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13 Best Things To Do In North Cornwall

From amazing dining experiences and famous attractions, to hidden gems and outdoor adventures, these are the best things to do in North Cornwall.

When people ask me for recommendations for beautiful places to visit in England, I often pick the North Cornwall coast. With soaring cliffs, pretty fishing villages, fabulous beaches and some of the best seafood you’ll ever wrap your lips around, it’s an amazing region for holidays.

I’ve spent many happy weeks in this part of the country. There were trips in my teenage years hanging out around Fistral Beach in Newquay. A favourite was the culinary-themed adventure with my husband, with delicious meals in foodie-mecca Padstow. We also returned to explore some of the South West Coast Path, with all its undulating cliffs and hidden beaches. I also had an amazing time with friends at Boardmasters Festival, just outside of Newquay, watching some of the biggest musical acts in the country.

There are lots of romantic places to visit in Cornwall
On one of my many holidays in Cornwall

I’d need to spend months there to be a fully-fledged Cornwall expert, but it’s a county I’m always keen to fly the flag for! So, if you’re planning a holiday to Bude, Newquay, Padstow or somewhere equally as lovely on this coastline, I hope my guide gives you plenty of inspiration.

Beautiful views from Tintagel in Cornwall
Beautiful views from Tintagel in Cornwall

And while I’ll be sharing a few of the most famous places to visit, I’ve got some hidden gems and unique activities to tell you about too! So, come with me as I share the best things to do in North Cornwall.

My pick of the very best things to do in North Cornwall

Walk the South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path stretches for 630-miles, and one of the most scenic sections is along the North Cornwall coast. I’ve walked chunks of this on my trips to the region, and I can confirm it’s insanely beautiful. Just be prepared for a serious work out! There are a lot of steep climbs along the rugged cliffs, but the views make it all worth it.

Overlooking Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall
One of the most amazing parts of the South West Coast Path – by Bedruthan Steps

My favourite section runs past Bedruthan Steps. Legend has it a giant called Bedruthan used the huge rocks as stepping stones. When you see them, you’ll feel this vast scale. Unfortunately, due to recent landslides, you can’t go walking on the beach at the moment, but the views from the headland trail are definitely photo-worthy.

Enjoy a culinary-themed break in Padstow

One of my favourite experiences in North Cornwall has been eating my way around Padstow. This pretty fishing town has a small harbour, narrow cobbled streets, and a variety of food and drink options. When I was there last, I watched boats arriving laden with fresh fish, which were served on menus around town hours later.

Padstow Harbour, Cornwall
Padstow Harbour, Cornwall

This town is synonymous with Rick Stein, the seafood-loving chef who put Padstow firmly on the map. If you’re visiting, I’d recommend dining at one of Rick Stein’s restaurants, which range from the upmarket Seafood Restaurant, to his fish and chip shop by the water.

Or, splash out (pardon the pun!) with a tasting menu experience at Paul Ainsworth’s Michelin-starred restaurant No.6. We dined here a few years ago, enjoying delicious plates of food including deep-fried oysters from nearby Rock and wild garlic soup with a bone marrow crouton. It’s fine dining, with a Cornish heart and soul!

Wild garlic soup with bone marrow crouton at Paul Ainsworth At No.6, Padstow
Wild garlic soup with bone marrow crouton at Paul Ainsworth At No.6, Padstow

If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Padstow, take a look at Gull High, available via Aspects Holidays. This holiday apartment is moments from the bustling centre of the town and offers incredible views over the Camel. It sleeps up to four people, so it’s perfect for a small family or two couples.

Gull High in Padstow
Gull High is a lovely place to stay in Padstow

Step back in time at Tintagel Castle

This stretch of the North Cornwall coastline is steeped in history too. If you’re interested in exploring this aspect, I’d recommend a trip to Tintagel Castle. This is a castle steeped in myths and legends. In fact, it’s believed to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It’s in a really dramatic location, right on the cliffs, with steep slopes and sheer drops all around.

Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle

These days, it’s less of a castle, and more of a collection of ruins, but it’s pretty magical all the same. While you’re there you can cross the epic footbridge, explore Merlin’s Cave, paddle in rock pools on the beach and learn more about the history of the castle.

Surf and shop in Newquay

Newquay is one of the most popular towns in North Cornwall. I’ve visited so many times now, that I’ve lost count! It’s got a great buzz in the summer months, when it fills up with families enjoying beach holidays and surfers chasing waves.

Fistral Beach, Newquay
Fistral Beach is an amazing surf beach in Newquay

The main attraction is Fistral Beach – a wide beach with some of the best surf in the country. It’s a great place to learn to surf, with numerous surf shops offering board hire and lessons. Or, you can opt for a less active activity like shopping! The town has lots of boutiques, art galleries and gift shops, so you’re likely to find something that takes your fancy.

If you’re planning a family adventure in Newquay, I’ve found the ideal accommodation for you. This is 2 The Rocket – a 3-bedroom holiday home with amazing views over Fistral Beach. I love the open-plan areas in this house. There’s lots of room to spread out and relax, as well as a big dining table for family meals.

2 The Rocket in Newquay
2 The Rocket is a great place to stay in Newquay

Spend a day at Trerice House And Garden

This is one of the prettiest places I’ve visited in Cornwall. Trerice House is an Elizabethan manor house that easily looks like it could be the next location for Bridgerton or another period drama.

It dates back to 1572, and these days you can explore the house and impressive landscaped gardens, where you’ll even find a maze.

Trerice House and Gardens
Trerice House and Gardens

Play Crazy Golf in Trenance

My husband and I have an ongoing crazy golf battle. It started years ago, and now whenever we travel, we seek out the best courses. North Cornwall has lots to choose from, but one of my favourites is Trenance Crazy Golf. This 18-hole mini golf course is set in beautiful landscaped gardens within Trenance Leisure Park in Newquay.

Trenance Crazy Golf Course
Trenance Crazy Golf Course

If you’re visiting Newquay as a family, this is a great spot to keep kids entertained. Along with crazy golf, there’s also a miniature railway, Newquay Zoo and a really fun playground for little ones to let off some steam.

Meander through the streets of Port Isaac

Have you watched the TV show Doc Martin? Well, you might already be familiar with the adorable fishing village of Port Isaac. It’s filled with character and charm, which you’ll feel in abundance as you explore its narrow-cobbled streets. 

Port Isaac, Cornwall
Port Isaac, Cornwall

There aren’t loads of activities to do in Port Isaac… but to be honest, that’s part of the allure. Just meander slowly, popping into art galleries, taking photos of pretty houses, have an ice cream or a Cornish pasty by the harbour and getting your fix of refreshing sea air.

If you’re looking for accommodation nearby, check out Cider Barn. This adorable holiday cottage sleeps two and has absolutely dreamy interiors. I’ve already fallen in love with its trendy mezzanine bedroom, art deco bathroom tiles, deep cooper bathtub, forest green shaker-style kitchen… the list goes on!

Cider Barn near Port Isaac
Cider Barn is a lovely holiday home near Port Isaac

Explore Cornwall’s marine life

I’ve always been amazed by the wildlife in Cornwall. Along with rabbits, badgers, foxes, deer, ponies, frogs, gannets, egrets, cormorants, herons and more, there is some incredible marine life to see too.

One of the best things to do in North Cornwall if you’re a wildlife lover like me, is a boat trip on the Camel Estuary. A RIB boat trip like this one from Padstow takes you from the estuary out into the Atlantic Ocean and offers chances to see seals, dolphins, puffins and even whales.

You might spot grey seals in Cornwall
You might spot grey seals in Cornwall

Visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle

Starting as a passion project, this museum opened in 1960, and has grown and grown over the years. It is now home to more than 4,000 objects and 7,000 books, telling the story of magical practice in Britain. Step inside to learn about the witch trials, alchemy, ceremonial magic, Freemasonry and Wicca.

Some of the more fascinating artefacts include ouija boards, tarot cards, wands, crystal balls and figures made for placing curses! The world of magic has always intrigued me, so this is somewhere I’d love to visit on my next trip to North Cornwall.

Go Sea Kayaking from Port Gaverne

I always think kayaking is such a lovely way to see a destination. You get to see the place from the water, which adds a new perspective from being on foot. Plus, you’ll enjoy a bit of a workout at the same time! Port Gaverne is a sleepy hamlet tucked between Port Isaac and Polzeath. The protected bay is a great place to start a kayak trip from.

Port Gaverne
The clear waters of Port Gaverne

On a kayak tour like this one you’ll get to appreciate the region’s outstanding natural beauty for yourself, including hidden beaches and coves, jutting coastlines and the pretty fishing village of Port Isaac.

Forage on the North Cornwall coast

If part of your reason for visiting North Cornwall is for the food scene, then how about adding a food-related activity to your trip? Cornish Wild Food offer foraging sessions in a number of locations around the coast, and they sound brilliant!

I’ve been on similar group tours in Buckinghamshire, the New Forest and Guernsey. I loved learning about what was growing in each region, and the way so many amazing ingredients were available for free! I’ve  never looked at weeds in the same way again, as so many are actually tasty ingredients.

Foraging is a great way to connect with the environment in Cornwall
Foraging is a great way to connect with the environment in Cornwall

One of the best things about these foraging walks in Cornwall is that they end with a cooking session. You’ll pick up tips for using the raw ingredients at home – how brilliant is that?

Go Coasteering in Bude

Are you an adventurous sort? Several Cornwall tour operators offer coasteering adventures around the cliffs in Bude. After leaping into the water close to Summerleaze Beach, you’ll swim, scramble and jump off rocks. It’s an amazing adrenaline-filled way to connect with the Cornish landscapes. You’ll even catch glimpses of hidden beaches and secret spots you’d otherwise miss.

Are you brave enough to go coasteering in Cornwall
Are you brave enough to go coasteering in Cornwall

There are plenty of great places to stay along this part of the North Cornwall coast. One of my top picks is The Pink House in Bude, which sleeps up to 16 people across 6 bedrooms (including a few handy rooms with bunk beds!) The characterful house has lots of open-plan space, a great terrace for outdoor relaxation, and it’s located moments from the beach.

The Pink House in Bude
Can you spot The Pink House in Bude?

Enjoy a family day out at Lappa Valley Steam Railway

If you’re looking for things to do in in North Cornwall with kids, I’d recommend a day out at Lappa Valley Steam Railway. Located in St Newlyn, a short drive from Newquay, there’s lots to do here.

Lappa Valley Steam Railway is one of the best things to do in North Cornwall for families
Lappa Valley Steam Railway is one of the best things to do in North Cornwall for families

As well as a ride on the steam railway and a chance to see some vintage engines, there’s also a boating lake and adventure golf course. Plus, you’ll find a huge café with a soft play area for little ones. This is such a fun and interactive place for kids. I can’t wait to take my son Cooper here next time we’re in the area!

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about all of my favourite things to do in North Cornwall. If you’re looking for accommodation in the region, do take a look at the amazing variety of holiday cottages available via Aspects Holidays.

If you’re looking for any more help planning your trip to Cornwall, don’t miss my other guides:

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things to do in north cornwall

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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