Wondering about the absolute best things to do in Padstow, Cornwall?
In this article, we’ll dig into everything you’ll want to know about visiting this little slice of British paradise.
Padstow town in Cornwall is a charming settlement on the Camel Estuary. The town is built around a quaint harbor and is an important part of the UK’s fishing industry as well as a top tourist destination.
With all of the amazing things to do in Padstow and let’s not forget the incredible food scene, it should definitely be added to any Cornwall road trip itinerary.
The fishing port of Padstow, Cornwall is one of the UK’s top summer destinations thanks to its charming harbor, rustic pubs, and famous restaurants. The popular television chef Rick Stein has not one, but two restaurants here!
There are lots of wonderful things to do in Padstow including boat trips, river walks, cycle hire, galleries, and much more. One thing is for sure, no trip to Padstow is complete with sampling some of Rick Stein’s fish and chips on the harbor wall (watch out for dive-bombing seagulls though)!
So, without further ado, let’s discover what to do in Padstow!
Getting to Padstow
By Car: From London, it’s around a five-hour drive to Padstow. Take the M4, M5, and A30. Although, if you are not a fan of motorway driving and want something more scenic, take the A303 followed by the A30.
By Bus: There are no direct buses to Padstow from London, however, you can take a coach from London’s Victoria to Bodmin and transfer to a local bus service. London to Bodmin takes 7h5m and costs from £23.50 ($32.30). There are hourly buses from Bodmin to Padstow and the journey takes just over one hour. You can find the timetable here.
By Train: There are daily trains from London’s Paddington Station to Bodmin Parkway. The journey time is just 3h50m and tickets start from £66.00 one way ($87.00). There are hourly buses from Bodmin Parkway to Padstow and the journey takes just over one hour. You can check the timetable here.
Getting Around Padstow
Padstow is small enough to get to all the major attractions on foot. You can also visit nearby beaches and get as far as Polzeath by walking.
There is a passenger ferry service between Padstow and Rock.
There are local bus services that can take you further afield, however, these can be infrequent. To get the most out of your trip to North Cornwall, consider hiring a car.
Places to Stay in Padstow
Padstow has plenty of accommodation options on offer from hotels, bed and breakfasts, and holiday cottage rentals. It’s even possible to stay above Rick Stein’s café with rooms overlooking the town and estuary!
- Padstow Harbour Hotel: This is an absolute gem B&B located right in the centre of town along the harbour and is also right along the beach. You are close to absolutely everything and the rooms are cute and clean as well. Rooms start at £191 per night. Book a stay at the Harbour Hotel here.
- The Old Custom House: One of the best centrally located B&B’s in Padstow, you are located right in the harbour area near the best restaurants and cafes in town. The rooms are elegantly designed without feeling stuffy and the breakfast might just be the best in town. Rooms start at £150 per night. Book a stay at Old Customs House here.
- The Padstow Cottage: This little cottage rental is one of the most romantic places to stay in Padstow. If you are looking for a place to get away from it all, this cozy little spot has one bedroom with a canopy bed, a full kitchen, and a stunning garden. It feels like you are miles from anything once you’re tucked inside, but you’re actually close to all of the best activities in Padstow. Depending on the time of year, the cottage starts at £350 per night. Book a stay at the Cottage here.
The Best Things to Do in Padstow
There are so many awesome things to do in Padstow and now that you know how to get there, how to get around, and the best places to stay, let’s dig into where you should spend your time in this beautiful Cornwall town.
1. Drink in the Scenery of Padstow Harbour
Padstow Harbour is the focal point of the town and dates back to at least 1538. It is a working port and you can see fishing boats coming and going with the day’s catch. The quay is surrounded by charming stone-bricked buildings housing an assortment of craft shops, restaurants, and pubs.
The stone walls of the harbour are perfect for walking or sitting and enjoying the view. Many of the bars and restaurants around the harbour also have outdoor seating where you can enjoy lunch overlooking the boats bobbing on the tide.
2. Enjoy the Beach at St. George’s Cove
St. George’s Cove is the closest beach to Padstow and only half a mile from the centre of town. When the tide is out the cove is the perfect place to sit and have a picnic with incredible views across the estuary to Rock and Daymer Bay.
At low tide, it is also possible to walk to Hawkers Cove a little up the headland. When walking along the Camel Estuary, be careful not to get cut off by the tide. You can find out the tide times here.
Important: It is not recommended to swim at St. George’s Cove due to the tidal waters and strong currents. The closest beach to Padstow with lifeguards is Trevone Beach, only 1.5 miles from the town (see below for things to do near Padstow).
3. Take a Padstow Sealife Safari
Padstow Sealife Safaris offer a range of unique boat trips around the coast and Camel Estuary. Lucky trippers will have the chance to see some incredible sea life including seals, dolphins, whales basking sharks and more.
There are trips on the water from one to four hours, and it’s even possible to charter your own boat and skipper! Taking a sealife safari is definitely one of the top Padstow things to do!
See the official website for more information and to book tickets.
4. Eat Fish and Chips from Rick Stein’s Café
No trip to an English seaside town is complete without indulging in the nation’s favorite dinner; fish and chips! And what better place to go than famed TV chef Rick Stein’s award-winning café in the centre of town?
Unlike most “chippies”, here you can choose what fish you would like and how to have it cooked. The café can often get busy, so booking online is recommended!
5. Visit the Padstow Museum
If you want to learn more about the history of Padstow, then be sure to pay a visit to the free Padstow Museum which charts the long history of the town. Here you can find informative displays relating to Padstow’s fishing and seafaring heritage.
The museum is a registered charity and staffed by volunteers, therefore donations are vital to the continued upkeep of one of Padstow’s best attractions.
6. Feed the Deer at Prideaux Place
The charming Prideaux Place is a gothic-style country house that has been home to the Prideaux family for over 400 years. The Grade I listed building houses a collection of fine art, furniture and porcelain.
In addition to the beautiful Elizabethan Garden, Prideaux Place is also home to a large deer park that contains one of the oldest deer herds in the UK. It’s possible to watch the deer being fed and the grounds also include a licensed tea room overlooking the park and Camel Estuary.
Enjoying a cream tea or glass of wine as the sun sets over the estuary is one of the top things to do in Padstow!
7. Have a Look Around the Padstow Lifeboat Station
Cornwall’s lifeboats have been helping the area’s seafarers for almost 200 years and are an integral part of Cornish life. The RNLI is a non-profit organization and relies on donations to continue helping sailors and fishermen in need.
The Padstow lifeboat station is open to visitors during weekdays and it’s possible to explore the boathouse, see the lifeboat and talk to volunteer rescuers. If you are lucky, you may even get to see a launch!
8. Have a pint of Tribute in the Shipwright’s Arms
St Austell is Cornwall’s premier brewery located in the town of the same name. Their top-selling beer is Tribute, a golden and refreshing pale ale, that is served here. The Shipwright has an extensive pizza menu and outside seating overlooking the harbour.
The traditional brick-built pub has been serving the fishermen and townspeople of Padstow for many years and is one of the most popular places to grab a drink or enjoy a dinner with stunning views.
9. Visit the National Lobster Hatchery
The National Lobster Hatchery is a marine conservation project and one of the most fun things to do in Padstow with kids. Here you can get hands-on with the lobsters (watch out for those claws!), discover how the hatchery is helping the local marine environment, and even adopt a lobster!
In addition to the visitor’s centre, the hatchery also has different events throughout the year, so be sure to check the website to see what’s on and book tickets.
10. Cycle the Camel Trail to Wadebridge (or Bodmin)
The Camel Trail is a path that follows the estuary all the way to Bodmin 13 miles away. The most popular (and beautiful) is the Padstow to Wadebridge route which is only 6 miles. You can hire a bicycle in Padstow and return it to the same company in either Bodmin or Wadebridge if you don’t want to cycle back.
The Camel Estuary is one of the most beautiful parts of the country and it’s impossible to miss the thousands of waders and seabirds looking for worms in the mud. A lucky few can even spot the dazzling orange and blue kingfisher looking for its lunch.
Cycling the Camel Trail and picnicking on the banks of the estuary is one of the best things to do in Cornwall!
What to Do Near Padstow
Although not located in Padstow, these are things to do near Padstow that are very close and will keep you busy for the rest of your trip.
11. Take a Dip at Trevone Bay Beach
Trevone Bay Beach is the closest patrolled beach to Padstow and has lifeguards from May to September. The small beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and is popular with both swimmers and surfers.
The bottom of the cliffs is perfect for rock-pooling where if you are lucky you might find crabs, starfish, and other marine life.
If you really love surfing and want to explore more things to do around Padstow, check out all of the best activities in Newquay, too.
Important: Always swim at patrolled beaches between the flags as powerful rip tides can and do occur on the north Cornish coast.
12. Take the Passenger Ferry to Rock
There is a passenger ferry service that runs between Padstow Harbour and the village of Rock across the Camel River. Taking the ferry is one of the most fun things to do in Padstow and cuts the journey time across the estuary by half an hour!
Rock has a beautiful, sandy beach with rolling sand dunes. The village is sometimes referred to as “Chelsea-on-Sea” thanks to its desirable location and home to the rich and famous.
For more information and timetable, see the Padstow Harbour website.
13. Walk Along Daymer Bay
From Rock, it’s a short walk to Daymer Bay which is a large stretch of beach at the mouth of the Camel Estuary across from Padstow.
Daymer Bay is a little more secluded than the beaches at Rock and Polzeath making it a great place to escape the crowds.
Be aware of the tides and ensure you don’t walk out too far as it is possible to get cut off, and the area can be prone to quicksand.
14. Hit the Surf at Polzeath
Polzeath has a large north-facing beach perfect for surfing. Unlike the resort town of Newquay farther down the coast, Polzeath is a relatively small town and less touristy. There are a few shops and a surf school here as well as a couple of good pubs, cafes and restaurants.
It is possible to walk to Polzeath from Padstow (taking the ferry across the river) and the route takes in Daymer Bay and a dramatic coastal footpath above the cliffs. The 3.7-mile walk takes just over an hour one-way.