The Ultimate Guide of the Best Things to Do in North Cornwall

    Whether you’re looking for North Cornwall Beaches, Surfing, Walks or Places to Eat, this is the perfect guide for planning your North Cornwall Trip. 

    North Cornwall is renowned for its stunning beaches, beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities. Whether you're a family, a surfer, an explorer, or a foodie, this North Cornwall Guide has something for you. 

    photographing a beach house art print on daymer bay in north cornwall

    Brian and Sarah photographing a book print in the sand dunes between Rock and Daymer Bay

    This guide is from first hand experience, we have personally been to every place or attraction we highlight in this North Cornwall guide. So, you can be sure it is worth your time.

    We hope our guide will help you make the most of your stay. 

    The Best Beaches in North Cornwall

    Cornwall has over 300 beaches, so picking our favourite six beaches has been challenging. 

    To make it easier, we have focused on 6 of the best North Cornwall beaches. We visit these beaches every time we are in the area and can vouch for each one.

    We have picked the 3 best family-friendly beaches in North Cornwall and then we have picked 3 beaches that are our alternative personal favourites. 

    Our 3 family friendly beaches have chosen because they have lifeguards during the summer, amenities like shops, toilets, and easy parking near the beach. We know what it’s like being a parent running around trying to find a toilet for the kids at the beach or some lunch! 

    Our alternative beaches are 3 more beaches you HAVE to visit during your holiday! 

    North Cornwall Beaches Map - Map of the best beaches in north cornwall

    Our 6 Picks for Beaches In North Cornwall During Your Holiday; 1, Polzeath 2, Trevone 3, Watergate Bay 4, Mother Ivy's Bay 5, Lundy Bay 6, Daymer Bay

    Here are our top 3 family beaches in North Cornwall.

    1. Polzeath Beach

    Polzeath Beach is located at the mouth of the River Camel and is renowned for its lovely golden sands and large beach. The beach is perfect for learning to surf and is one of the safest beaches in North Cornwall. It also has a great stream for kids to play in if they are toddlers. You can also enjoy Kelly's famous ice cream while you're there, from the vans on the beach.

    Practical Information:

    • Lifeguards are present from Easter until the end of the October half-term.

    • The beach has a car park, which can get busy in the summer, but parking is also available on the headland and in New Polzeath.

    • The toilets are located across the road from the beach car park, and there is a free water station at the car park's exit.

    Top Tips:

    • If you want to try your hand at surfing, book a lesson in advance. We recommend Surfs Up Surf School and Wavehunters surf schools.

    • For lunch, try Flo's Kitchen for sandwiches and salads or Cone Zone for pasties and ice cream. 

    • Try popcorn shrimp and a pint at the Cracking Crab. It's very kid friendly with an amazing view. 

    • If you're without kids, stop by the Surfside for a drink, and check out their rum bar in the back.

    • Polzeath Marine Conservation Group arrange beach cleans and also do rock pool rambles, which are great fun.

    2. Trevone Beach

    Trevone Beach is a small, beautiful, sheltered beach located just a 5-minute drive from Padstow. The sand is a beautiful golden colour and there are great walks from the beach and the best rock pooling in North Cornwall.

    Practical Information:

    • Lifeguards are present from Easter until the end of the October half-term.

    • Parking is available above the beach by the village shop or in the field to the left of the beach.

    • Although the beach is sheltered, there can be a strong rip in the sea, so be cautious.

    • The beach has a village shop and café next to the car park, but you may want to bring a picnic as the options are limited. 

    Top Tips:

    • Try the Padstow Farm Shop for salads, pastries, and sandwiches instead of bringing a picnic. Its 5 mins drive away from the beach.

    • Take a 5-minute walk along the coastal path to the west towards Harlyn Beach to reach a fantastic tidal swimming pool. On the way, you'll find a shale beach that is great for rock pooling and has a pathway for small children.

    3. Watergate Bay

    Watergate Bay is near Newquay and the airport. It is a massive beach at low tide, with plenty of parking behind the beach, in two carparks or at the headland. The beach has a shop, toilets, and food options on the main walkway onto the beach.

    • Lifeguards are present from Easter until the end of the October half-term.

    • Parking is available above the beach by the village shop or in the field to the left of the beach.

    • Although the beach is sheltered, there can be a strong rip in the sea, so be cautious.

    • The beach has a village shop and café next to the car park, but you may want to bring a picnic as the options are limited.

    Top Tips: 

    The Watergate Bay Hotel has been refurbished recently and is a great place to stay during during your holiday.

    Our Top 3 Favourite Beaches in North Cornwall

    4. Mother Ivy's Bay

    Mother Ivy's Bay is our favourite beach in Cornwall, offering golden sand and breathtaking views of the Padstow Lifeboat Station and Stepper Head in the distance. The beach is sheltered and perfect for swimming and paddle boarding.

    Park in the lower National Trust car park on Trevose Head, and it’s a 5 min short walk to reach the beach. Don't miss the lighthouse at the headland for a fantastic sunset.

    Tip: Every Wednesday in the summer, they launch the lifeboat for practice at around 6 pm, and you can get a hot dog and drink on the beach to support the RNLI. The beach faces east, so it is amazing for a morning sunrise walk.

    5. Lundy Bay 

    Lundy Bay is managed by the National Trust and is a 15-minute walk downhill from their car park on the road to New Polzeath. 

    The beach is secluded, and you have to walk over the rocks to reach the beach. When the tide is low we love walking round to the next door beach Ephaven and also the end of the beach but be careful not to get cut off. In spring, the area is carpeted with bluebells and is perfect for a picnics.

    6. Daymer Bay 

    This crescent beach isn’t exactly unknown, don’t shout at us! It’s lesser known than Polzeath beach. Located between Polzeath and Rock, it has golden sands and lovely views across the Camel Estuary towards Padstow. In the summer the sand martins fly in and out of the sand dunes on the footpath towards Polzeath. At low tide you can also rock pool and find some of the best seaweed in North Cornwall.

    Top Tips:

    Take a walk to the 15 century St Enedoc Church whilst you are there. 

    Its perfect for families with dogs. Dogs are allowed all year round, and the beach is very sheltered, with hardly any waves. Drive down Daymer Lane to the car park with toilets and a small shop. Don't forget to pay for parking as they use number plate recognition, and tickets are frequently given.

    Our Top Recommendations For Restaurants in North Cornwall

    North Cornwall is now a food lover's paradise, with a huge range of restaurants, cafes and pubs to suit all tastes and budgets. So, now one of the best things to do in North Cornwall is to go out and eat.

    Whether you're in the mood for fine dining, casual bites or a special occasion, there's something for everyone in North Cornwall. We are biased but we get the best fish and seafood in Cornwall, you have to eat as much as you can whilst you're on holiday down there!

    Remember to book in advance, as most places fill up quickly in the summer months.

    Map of the best restaurants in north cornwall

     Our Map Of The Best Places To Eat In North Cornwall. 

    The Best Places to Eat in North Cornwall

    This is our ultimate foodie guide for North Cornwall. Cornwall has been through a food revolution in recent years, started by Rick Stein and then continued by Nathan Outlaw and Paul Ainsworth, North Cornwall really has become a foodies paradise.

    Check out our top places to eat in North Cornwall and let us know if we have missed anywhere.

    Fancy..ish Dining Options:

    1. Rojano's in Padstow - *Best Service* 

    This restaurant, run by the Michelin starred chef Paul Ainsworth, offers family-friendly eating with Italian-inspired dishes. Dogs are allowed in the conservatory. Also try it's sister restaurant, The Marines in Rock. Where the fish and chips are amazing and the dogs pollack is a show stopper!

    Top Tip:

    Must-try dishes include the scotch egg starter and the Monkfish in garlic and parsley butter. Get some bread or chips to mop up the butter sauce!

    2. The Pig in Harlyn- *Best Setting* 

    This stunning listed stone manor houses two restaurants, the main restaurant in the hotel, serving a menu of locally sourced produce and ingredients and the other the Lobster Shack, which is less formal and serves steaks and lobster outside in the garden. 

    Top Tip:

    Don't miss their famous Sunday lunch; you have to order the tobacco onions as a side! Dogs are only allowed in the Lobster Shed.

    3. Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow - *Best for a Special Occasion* 

    Experience a special night out with excellent service, white tablecloths and a menu featuring delicious seafood. 

    Top Tip: 

    We LOVE the hot shellfish starter and the Turbot for the main course. 

    If the weather is nice, they let people eat their desserts on the roof terrace, it has great views across Rock and Porthily.

    Pubs and Casual Dining Places:

    4. St Kew Inn - *Best Garden and Best Burger* 

    This pub in the charming hamlet of St Kew is known for its excellent smoked meats, steaks and burgers. Our kids love to run around in the garden, but it’s also our favourite place for a cosy winter night meal by the fire.

    Top Tip: 

    Save some room for the Baked Alaska pudding, which if you can fit it in, is so tasty. 

    5. The Rocket Store in Boscastle - *Best Seafood* 

    This small plates restaurant offers some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in North Cornwall. The food is great and the setting is even better. 

    Top Tip:

    We love to dine outside in their courtyard, surrounded by flowers and watch the other tourists go by. On a nice day it’s a truly idyllic place to sit. Try the oysters!

    6. The Atlantic in Polzeath - *Best Sunset View* 

    Enjoy a stunning sunset over the ocean while over indulging in giant pizzas, homemade pasta and a great beer selection from Harbour Brewery. This has the best spot in for a drink watching the sunset. The sun in mid summer drops between the two headlands of Pentire and Stepper for the perfect photos. The sunset has been known to get a spontaneous round of applause here!

    Top Tips:

    The pizza's are huge! We share one between three people, so don't over order!

    7. The Padstow Farmshop - *Best Pasty and Sausage Roll* 

    This farm shop is brimming with local food and produce and is a must-visit for its delicious pasties and pork and apple sausage rolls in the cafe. If you are staying in the area, you won’t need the supermarket for food if you shop here.

    Top Tip:

    They sell Trink Milk, which is the tastiest milk we have ever had, it's like the old fashion golden top milk bottles we used to get when we were younger.

    8. Fish and Chips at Treyarnon Beach*Best Budget Option* 

    This classic beachfront spot serves delicious fish, chips, and pizzas out of a van in the carpark and is a perfect setting for a sunset dinner. Just order your food, take it to the beach, and stuff your face whilst getting sand between your toes. 

    Top Tip:

    There is also a YMCA, with a bar, if you want a beer with your dinner.

    9. Trevibban Mill and Barnaby's - *Best Wine* 

    The vineyard offers wine tastings and tours of the orchards and vines. They also have a new Barnaby's restaurant opening on the top floor, which we are excited to go to. It's the same people who run prawn on the lawn, so it should be great. It is just a short drive from Padstow.

    10. Bluntrock Brewery in Rock - *Best Beer* 

    This microbrewery sells beer from a shipping container on the edge of Rock and features regular food truck events. They have lots of different beers on all the time and its next to sharps brewery if you want to visit them too, for your Doom Bar fix. 

    Top Tip:

    Check out their instagram page for when they have food trucks there for dinner. Try the best ramen in Cornwall from Fatcat Cornwall when they are in their truck.

    11. Beach box Café on Harlyn Beach - *Best for Breakfast* 

    Nothing fancy but this beachside cafe chain is an excellent spot for a post-surf or swims breakfast. 

    Top Tip:

    They do great smoothy bowls as well as pastries and bacon sarnies.

    12. Rock Fish and Chips in Rock - *Best Fish and Chips* 

    This popular spot serves up some of the best fish and chips in the area, It can bet really busy and have long queues but the fish is fresh and the batter crispy, so its worth the wait. 

    Top Tip:

    Our favourites are the monkfish bites and Megram Sole.

    13. Surfside on Polzeath Beach - *Best for a Wild Night* 

    For those seeking a wild night out, Surfside Polzeath is the place to be. They have a rum bar at the back of the restaurant that gets quite raucous in the summer. DJ’s at the weekend.

    some of the beach house art team and their dogs at the mariners in rock on christmas day

    Some of the team at the Mariners in Rock on Christmas Day.

    The Best Activities To Do in North Cornwall During Your Stay

    Map of north cornwall activities for families. the best activities to do in north cornwall

    Map Showing the best holiday activities to do whilst on holiday in North Cornwall.

    picture of the best activities to do in north cornwall on holiday

    Here are a few of the many great activities to do in North Cornwall. These are all family-friendly and again we have tested them many a time. It isn't an exaustive list of things to do in North Cornwall, so please let us know if you have any other ideas.


    Outdoor Family Activities In North Cornwall:

    1. Cycle along the Camel Trail - Padstow to Wadebridge

    This popular trail runs along an old railway line and takes you through the picturesque countryside from Padstow to Bodmin. A perfect route, long enough for the kids, is from Padstow to Wadebridge. It’s a bit of a shorter route, and you can rent bikes at both ends. 

    We have found it easier to rent in Wadebridge sometimes rather than Padstow, as Padstow seems to get booked out more quickly. You can rent bikes in several places, at either end, and stop off at cafes in Padstow or Wadebridge before you turn around, depending on which way you are cycling.

    2. Surf lessons- In Polzeath or Harlyn

    North Cornwall is a great place to learn to surf, with several surf schools offering classes for all levels of experience. Surfs Up Surf School, in Polzeath and Wavehunters are great for the Kids as is Harlyn Surf School at Harlyn Beach.

    3. Water Ski- In Rock

    If you're looking for a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled activity, water skiing is for you. The Camel Ski school, based in Rock, is the place to get your lessons. They also hire paddle boards, though be careful with the tides.

    4. Wavehunters or Padstow Sea Life Safaris - From Padstow

    Join the team at Padstow Sea Life or Wavehunters for sea safari tour, where you can see seals, dolphins, and other marine life. We have seen dolphins and puffins but you will enjoy the scenery even if you don’t see anything. They do trips from Padstow and Rock.

    5. Crabbing in Padstow Harbour 

    Crabbing is really popular in Padstow Harbour and is great to fill an hour or so with the kids. You can buy a crabbing line, bucket and bait from the local souvenir shops. We like to grab a pint and sit on the harbour with the kids whilst they crab! Apparently, bacon is the best bait, according to the 8-year-old experts!

    What to do in wet weather in North Cornwall:

    This is the perennial problem of what to do if the weather doesn’t play ball. We tend to chuck the kids in the sea, but below are some other good ideas of things to do in wet weather in North Cornwall.

    Here's the updated list of popular wet weather activities in North Cornwall:

    • Visit the Eden Project - This is a proper day out, you can spend hours here in the dry with the family.

    • Visit the Lanhydrock House and Gardens – This National Trust house is just outside Bodmin and is lovely. You can walk around the gardens and the house. The best bit is the shortbread in the café, though.

    • Visit Bodmin Jail – This has recently had a complete refurb and is now a museum and boutique hotel. There are lots of fun interactive things for the kids to do.

    • Visit the National Maritime Museum Cornwall

    • Visit the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay

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