30. The Eden Project – one of the most popular places to go in Cornwall
Now for something completely different. If you’ve had your fill of tea and scones, mariners cottages, and the past, why not look to the future.
The Eden Project is a series of interconnected geodesic domes (or biomes) nestled in a valley. They house a whole manner of mega interesting and unique concepts.
The domes act like greenhouses and within you will find a fully living rainforest, an organic cafe, a concert venue, and numerous sculptures. It’s well worth a visit, even more so if the weather has let you down.
There we have it. Cornwall truly has something for everyone. A family might take a weekend trip Caerhys Castle, a romantic couples weekend would be perfect at Mullion Cove or High Cliff, a break from the city for the over-stressed at St. Nectan’s.
Who needs expensive trips or European package holidays when right at the very corner of England there is all the remedy you need?
We also have posts on…
- The most beautiful places to visit in Devon
- The most beautiful places to visit in Dorset
- The most beautiful places to visit in West Sussex
- The most beautiful places to visit in Somerset
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Emma-Clair Ni Clearaigh – writer and photographer
With itchy feet, an inquisitive nature and an ardent wanderlust, Emma Clair has always been a traveller at heart. Hailing from the Emerald Isle she calls a small coastal town near Dublin home, but has lived in a few countries including Saigon, Vietnam where she resided for over a year, now she balances travel and travel writing with teaching and a passion for vintage interior design. She counts supping on Bloody Marys on a rooftop in Manhattan, downing Singapore slings at the Raffles Hotel, daring a paraglide on the Grand Cayman, spending an exotic Christmas in Malaysia and exploring the Angkor Wat, Cambodia as her all time favourite travel moments. Although, she’ll always have a special place in her heart for the city where she makes her annual pilgrimages – Paris, her true city of lights. Find Emma-Clair on Instagram or Facebook.