Cornwall is scattered with plenty of free-flowing rivers to enjoy and explore. Whether it’s kayaking, boat trips, walking, or stand-up paddleboarding, there’s a river in Cornwall to suit you.
We’ve rounded up the top rivers in Cornwall for you to enjoy on your coastal holiday in this beautiful part of the country.
🌊 River Tamar
🌊 River Fal
🌊 River Camel
🌊 Helford River
🌊 River Fowey
🌊 River map
Stay in one of our cosy cottages in a quaint Cornish village by the water. There are plenty of great properties along Cornwall’s craggy coast for your perfect waterside escape.
The Tamar is the longest river in Cornwall and carves out its varied path through woodland, hills and rocky crags.
The estuary part of Cornwall’s longest river is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is also a Special Area of Conservation and is home to a wonderful variety of birds and unusual marine life due to the low salt levels.
The roots of the River Tamar and the rivers that feed it are set in legend. The story goes that the River Tamar came into being when Tamara, a water nymph who wanted to wander freely against her parent’s advice, met two giants which made her father very angry, so he put a spell on the giants to send them to sleep. Tamara was very upset and refused to go back with her father, so in anger, he turned her into a bubbling river that flowed all the way to the sea. The giants awoke and were extremely upset at this, so much so that they decided to seek magicians to also turn them into rivers to join Tamara at sea. However, one of the giants went the wrong way and ended up in the north, forever flowing away from Tamara. The other giant, Tavy, thankfully did make it to the sea to join Tamara, merging into the wide beautiful estuary.
Today the river is a valuable water source and its banks are a haven for gentle exploration by quizzical families and curious dogs. Take a guided river walk along the Tamar for an afternoon to remember. The Tamar Valley is also rich in beauty and has some of the finest scenery in the West Country.
Explore the area via the scenic Tamar Valley Line, on the Tamar Passenger Ferry or on pleasure cruises. There is an extensive network of local footpaths to follow and there are even two on-road circuits for cyclists to enjoy.
🌊 The Tamar River is the longest river in Cornwall (61 miles).
🌊 The Tamar Valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
🛶 Take a scenic paddle from the historic Quay at Cotehele.
Stay in South Cornwall
The River Fal in Cornwall crosses 21 miles of granite and slate from Truro in the north to finish its journey to the sea beyond Falmouth.
With plenty of beautiful wildlife and unique landscapes, the River Fal lies within Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers up plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature at its best, along with an award-winning ferry network, delightful restaurants and amazing attractions.
Take a boat trip to go dolphin spotting and enjoy the unique waterways of the Fal River and the pretty harbours of Falmouth and St Mawes. Take to the water for some kayaking on Cornwall's River Fal or wander the river's banks, visiting museums, castles and sub-tropical gardens.
🌊 Sits within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
🌊 The world’s third-largest natural harbour.
🛶 A popular visitor destination with lots to do.
A nature lover's dream, the Camel is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering plenty of opportunities for bird spotting and woodland walks.
Starting at Bodmin Moor, the 30 mile River Camel finds its way over granite, sandstone, slate and clay and joins the sea at Padstow Bay.
Protected wildlife live along this spectacular river, from playful otters to the strangely shaped bullhead fish and the fantastically pretty kingfisher.
Daymer Bay Beach stretches along the edge of the River Camel, towards Rock. It’s a popular sand dune-backed beach for families, with fine sand and lots of rockpools to explore. There’s plenty of lovely sand to enjoy at low tide.
🌊 The Camel is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
🌊 The river’s name comes from its Cornish name “Dowr Kammel”, meaning “crooked river”.
🌊 Visit the Camel Valley Vineyard for some delicious wine tasting.
The Helford River nestles between Falmouth Bay and The Lizard Peninsula. This large estuary is renowned for its beautiful scenery and marine ecology. The Helford River is a popular visitor attraction offering exciting leisure activities such as kayaking, sailing and snorkelling due to its sheltered position.
Around 30 miles long, there is an abundance of beautiful beaches, coves and seaside villages to discover along with an array of glorious gardens and places to eat.
Take one of the fantastic Helford River walks, such as Helford and Frenchman's Creek which takes you through exciting wooded valleys, or the Helford to Dennis Head circular walk around the creeks of the Helford River and quaint villages.
🌊 There’s a super Seal Sanctuary at Gweek.
🛶 Go on The Helford & Frenchman's Creek Kayak Adventure with Koru Kayaking.
🥾 Great for walking and birdwatching.
Truro is said to have gotten its name from the Cornish term “Tr-veru”, meaning three rivers: the three rivers of Truro being the Truro, the Kenwyn and the Allen.
The River Truro sits at the head of the Fal River and lies in Cornwall’s capital city. A stay in the cathedral city of Truro offers vibrant nightlife, fantastic restaurants and a fun day shopping the independent shops and boutiques.
There are also some incredibly beautiful places to visit around and outside of the city, including Calenick Creek, the historic parklands at Pencalenick, Trelissick Garden and Daubuz Moors nature reserve by the River Allen near the city centre.
🌊 Gets its name from the Cornish term “Tr-veru”, meaning three rivers.
🌊 Truro is the only city in Cornwall.
🌊 The River Truro eventually becomes the River Fal.
Stay in Truro
Starting at Fowey Well in Bodmin Moor, the River Fowey finds its way along 27 miles to the sea at Fowey.
Watch the ferry navigate the boats across the natural harbour while sitting on the quayside enjoying the fresh sea air and some fish and chips.
Admire Fowey’s sparkling river along with its many historical buildings as you stroll through the town's cobbled streets and stop off at the array of local eateries. If you fancy a day trip to pretty Poluran village, then hop on the ferry for some wonderful views.
🌊 Situated in an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
🌊 Rises on Cornwall’s highest peak.
🛶 Hire out a kayak, SUP or self-drive boat for a day on the river.
Map of rivers in Cornwall
Discover Cornwall’s fantastic rivers below for some waterside holiday inspiration:
Stay in Cornwall
If it’s a waterside stay you’re after then we’ve got you covered. We have cosy cottages all along the fabulous coast of Cornwall to enjoy waterside views before adventuring around all of Cornwall’s perfectly placed rivers.
Cottages in Cornwall
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.