The upmarket seaside resort town of Rock sits across the Camel Estuary from the fishing port of Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall. Just miles from a plethora of delightful coastal villages and beaches, it’s known for its fabulous sandy beach and atmosphere. A great family holiday destination, it’s also known as ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ due to its connections with the residents who summer here, including younger royals back in the day.
The town offers access to plenty of scenic coastal walks along the South West Coast Path as well as some excellent cycling routes both along the coastline and along the Camel Trail. Its sheltered waters in the estuary make Rock the perfect spot for water sports and fishing all year round – this Cornish gem isn’t just a summer destination by any means.
Have a leaf through our local’s guide to Rock to find out if this elegant resort is for you. When it’s time to kick back, we’ve also got some suggestions for places to stay.
About the town:
The town has its own coastal charm but make no mistake, it’s not a typical seaside resort. The village shop isn’t a quaint old building with kiss-me-quick hats and postcards – it’s a haven of fine wines and cheeses - as is expected by its upmarket clientele. There’s also a good selection of shops in Rock: buy freshly-baked bread and pastries from The Rock Bakery in the morning – those in the know pre-order their breakfast carbs so as to not miss out – and pick up locally-churned cheeses and milk from Di’s Dairy.
Fire up the barbie with the excellent selection of juicy meats from the local butcher. If you want to put some of the freshest local seafood on the grill, pop into the fish shop where you can buy fresh fish caught by the Rock, Padstow and Port Isaac fishing boats. There’s a Spar for essentials, though if you want to do a huge supermarket shop for the holiday, you’ll need to head 7 miles to Wadebridge where’ll you find a bigger selection of stores.
You’ll also find a handy post office, newsagent and a few other shops as well as some upmarket clothes shops to hunt down some coastal threads so you look like a local. If you have a special celebration, book an appointment at the hairdresser and give yourself extra beach time to top up your tan before heading out.
The beach is only a short drive from the shops and restaurants, so popping in for lunch and a mooch around after a morning of swimming and beach games is easy. Head back to the sands after a bite to eat ready for an afternoon of sandcastle building competitions before the tide comes in and reclaims your architectural wonders.
The dune-backed beach in Rock stretches along the Camel Estuary and up to Daymer Bay at low tide; it’s about a mile long so there’s enough room to find your own space, even in high season. The calm waters are perfect for children who love to splash around, without any fear of getting caught up in the surf so prevalent on other Cornwall beaches. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers sublime scenery as well, with just the sound of wading birds as you lie back on the warm sands.
This little piece of Cornish heaven is truly a sailing and water sports dream, though not for surfers! Cool azure waters to glide along without worry of surfboards getting in your way are in abundance in Rock. The beach is surrounded by a blanket of green-topped cliffs which gives it a solitary feel – in winter it’s perfect for dog walks and in summer, large enough to find your own spot away from the sunbathers. Escape with a book for a couple of hours and gaze across the waters to Padstow, where a procession of boats bobbing to and fro is the only thing to disturb your peace.
Just 1 mile along the coast, the sandy Daymer Bay is a great family beach. As with Rock, it’s backed by dunes and has a secluded feel with gently sloping waters safe for swimming. Climb up to Braey Hill to take in the excellent views and pay a trip to St Enodoc Church where the former Poet Laureate, John Betjeman is buried. Locals know it as Sinking Neddy as it’s so close to the beach; it sank so much once that it could only be entered through the roof but don’t worry, you’re perfectly safe now! Dogs are allowed here all year as opposed to Rock which has seasonal restrictions, so head for Daymer if you have a holidaying hound in your party.
Rock is well known among the yachting fraternity and so you’ll see a variety of clubs and shops catering to the sailing set. The sailing club stands proudly on the waterfront and from here you’ll see all manner of craft launching – from small dinghies and sailing boats to larger yachts and magnificent speedboats. If sailing is not for you, why not try some rowing or canoeing along the estuary?
Hire a boat from Cornish Rock Tors and explore the area from the seas. For something simpler, try windsurfing or water skiing where the only thing standing between you and the elements is a piece of fibreglass. The Rock Sailing & Waterski Club and the Camel Ski School can help you get on your feet.
If all of that sounds like too much hard work, hop on the foot ferry, The Black Tor across to Padstow for a day of shopping and dining. It’s only available during daylight hours but don’t worry – you won’t be stranded as there’s a water taxi to take you home after dark. The service runs until midnight so make sure you’re ready to catch the last boat or you’ll turn into a Padstow pumpkin!
This part of Cornwall is flanked by so many delightful fishing villages. The historic and picturesque Port Isaac - the fictional village of Port Wenn of TV’s Doc Martin - is a popular choice as well as the unspoilt cove of Port Quin. There’s an excellent walk that will take you between the two where you can watch out for seals playing in the secluded coves.
Or head up to the legendary ruins of Tintagel by car (15 miles) to visit the castle and find out more about the Arthurian legend that comes with this part of the coast - the sea views from the cliffs are outstanding. In the other direction, The National Trust’s Bedruthan Steps are a 9-mile drive away and Prideaux Place on the edge of Padstow is worth an afternoon off the beach - a charming Elizabethan manor house and formal gardens that looks over the harbour, it features a delightful walled garden, gorgeous grounds and a deer park.
You can’t beat the fantastic walks along the South West Coast Path, eastwards towards Tintagel and Boscastle and westwards along the Trevose Head Heritage Coast towards Porthcothan and Newquay. Remember you’ll have to go around or cross the estuary if you are heading west. The rugged coastline along this part of Cornwall boasts beautiful views across the Atlantic and you’ll find handfuls of hidden bays and pretty coves to explore when you need a breather from all that walking.
Take the path from Polzeath to the north of Rock (approximately 6 miles) and follow the headland around past Lundy Bay towards Port Quin. Another popular route is from Rock to St Minver – just under 7 miles long but an easy walk. The Padstow to Polzeath walk via Rock and St Enodoc Church starts with a gentle ferry ride to get you in the mood, then takes in a beach walk up to Daymer Bay and past the church up to Polzeath. This is a great walk for dogs who love to explore as long as they have sea paws for the ferry crossing of course!
Cycling enthusiasts will love the routes in and around Rock, the most popular of which is the Camel Trail. 17 miles of path from Padstow to Bodmin Moor, you can take in the sights as you ride along, stopping for a scrumptious picnic filled with Cornish produce on the way.
The food and drink:
Whatever time of year you visit Rock, you’ll find somewhere to experience the fantastic locally-caught seafood. Pick up some fish and chips at Grumpy’s and enjoy them with a taste of the salty sea air or grab a bite to eat at the popular Rock Inn for a meal with amazing ocean views as a backdrop.
Try the Mariners at Rock, a much-loved beachside institution with an excellent Saturday night curry menu, while the St Enodoc Hotel is a contemporary affair with breathtaking views across the Camel Estuary from the fabulous terrace in summer – the emphasis here is on healthy modern European cuisine.
Most people coming to Rock will want to book a table at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant across the estuary in Padstow for a proper taste of the Cornish coast. If that isn’t for you, try the Italian Rojano’s in the Square or the informal Prawn on the Lawn which is, unsurprisingly, seafood-based. There are so many fish restaurants up and down the coast so why not hop in the car for a beach day out and try one of them for lunch?
When all that fresh air hits and you need somewhere to lay your head, set your beach gear down at one of our holiday cottages in and around Rock. Having read our guide, you’ll probably feel the need for a touch of luxury, so have a browse through our portfolio of luxury cottages and see which one’s for you. With sublime views, hot tubs and even swimming pools, the fun doesn’t stop when you are back from the beach.
Book the complex of Trelow Farmhouse, Trelow Barton and Trelow Lodge if you are coming with lots of guests for a special celebration or family holiday, or Pendavey Farm House which has its own shared outdoor pool – great to keep kids entertained when you don’t fancy going out.
If you want to come to Rock to experience everything coastal, our traditional stone cottages make the perfect stop. Cosy up at Pebble Cottage just 2 miles out of Rock or bring eight guests and two dogs to Rosemayne, a short stroll from the town.
Have a browse through our selection of self-catering accommodation in Rock to find your next seaside escape.