Exploring the Cornish Coast

Ellie Swain

Senior Contributor

Scattered with tiny fishing villages, charming seaside towns, and renowned surfing sites, Cornwall offers plenty of coastal gems to explore. That’s not to mention the white sand beaches that fringe the region, many of which are the most beautiful in the country. The best way to navigate the county’s rugged shores is by embarking on a road trip. But with so much to see, where should you include on your itinerary? Keep reading for the ultimate Cornish coastal road trip.


Begin your trip in the pretty fishing port of Padstow. The town is known for its fresh seafood fare, so grab a helping of scrummy fish and chips to tuck into on one of the seven sandy beaches, all of which are accessible from the town itself within five minutes.

While there’s plenty of choices, Stein’s Fish and Chips – housed in the renowned Rick Stein restaurant – serves up chunky chips and battered fish that go down a treat.

Take a walk on one of the golden beaches and gaze at the lapping ocean watching the world go by. Or, head to the town’s National Lobster Hatchery to learn of the conservation efforts being made to protect the underwater creatures off the Cornish coast.

Bedruthan Steps

Just a 20-minute drive away from Padstow lies the dramatic Bedruthan Steps. These are enormous granite rocks that are dotted along the sandy shores. According to legend, the rocks serve as steppingstones for the Giant Bedruthan.

Take a short coastal walk along the cliffs to admire the looming stones from different angles, and, of course, the spectacular sea views too. The landscape is linked with shipwrecks and smugglers and as you navigate the crags, your mind will imagine the tales that surround the area.

If there’s low tide, head to the golden sand below the cliffs to have a closer peek of the jutting pointed stacks dominating the waves.


For most people, Newquay summons up images of surfers riding wild waves off the coast of an idyllic beach. Yes, Newquay is surf central of England, and there’s a good reason why.

The town is blessed with six stunning beaches, all that offer ideal conditions for surfing. Seasoned surfers will appreciate the tall hollow waves found on some of the beaches, and there are also spots for newcomers to test their skills.

But whether you’re a surfer or not, the buzzy town is bound to keep you occupied. There are calmer bays that are more friendly family, plus there are plenty of superb eating and drinking opportunities within the town itself.

St Ives

In just under an hour’s drive from Newquay, you’ll reach the stunning town of St Ives. With crystal-blue waters, pale sands, and fishing port that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean, the town feels almost tropical, especially in the warm summer months.

Navigate the charming cobbled alleys with a velvety Cornish ice cream in hand or sit down to gorge on some of England’s best scones that come complete with a generous dollop of clotted cream.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot friendly-faced seals swimming next to the colourful fishing boats that bob in the harbour.

As if that’s not enough, culture vultures can rejoice by visiting the renowned Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Plus, there are plenty of small independent galleries to discover too.


For a proper British beach day, head to Sennen with a bucket and space and a packed picnic. A great family-friend spot, the little ones will adore playing in the sand and frolicking in the blue water. There are also plenty of shallow rock pools to explore that are teeming with ocean wildlife.

If you have the patience, the sand is the ideal texture to create impressive sandcastles, so take your time to craft a masterpiece ready to share on Instagram.

Want a break from the beach? Head to Sennen Cove Harbour to check out the host of bobbling fishing boats. Potter around the harbour, or why not embark on a boat trip to observe the Cornish coastline from another perspective?


Just a 15-minute drive away from Sennen lies the world-famous Minack Theatre. Like a set from a blockbuster movie, the theatre is carved into the cliff that sits above the white-sand beach of Porthcurno, known as one of England’s most romantic beaches.

Marvel at a performance to remember at the open-air theatre as the lapping waves of the ocean feature as the backdrop.

Aside from the theatre, Porthcurno is a stunning area to explore, packed with postcard-perfect beaches and scenic walking trails.


The dainty fishing village of Mousehole will capture anyone’s heart, with colourful working boats nodding next to the harbour. Amble the small streets and try your best not to peek into the windows of the quaint fishermen’s cottages that line the roads. But feel free to pop into the small galleries, cosy cafes, and gift shops that sell items inspired by the sea.

From the harbour, absorb the sparkling ocean vistas, and keep an eye out for cruising seals that frequent St Clement’s Isle, a tiny rocky islet that sits offshore from the entrance of the harbour. 

St Michael’s Mount

A tidal island, St Michael’s Mount sits in the ocean resembling a spot out of a fairytale. Dating back centuries, this slice of Cornish history is well worth a visit – if you can reach it, that is.

The island is only accessible by walking when the tide is out, so time it well and you may be in luck.

Become a member to join the conversation!

Become part of the world's leading travel & lifestyle community!