During the tourist season, it can feel like Cornwall is swamped with people, all trying to find the best spots. As someone who was lucky enough to live there for a while, I understand the struggle to find a little peace. And also the need to explore! Which is why after years of research, I’ve narrowed down the best Cornwall hidden gems you need to visit.
My friends and I would spend whole summer evenings trying to find somewhere new. We’d head down winding paths and see what the locals recommend. And it’s safe to say there’s no greater feeling than finding a beach empty. Unsurprisingly, many of these Cornwall hidden gems are going to be beaches and sites of natural beauty because nowhere does them quite as well as Cornwall. So let’s jump right in!
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Hope Titley.
1. Newtrain Bay Sea Pool
Address: Newtrain Bay Beach, Trevone, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8QY
Kicking off this list of Cornwall hidden gems is a spot lovingly nicknamed by locals as Rocky Beach. A little sister of the famous Bude sea pool, these little pools are surrounded by rocks, making it the perfect jumping spot. Just a short walk along from the sandy shores of Trevone Bay, you’ll find a sea pool nestled amongst the rocks.
During high tide, the sea comes up and over the barrier of the pool, filling it with seawater and occasionally some small marine life. Then as the tide recedes and the water falls back down the shore, you’ll find a beautiful little pool. A part man-made, part natural oasis of calm and beauty that becomes visible once the tide goes out.
While it will be warmer than the sea, if you can’t stand the cold for long it’s probably best to bring a wetsuit as this pool is basically a little part of the ocean itself. If you have them, bring along goggles or a snorkel too. See if you can spot any of the small fish that reside in the pool with each tide!
2. The Roseland Peninsula
Ferry Address: Prince of Wales Pier, Steps No. 2, Falmouth, TR11 3DF
A peninsula separated from the rest of Cornwall by the River Fal, the Roseland is one for the explorers! This is one of the places that is most fun when you just go and discover it for yourself. But if you can’t help but stick to the path, it is a National Trust site so there are footpaths you can follow too.
As with most places in Cornwall, if you head off the beaten track, there’s a great chance that you will find some beautiful beaches and coves to relax on or go swimming. A truly magical place with some beautiful coastal walks, see if you can get all the way to the lighthouse at the very tip of the peninsula. From here you can admire the panoramic views across Falmouth Bay.
While there are lots of ways to get here, I personally think that you have to take The Place ferry/water taxi across the harbour from St. Mawes. It’s not unheard of for dolphins to come and swim alongside the ferry!
3. Grebe Beach
Address: Grebe Beach, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, TR11 5JR
Perfectly tucked away in Falmouth, Grebe Beach is a local’s secret and one of the best Cornwall hidden gems. Because it’s a little out of the way, it’s unusual to see crowds here. This makes it the ideal beach for wild swimming and BBQs. (While the water is relatively safe, there is no lifeguard coverage here so be cautious where needed!)
After a short, but quite steep, walk through pleasant woodland, you will be rewarded by some of the most beautiful sunsets and scenery that Cornwall has to offer. And unlike some of the more popular Cornish beaches, Grebe Beach is dog-friendly all year round. So whether they like to swim or just run around on the beach this could be a nice way to change up your usual walks!
One thing you need to take into account when visiting this little beach is the tides. While there is a particularly large beach at low tide that you can chill on, at high tide, the beach is completely submerged. Make sure you check the tide times before you visit as you don’t want to get caught out!
4. Porthcurno Beach
Address: Porthcurno Beach, Porthcurno, Cornwall TR19 6JX
One of the more famous places on this list, Porthcurno Beach is known for its beautiful sands, crystal clear waters and most notably, The Minack Theatre which resides on the clifftop above! When we first visited, it was a June summer evening and we were the only people on the beach.
With high cliffs to shelter you from the winds, it’s a really peaceful spot. And there are even some places on the rocks that you can jump from. (Always make sure to do a depth check first though!) There is lifeguard presence during the summer months, but extra care should be taken at high tide due to the potentially powerful waves and the beach steeply shelving.
You might be content chilling on the beach or having a little swim. But don’t let that stop you from having a look around too. Built into the side of the cliff are strange, house-like structures with stairs, doorways and even cut-outs that look like windows.
They were built by Rowena Cade, the mind behind The Minack Theatre itself, as a playground of sorts for her nieces and nephews. This will add a little extra fun to your beach day. Head up the cliff steps to the theatre too to admire the beautiful views, or maybe catch a performance!
5. Port Eliot Estate
Address: Port Eliot Estate, St Germans, Saltash, PL12 5ND
I discovered this place doing a Bridal Editorial I was shooting and wow. It is truly something of beauty. With sprawling gardens and a house that resembles a small castle, it’s sure to make all your cottage core/dark academia dreams come true.
The house is considered to be the oldest continually inhabited dwelling in the U.K. The earliest mention of Port Eliot was from the 5th Century AD, with St. Augustine monks being there from the year 937.
Aside from the picturesque location and the floor to ceiling windows and doors that I was drooling over, they regularly hold events, such as The Port Eliot Festival, Bonfire Night and even car boot sales! There are so many reasons to visit this beautiful place.
Address: Godrevy National Trust Car Park, St Germans, Saltash, PL12 5ND
With dramatic cliffs and three miles of golden sands at low tide, Godrevy has a little something for everyone. A popular surfing beach that is a little quieter than the famous Fistral Beach, Godrevy could be your next top surfing destination. Not only can you surf at this beach, but if you head up the to the top of the overlooking cliffs, you can walk along the headland and view seals on the beaches below.
One of the beaches at the base of the cliff is a protected site. Seals will come here often to rest, and in spring, have their pups. Make sure you bring your binoculars or a camera with a good zoom to observe them on the beach. It’ll help you spot them swimming among the waves and rocks. A lot of the time, you won’t realise if it’s a rock or a seal until it starts to move! If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the pups with their mothers too.
Keep in mind that because this place is a sanctuary and nursery for the seals, visitors need to be respectful Make sure you approach the edge of the cliff quietly and slowly. Keep dogs back and make sure small children understand that they need to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the seals, as this can disrupt them and cause them to abandon the beach.
7. The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Address: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, B3273, Pentewan, Saint Austell, PL26 6EN
The Lost Gardens of Heligan self-describes itself as “one of the most mysterious estates in England. Lost to the brambles of time since the outbreak of WW1, this Sleeping Beauty was re-awakened in 1990 to become Europe’s largest garden restoration project. Today Heligan’s 200 acres are a paradise for the explorer, wildlife, plant lover and garden romantic.”
What a magical place. A combination of imagination, nature and a little bit of history, The Lost Gardens of Heligan truly are a special place. It’s home to beautiful flora such as their 350 ancient rhododendrons, where the earliest plantings date back to 1850. Oh and the UK’s only outdoor jungle (yes, you read that right). These gardens really are something you have to see for yourself.
There are so many reasons to visit these gardens. But one of my favourites is that during the winter, they hold an event called The Heligan Night Garden. At this event, they illuminate the gardens with hundreds of lanterns, ranging from traditional ones to depictions of their flora and fauna. It is a truly magical trail to follow at your own pace. And there are even spaces for you to stop and toast marshmallows over the fire pits as you take in the gardens at night!
8. The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
Address: The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, The Harbour, Boscastle, PL35 0HD
And finally, we come to probably the most unique of the Cornwall hidden gems. A unique, independent museum in the village of Boscastle, The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is home to the world’s largest collection of artefacts relating to magic, witchcraft and the occult. It’s definitely one of the most alternative indoor activities in Cornwall.
If you are looking to learn about something different, a trip down to Boscastle might be just what you need. You can look around at your own pace and get up close to really admire some of the artefacts. (Which includes items such as protection talismans made by World War I soldiers in the trenches!)
Not only does this museum hold a rich and unusual history, but if you really are ready to learn more, you can book an appointment to view over 7000 books and their archives of other documents. Try and keep an eye out for their candlelit evenings too. During these evenings, you can visit the museum at night and truly experience the witching hour.
Things to Consider
With that, here are just a few final notes and reminders from me when visiting these places:
- Check the tide times to make sure you don’t get caught out.
- When cliff jumping, always go at high tide and do a depth check to make sure it’s safe to jump. (Also don’t be afraid to ask locals where the best, and safest, spots are. The Cornish are a friendly bunch!)
- Not all beaches have lifeguards, so you need to be careful and be aware of things like rip currents! (The easiest way to spot them is when the surf comes from two different directions and breaks in an almost pyramid-like peak against each other.) In summary, respect the sea.
- Many of these places are home to lots of wildlife and should be treated with the utmost care.
- And of course, leave no trace!
With all of this in mind, it’s time to explore these Cornwall hidden gems. One of the best things you can do in Cornwall is to purposefully get lost and see if you can find your own hidden spots. So take care, and let us know if you visit any of these places. Or even better yet – find some spots of your own!
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