Nothing quite compares to packing up the van, hitting the road and pulling up to wherever you want.
And where better to do just that than in Cornwall?
This summer we went on our first proper road trip in our converted T6 VW camper van, and let’s just say I never wanted it to end!
Camping allows you to go back to basics, immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the simple life.
If this lifestyle appeals to you too (even if just for a week!), continue reading to discover the ultimate Cornwall road trip itinerary.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Emily Veness.
Should I plan my Cornwall road trip in advance?
When it comes to planning road trips, I’ve always said that less is more.
However, before any road trip, I always inevitably get far too excited and end up pulling together a rough itinerary of the trip ahead of leaving.
As useful as this can be at times, it’s key to remember that one of the best things about van life is how spontaneous it can be.
It often isn’t worth stressing about, as you can plan all you like but it can completely change once you get there.
In fact, some of our best days were the ones we didn’t plan at all!
However, if I was to recommend anything to plan in advance it would be your campsites, as well as anything like popular restaurants or events that may be booked out in advance.
After all, this is Cornwall – it can get very busy!
If you plan on travelling during peak season, I’d recommend having campsites booked for at least your first few nights.
This will help you to avoid the risk of not being able to get in anywhere.
That being said, we have had luck rocking up to campsites on the day during the off-peak season, and sometimes even peak season too.
This leads me onto my next point, of when exactly you should be packing the van and heading down to Cornwall…
When’s the best time of year to visit Cornwall?
If you’re seeking the sun, then as we know all too well, you can never rely on British weather.
But if you’re lucky and get gorgeous weather down in Cornwall, it truly feels like you could be anywhere in the world!
Typically, July is the hottest month, with an average temperature of 16°C.
On the other hand, the coldest month tends to be February, with August offering the longest days.
However, don’t just limit yourself to the warmer months, as Cornwall is still as beautiful and holds its charm in the colder, wetter months.
Plus, it also won’t be as busy or expensive during these months.
Personally, I haven’t really been to Cornwall unless it rains for at least one day.
As such, always pack a few extra layers, a waterproof jacket, and you’re good to go.
How long should I visit Cornwall for?
We spent a week down in Cornwall this summer, but it really depends where you’re travelling from.
You can easily spend a jam-packed weekend down there.
But if travelling from further away, a week or two will allow you to see a significant amount of Cornwall, making your trip worthwhile.
That being said, I never want to leave Cornwall when we’re down there.
In fact, I’d happily spend a month or two in the van there…
There’s so much to see and do, you certainly won’t get bored down here if staying that bit longer!
Where should I stay in Cornwall?
Whether you plan on sleeping in a van, a car or a tent, you’re not short of campsites in Cornwall.
I’d recommend using the Park4night app to find other camper’s tips and recommendations of good spots to camp.
These recommendations can include both campsites or hidden gem spots for some wild camping!
When it comes to campsites, we personally like to stay that little bit further away from popular attractions, as this tends to bring the price down.
However, if you do want to stay in the most popular campsites which tend to be closer to amenities and beaches, I’d book in advance as these can quickly fill up!
I personally love the spontaneity of van life and the community we become part of on our trips.
But if camping or van life isn’t your thing, you’ll find plenty of other accommodation options in Cornwall.
From hotels to holiday cottages to Airbnb rentals, there will be something to suit your taste (and budget!).
Top tips for driving in Cornwall
Say hello to your new best friend in Cornwall: a map.
If you’re not familiar with the area or roads, it’s worth going old school with a good old-fashioned map.
I say this because I don’t want you to make make the same mistake I made when I followed the first route my phone took us on.
Unsurprisingly, I ended up down the narrowest country lane imaginable with a tractor coming towards me.
(Note: this isn’t fun at the best of times but especially not in a van!)
I’d recommend sticking to the main routes even if it means driving an extra 20 minutes, as it’ll mean you’ll stay on better (and wider!) roads.
Another tip would be to drive late at night to avoid the traffic that can build up in the area.
The last thing you want to do is be stuck in traffic, on a hot day, wishing you were on the beach!
Setting off from home in the early hours, and driving home in the dark too, also made the drive a lot more comfortable and easier for us.
Day 1 of your Cornwall road trip
After a very early morning drive, we headed straight to St. Ives.
As we visited in July (and got lucky with gorgeous weather), the harbour was extremely crowded.
However, we still managed to find a spot to relax on the beach.
It’s safe to say we’d worked up an appetite from all the driving so when we spotted a van selling pizza right on the harbour, we couldn’t ignore it.
I’d highly recommend Stoned Wood-Fired Pizza for all your foodie needs – they even have a whole vegan menu too!
After chowing down on some well-deserved pizza, we began to explore all the beaches and coves in the area.
We particularly loved Porthmeor Beach which was bigger than St. Ive’s but far less crowded.
It’s the perfect spot for bodyboarding or paddleboarding so take to the water if that’s your thing!
Before leaving St. Ives for the day, we thought it would be rude to leave without visiting the much Instagrammed Yallah Cafe, to grab their famous toasted chocolate banana bread.
It’s safe to say it was absolutely incredible.
After enjoying the banana bread, we headed to The Treglisson Campsite and Guest House to park up for the night.
This family-run campsite is just a short drive from St. Ives and it benefits from great facilities and freshly baked croissants on-site every morning! Yum.
Prices range from £20-£25 for the night.
Day 2 of your Cornwall road trip
Straight back into St. Ives and another trip to Yallah Cafe to start the day.
I’ll have an oat flat white and toasted banana bread, please!
After fuelling up for the day, we took to the water on one of the self-drive boats, available to rent right on the harbour.
If you’re lucky you might just see a seal lurking around!
But a word of advice: don’t do what we did and get too carried away and get told off for going too far out. (Woops!)
After our boat ride, we headed to the gorgeous cobbled streets of St. Ives, lined with its many independent stores, boutiques and eateries.
We stopped for a bite to eat at The Yellow Canary Cafe who do amazing pasties!
However, if you’re still hungry afterwards, I’d also recommend taking a visit to The Allotment Deli.
Take the rest of the day slowly and enjoy soaking up the atmosphere, before heading to your next campsite, a little further up the coast: Magor Farm.
A campsite that celebrates how camping used to be, the facilities are basic.
But when prices start from just £12 a night, you really can’t complain.
Day 3 of your Cornwall road trip
On our third day, we headed to the coastal path starting from Portreath.
Portreath was a lot further than we anticipated from our campsite.
But once we reached it, we realised it was worth the blisters!
Once there, we walked from Portreath back down to Bassetts Cove, and the views along the way were absolutely incredible.
It’s typically only a 35-45 minute walk but with me, it took about two hours.
But who can blame me? I just had to keep stopping to take photos and videos!
After our long walk, we felt like having our first meal out of the trip.
We try to cook as much as we can when in the van to save money.
After all, cooking is all part of the camping experience!
However, this time we drove back into St. Ives (we couldn’t seem to stay away!) for a meal at Caffe Pasta, an Italian restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Thanks to it being peak season, the queue was huge, though admittedly that was the case for every restaurant in St. Ives.
Despite waiting over an hour to grab some outdoor seating (because we had to soak up the views, duh!), the pizza was amazing and well worth the wait.
We then headed back to Magor Farm for a good night’s sleep!
Day 4 of your Cornwall road trip
We started our fourth morning at Bassetts Cove, where we ended our coastal path walk the day before.
The free car park is the perfect parking place if you’re doing the coastal path, or if you just fancy stopping and enjoying a coffee as I did.
The views are incredible and no photos will ever do it justice!
After soaking up the scenery, we continued our drive further up the coast, towards Watergate Bay, stopping off at O P E N Surf Shop in St. Agnes along the way.
Here you’ll find a barber, coffee, plants, surfboards and so much more!
The vibes were immaculate and although I don’t surf, I left desperately wanting to!
Finally, we then headed to our destination: Watergate Bay.
We’ve visited before and I have to say the beach is one of my favourites in Cornwall.
I’m sure anyone else who has visited can agree!
We spent the rest of the day paddleboarding and chilling on the beach, before heading to Trevarrian Holiday Park to set up camp for the night.
Similarly, we’d also stayed here before and will continue to come back.
The park has great facilities and is just a stone’s throw from the beach.
This luxury will set you back somewhere between £6.50 and £11.50 per night, per adult, which is pretty reasonable all things considered.
Day 5 of your Cornwall road trip
From our campsite, we drove up to the gorgeous coastal town of Padstow for the morning.
I could easily spend all day here, browsing its many shops, bakeries and cafes.
There are too many places I could recommend, but I’ll start with The Chough Bakery.
They not only serve the best pasties but also offer a service to send their pasties back home to family and friends, which I always do!
Whistlefish provides the perfect opportunity to send a postcard back home or pick up a souvenir!
Afterwards, we proceeded to spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach and out on the water on the paddleboard.
We have our own paddleboard but there’s the option to hire boards here, as well as the opportunity to do a surf lesson.
Before leaving, we grabbed an obligatory cream tea from The Cornish Bakery to enjoy later on the beach back at Watergate Bay.
Although we didn’t have time when we visited, I’d also recommend catching a ferry from Padstow over to Rock.
The picturesque coastal fishing village has a beautiful beach and one of only two Michelin starred restaurants in Cornwall!
However, instead, we ended the day on a high as it was a pizza-on-the-beach-watching-the-sunset kinda evening
(A huge thanks to Nuvola Pizza for supplying the (very delicious) goods.)
Finally, it was then time to crash for the evening back at Trevarrian Holiday Park.
Day 6 of your Cornwall road trip
Day six and it’s time to leave Watergate Bay and get on the road again!
Next up on your Cornwall road trip itinerary is a visit to Bedruthan Steps.
On our way to Bedruthan Steps, we spotted a pull-up and pay, no booking campsite, just past Mawgan Porth overlooking the steps.
This is a prime example of where your plans may change, as sometimes stumbling across places in person is better than researching in advance.
Later that evening we rocked up and both forked out £10.
Again, the facilities were simple but they did the job and the site had some of the best campsite views we’ve ever seen.
In fact, it was worth it for the views alone!
(Unfortunately, it’s a summer-only campsite though so keep this in mind if travelling in the off-season.)
Again, we enjoyed a slow beach day down on Bedruthen Steps and Mawgan Porth, before finding somewhere where to go for dinner.
We were unable to get into Catch Seafood Bar & Grill as it was fully booked (though this would be my #1 recommendation for the area) but The Merrymoor Inn is a good second-best for delicious pub grub.
However, why not enjoy a BBQ this evening?
It’s a must while camping and is made even better by the sea views!
Day 7 of your Cornwall road trip
We were originally meant to carry on and head across the Cornwall/Devon border to Woolacombe on day seven.
But with only two days left, we decided to really soak up the areas we’d already visited instead.
As such, we drove back to Watergate Bay to visit TheHangout, a converted container overlooking all of Watergate Bay Beach!
I obviously had to get the acai bowl (my favourite!) and it did not disappoint.
We then spent another amazing day on the beach, enjoying the sun and pretending I can actually paddleboard…
Afterwards, we headed back to our campsite at Bedruthan Steps.
We both had an aubergine curry for dinner, cooked by Stacks by the Sea, a family-run business serving up incredible homemade food.
‘Wow’ is all I have to say!
Day 8 of your Cornwall road trip
Sadly we’re coming to the end of your Cornwall road trip.
And if you’re anything like us, you’ll already be planning your next trip back.
Speaking of which, we fell in love with St. Ives so much that we headed back there on our last day – even in the rain!
We soaked up this gorgeous coastal town as much as we could, walking its long stretch of shops one more time, before the long drive home (which is always the worst bit!).
Some of my favourite shops and eateries in St Ives are:
Cream Cornwall, a shop selling beautiful coastal home decor – the perfect way to bring a bit of Cornwall home with you!
Tarquin’s Cornish Gin, where you can make your own gin in a two and a half hour masterclass costing £85 per person.
If a masterclass is out of your budget, why not grab a bottle to take home as a gift (either for yourself or a loved one)?
St Ives Bakery for their cruffins! Croissant meets muffin… Yes, they’re that good!
We finished the day with some fish and chips from Harbour (because when in Cornwall, right?) while watching the stone balancers of St. Ives.
The perfect way to end the most incredible trip!
So there you have it: the ultimate Cornwall road trip itinerary.
I hope this helped anyone considering heading down to Cornwall, come rain or shine, van or no van!
There’s something for everyone here and if you’re able to, experience it in a van!
Ideally, I would have given us a bit longer as at times it felt like we were rushing through our trip.
But time flies when you’re having fun, right?