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Port Isaac Harbour in Port Isaac, North Cornwall.

Discover stunning natural moorland, dramatic coastlines, soft sandy beaches, and turquoise seas with these best things to do in North Cornwall.

From coasteering and surfing, to private island BBQs and steam railways, we’ve thought of plenty of North Cornwall activities that may not have been on your radar.

Our guide to the best things to do in North Cornwall will give you lots of options to help fill your days with fun.

Whether you’re visiting with your family, you’ve got your dog in tow, or just looking for a little break with your significant other, you’ll find a little something to suit everyone.

Read on to discover the best things to do in North Cornwall…


Looking for something specific? Use our quick links below to skip to a different thing to do in North Cornwall:

  1. Camel Trail
  2. Bedruthan Steps
  3. Lappa Valley Steam Train
  4. Tintagel Castle
  5. Lanhydrock House
  6. Newquay Zoo
  7. Blue Reef Aquarium
  8. The Island
  9. Bodmin Moor
  10. Sealife Safari
  11. Cardinham Woods
  12. Surfing
  13. Diving
  14. Coasteering
  15. Walks

Best Things to Do in North Cornwall

Some attractions just crop up time and time again on recommended lists. These three things to do in North Cornwall are just that:


1. Explore the Camel Trail

The camel trail is an 18-mile surfaced and virtually level multi-use trail which passes through some of the most beautiful countryside in the South-West. The trail follows the Camel Estuary along a disused railway line from Padstow to Wadebridge before joining the route through the wooded Camel Valley to Bodmin.

This beloved trail is perfect for cycling, walking, and even running, no matter your experience level. Haven’t brought your bikes with you? There are plenty of places in Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge, or Padstow where you can hire them just for the trail.

For example, Bridge Bike Hire in Wadebridge have over 40 years’ experience in hiring out a host of bicycle options. Throughout May 2024, John Bray Cornish Holidays guests can use the discount code ‘JohnBray’ when booking bicycle hire online, to receive 10% off*! (Terms and Conditions apply).

Experienced cyclists may go off-road and explore the many villages and country lanes that lie within close proximity to the trail. If 18 miles seems a little overwhelming you can simply cycle or walk as far as you want, then turn around and come back to your starting point. That’s the beauty and main attraction of this stunning route.

2. Discover the Bedruthen Steps

Bedruthen Steps in Cornwall.

Discover the magnificent sea stacks known as the Bedruthen Steps. Although the steps down to Bedruthen Beach are no longer accessible, it’s still a wonderful place to visit offering clifftop coastal views and stunning walks.

The legend attached to these iconic rocks tells the story of an enormous giant called Bedruthen who used the sea stacks as steps to traverse the Atlantic Coast. The sea stacks themselves have their own names; (from north to south) Queen Bess, Samaritan Island, Redcove Island, Pendarves Island and Carnewas Island.

These rocks are one of North Cornwall’s most photographed settings and when night falls, the Bedruthan Steps become giant, inky-black shadows under a blanket of bright stars and the distant glow of the milky way, making it one of the best spots for stargazing.

3. Take a ride on the Lappa Valley Steam Train

Set in the heart of North Cornwall is the amazing Lappa Valley Steam Railway. It’s the only attraction in Cornwall that transports families on a nostalgic journey into a secret world of traditional fun and family adventures.

Hop on board the Duke of Cornwall from Carylon Bay and follow the bends of the Lappa River to the East Wheal Rose. This family attraction will allow your little ones the thrills of trains and boats as well as a chance to explore nature, let off steam in the outdoor play areas, and refuel in the comfort of the cafe.

Play crazy golf, get lost in the toddler maze, enjoy the tut-tut of the train as it comes around, and just have a wonderful family-fun day out in North Cornwall.


Places to Visit in North Cornwall

One of the best things about North Cornwall is the diversity of its towns and villages. With so much choice it’s often hard to decide which to visit first.

So we’ve chosen two places to visit in North Cornwall that should really be on everyone’s list:


4. Immerse yourself in history at Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle in Tintagel, Cornwall.

Set high on the headland between Padstow and Bude, lie the ancient ruins of Tintagel Castle. This English Heritage site is steeped in history, myth, and stunning scenery. Take a journey back in time to about this royal stronghold and thriving seaport.

Immerse yourself in the folklore of King Arthur by following the stone compass and reading about how history became a legend on the story stones. You’ll also be able to discover the Dark Age settlement where Cornwall’s very first kings governed their realms before descending to the beach on the ebbing tide to explore Merlin’s Cave.

5. Be wowed at Lanhydrock House

Lanhydrock House is a magnificent late Victorian, quintessential country house with a large garden and a wooded estate. The whole place has the feel of a wealthy but unpretentious family home. It’s one of Cornwall’s most celebrated country houses.

After a devastating fire in 1881, the house underwent a major refurbishment in high-victorian style, with the best in country house design and the latest mod-cons of its time. The house perfectly encapsulates the classic ‘upstairs downstairs’ bygone etiquette and will fascinate you at every turn.

The outside is just as spectacular as the inside. You can lose a whole afternoon exploring the manicured lawns, the woodland glades, and the riverside trails. Hire bikes and discover off-road cycle paths, with special routes for families and novice riders.


Top North Cornwall Attractions

North Cornwall is filled to the brim with amazing attractions. From castles and historical monuments, to zoos and aquariums.

Here are three of the top North Cornwall attractions you must visit, especially if you have kids:


6. See your favourite animals at Newquay Zoo

Newquay Zoo in Newquay, Cornwall.

Zoos make for an incredible day out, whether you have children or not. With more than 1,000 of the world’s rarest and most endangered species to encounter and around 13 acres of lush, tropical gardens, Newquay Zoo will keep you captivated for hours.

Whether you want to see roaring lions, sleeping sloths, soaring birds, curious meerkats, and swinging monkeys, they’ll all be on show here. Learn about all these incredible creatures and more as you explore along the winding footpaths.

And if your kids haven’t used up all their energy yet, let them run wild along the Tarzan Trail, go ape in the play area, and put their problem-solving skills to the test as they try to solve the Dragon maze.

It’s a family-friendly North Cornwall day out that everyone can enjoy.

7. Make a splash at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium

If you want the opportunity to come face-to-face with ocean creatures in their natural habitat without getting wet, then Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium is the place to go. Here you’ll discover freshwater turtles, pufferfish, caiman crocodiles, octopuses, angelfish, sharks, rays, moray eels, and so much more.

Learn how these ocean creatures survive, how they hunt through the coral reefs, what they eat, and how they are a key part of our ecosystem. Fill your heads with oceanic wonder and be fascinated by the giant pacific octopus which can change its colour and skin pattern to mimic its surroundings.

This aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in North Cornwall.

8. Feast on The Island

For something a little different and out of the ordinary, you’ve got to experience The Island. Floating in the middle of the camel estuary, offering 360-degree views is ‘The Island’, one of North Cornwall’s best-kept secrets.

This unique and memorable experience is run by the Camel Ski team and provides a safe haven for estuary users. Visit this floating cafe during the day for hot chocolate, coffee, and a snack or book a ‘BBQ Box’ and enjoy a private BBQ feast on this tranquil spot for the evening.

This top North Cornwall attraction is the perfect gift for any special occasion, or just as an extra special something to do.


Best North Cornwall Days Out

We think these three activities make for a great North Cornwall day out:


9. Explore the main trails through Bodmin Moor

Bodmin Moor, Bodmin in Cornwall.

A designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Bodmin Moor is one of the West Country’s most cherished uplands. It’s a place where moorland ponies roam free, and the Cornish wilderness is crisscrossed by ancient tracks and age-old hill passes run along the foothills of remote granite tors.

This North Cornwall attraction provides endless circular walks, bronze-age hut circles, and the foundations of a medieval chapel. It’s the perfect place for hiking grand Tors and a place to marvel at the views of Cornwall from Looe to Tintagel.

10. Get up close to marine life with Sealife Safari

Jump aboard with the team at Wavehunters for a spectacular North Cornwall day out. Discover a wealth of sea life in their natural habitat whilst enjoying the thrill of a high-speed boat ride. Keep your eyes peeled for wild dolphins, seals, sunfish, and puffins.

View the stunning Cornish coast from a new perspective and discover numerous hidden caves, secret coves, and rugged cliffs.

For the ultimate experience, why not book a private half-day charter and set off with family and friends to catch the sunset with dolphins gliding through the waves behind you?

11. Discover a diverse woodland at Cardinham Woods

If you’re looking for adventure and exercise as well as peaceful strolls and stunning scenery, then Cardinham Woods is the perfect location for you. Discover a diverse woodland filled with secret glades, allowing you to take a step back from the stresses and worries of everyday life.

Allow the stream-side paths, fresh air, and stunning viewpoints to relax and recharge you. Enjoy a bite to eat at the beautiful Woods Cafe and for those with mobility issues, you can hire their Tramper and explore these lovely trails too.


Outdoor Activities in North Cornwall

Most things to do in North Cornwall involve being outside, that’s why we’ve chosen these free outdoor activities to help you make the most of your holiday.

Young and old will enjoy getting their hair wet, learning something new, and just exploring the best spots North Cornwall has to offer.


12. Surf some of North Cornwall’s epic swells

With Fistral Beach in Newquay at its heart, the North Cornwall coastline is a world-renowned surfing hotspot. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro surfer, there are plenty of beaches worth visiting.

From Polzeath Beach and Harlyn Bay, to Summerleaze and Widemouth Bay, all these beaches offer you great surf and swimming fun. If you’re wanting to learn there are lots of great surf schools all along the North coast.

Check out Surfing England to find a surf school near your holiday accommodation.

13. Dive deep below the ocean’s surface

A scuba diver swimming underwater.

Dive beneath the ocean’s surface with Harlyn Dive School based in Rock. Their experienced and fully qualified team of dive instructors will show you the ropes and the best places to explore.

Whether you’re a complete beginner looking to learn something new or you’re an experienced diver looking to refresh your skills, their team are happy to help.

Beginners can book a Discover Scuba Diving experience that includes a sea dive (minimum age 10). Whilst qualified divers can book guided dives or simply rent equipment, so you can get out there and explore some new underwater sites.

If you’re lucky you may even get to see seals, large pods of dolphins, lobsters and conger eels.

So why not discover North Cornwall’s hidden world with Harlyn Dive School and make some memories to last a lifetime?

14. Pick and choose your ultimate coasteering adventure

From high-octane swimming to exploring historic caves, coasteering along Cornwall’s coast offers an exciting yet safe experience for everyone. On your coasteering adventure, you can swim in stunning lagoons, play in natural whirlpools, climb overhanging rock faces, and jump 30ft into deep blue water.

It’s the ultimate action-packed, adrenaline-fueled adventure everyone must do at least once. Conquer your fears, take your thrills to a brand new height, and enjoy a different side of exploring the North Cornwall coast.

From Wadebridge to Port Isaac, there are plenty of coasteering companies that will take you on an adventure of a lifetime.

15. Leisurely walks along the South West Coast Path

Whether you are an experienced hiker or a casual walker, North Cornwall has numerous options to get you out and about. From exploring the South West Coast Path in all its glory to exploring one or more of the trails across Bodmin Moor, there are plenty of spectacular North Cornwall walking routes to find.

No matter when you travel, whether that’s during spring, autumn, or winter, the scenery will constantly change and offer new sites to see. Explore circular walks around Trevose Head, a moderate circular walk from Sandymouth Beach to Coombe Valley, or for the more experienced hikers enjoy a long 9-mile hike from Port Isaac to Tintagel.

With plenty of options to suit all ages and abilities, there’s no better way to explore our natural surroundings than with a walk through nature.


North Cornwall Holiday Cottages

Accommodation in North Cornwall.

Discover a wide selection of holiday cottages along the North Cornwall Coast just for you. Here at John Bray Cornish Holidays, we have over 350 self-catering cottages stretching from Rock to Port Isaac, so no matter your holiday accommodation needs, we’ve got you covered.

From luxury coastal cottages and contemporary boltholes with jaw-dropping views to dog-friendly cottages with wood-burning stoves, we have a wide range of properties to suit everyone.

Whether you require larger properties for groups of people, holiday cottages with hot tubs, or a romantic retreat with a swimming pool, we’re here to help you have the best holiday possible.


After you’ve worked up an appetite from all your adventures, check out these best restaurants in North Cornwall.

We’ve created a North Cornwall food guide, with recommendations for Polzeath restaurants, Port Isaac restaurants and more. Check them out!