Writing a guide about the top attractions in Cornwall is an impossible task. Trying to narrow down the best things to do in this beautiful county full of myth and legend, with its fascinating mining history and spectacular natural landmarks is hugely difficult – there are so many amazing places to discover that you’ll need weeks to fit them all in.
It wasn’t easy choosing just 20 places but we’ve done it. Fairy-tale castles and enchanting gardens, animal sanctuaries and adventure parks to name a few – Cornwall is full of fabulous attractions that will keep all members of the family happy. Our advice: don’t come to Cornwall for just a few days – there’s far too much to do!
Here is our list of 20 (in no particular order!) to start you off:
A 26-acre paradise which descends to its own secluded beach, this beautiful garden has sub-tropical trees to admire, canopies bursting with exotic blooms and fun adventure play areas for little ones. The hydrangea valley is particularly enchanting and the bridge with clouds of blue and white flowers in the background makes the perfect photo opportunity. It’s dog-friendly and only a mile from the coast, so you can take Fido for a walk along the South West Coast Path afterwards.
Over 200 acres of exotic jungle just waiting to be explored, these 19th-century botanical gardens near Mevagissey fell into disrepair after the first world war. Nursed back to glory by dedicated gardeners, this once secret garden is now a haven of traditional and rare plants. Look out for the Sleeping Moss Giant as you stroll around; just tell the kids to be careful not to wake him up!
Everybody loves a castle and this Tudor artillery fort commissioned by Henry VIII doesn’t disappoint. On a headland near the maritime town of Falmouth with spectacular views out to sea, this hilltop defender of honour also played a vital role in the second world war as a secret base. Meet the costumed characters, discover the Tudor Keep and watch the daily firing of a historic gun between April and October.
Bring the whole family to Cornwall’s most famous attraction and the world’s largest indoor rainforest! Explore the paradise of plants in the Mediterranean and Rainforest zones of the two huge biomes and don’t miss the equally spellbinding outdoor gardens. Situated just a few miles from St Austell, it’s easily accessible to get to the coast for a bite to eat afterwards.
It’s not only seals at this wildlife attraction, though the seal rescue centre is home to some of the cutest grey seal pups in the land. The sanctuary in Gweek rescues and rehabilitates the pups from along the Cornish coastline as well as taking in other needy seafaring and land-loving animals, including penguins, otters, ponies and goats.
According to legend, this clifftop castle was the birthplace of King Arthur. Situated up high on the rugged North Cornwall coastline, you can walk in mythical footsteps as you discover 1,500 years of Tintagel’s fascinating past. Search for Merlin’s face hidden in the rocks on the beach and take kids to see the story stones around the medieval garden ruins.
One for the adrenaline seekers, Flambards in Helston has a great selection of sky-high thrill rides to get your blood pumping, including The Canyon River Log Flume, Skyraker 001 and the Hornet Rollercoaster. Little ones can play in the indoor play area, and those looking for something more sedate can head to the Victorian Village and exhibitions. During the summer, there are also firework spectaculars on Monday and Wednesday evenings to finish off the day with a bang.
An award-winning producer of scrumptious Cornish Cyder, and purveyor of other fine beverages, this family-run farm deep in the Cornish countryside near Truro offers tours and a free sample of your favourite cider. Join a guided tour to see the press house, jam factory and distillery and watch the cider being made, then take little ones to see the farm animals and ride on the tractor through the orchards.
One for the romantics, this castle-topped mystical island connected to the mainland by a causeway is one of Cornwall’s most beautiful sights. Walk across at low tide from the coastal town of Marazion to visit the castle and gardens or hop aboard a boat if you are worried about getting your feet wet! Once there you can walk around the harbour and then climb up to visit the spectacular castle and its lovely grounds.
You won’t find a better place for an open-air performance than the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno, carved into a Cornish cliff top overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There is a full programme of drama, musicals and concerts, though we think balmy summer evenings are made for opera, with the dramatic background providing the perfect setting for the most tempestuous of arias.
This contemporary addition to the little coastal town of St Ives has certainly brought with it an influx of visitors, though the area has always been known for its modern art culture due to the excellent light quality. Perched above Porthmeor Beach, the building also offers equally sublime natural art through its glass-fronted façade which overlooks the swell of the Atlantic Ocean.
Come and discover Victorian England at this majestic manor house a couple of miles from Bodmin. Not only can you visit this National Trust house and its fairy-tale gatehouse, but there are also sprawling historic grounds with beautiful formal gardens and trails to explore at your leisure. Pack a hamper filled with sumptuous local produce and enjoy it in the grounds, or head deep into the woodland if you prefer a wild picnic surrounded by wildlife.
Come and visit this 18th-century granite museum a few miles from the moors, once home to some of the most dangerous criminals in the land. Take a ghost tour and if you are really brave, book one of the after dark overnight experiences. You’ll have a three-course meal, then be sent to work behind bars, returning to the living world at 5am. Not one for the faint-hearted.
If you are a fan of Poldark - and let's face it, who isn’t - you’ll recognise this enchanting harbour and its magnificent tall ships. Used as a popular filming location, this unspoilt late Georgian fishing port on the South Cornwall coast is often awash with actors and crew. See if you can spot a famous face, and if not, console yourself with a tour aboard resident tall ship Kajsamoor in the quay and a browse around the shipwreck museum.
Come and see the world’s largest collection of witchcraft at this fascinating museum near Boscastle on the North Cornish coast. Dedicated to European witchcraft and magic, you can tour the exhibits, though if you want to ramp it up a notch, explore the museum on one of their late night, candlelit evenings.
Known as Cornwall’s greatest adventure park, Camel Creek in Tredinnick has so much to do for children of all ages. Hop on the Clown Coaster, get wet on the Mini Log Flume or Thunder Falls and sit in the twirling teacups at Dina’s Dancing Flowers. Leave your heart in the sky as you plunge to the ground on Vertigo and if your stomach can handle it, stop by one of the cafes and restaurants to refuel before heading back to say hello to the animals at Pets Corner and Meerkat Magic.
Hop aboard the vintage carriages of this steam railway near Newquay. Take a nostalgic miniature steam train ride through enchanting Cornish woodland and choo-choo into the fun park where you can play crazy golf, try out the canoeing lake and take a walk along the nature trails. Pop into the Whistle Stop Café for a snack or The Carriage for a seasonal cream tea.
Whether you’re a fan of Aidan Turner or just love all things Cornwall, you’ll find this ancient tin mine and museum near Helston a great talking point. Take the guided tour through the various levels of the underground Wheal Roots 18th-century mine and learn all about its history, then head to the heritage museum to see the mining exhibits – the staff are passionate about their subject and very knowledgeable which makes this experience all the more interesting.
You can’t take a trip to Cornwall and not experience both the brooding Bodmin Moor and the romantic smugglers’ pub made famous by Daphne du Maurier in her book of the same name. A stopping point for weary travellers and smuggling gangs in the 18th century, this coaching inn high up on the moor is full of legend, mystery and so it’s said, the odd friendly ghost. Have a pint of the local ale and then take a look around the Smuggler’s Museum where the inn’s exciting history is brought to life with a series of fascinating exhibits.
And finally, at the end of the land, is our ultimate attraction. Take a selfie at the iconic signpost and stroll along the clifftop paths where you can’t help but fall in love with the breathtaking scenery all around the headland. See if you can spot basking seals and dolphins and then head back to the visitor's centre and the other indoor attractions which include an air-sea rescue motion theatre and a selection of cafes, restaurants and shops. If you’re in luck and the sun is shining, take the 1-mile walk north to Sennen Cove where you can lie back on the golden sands and watch the surfers riding the high Atlantic waves.
Stay in Cornwall with us!
Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’ll need somewhere to recharge your batteries. After long days discovering new attractions, plan the rest of your trip from the comfort of one of our holiday cottages in Cornwall. Wake up to the sound of the waves from one of our beachfront properties just a few steps from the sands or retire to the sounds of nocturnal wildlife at one of our rural properties deep in the delightful Cornish countryside.
Romantic escapes for two, houses big enough for all the family, including four-legged members of course, or luxury cottages for celebrating special occasions – we have it all. Have a look at our collection of self-catering cottages in Cornwall and start planning your next adventure today.