As one of the sunniest places in the UK, it’s no wonder that Cornwall is so popular with Brits looking for a staycation. From charming fishing villages to lively market towns, Cornwall has a lot to offer. What better way to spend a UK staycation than exploring some of the best towns in Cornwall. Stay in a luxury cottage with Classic Cottages, next to the ocean, surrounded by nature, and wake up to a more laid-back way of life.
Cornish towns offer unparalleled scenery and beaches that you wouldn’t believe are in the UK at first glance. The region is a thriving hub of history and culture, having inspired generations of artists, writers and photographers. Many of the towns in Cornwall are also a haven for foodies, with world-renowned cuisine and truly exceptional restaurants.
Despite its popularity with tourists, many of the towns still retain a strong local identity. Whether you’re looking for an active surfing break, a chilled beach holiday, or a chance to disconnect and get back to nature, you’ll find it in Cornwall. Here are the 10 best towns to visit in Cornwall for your next UK staycation.
1. St Ives
Without doubt, one of the best towns in Cornwall is the beautiful St Ives. With its golden sandy beaches and strong cultural presence, this arty Cornish town has buckets of appeal. St Ives is about as pretty as English coastal towns come.
Wander winding cobbled streets, discover quaint fisherman’s cottages, and relax on Mediterranean-inspired cafe terraces. All set against the backdrop of enticing sea views and a buzzing harbour.
Unlike many towns in Cornwall, St Ives isn’t just popular in the summer months. With attractions such as the Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth Museum and truly exceptional restaurants, St Ives attracts visitors all year round.
Best things to do in St Ives
- Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Tate.
- Take a trip to Seal Island to see the seals in their natural habitat.
- Try a surfing lesson at Porthmeor Beach – or just sit back and relax on dry land!
Where to stay
Stay at Spinnaker-Morwenstow for a stylish two bedroom apartment with spectacular sea views.
For a lively town in Cornwall that’s full of life and energy, head to Falmouth. It brings the charm of a traditional Cornish town with a side of vibrant hustle and bustle. This is partially due to the university, which has brought a plethora of young people to the town.
Falmouth has one of the largest natural harbours in the world. This makes it a great place for boat spotting, from it’s quaint little fishing boats to luxury yachts and the occasional Royal Navy warship. It’s no surprise that Falmouth is home to the National Maritime Museum, where you can learn more about the history of this busy harbour town.
Be sure to pack your comfy shoes, as Falmouth offers a number of stunning coastal hikes. There are also various soft sandy beaches with enticingly clear water. Falmouth is a great place to try your hand at different watersports, from paddleboarding to kayaking.
Best things to do in Falmouth
- Visit the award-winning National Maritime Museum.
- Hike to Pendennis Castle and take in the views.
- Explore the coast via kayak or SUP.
Where to stay
For an ideal location, uninterrupted sea views, and homely interiors, stay at Victorian cottage Thetis Place.
Known for its association with renowned chef Rick Stein, Padstow is the ultimate destination for foodies. With five Michelin-star restaurants, brace yourself for some seriously impressive fine dining.
Food aside, Padstow itself is the postcard-perfect Cornish town. Its quaint old cottages and working fishing port bring an authentic and spirited feel to the town. You’ll discover plenty of boutique shops and cute eateries run by friendly locals.
If you’re heading to Cornwall for the beaches then you’ll find no less than five golden sandy beaches within five minutes of the town. It’s also worth hopping on the ferry over to the upmarket village of Rock.
Best things to do in Padstow
- Experience the exceptional dining scene.
- Jump on the ferry to the idyllic fishing village of Rock.
- Enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and try some watersports.
Where to stay
Arguably not quite as well known as the likes of St Ives and Padstow, Polperro is nevertheless as beautiful – if not more beautiful. Polperro is located in a ravine where the village is clustered around the fishing harbour. With a rugged coastline and ancient cottages perched on the hillsides, it is impossibly scenic.
Its charming cottages and quaint fishing port remain relatively unspoilt. A visit to Polperro therefore feels like a step back in time – to a more simple and laid-back way of life. It’s a true gem on the Cornish coast and, without doubt, one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.
Polperro offers a small but appealing sandy beach where you can sit back, relax, and soak up this peaceful part of the UK. Dip your toes in the turquoise water for a paddle in the shallows. For more beach options, head to nearby Talland Bay or Lansallos beach.
Best things to do in Polperro
- Find a cosy pub and watch the world go by.
- See the town in miniature at the Polperro Model Village.
- Visit Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing.
Where to stay
Phoenix house at Talland Bay is perfect for families or a group of friends. Enter relaxation mode out on the perfectly positioned decking area, with gorgeous views out to sea.
In many ways, Penzance does not look like it belongs in the UK. With an unusually mild climate for England, it is home to palm trees and subtropical gardens. This alone would be enough to qualify Penzance as one of the best towns in Cornwall, but it offers so much more.
It’s only in recent years that the town has started to gain popularity – and understandably so. Penzance is bursting with culture, with a strong art and theatre scene. You’ll also discover ancient castles, outstanding architecture, and several World Heritage Sites.
Alongside some of the more recognisable retailers in the centre of the town, you’ll also find a range of boutique shops and independent eateries dotted around. If you can, be sure to visit the farmer’s market where you can pick up some delicious local produce.
Best things to do in Penzance
- See a show at the stunning Minack Theatre – an open-air theatre framed by the ocean.
- Go for a swim at the Jubilee Pool on Battery Rocks.
- Visit St Michael’s Mount and tour the castle.
Where to stay
For a gorgeous bolthole that’s also dog-friendly, stay at The Duck House. Snuggle up in front of the wood-burner or relax on your own private lawn.
Another charming fishing town, Looe comprises cobbled streets and a bustling harbour, all framed by a backdrop of rugged hills. Dig into some award-winning fish and chips by the river while you take in the pretty surroundings.
Looe is a great destination for nature-lovers. Go rockpooling, crabbing, bird watching, fishing or snorkelling, or attend one of the many wildlife events. The Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary is only a few miles away, while nearby Looe Island is home to an abundance of rare plants and wildlife.
For a quaint fishing village, it may be surprising to hear that Looe is regularly named as one of the best places to celebrate New Year in the UK! Or for an alternative event, look out for the popular Looe Music Festival.
Best things to do in Looe
- Go wildlife spotting at Looe Island.
- Visit the monkeys and apes at the Monkey Sanctuary.
- Join a rockpooling excursion with the Looe Marine Conservation Group.
Where to stay
This two bedroom Kingfisher Cottage is a beautiful barn conversion in the picturesque hamlet of Herodsfoot. You’ll be surrounded by nature in a truly tranquil setting.
Newquay is most famous for its world-class surfing provisions. Not only is it considered to be the best place to surf in the UK, it is also one of the best in the whole of Europe. Avid surfers travel from all over the world to ride the waves of this buzzy Cornish town.
Newquay has a staggering 12 beaches – all made up of soft golden sand. If surfing isn’t for you, then you’re still spoilt for choice with gorgeous beaches to relax on. Fistral beach is the most iconic in terms of its waves and surfing. It’s the perfect place to watch the pro surfers do what they do best.
It’s not just about the beaches though. Being a fishing village on the North Coast of Cornwall, you’ll find deliciously fresh fish and a number of brilliant restaurants. Make sure you visit the harbour, where quaint and colourful fishing boats bob up and down. The surrounding countryside provides a beautiful scenic backdrop for a long walk. By nighttime, Newquay offers some of the best nightlife in Cornwall!
Best things to do in Newquay
- Go surfing at one of the many iconic beaches.
- Visit Newquay Zoo – Cornwall’s largest zoo, set in 10 acres of subtropical gardens.
- Explore the Blue Reef Aquarium on Towan Beach and don’t miss the underwater tunnel!
Where to stay
Stay in three-bedroom townhouse Fourshore, located just a stone’s throw from the ocean. Plus, there’s even in an outdoor shower to wash away the sand after a fun day at the beach!
The only city in Cornwall, Truro brings the perfect combination of countryside and culture. Its iconic cathedral dominates the skyline, with its Gothic spires rising up into the sky. The buildings in the city comprise a mixture of Regency and Victorian architecture, all set right by the seaside.
Truro offers unrivalled shopping provisions. The centre is pedestrianised and home to all the more recognisable retailers and restaurants. But you’ll also find a whole host of smaller independent shops hidden away on the backstreets.
With excellent transport links and plenty of provisions, Truro makes a great base for exploring Cornwall. It’s why it is often considered to be one of the best towns in Cornwall to stay, as you’ll have everything you need and more.
Best things to do in Truro
- Take a free guided tour of the stunning cathedral.
- Explore the fascinating Royal Cornwall Museum.
- Take a boat trip from Truro’s harbour to nearby Falmouth.
Where to stay
A beautifully converted former chapel, the Creekside Cottage offers scenic views over the Truror River.
9. St Austell
St Austell is an old market town that’s located just a few miles from the south coast of Cornwall. As one of Cornwall’s biggest towns, it offers an appealing hub of independent shops, lively streets, and amazing bars and restaurants.
The town itself may not be the prettiest in Cornwall, but it offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall. It’s for this reason that St Austell has been dubbed as the Cornish Riviera. Another great appeal of this Cornish town is the truly charming harbour of Charlestown. You may recognise this fishing port, as it was used as the location for the television series Poldark!
By far the biggest draw of St Austell is its proximity to the world-famous Eden Project. Home to the largest indoor rainforest in the world, it is an absolute must-visit and one of the most popular attractions in Cornwall. Also nearby is the stunning Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Best things to do in St Austell
- Visit the mighty Eden Project.
- Explore one of the China Clay Trails.
- Discover the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
Where to stay
For a cosy 18th century terraced cottage overlooking the pretty harbour of Charlestown, stay in The Captain’s Gig.
As one of Cornwall’s oldest towns, Bodmin has a rich and fascinating history with a somewhat tumultuous past. A very well-known attraction in Bodmin is the old Bodmin jail – often considered to be one of the most haunted places in the UK.
If ghosts and ghouls aren’t up your street then Bodmin offers some epic countryside. There are a number of nature reserves within driving distance of the town, where you can enjoy the peace and tranquility that nature brings. Head to Bodmin Moor to really blow away those cobwebs. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’ll discover pretty villages and ancient sites as you wander the landscape.
Around the edge of this Cornish town, you’ll find fine country houses and abandoned railway lines. Bodmin is even home to a gorgeous vineyard on the slopes of Camel Valley. Take a guided tour and taste their award-winning wines.
Best things to do in Bodmin
- Take a spooky tour of the imposing Bodmin jail.
- Visit the National Trust’s Lanhydrock, a stunning country house and estate.
- Explore the spectacular countryside and ancient sites of Bodmin Moor.
Where to stay
For a bright and airy place to stay with stunning panoramic views, book into Skylark. A dog-friendly two-bedroom cottage with a pretty private garden.
This is by no means a definitive list and there are a whole host of other amazing towns in Cornwall. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Cornwall, Classic Cottages have plenty of cottages with sea views to help you make the most of being by the ocean.
Let me know any other recommendations in the comments, or get in touch on social media. Have you got a favourite town in Cornwall? For my staycation ideas, have a read of my UK bucket list post.
This is a collaborative post with Classic Cottages.