St Austell is a lovely town close to the south coast of Cornwall. With a new and improved town centre, it is a great location for visitors as popular visitor attractions such as the Eden Project, Charlestown, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Mevagissey, Fowey as well as some wonderful beaches are all close by. It’s a superb choice of holiday destination if you wish to have an authentic Cornish experience. You don’t have to look very far for excellent facilities and a wide variety of places to eat, from fine dining options to high street favourites.
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Food and drink
About the town
St Austell is one of Cornwall’s largest towns and it centres around the White River Place, built within the last 10 years from repurposed left-overs from the demolished Bull Ring in Birmingham. With a plush multiplex cinema and several popular high street restaurants, St Austell’s shopping prospects have had a considerable boost. The town also has a railway station situated on the Cornish Main Line that runs between Penzance and major cities upcountry.
The Eden Project is without a single shred of doubt, the West Country’s most popular visitor attraction. Just 2 miles north of St Austell, in a deep crater left behind by china clay extractors, its mission is to spread awareness of how important plant life is to each one of us. With grounds the size of 30 football pitches, it plays host to two seriously impressive biomes, emulating the climates in the tropics and the Mediterranean. The simulated environments are just two of many amazing attractions that showcase an array of plants, trees and flowers to enjoy. There are exhibition spaces and activity workshops run by the Eden Project’s wonderful staff. On-site facilities cater for everybody; young and old, with buggy and wheelchair access throughout the site. Even dogs are welcome in the outdoor areas of the park.
China Clay Trails is a network of cycling, walking and horse-riding routes that weave around this unusual looking area of the St Austell countryside. There are nine different paths and most of the origin points are close to the town. Wheal Martyn is a very good place to pick up a trail as there is parking and you can learn all about the china clay extraction business that transformed the surrounding landscape forever. The trails take you through vast areas, inaccessible to cars, where you can see huge craters and large mounds of mine spoil. Untold species of wild animals and rare plants have gained a foothold in this peculiar, attractive blend of the man-made and nature.
High above the quaint fishing village of Mevagissey are the Lost Gardens of Heligan. After falling into disuse when most of the gardeners fell in WWI, the gardens of Heligan House, which included a tropical arboretum known as ‘The Jungle’, became lost in time. Overgrown and impassable with brambles and thorns, the restoration project is almost like a real-life version of Sleeping Beauty. When the estate was rediscovered in the 1990s, the race was on to awake the slumbering giant and restore Heligan to its former grace. Nowadays, the park is open for everybody to delight in, with miles of trails to wander and gardens to explore. There’s so much to see in this grand Cornish escape.
St Austell is 2 short miles from the south coast of Cornwall. The best known of the local hot spots is Carlyon Bay. A popular, sheltered beach with a gorgeous strip of sand; this prospect gets very busy during the summer holidays. There’s room for everybody though, but parking can be a challenge once the car park fills up, so get there early. There are two small beaches at Charlestown as well as two other smaller beaches that offer quiet and natural stretches of sand to relax and play one. They are Porthpean and Duporth Beach, and both boast lush views across the bay further west to the Dodman and east to the Gribbin Daymark.
The food and drink
There are some excellent places to eat and drink in St Austell. Even if you don’t claim to be all that adventurous at mealtimes, the town still has a good selection of famous brands to choose from. If you are looking for some traditional Cornish fare, whether that’s at the fine-dining end of the spectrum or something equally satisfying like freshly landed and battered cod with chips, St Austell has got the lot.
Edie’s Kitchen in Carlyon Bay is a good bet for high-quality, informal food. Menus compiled by the hosts with meals made from local produce where possible make this a great place if you fancy a break from cooking in your beautiful self-catering holiday cottage.
One of the most popular family restaurants in St Austell is Griggs. Reasonable prices and generous plates are the order of the day; it’s a very pleasant experience dining here. There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on its considerable menu too. The restaurant is adjacent to Grigg’s Country Store, so you can combine some shopping with your culinary visit.
If you fancy an outing to a fine dining venue, then The Bay View Restaurant at Carlyon Bay is for you. With spectacular sea views, this is a chance to sample modern and local cuisine at its finest. In addition to the main restaurant, there is a taste brasserie and a selection of bars and lounges to enjoy pre or post-dinner drinks.
The town centre in St Austell is packed with interesting independent shops and a small indoor market. You will find high street favourites at the White River Place at the heart of the town. St Austell has a good selection of handy banks, large supermarkets, and petrol stations. For an even wider choice of shops head to Truro (15 miles).
Once a thriving mining town, the discovery of china clay (kaolin) just north of the town boosted its fortunes dramatically. Back in the 18th century, this find was something akin to a gold strike (it's actually nicknamed 'white gold'). The mineral kaolin is used in the production of paper, textiles and pharmaceuticals making some local men and women very, very rich. Being the centrepiece of the local industry, china clay extraction saw the town grow and grow. Sadly, the British industry has now been in decline for decades, and many of the pits have been closed. The clay pits transformed the lie of the land, as you can see huge spoils which dominate the area. Locals call this area the Cornish Alps, as from a distance the peculiar mounds and peaks resemble a natural hill range. The nearby Eden Project is located in the hollow of a former china clay pit.
Another smaller, but no less interesting product associated with St Austell is ale. Since the 1850s, the town has been home to Cornwall’s oldest brewer, St Austell’s Brewery. You can tour its headquarters too. An interesting afternoon outing for those curious about the craft of beer making.
To the south is St Austell’s picture-perfect harbour and port, Charlestown. The village’s deep dock is a great place to see tall sail ships at rest. Several have permanent moorings there. There are some pleasant pubs and the intriguing The Shipwreck and Heritage Centre to investigate too. The harbour was built in the 18th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a Grade II listing. There are two small beaches on either side of the harbour with views across St Austell Bay. The dock is often used as a location in films, most recently the surprise 2019 hit, Bait directed by Mark Jenkin. Eagle-eyed film and TV addicts will have spotted Charlestown in Taboo, Poldark, Doctor Who, and Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Holiday cottages in St Austell
We have accommodation of all sizes for you to choose from in and around St Austell. Stay at one of our favourite cottages.
🏠 Rosemelling Barn | Sleeps 2 (plus 2 dogs)
🏠 Top Sails | Sleeps 2
🏠 Tremethic| Sleeps 4
We have a superb collection of self-catering cottages and holiday homes in St Austell and all along Cornwall’s beautiful south coast. Visit our lovely collection to find a coastal cottage in Cornwall for a memorable holiday break to the West Country.
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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.