This post most likely contains affiliate links to things such as tours, transport, accommodation, products & amazon associate links. I may receive a small commission if you use the links which costs you no extra, but helps keep this blog going.
Cornwall had been on my list to visit for years. My family spent a fair amount of holidays down there pre me but I’d never been. We decided that we’d go camping in Cornwall, great, but as soon as I started looking into where to go I realised just how big Cornwall is and how many places there are to visit! East Cornwall, West Cornwall, and then it turns into South and North Devon. Before looking at my Marco Polo Devon & Cornwall Guide which helped me plan my trip, I’ll admit that I didn’t even know where Devon ended and Cornwall began.
My Dad suggested staying at Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park in East Cornwall, right on Mother Ivey’s Bay Beach and close to Padstow, as my grandparents had first stayed there back in the 60’s and continued to visit for many years after that. Back then it was just a field but looking online I realised that Mother Ivey’s Bay Holidays Park was now a pretty big site full of different camping areas and static caravan sites.
After we decided where to camp it was onto what to do in and near to Padstow and East Cornwall. I knew that I didn’t want to spend my limited days in Cornwall driving too far, I’d heard that the roads are only small and get very busy during the summer which I could totally imagine, and I found to be true once I was there.
Unfortunately the British Weather wasn’t on our side which doesn’t help when one of the main things to do in Cornwall is to explore the beaches so I took to my Marco Polo Devon & Cornwall Guide to help me pick where to visit and what to do. Thanks to the rain holding off for one day, we did have a really good day exploring a few different towns and beaches in East Cornwall which turned into a pretty perfect day.
Things To Do in and Around Padstow, Cornwall:
First off, if you are looking for accommodation still I really recommend Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park, as I said it has lots of different areas and pitches perfect for any travel and budget style. The toilets and showers were always clean and acceptable, the people who stayed there were all really nice and best of all it’s located on Mother Ivey’s Beach in Harlyn Bay which is a lovely beach perfect for body boarding, which is generally how a lot of families spend their days at the campsite as the waves were perfect for children.
If you’re still looking for accommodation in Cornwall, have a look at more options here.
Whether you’re staying in Padstow or slightly further away like me, I recommend making Padstow Town your first stop of the day. The Marco Polo Devon & Cornwall Guide that I was using to help plan my trip says that ‘If you could create an enchanted spot by a harbour, it would probably look like Padstow.’ Apart from the heaving crowds that had descended upon the town on an August weekend I would have to agree. However as long as you are aware it will be busy in the summer months, it’s still worth a visit.
Padstow Harbour is enclosed by small buildings home to shops and cafes on 3 of its sides, with the windy streets of the town centre behind it. The shops offer all you need when at a British seaside, harbour village- ice cream shops, a row of Cornish Pasty shops, a few clothes shops, especially stores like Animal for the surfers, and shops where you can get your buckets, spades, inflatable’s, crab fishing kits, sticks of rock and anything else you may need when on an English holiday. And if you want a hair braid done, this is the place to get one as there are lots of stalls with ladies braiding hair very quickly, I may have been the oldest person getting one done amongst the many 10-year-old girls but I didn’t mind!
I would recommend having a walk around the harbour and through the small streets of the town before walking alongside the quayside as it is a bit less busy up there.
In terms of things to do in Padstow, you can hire a bike from one of the bike rental places on the quayside and head along the Camel Trail bike path towards Wadebridge town which would nicely pass a few hours. You can do a boat trip from Padstow along the Camel Estuary for a few hours to witness the beautiful Cornish Coastline, you could visit The National Lobster Hatchery which is a conservation centre, and you can get some really good food.
Padstow is Cornwall’s centre for exceptional fish cuisine and it shows this by being home Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant which according to my Marco Polo Guide is probably the best restaurant in England as far as fish and seafood are concerned. Also Stein’s Fish & Chips – a cheaper version of Stein’s fine cuisine, and I can confirm that the prices here are much more relative to a normal Fish & Chip shop but they are meant to be some of the best still.
In regards to parking, if you are visiting in the Summer I would recommend not trying to park in the town centre as it get’s far too busy. As you approach Padstow there is a purpose built car park called Link Road Car Park charging £2.00 for 1-2 hours and £3.90 for 3-4 hours, however when I visited we saw signs for a £3.00 car park just before this car park, it’s just a field and the owner is taking the money but if you plan to be in Padstow for more than 2 hours it is worth parking a bit further out and walking into Padstow as it’s £3.00 for a whole day.
After you have spent a few hours in Padstow I recommend making your next stop Tintagel. I hadn’t heard of Tintagel before reading through my Marco Polo Devon & Cornwall Guide but it turns out it’s very much on the tourist trail.
If you need to hire a car for your trip to Cornwall. I’d recommend looking into Rental Cars as they compare prices of all the big hire companies to get you the best price and car for your trip! Have a look here.
We drove from Padstow to Tintagel via Wadebridge and Camelford before taking the narrow Country Roads out to the Coastline.
As we approached Tintagel there was a field-turned-car-park charging just £2.00 for the day and it was a lot less stressful parking there than if we had tried to park in the village centre so I would also suggest parking a bit further out and walking in too.
Tintagel is only a small village with a small population but according to my Marco Polo Guide it thrives because of an old legend that King Arthur was conceived at Tintagel Castle. Despite the fact that some scholars believe that the King may never have existed, and evidence that the Castle dates back to the 13th Century but the legends of King Arthur date back to the 5th Century, it’s still a popular place for visitors to embark on the trail of the King.
From what I saw there isn’t that much to do in Tintagel but there’s quite a nice loop you can make around Tintagel visiting the Church, walking along the coastline, passing by or visiting the Castle and then into the Village centre.
St Materiana’s Church is believed to have been a site for a church since the 5th Century although the existing Church is from the 11th or 12th Century, it has many Saxon features and is a nice Church to see from the outside and inside whilst you’re passing by on the way to the cliffs.
The Coastline and Cliffs are pretty impressive and just what I wanted and expected to see from Cornwall. They’re also a complete contrast to the small fishing harbour of Padstow just a 45 minute drive away.
The rock where Tintagel Castle used to sit is in full view from the cliff edge and the people on top look like tiny ants from a distance. Today only the ruins remain of Tintagel Castle but it’s definitely a unique place. There is an entry cost of £9.50 for adults which if you were to pay it takes you across a narrow bridge, up some steps and onto the rock where the Castle once perched.
We didn’t enter the castle and instead continued along the footpath, back in land towards the village centre. Tintagel Centre was pretty packed when I visited but it stretches out along one main road and again has an array of pubs, restaurants and shops making it a good place to have some lunch.
The final places you may want to visit before leaving Tintagel is the Old Post Office, the Marco Polo Guide says that for a long time Tintagel’s Post Office was housed in a 14th Century farmhouse of the same name. The National Trust has now restored the former premises to it’s former state and for an entry price of £4.60 you can enter inside and see what life was like in the Middle Ages.
From Tintagel I would recommend heading down South back towards Padstow to Harlyn Bay if you want some beach time. Harlyn Bay is a popular beach and considered one of the best family beaches in Cornwall according to Visit Cornwall. It’s spacious and wide with a mix of sand, pebbles and rock pools. Harlyn Bay has full life guard cover from the start of May to the end of September adding extra safety and making it a great place for surfing and surf lessons, especially for novice surfers.
Apart from relaxing on the beach or enjoying the waves things to do in Harlyn Bay include going out sea kayaking, walking the footpath between Mother Ivey’s Bay and Trevose Head and visiting Harlyn Village, just inland from the coastline.
If you’re not staying in the area with easy access of going back to get Dinner, Harlyn Village would be a good place to get some Dinner before ending your day in a pretty epic way.
To end your day I would recommend making the most of being on the Western side of the UK (aka the perfect spot for a sunset) and being very close to Trevose Head which is a little Peninsular sticking out of the Coastline not too far from Padstow.
You could drive or walk up to Trevose Head to the lighthouse which will give you the perfect view of the sunset ahead of you, or head to Booby’s Bay or Constantine Bay which are right next to each other and also give a great view of the sunset to the side.
Down here it’s very peaceful, we found that there were only a few people out walking, taking in the sea breeze, the gorgeous wild coastline and the sunset.
If you get there with enough light you could do the whole circular walk to and from Mother Ivey’s Bay which takes 1-1.5 hours to walk, you can see it in this photo:
It really was the end of a perfect day exploring East Cornwall.
TIP: If you have more time or a second day to spend in Padstow, I would recommend heading to Budruthan Steps, Cornwall, they’re really close to Padstow and look so amazing! I had planned to go myself but the weather wasn’t good enough!
I hope this gives you a good idea of places to visit in East Cornwall and things to do in East Cornwall and in Cornwall in general.
If you need to hire a car for your trip to Cornwall, have a look at options here.
I love exploring the UK, read about more of my trips here:
This post is in collaboration with Marco Polo Guides however all thoughts and opinions are my own from my time in Cornwall. This post also contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you.