Top things to do in South Cornwall holiday cottages

Top things to do in South Cornwall

Visit the world’s largest indoor rainforest, explore the atmospheric filming locations of Poldark and sunbathe on silky golden sands beside crystal-clear waters; forget flying to the Caribbean or finding a far-flung exotic escape, South Cornwall offers an abundance of exciting days out for all the family. But with so much on offer, how will you decide what to see first?

To make planning your holiday easier, we have drawn up this guide to the top things to do in South Cornwall. And of course, the spectacular scenery, picture-postcard fishing ports and fabulous restaurants are all a given…

The top garden in South Cornwall

The Lost Gardens of Heligan in South Cornwall

A wild Cornish jungle and botanical haven, the Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell offer 200 acres of mystery, magic and whimsy. This real-life Secret Garden is an astonishing recovery of a Victorian country house garden lost in the brambles of time, by Tim Smit - the man behind the Eden Project. There are several different areas of this horticultural wonderland to explore, including a flamboyant Himalayan spring garden and a lost-world Jungle Valley of ferns, palms, tropical blooms and giant rhubarb.

At every twist and turn of the winding pathways, you’ll discover something exciting: giants hiding under carpets of moss, a 100ft Burmese Rope Bridge, and enormous tunnels of towering bamboo. Even your dog can join in the fun, provided they are kept on a short lead. And of course, after a long walk, the only thing left to do is indulge in a Cornish cream tea in the Kitchen & Bakery restaurant.

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The top family attraction in South Cornwall

Bodmin and Wenford Railway in South Cornwall

Puff through the beautiful Cornish countryside on a magical journey onboard the Bodmin and Wenford Railway. Listen for the whistle of the conductor and smell the burning coal as you chug along in a 1950s steam locomotive through 13 miles of breathtaking scenery. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The only 'standard gauge' line of its type left in Cornwall, this is a very special experience which children of all ages and nostalgic adults are sure to love.

At Boscarne Junction you can even hop off and pick up the popular Camel Trail (bikes can be taken on the train if there’s space). Look out for special trips in summer, including Pullman-style dining trains with a silver-service supper, plus several family-orientated and 'children's character' events including Santa specials at Christmas. There’s no need to leave the dog behind either as the line is pet friendly.

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The top beauty spot in South Cornwall

Golitha Falls Nature Reserve in South Cornwall

One of the best places to savour South Cornwall’s natural beauty is the Golitha Falls Nature Reserve near St Neot. This series of dazzling cascades and waterfalls is reached via an enchanting journey through a wooded, leafy valley alongside the tumbling River Fowey. Tiptoe across stepping-stones, venture over bridges and keep your eyes peeled for a variety of rare flora, fauna and birdlife along the way. You might even catch a glimpse of the renowned Cornish piskies, a mischievous fairy tribe which supposedly live here.

The falls are at their most spectacular after a period of heavy rain when the water gushes down the gorge. There are plenty of spots for a paddle and a picnic but come prepared – there are no facilities or refreshments en-route. 

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The top museum in South Cornwall

Charlestown Shipwreck Centre in South Cornwall
From Instagram: @shipwreckcharlestown


Dive into the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre, located within the Historic Port of Charlestown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boasting the largest private collection of shipwreck artefacts in Europe, you can take a fascinating journey into Charlestown’s seafaring heritage and uncover secrets from the seabed. Nearly 8,000 artefacts from over 150 shipwrecks are on display, including a treasure trove of telescopes, muskets, coins, and howitzer cannons. There are even a few pieces from the stricken vessels of the Titanic and Lusitania.

One of the highlights of this South Cornwall museum is the opportunity to venture deep underground through atmospheric tunnels that were once used to load clay on to ships moored in the harbour. A combined ticket also gives entry to the Port of Charlestown nearby, a filming location for BBC’s Poldark. A shipwreck spy trail is available for children, and a well-stocked shop at the end of your visit offers all manner of nautical-themed gifts and paraphernalia. And if you’re bringing your dog on your South Cornwall holiday, then they are most welcome on a lead too.

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The top day out in South Cornwall

The Eden Project in South Cornwall

With its striking gardens and landmark biomes, the Eden Project near St Austell is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in South Cornwall and is perfect for a full day out. Nestled in a crater the size of 30 football pitches, its bubble-shaped biomes maintain incredible miniature ecosystems. Wander amongst soaring tropical trees, jungle plants and crashing waterfalls in the hot, humid Rainforest Biome, before climbing up to the gravity-defying Canopy Walkway where you can get a bird's eye view from high above the forest floor.

Then, relax on the whitewashed terraces of the Mediterranean Biome, surrounded by the scent of orange and lemon trees, dried chillies and fine wines. Beyond the biomes, there is a colourful 30-acre Outdoor Garden to explore and if you’re feeling brave, Britain’s longest and fastest zip wire which is the nearest you’ll get to flying! Plus, there is a myriad of events throughout the year, from rock concerts in the summer to ice skating in winter.

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The top beach in South Cornwall

Whitsand Bay in South Cornwall

South Cornwall is renowned for its beautiful sandy beaches, but one of our favourites is Whitsand Bay in Torpoint. This 3-mile stretch of glistening golden sand is reached via a tricky scamper down some steep rocky paths, making it somewhat of a South Cornwall hidden gem. Backed by towering cliffs, the bay sweeps across from Portwrinkle to Rame Head with its windswept headland and crumbling 14th-century chapel. It’s one of those blissful sections of the Cornish coastline that never seems to get crowded, so you can lay out a blanket and make the most of the unspoilt views in peace and quiet.

Studded with craggy rocks, the beach is a haven for rock pooling, and if you follow the shoreline to Sharrow Point, you can have a peek in the mysterious Lugger’s Cave, a small grotto excavated by hand in 1784 by a sailor who inscribed enigmatic verses on the ceiling. The constant swell keeps surfers happy too riding some huge waves, though we don’t recommend swimming here as there are sometimes strong rip currents. The bay is also well known as a diving site, home to HMS Scylla, an ex-naval frigate sunk in 2004 to form an artificial reef. RNLI lifeguards patrol certain areas of the beach during peak seasons, and dogs are welcome without restrictions all year round.

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Stay in South Cornwall with us!

Laburnham in South Cornwall
Laburnham, Whitsand Bay


After fun-filled days of exploring these top attractions in South Cornwall, you’ll be needing somewhere to put your feet up and relax with your loved ones. From beachfront boltholes on the sparkling coast to rural retreats in the peaceful countryside, our cottages in South Cornwall are sure to impress.

And if you’re looking for more great days out in South Cornwall, check out our guide to the best beaches in South Cornwall.

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