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20 Best Seaside Towns in Cornwall to Visit (+ Villages)

Cornwall holds a special place in my heart and the towns in Cornwall are some of the most quaint and pretty seaside towns you can visit anywhere.

Why does Cornwall hold a special place in my heart? My family is from a group of islands off Lands End called the Isles of Scilly, and I have spent many times since childhood exploring places in Cornwall when on the way to visiting the islands.

I also have lived in Newquay as an adult and have visited many villages and towns in Cornwall.

Cornwall has some of the best beach towns in the U.K.

One of the simplest joys of these towns and villages is to just find a bench to sit on by the harbourside and watch life by the sea go by.


Seaside Towns in Cornwall

Note that I am not including every seaside town and village in Cornwall, just the main ones that are the most popular, and in that case, generally, the best towns in Cornwall to see, although there are plenty more to explore when there.


St Ives

Towns in Cornwall, Aerial view of St Ive's.
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Beautiful St Ives. Yes, beautiful is definitely the best way to describe St Ive’s, and out of all the towns in Cornwall, it is St Ive’s that is one of the number one choices for visitors to Cornwall.

Porthminster Beach, Porthgwidden Beach, Porthmeor Beach, and the Harbour Sand are some of the best town beaches in Cornwall, and one of the best activities in town is simply to relax with a drink and enjoy the coastal views.

There is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden that is in town and good to visit, along with the Tate St Ive’s, if you have an interest in art.

There are many food and accommodation options in St Ive’s to choose from. If you are on a budget then the Sloop Inn is a good choice and also has excellent views from its outdoor terrace. Take a 30-minute stroll out to Clodgy Point for some great views of the coast.

St Ive’s makes a great base for exploring the rugged Cornish coastline further west, such as Pendeen, where you can see the Geevor Tin Mine Museum and learn about the history of tin mining in Cornwall and enjoy the outstanding natural scenery of the area.

St Ive’s really is one of the best towns in Cornwall by the sea. I would recommend basing yourself here or in Penzance for seeing the west of Cornwall. However, if it’s more beaches that you’re after then read on about Newquay below.


Newquay

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Surfs up! Yes, welcome to the premier surf town of England, Newquay. It’s also where I lived for several months over a summer of fun in my early 20s’ (which seems so long ago now)! Newquay really is one of the best beach towns in England and Fistral Beach is a famous surfing beach right on its doorstep.

Newquay can best be described as the main ‘party town’ in Cornwall, where surfers from all over the world gather for some of the best surfing in England and if you want to get a taste of surf culture in England then this is the place to go.

It’s still a quiet town despite all that so even if you want some peace you can find it on some of the beaches nearby. It’s located on the northern coast.


Truro

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My aunt and 2 cousins are from Truro and it’s truly a historic town in Cornwall to visit with one of the most impressive cathedrals in England. Truro is connected to the sea by the Truro River, so although it’s not right against the seaside, it is still a town by the sea.

It doesn’t have the pretty beaches or small village fishing charm of other towns in Cornwall in this post, but it has a good atmosphere that you generally won’t find in many other places in Cornwall. That atmosphere lies in its history and historic buildings.

Visiting Truro Cathedral is a must and it looms high over the town. There are plenty of other old buildings as you meander around the old part of town and one of the best places to have a tea/coffee, or a cake, is at Charlotte’s Tearoom which is located in the historic centre.


Penzance/Newlyn

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Heard of the ‘Pirates of Penzance’? Well, it’s not quite like the title may sound but you can certainly feel some ‘smugglers’ vibe in parts of the area.

I’ve added the town of Newlyn with Penzance as they are basically joined together. Penzance and Newlyn are both fishing ports with plenty of atmospheric pubs in the towns to enjoy a good meal and drink.

Although there is not much to do in Penzance and Newlyn itself it does make for a good place to base yourself to explore other places nearby, such as Lands End and St Michael’s Mount Castle, among others.

Newlyn is one of the more important towns in Cornwall for the Cornish fishing industry and indeed one of the most important fishing ports in England.

Tip: Have a meal and drink at either the Dolphin Tavern down by the harbour or at Admiral Benbow just up the street. If in Newlyn the Tolcarne Inn has been a family favourite for decades as an atmospheric place for food and drink in a historic maritime pub and, personally speaking, one of the best Cornish pubs in the region with great seafood.

Penzance is also where the passenger ferry to the Isles of Scilly leaves if you want to visit those islands, which I highly recommend doing.


Falmouth

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Falmouth is one of the main towns in Cornwall and is not only very historic as far as a seaside town goes, but is also one of the premier university towns in Cornwall.

Much of Falmouth lies in its connection with the sea and it has a fascinating maritime history that is still evident today.

They don’t call Falmouth “The Spirit of the Sea” for no reason.

There is a good National Maritime Museum in town and a nice nearby beach is Swanpool. There are plenty of maritime-themed pubs around town to enjoy a drink in and lots of guesthuse options.

There is one of the best castles in Cornwall to explore at the edge of town called Pendennis Castle which used to protect the harbour entrance area.


Fowey

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Fowey is located at the mouth of the River Fowey, hence the name! It has a nice harbour area, like most towns in Cornwall, and there is the old St Catherine’s Castle to visit which is around a 15-20 minute walk from the centre of town and is one of the smaller castles in Cornwall.

The Fowey Aquarium is small but worth a visit if you have an interest in marine life and the small village of Polruan just across the water from Fowey is also worth a visit.

Out of all the towns in Cornwall, Fowey is one of the best on the south coast to base yourself for exploring more of the area.


Padstow

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Padstow is located on the northern coast about 10 miles north of Newquay and has a very attractive harbour area to enjoy sitting and watching harbour life go on.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to enjoy a drink and meal, some of which are connected with the famous travel writer Rick Stein, and if you walk around 10-minutes from the harbour on the coast path you will reach St George’s Cove, a beautiful beach area.

One of the best activities here is to go on a boat trip in search of sea life, such as seals and dolphins and in fact it’s one of the best towns in Cornwall on the north coast to organise these kinds of activities.


Bude

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Bude is located in the northeast of Cornwall north of Port Isaac and is a classic Cornish town. There’s a very popular beach here called Summerleaze Beach which is right in front of the town and the Bude Sea Pool is a great place for a dip in semi-natural waters.

Take a short stroll to Compass Point for good views of the cliffs along the coast and the Castle Bude in town is a great place for those interested in heritage buildings and it has great views of the coast.


Marazion

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The town of Marazion itself is not the main draw of this place, it’s the majestic castle of St Michael’s Mount, which is one of the best castles in Cornwall to visit.

The castle is located on a small tidal island and the only way to access it is by walking across a tidal causeway at low tide or taking a small boat. It makes for a great half-day trip to see it.

Marazion is also easy to reach from Penzance being only a 10-minute drive away, or a 1-hour walk along the beach. It’s one of the best towns in Cornwall to visit a castle. Marazion is also interestingly the oldest town in Cornwall.

things to do in cornwall England
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St Michael’s Mount.

Looe

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Looe is a stunning Cornish town with one of the best harbour estuaries in Cornwall with the RNLI Lifeboat Station being in the town itself.

There’s only one small beach in the town itself called East Looe Beach which is nice to hang out at a cafe there and enjoy the beachside.

Tip: Head to the Island View Cafe for some great seaside views on the terrace outside (on a dry day).

The pretty seaside village of Polperro is just a short drive west of town.


Porthleven

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Porthleven is another classic Cornish fishing port and is southeast of Marazion on the way to Lizard Point. Porthleven harbour is one of the best harbour areas in Cornwall to relax in a cafe and enjoy watching the goings-on of the port.

The Porthleven Beach Cliffs are a short walk from the harbour and offer stunning seaside cliff views. Even on a stormy day, they are a very atmospheric place to go to.

Tip: Have a meal and drink at The Ship Inn at the entrance to the harbour. Also, the Harbour Inn in the harbour area is great for a drink and meal as well and also offers accommodation.

Porthleven is deservedly one of the best seaside towns in Cornwall.


Seaside Villages in Cornwall


Mousehole

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Mousehole is easily one of the most quaint fishing villages in Cornwall that you can visit, and is a personal favourite of mine. It has some nice little cafes to enjoy a drink at and enjoy the harbour area.

It also has a slight ‘arty’ vibe about the place as you can find some small art galleries scattered around the small roads and alleys of the village.

Tip: The Ship Inn has great views of the harbour and good food and drinks. It’s my favourite place there for relaxing.

It’s not far from Penzance and makes for a great half-day trip from there and you can walk there in an hour following the sea.


Polperro

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Polperro goes hand in hand with Mousehole as one of the best seaside villages in Cornwall for the charm of a small fishing community and is not far from the town of Looe mentioned before.

There is the small Polperro Beach just outside the harbour area, but it doesn’t compete with other grand beaches in Cornwall. Take a walk out to the tiny Spy House Point Lighthouse for lovely coastal views.

Tip: Try some food and drink at the Blue Peter Inn.


Mevagissey

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Mevagisey lies south of the town of St Austell (in itself worth a visit) and the surroundings of this place are definitely an area of outstanding beauty as just around one-quarter of a mile away from the edge of the village you come to Polstreath Beach with cliffs sliding down to the sea

The village is a working fishing village and is a great place to see Cornish life go by.

Nearby Mevagissey is the Eden Project, which is a fun day out.


Charlestown

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Charlestown is located just south of the town of St Austell and if you have any interest in shipwrecks and maritime history then do not miss the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in Charlestown.

You can easily walk out to the South West Coast Path from here for some lovely seaside walks.

Tip: Have a meal and some drinks at the Pier House Hotel which has the best views for sitting and watching the harbour.


Port Isaac

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Cute little Port Isaac is on the north coast and is a small village but pleasant to visit. It’s also a good place to do a day trip to Tintagel Castle which is just north of the town and set in an area of outstanding beauty.

The gently rolling green hills behind Port Isaac are beautiful, and take a walk to the South West Coast Path which passes through the village for great sea views.

Tip: Have a cake, sandwich, and tea at the Cornish Cove Tearoom. Oh, and of course ice cream!


Lizard

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What a name! Yes, it’s a real name for the village which happens to be the most southerly village in England, located in the most southerly part of the U.K., Lizard Point.

The main reason to come to Lizard is for the magnificent coastline of Lizard point. Make sure you see the Lizard Lighthouse, the old lifeboat station when at the National Trust Lizard Point and have a walk along the rocky coastal paths.

Tip: Have a meal and drink at the Coast Coffee Bar and Bistro, or try a pastie for a lunchtime snack at Ann’s Pasties and Bar.


St Mawes

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St Mawes is located across the water from Falmouth and also has one of the best castles in Cornwall situated there, the St Mawes Castle.

It’s a quiet peaceful little village with great views out to the bay area and if you like gardens take a look at the Lamorran Gardens in the village.

Tip: Head to the Victory Inn for a meal and a drink.


Towns in Cornwall

Those are 20 of the best towns in Cornwall, and villages, that you should put on your list for visiting. At the very least get to St Ive’s for a bigger town and Mousehole for a smaller village.

Just one final shout-out for villages in Cornwall and that’s for Ponsanooth, which is a tiny little village inland from Falmouth and happens to be where my father was born. There’s not much to do there, and it’s not directly by the sea, but I wanted to add it for a shoutout to my dad’s birthplace!

One notable exception for the towns in Cornwall not on the list, as it’s not by the seaside, is Bodmin, which is a lovely town to visit as well.

For more reading on Cornwall take a look at the best things to do in Cornwall.

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.


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