Things to do in Cornwall

When it comes to coastal getaways, few regions can match the dazzling scenery, diverse outdoor activities and fascinating history of Cornwall. This far-flung jewel of the southwest is blessed with spectacular twin coastlines, unmissable wildlife and some of the best surfing spots in the UK. Take a look at our guide to the best things to do in Cornwall to ensure you get the most out of your next British beach break.

48 Hours of Freedom in Cornwall

Whether you're surfing the waves at Fistral Beach, speeding through the ocean on a banana boat at Lusty Gaze or checking out Newquay's lively music scene, there are endless ways to spend 48 hours in Cornwall.

Top Cornwall attractions

Eden Project

Eden Project

Situated in a former china claypit near St Austell, the Eden Project features a series of immense golf ball-shaped biomes which contain spectacularly exotic artificial Mediterranean, rainforest and ot

St Michaels Mount

St Michael's Mount

From monks to a Cornish giant, the history and mythology that layer up on this rocky tidal island near Penzance is richly diverse.

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

Set high on a craggy peninsular overlooking a dramatic stretch of Cornish coast, Tintagel Castle offers much more than regular English Heritage ruins.

Best free things to do in Cornwall

Ben Howard

Ben Howard at Eden Sessions

Ben Howard, top singer/songwriter and Brit Award winner, is playing the Eden Sessions in 2018 for the third year running, along with his six piece band.

abseiling

BF Adventure

Get outdoors and have fun at this exciting activity centre. As a charity, they help hundreds of disadvantaged children in Cornwall too.

Blue Moon Festival

Blue Moon Festival

Early bird tickets for the Blue Moon Festival are now on sale!  This year the Blue Moon Festival will take place on 21st July from midday until 11pm with all proceeds going towards YHA's chari

Blue Reef Aquarium

Blue Reef Aquarium

Dive into a breathtaking 3D underwater world and be transported below the ocean's surface to watch some of the planet's fascinating creatures.

Caleb Harris

Caleb Harris at YHA Treyarnon Bay

Caleb Harris is a 20 year old singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from Cornwall, taking influence from the likes of Nick Drake, Fleet Foxes, Beirut and Bon Iver.

Climbing at YHA Lands End

Climbing at Lands End

If you are looking to combine water sports with climbing then Coasteering is for you.

coasteering

Coasteering in Land's End

If you are looking to combine water sports with climbing then Coasteering is for you. Kernow Coasteering offer coasteering adventures on the rocky coastline close to YHA Land’s End.

surfing

Cornwall Surf Academy

Don't miss out on something the area is famous for! Try an action packed surf lesson and take to the waves.

cycling

Cycling around the Eden Project

The Cornish Way forms part of the National Cycle Network, a network of attractive places to cycle throughout the UK. Two thirds of the route is traffic free with the rest taking place on quiet roads.

Group of people road cycling

Cycling in Land's End

Nothing beats cycling down the old green lane to Nanjizal - one of the more secluded beaches in Cornwall.

Falmouth Maritime Museum

Falmouth Maritime Museum

Love boats, the sea and Cornwall? You'll find all things nautical at this amazing museum - packed with interesting exhibits for all the family.

Cornwall's picturesque beaches

Perranporth Beach

Perranporth Beach

Situated south of Newquay on the north coast, Perranporth is justly renowned as one of Britain’s most picturesque beaches. When the breakers are rolling in off the Atlantic, there’s nowhere more exhilarating for surfing, sailing or bodyboarding. Also, at nearly three miles long, there’s plenty of space for everyone to do their own thing.

Nearest hostel: YHA Perranporth

watergate bay

Watergate Bay

Three miles north of Newquay lies another watersports heaven in Watergate Bay. Its two-mile stretch of sand boasts a beautiful backdrop of cliffs and throughout the year, the bay plays host to countless tournaments and pro events. However, away from all the adrenaline-fuelled exhilaration, there's just as much gentle fun to be had among the rock pools and quiet alcoves.

Nearest hostel: YHA Treyarnon Bay

Treyarnon Bay

Treyarnon Bay

Near Padstow on Cornwall's rocky north coast, this perfect sandy cove is the smaller of two beaches accessible from the village of Treyarnon. Waves are funnelled into the bay towards high tide, making it a favourite among more adventurous surfers. The low cliffs are also great for exploring and you can bathe in a giant rock pool.

Nearest hostel: YHA Treyarnon Bay

Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps

The clifftop view out across the vast craggy sea stacks is breathtaking and it gets better as you descend hundreds of (rather tricky) rocky steps to the beach (which isn't accessible at high tide). Quite literally a legendary Cornish landmark, the great Bedruthan rock towers are the giant stepping stones which may seem irresistible to stout-hearted rock climbers.

Nearest hostel: YHA Treyarnon Bay

Transport

Transport by train

By train

You can catch a mainline Great Western train to Penzance from London, changing at Plymouth, with a marathon average journey time of five hours and 43 minutes. Branch lines serve Gunnislake, Looe and Falmouth in the south and Newquay and St Ives on the north coast. CrossCountry Trains also run services across the county too so you're sure to have plenty of options.

Transport by bus

By bus

Bus provider First Kernow offer cheap travel with a £10 (adult) and £5 (16 and under) First Day ticket. Tickets for two, three and seven days are even better value while a Ride Cornwall one-day ticket (£10 adult; £7.50 16 and under) allows travel on both First buses and Great Western and CrossCountry trains.

Transport by car

By car

Improvements to the A30 main Cornish trunk road a few years ago has now enabled faster car journeys as far west as Penzance. A30 aside, journeys by car should not just be judged by their speed (single lanes can be an acquired taste) but for their sheer beauty. A plethora of breathtaking scenic routes await your discovery so don't hesitate to explore the coastline by car.

By bicycle

By bicycle

While the legendary South West Coast Path is suitable only for walkers, two of the most popular routes on the National Cycle Network, Routes 3 and 32, run through Cornwall from Bude all the way to Land's End. They mostly use minor roads, and can be picked up both in the north and the south.

Find your perfect Cornwall accommodation

The best of Cornwall's surfing spots

Constantine Bay

Constantine Bay

Situated only a few miles from Padstow on its sheltered river inlet, Constantine Bay faces directly west into the onrushing Atlantic currents. This is one Cornish beach which is always likely to offer surfing when your local beach is a millpond but most would regard it a spot for experienced surfers only.

Nearest hostel: YHA Treyarnon Bay

Fistral Beach

Fistral Beach

An extremely popular Newquay surf spot, with all the attendant positives and negatives. Can hold a wave and is known for its consistency, offering mostly left-hand waves. There are a lot of surf schools and beginners in the water in summer which makes it a great place for first timers. However, be sure to check out big events such as the iconic Boardmasters if you take your surfing seriously.

Nearest hostel: YHA Perranporth

Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay

A favourite venue for surf exhibitions and competitions such as the English National Surfing Championships which are held every May. Watergate Bay is quite exposed and the breakers keep on coming in whether it's high or low tide (unusual for the north coast). Most of the surf emanates from groundswells which are best from the northwest - just beware of riptides.

Nearest hostel: YHA Perranporth

Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove

Situated way out west in the same parish as Land's End, Sennen is a highly exposed spot and among the most consistent bays for surf. There's a back-of-beyond vibe this far from the towns, with a cool beach cafe, changing rooms and places to eat and drink close by the beach.

Nearest hostel: YHA Land's End

Surf's up

Cornwall's stunning Penwith Peninsula is ideal for a multi-hostel surfing adventure. Find out how travel writer, Niko Cionek, tackled the waves and walked the cliffs on Cornwall's famous coastal region.

Read more

Must-see Cornish towns

Newquay

Newquay

With no less than 11 top-class surfing beaches within striking distance, Newquay is practically unbeatable for coastal activities. The quintessential Cornish seaside resort is also popular with families and foodies, but it's the young and active who keep up the pace after dark. Check for one-off festivals and events before booking.

Nearest hostel: YHA Perranporth

St. Ives

St. Ives

Situated on the furthermost stretch of the north Cornish coast, St Ives is feted for its microclimate and a quality of light which has attracted artists for centuries. Prestigious art museums, galleries and fine cuisine abound but, beyond the old fishing port's busy centre, there are unmissable opportunities for walking, sailing and adventure sports.

Nearest hostel: YHA Penzance

Penzance

Penzance

Beyond the range of all but the most determined tourists, the ancient harbour and port of Penzance have an effortless unspoiled quality. The town overlooks St Michael's Bay (and its spectacular mount, topped by a medieval castle) to the south and there are plenty of spots for walking, cycling and swimming in a newly restored seafront lido.

Nearest hostel: YHA Penzance

Falmouth

Falmouth

Falmouth has a proud maritime history centred around its busy harbour on Cornwall's south coast. Rowing and sailing events are highlights of the calendar alongside arts festivals held in the town's galleries and music venues. Wonderful sheltered beaches are close at hand, and the beautiful upper reaches of river estuaries beg to be explored.

Nearest hostel: YHA Coverack

Weather

Weather

In Cornwall, it isn't just the Eden Project's Mediterranean environment biome that can boast weather more often experienced in southern Europe. Average summer temperatures are notably favourable in comparison to those in the rest of England and it's worth noting the bizarre subtropical microclimate which encapsulates certain coastal areas in the far western reaches of the county.

Adventures & activities

Hiking

Hiking

While the South West Coast Path is hard to beat for thrilling sea views and breathtaking riverside scenery, Cornwall also boasts an inland path network which extends some 2,400 miles. It takes in amazing hidden corners of the county's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including neolithic sacred sites and abandoned industrial heritage.

Watersports

Watersports

There are unparalleled opportunities for sailing and kayaking in the south coast's spectacular drowned river valleys, and the chance to try out more unusual sports such as kiteboarding and paddleboarding across Cornwall. Check out our watersports page to find out which of our Cornwall hostels are best equipped to accommodate watersports enthusiasts.

Cycling

Cycling

Designed for hikers and bikers, Cornwall's highly recommended multi-use trails include the Camel and Mineral Tramways trails along disused railway lines. The Cornish Way consists of 180 miles of minor road and largely traffic-free trails taking in industrial heritage and superb coastal scenery. If you're cycling in the south, the off-road Clay Trails take in the best views of the Eden Project.

Fishing

Fishing

You can hire a rod and fish from piers or harbour walls, from beaches or rocks. However, bearing in mind Cornish heritage, there's nowhere better to enjoy a day's sea fishing, and to beat Padstow's seafood king Rick Stein to the catch of the day! Go for bream, bass, lemon sole, cod or mullet according to season.

The best budget accommodation in Cornwall

From refurbished mansions to recycled shipping containers at the Eden Project, our unique hostels scatter the Cornish coastlines and give visitors unrivalled access to some of the best beaches, towns and attractions. Whether you want to be close to Land's End or a stone's throw from Treyarnon Bay, you're sure to find unique accommodation for the best prices with YHA.