The tidal waters of the Camel estuary stretch from its mouth near Padstow and Rock, to several miles south of Wadebridge. This large inland area of calm water is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, protected from the wilder Atlantic Ocean. A geological ria (a deep valley drowned by post glacial rising sea levels), it provides ideal conditions for all kinds of wildlife, walking and water sports.
Undoubtedly a stunning place to visit during spring and summer with its azure waters and mild climate, the Camel Estuary becomes wild and dramatic during autumn and winter. On clear crisp days head out on bracing beach walks, before returning home to a roaring fire.
A magnificent backdrop for boats of all sizes, the combination of protected water, sandy beaches, offshore sailing and wind all combine to provide a varied and challenging sailing venue as well as the perfect location for adrenalin sports such as water-skiing, power boating, wake-boarding, paddle-boarding, sea-kayaking, wind-surfing, kite-surfing and jet-ski. While just around the headland, the estuary opens up into the Atlantic Ocean to provide excellent conditions for surfing, body boarding and sea-fishing.
The whole family will adore a Sea Life Safari boat trip leaving from Padstow or Rock. These exciting 2-hour excursions will whisk you off to explore the dramatic North Cornwall coastline and the small islands scattered about. Look out for dolphins, porpoise, seals, puffins as well as gannets, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants and oystercatchers, plus the occasional basking shark!
You can charter a power boat at the Camel Ski School, race in the busy sailing regatta programme at the Rock Sailing Club or hire sailing dinghy’s from the Camel Sailing and Powerboat Centre. For a more leisurely boat trip, hop aboard the Jubilee Queen at Padstow for an hour long cruise sailing out into the North Atlantic.
Swimming fans should sign up for the annual Padstow to Rock Swim, a mile long distance across the Camel Estuary, it is usually held in July to fundraise for Marie Curie, but beware, places book up fast!
The Rock to Padstow foot ferry is an easy and delightful way to travel across to Padstow, where you can explore this historic harbour town, the start of the 27 mile Saints Way Walk to Fowey. After indulging in some of the culinary treats at Rick Stein's or Paul Ainsworth, catch the River Taxi back in the evening, to a backdrop of twinkling lights across the water.
For landlubbers, the banks of the Camel estuary provide dog-friendly walks, running, horse riding, cycling, tennis and golf.
The Camel Trail, on the Padstow side of the river, offers a largely flat cycle route that connects Padstow to Wenford Bridge, via the market towns of Wadebridge and Bodmin. The Trail follows the route of an old railway line once used by the London and South West Railway and offers spectacular family friendly views of moorland, woodland as well as the estuary as it runs through both a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Runners, walkers and horse riders also use the Trail, sign up for The Big Run that takes place in March.
Bike hire is available at Padstow and the route takes you over the Iron Bridge and past the old quarry, where you can stop off for a Cornish ice cream or freshly brewed barista coffee. Continue on to the bustling market town at Wadebridge, which has a cinema, library, swimming pool, and leisure centre, as well as banks, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and independent retailers.
Wine aficionados should definitely stop off at the award winning Camel Valley Vineyard (on the Bodmin side) for a guided tour and to taste their delicious sparkling wines. Similarly, you can visit Trevibban Mill, close to Padstow, for a tour of their vineyards, orchards and a cheeky trip to the tasting room. The mill is located on the slopes of the Issey Brook, which also joins up with the Camel Estuary. Lovers of gin and pasties should look up South Western Distillery who hand-make their award winning Tarquin’s Gin in the same locale. Not yet open to the public, search out their tipple from a growing list of stockists.
The banks of the Camel Estuary offer rich bird-watching opportunities. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a Kingfisher or Little Egret from one of the bird hides along the river Camel. One of the UK’s rarest and most protected mammals, the otter, also frequents the Camel River along with bats and dormice. The estuary is also a sea bass conservation area and home to the celebrated Rock Shellfish who farm their Gold winning Porthilly oysters and mussels in 4 sites on either side of the estuary.
Whether on land or water, the Camel Estuary offers ever an endless stream of activities for all ages to enjoy. For those who prefer to take things easier, it also affords the perfect place to stop, enjoy the scenery and simply watch the world go by.