12 Cool Things to Do in Cornwall

by Asako Maruoka /
Asako Maruoka's picture
Nov 17, 2013 / 0 comments

Ah, Cornwall –full of history, great eats, and amazing scenery. From Plymouth to Newquay to Falmouth and more, Cornwall boasts small and large towns, full of treasure. Bracketed by the English Channel and the Celtic Sea (and the county of Devon), people have been coming for ages to experience the wild nature, ever-changing seas, unique culture, steady climate, and respite from reality that the Cornish Riveriera (in the south) and the north coast offer. Each year, over 5 million people visit Cornwall, taking holidays in Looe, Cornwall, perhaps inspired by the great literary tradition (Daphne du Maurier, Conan Doyle, Rosamunde Pilcher, Lord Byron, and many others), operatic tradition (Tristan und Isolde, The Pirates of Penzance, etc.), games (Tomb Raider: Legend), history (mining, languages, castles and abbeys), or, of course the arts and the scenery, from St. Mawes to Penzance. Eat well on locally-caught fish, be amazed at the tides and how they affect the boats, harbors, and tide pools, and explore inland.

Looe Bridge, Cornwall

Looe Bridge. Wikimedia Commons: Mike Smith

But let’s surmise that you’ve “done” Cornwall on your first visit, and now want to explore differently. In between times on the beach, or walking, there is plenty to do and see. Here are 12 cool things to do in Cornwall:

12 Cool things to do in Cornwall

A view toward Lands End. Wikimedia Commons: Pauline Eccles, adapted by Wandering Educators

Hitch a ride – on a segway! At Siblyback Lake Country Park, you can go off-roading on Segways, exploring woodland trails and heading around the lake. Prefer water-based activities? You can also row a boat, sail, windsurf, canoe, fish, wakeboard, bike, and take a walk around this beautiful lake.

Get wild – at Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary. I bet you never thought you’d see meerkats, owls, lemurs, coati, reptiles (including giant leopard tortoises), marmosets, capybara, kookaburras,  monkeys, zebras, ostriches, and more. The Sanctuary has a mission to provide a safe haven for elderly and problem exotic animals – for the rest of their lives. Their goal? Conservation, entertainment, and education. Well worth a visit.

Explore a Hobbit House and the Mad Professor’s Mysterious Mansion – at Hidden Valley. Ride a miniature train, solve the mystery on a detective trail, find your way through a Beech Maze.

Ride the rides at Flambards – a theme park with fun rides, hands on science, and even an undercover museum (shh!). Explore history through the Victorian Village, Britain in the Blitz, War Gallery, and the Aviation Experience. But I have a feeling your kids will want to hit the thrill rides – Skyraker 001, Thunderbolt, Balloon Race, the Hornet, the Canyon River Log Flume, and more. What started out as the Cornwall Aircraft Park has turned into a fun family experience. Other local adventure parks include Paradise Park, Atlantis Adventure Park, and the Milky Way Adventure Park.

Hit the seas – with Plymouth Boat Trips. You can go fishing, or enjoy a peaceful harbor cruise. If you’re a birdwatcher, be sure to make time for this adventure.

Beach at Porthallow, Cornwall

Beach at Porthallow. Wikimedia Commons: Trevor Harris

It’s all about the birds (and some other animals) in several places in Cornwall. Check it out at Paradise Park (an amazing collection of rare and endangered parrots), Wingz Bird and Animal Sanctuary (where you can adopt animals, and come back and visit them), the Cornish Birds of Prey Centre and Animal Park (falconry!), and the Screech Owl Sanctuary.

Feed the seals – at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. You can touch a starfish, visit the seal rescue hospital, feed or learn about seals, sea lions, otters, and penguins, and even volunteer to help.

Aquariums – Cornwall boasts three aquariums – the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, the Blue Reef Aquarium, in Newquay, and the Living Coasts Zoo and Aquarium, in Torquay. The National Marine Aquarium is the UK’s largest aquarium, featuring 70 sharks, over 4,000 marine fish, a loggerhead turtle, and more. You can see corals, tiny Gobies, prawns, eels, seahorses, octopuses, rays, jellies, and more. Kids will love the Discovery Zone, Cavern of Colour, and Mermaid’s Cave. The Bluereef Aquarium features black tip reef sharks, a giant Pacific octopus, Caiman crocodiles, a Loggerhead Turtle, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, fish, and an underwater tunnel. The Living Coasts Zoo and Aquarium features penguins, seals, otters, birds, octopi, rays, and more.

UK National Marine Aquarium

Wikimedia Commons: MyNameIsClare

More animal goodness: the Monkey Sanctuary, the National Lobster Hatchery Padstow, the National Seal Sanctuary, the Porteath Bee Centre, and the Newquay Zoo all feature animals that you’d love to observe and learn more about.

Perhaps you’d like to see some of Cornwall’s famed gardens? There’s so much to choose from, including the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the Eden Project, the Great Gardens of Cornwall, Trebah Garden, Mount Edgcumbe Country Park and House, Pencarrow House and Gardens, and more. Don’t be surprised by all the greenery and flowers – the climate is perfect for growing here.

Or get locked in a jail? It’s odd, that you can get locked in a jail TWICE in Cornwall. Visit the Looe Museum and Town Gaol, where you can learn so much about the area’s history, or Bodmin Jail, built by prisoners. Here, you can imagine life in such a cold, desolate spot. If you’re lucky, you can also take a ghost walk, if you dare…

It’s all about the mining – past and present. Explore Cornwall’s mining history at the Geevor Tin Mine Museum, and the Poldark Mine – a Cornish Mining World Heritage Site.

Of course there’s more – shipwrecks and grand houses and archaeology and hidden delights -  with so much to see and do in Cornwall, what will you do first?