South Cornwall is a holiday destination that looks like it has come straight from a painting. You’ll be in awe at the beautiful pastel cottages, gardens packed full of tropical plants, dainty harbour towns, and tranquil landscapes. One day you could be visiting the whitewashed fishing towns for cream tea, with the next day full of surprises and greenery at the Eden Project. From the sea-encircled castle at St Michael’s Mount, to a jungle trek through Trebah Garden, there’s something for everyone in South Cornwall. We’ve put together an essential guide to holidays in South Cornwall, with something to suit dog owners, couples, families, solo travellers, and even groups of friends. Whatever your reason for visiting, and whoever you’re bringing with you, we promise you’ll fall in love with all that South Cornwall has to offer.
Beach Fun in South Cornwall
The coast of South Cornwall is a sheltered part of land, ensuring gentler breezes and warmer temperatures. Therefore, the beaches here are some of the best in the UK; complete with white sand and clear waters. You’ll find plenty of little hidden coves and private beaches, all surrounded by a breathtaking coastline. If you’re planning on some beach trips in South Cornwall, then here are some of our favourites:
- Swanpool in Falmouth – This is a family favourite, thanks to the picturesque location and wide variety of things to do. The Elemental UK water sports centre offers activities from snorkelling to windsurfing, making Swanpool the perfect destination for thrill-seekers. You’ll find disabled facilities here, including accessible toilets. No dogs are permitted on the beach from Easter to 1st of October, unless just crossing whilst on a lead.
- Whitsand Bay – In South East Cornwall and not far from Plymouth, Whitsand Bay is another family favourite, but is also a stunning location for a romantic picnic. Make sure you bring your camera, as the coastline is absolutely beautiful. It is also possible to surf here, although there are some rip currents and the beach is a good spot for fishig. There are several access points to the beach, but all are too steep or inaccessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round.
- Polridmouth Cove Beach – Want something a little more secluded? Located west of Fowey, this sheltered cove is perfect for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the busier beaches. At high tide this beach actually splits into two, both of which are relatively quiet even at peak times. This off the beaten track beach is dog friendly all year round and has access to some stunning coastal walks; perfect for all to enjoy. Accessing the beach can be quite difficult for pushchairs or wheelchairs, so bear this in mind.
- Lantic Bay – Located near Polruan, this expansive picture postcard sandy beach is one of Cornwall’s firm favourites. Accessed via the coastal path, the beach is a steep climb down so not suitable for all. Generally quiet due to difficult access, the beach is dog-friendly all year round and a real must for those looking for a peaceful picturesque setting for a lazy day on the beach (don’t forget the picnic!).
These are just three of the many beaches to be found in South Cornwall, with dozens of others for you to choose from. No matter what kind of coastal experience you want, you’ll find something to suit here.
Travel the Rivers
If you want a change from seeing the sea, then how about a river experience instead? You can hire a river boat to travel up Mylor Creek, which is fun for the entire family (dogs included). This tiny marina, hidden away at the mouth of Mylor Creek, offers pocket cruisers and motor boats, for you to take out and explore with. If you have sailing experience then opt for the pocket cruiser, whereas a motorboat is best if you’ve never sailed before. Along the way you’ll spot plenty of wildlife, including seals and perhaps even a dolphin! Stop off at one of the many sandy bays or stop for a cream tea at Tregothnan’s Tea Bar.
If this sounds too relaxed for you, then how about taking part in a guided canoe trip on the River Tamar? Start off at Cotehele’s quay and paddle your way along to explore this stunning mining area, which is also a National Trust Heritage site. The whole family can work together to paddle and steer their way through woodland, mining buildings, quays and boatyards. You’ll stop halfway at the riverside meadow for a picnic lunch, before making your way back to base. The Fowey River is another popular place for kayakers. Surrounded by woodland and stunning scenery, the area is teeming with widlife so there’s plenty of opportunities for spotting wildfowl, herons and even notoriously shy kingfishers along the way. For the less experienced, take a Fowey River Expedition or hire a kayak if you are experienced and explore the area under your own steam (hire available by the hour, half or full day).
Become a Giant at St Michael’s Mount
There’s no escaping the pull of this incredible sea-encircled castle, which is the home of fairytales and legends. The story says that a giant used to live in this castle, before a brave local boy lured him to his death. This island adventure is excellent for families with children, as they’ll love all of the activities and stories which have been specifically designed to keep them entertained.
It’s not all just fun and games for kids though, as this building is steeped in history and beauty. Take a walk around the inside of the castle or explore the sub-tropical gardens, making sure you take photographs along the way. At low tide you can cross the causeway by foot and get to the castle, otherwise you can go by boat. St Michael’s Mount can be quite difficult to access via wheelchair, so they advise you call them in advance to discuss your options.
Experience The Magical Lizard Peninsula
Technically in South West Cornwall, although still within an easily accessible distance, is the magical Helford on the Lizard Peninsula. People from all over the world visit Cornwall, just to spend a day surrounded by the dramatic landscapes in the area. Connected to the mainland via a tiny bridge, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a different country at the Lizard. With so much to see and do here, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Whether you want to go sailing on the clear waters, or hiking over to Lizard Point, there’s something to suit every holiday style.
Make your way to the Lizard Lighthouse Heritage Centre, where kids will be able to play lighthouse keeper for the day. They can track ships, sound the foghorn and even make their own miniature lighthouses to take home. For the adults there’s plenty to do in the nearby village; just make sure you check out the legendary Ann’s Pasties for a real Cornish experience. Not all of the areas in the Lizard are accessible by wheelchair, especially near the steep cliff edges. Ensure you plan ahead if you wish to experience some of the coastal walks on offer. Most parts of the Lizard are dog-friendly, including many of the pubs and restaurants.
Tropical Gardens in South Cornwall
One of the things many visitors to South Cornwall find surprising are the number of tropical gardens to visit. Of course, there is the most famous Eden Project which is home to one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests. This popular tourist attraction is always playing host to a wide variety of events and even concerts, which are a great way to experience these stunning dome gardens.
If you would prefer somewhere a little less touristy, then head to Trebah Garden, near Falmouth. This natural tropical garden is full of trails that take you through the lush greenery, all the way to the small river beach on Helford River. You can paraglide through the trees or check out Tarzan’s camp, there’s plenty to do for all ages. Alternatively, just take a picnic and your camera for a truly relaxing experience. Both gardens are easily accessible and allow dogs (to be kept on lead with some areas restricted such as indoor areas and biomes at the Eden Project), which means everyone can enjoy the fun.
We’ve covered just a tiny fraction of all the wonderful things to do and see in South Cornwall; we’d be here for days if we tried to cover them all. We hope that we have provided you with some inspiration for days out in the area, no matter who you are and what you like doing. Just make sure you enjoy all of the cream teas, crab sandwiches and Cornish ice cream you can get your hands on, too!