The hardest part of pulling together a top 10 list of fabulous Cornish seaside towns, is getting it down to 10. The miles and miles of glittering Cornish coastline are home to a rich and diverse collection of beautiful towns and villages, each with its own charm. Whether you want to shop for souvenirs, savour cocktails and a seaview, hit the beach, or soak up some art and culture, here are 10 of the best seaside towns to visit in Cornwall.
Looe is one of Cornwall’s most charming seaside towns, full of British holiday nostalgia – fish & chips, ice cream, buckets and spades, and amusement arcades. It’s carved in two by a busy and beautiful estuary, bustling with boats by day and twinkling under fairy lights by night. For a chocolate-box arrival into town, the incredibly picturesque Looe Valley Railway, from Liskeard, meanders along scenic countryside and estuary views. Looe also boasts a well-positioned, super family friendly beach, flanked by pretty Banjo Pier. For rockpools and vast sea views, Hannafore is a lovely place for a walk and an ice cream. And when you’re ready for a break from exploring, acclaimed seafood restaurant The Sardine Factory in West Looe makes a perfect spot to enjoy a spectacular meal.
Polperro is a dazzling little fishing village with a particularly pretty harbour. Colourful boats bob on the turquoise waters, protected by imposing stone walls. Colourful, traditional Cornish buildings line its streets, with inviting cafes, galleries, and gift shops at every turn. As you descend further into the village a sense of history envelops the ever-narrowing alleys, full of enchanting cottages and ancient pubs. When you emerge onto the harbourside the scene bursts into technicolour, an iconic panorama which is quietly magical and quintessentially Cornish.
Spectacular sea views at every turn and an abundance of wonderful hotel and restaurant options make St Mawes one of Cornwall’s most beautiful and exclusive villages. Sitting on the subtropical Roseland peninsular, St Mawes enjoys a distinctly Mediterranean feel, with a year-round mild climate and an wealth of flora and fauna. St Mawes manages to feel both impeccably Cornish and almost otherworldly all at once, and it is, quite simply, unmissable. The stunning Hotel Tresanton is the perfect retreat for a truly special Cornish escape.
The scene that bursts into view as you arrive into Polzeath is the epitome of North Cornwall surf chic. A small selection of shops and cafes give way to a vast expanse of beach and beyond that it’s just sea and sky for days. Sunset on Polzeath beach, watching surfers in silhouette as the ocean glows in golden light is almost other-worldly beautiful. In the summer holidaymakers descend on Polzeath for the waves, the beach and the bustle, but for those seeking solitude, a quick hop to nearby Pentire affords incredible panoramic views of the stunning coastline away from the crowds.
St Ives is a big hitter, known by all and undeninably packed in the summer season – but there is a reason for its popularity, in fact, there are many. This arty, foodie haven sits on one of Cornwall’s most beautiful pieces of coastline. Visitors to St Ives are spoiled for choice when it comes to dining, shopping, hitting the beach and lapping up some culture. The Tate is a draw for many, but the whole town sparkles with art, and its no wonder the area has provided so much inspiration to artists, writers and creatives over the centuries – the timeless beauty of this part of Cornwall is undeniable. There are plenty of places to get off the beaten track, just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of St Ives, with incredible coast path walks in all directions.
Rock is one of Cornwall’s North Coast gems, a scenic, surfy, sunny resort which comes alive each summer, bursting with energy and good vibes. It makes a brilliant base from which to explore this particularly wonderful stretch of Cornish coastline. About an hour’s walk by Coast Path leads to Polzeath, one of Cornwall’s best surfing beaches and my personal favourite place in the world. A ferry ride across the Camel Estuary delivers you to Padstow, perhaps Cornwall’s most famous North Coast destination. Here you can pick up Rick Stein’s fish and chips, partake in Michelin Star dining at No. 6, or simply grab a pasty and peruse the shops and cafes. In Rock itself, there are shops and cafes, and sparkling sea views. In the heart of the village,The Mariner’s pub has been transformed by chef Paul Ainsworth into a fantastic place to eat and drink, with a high end, yet laidback, menu and a gorgeous terrace which overlooks this charming Cornish destination.
The ultimate idyllic Cornish fishing village, Mousehole’s narrow streets are lined with independent shops, galleries and tempting cafes, while its pretty harbour is filled with colourful boats. It feels like a painting brought to life, and has a healthy sprinkling of the magic that makes Cornwall so very special. Walking a couple of miles along the Coast Path from Mousehole will lead you to the turquoise waters of Lamorna, a secluded and spellbinding cove well worth the journey. Or come for the famous Christmas Lights which illuminate the village each winter adding even more magic to this picturesque place.
Mevagissey is an authentic and traditional Cornish fishing village, its harbour the beating heart of this hard working historic destination. Its narrow streets wind past ancient buildings down to the heart of the picturesque old town. Here Mevagissey’s distinctive twin harbour bustles with colourful boats landing their daily catch. A buzzing restaurant scene serves up delicious local seafood, and there’s an abundance of picture-perfect spots to stop and enjoy fish and chips with twinkling harbour views.
Fowey is a busy, picturesque port town full of cosy pubs, charming cafes, art galleries and shops. Famous as the home of Daphne du Maurier, Fowey is an enchantingly artsy waterside town with a beautiful harbour, a strong sailing scene, and a fabulous selection of places to eat, drink and sleep. For families, Fowey Hall is one of the very best places to stay in Cornwall and is a walk away from the bustling town.
Boscastle and Tintagel
A spectacular coastline, steeped in history, laced with tales of King Arthur, Tintagel is an icon of ‘land of myth and legend’ Cornwall. The remains of a 13th century castle, dramatically split across the mainland and an ocean-whipped headland make for an awe-inspiring sight and beg to be explored. Ten minutes up the road, atmospheric and historic Boscastle continues the dramatic, romantic theme, with its scenic harbour and narrow winding ravine leading out to the wild sea.