The 10 Best Things to Do in Padstow, Cornwall

Reflections on the water in Padstow Harbour, Cornwall

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Set on the shores of the Camel Estuary in rugged North Cornwall, Padstow is a historic fishing village famous for its postcard-perfect stone harbor and surrounding fishermen’s cottages. In the past, the village was a center for fishing; shipbuilding; and the trade of copper, tin, and iron from Cornwall’s mines. Today, it is a thriving tourist destination popular for its quaint atmosphere, world-class restaurants, and spectacular beaches. Plan your trip to one of Cornwall’s best-loved villages with our guide to the best things to see and do in Padstow.

01 of 10

Soak Up the Atmosphere at Padstow Harbour

View of boats and historic cottages at Padstow Harbour, Cornwall

Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

5 Mill Square, Padstow PL28 8AE, UK
Phone +44 1841 532239

At Padstow’s heart is its picturesque harbor, a landmark that dates back to the Middle Ages and shelters a fleet of colorful fishing boats. For many visitors, the chance to soak up the atmosphere while wandering along its high walls is a trip highlight. Gulls wheel overhead while families fish for crabs along the edge or queue at the ice cream truck for a cone made with proper Cornish cream. The harbor is lined with historic shops, too, where you can buy anything from Cornish fudge and hand-plaited pasties to nautical fashions and home décor. Consider planning your visit around the Padstow Christmas Festival or the May Day Obby Oss, both of which are located at the harbor. 

02 of 10

Tour Padstow’s Idyllic Local Beaches

Harlyn Bay Beach, Cornwall

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Beach lovers are spoiled for choice in Padstow, with many of North Cornwall’s best beaches just a quick hike or drive away. Among the most popular are Harlyn Bay, Constantine Bay, Tregirls, and Trevone Bay. Harlyn is the ideal spot for families thanks to its wide crescent of golden sand, rock pools filled with fascinating marine life, and well-known surf school. More experienced surfers may prefer Constantine Bay, where the waves are best at medium and high tide. For unrivaled scenic beauty, Tregirls offers magnificent views of the Camel Estuary flowing out into the sea, while Trevone Bay is protected by a headland famous for its intriguing blow hole.

03 of 10

Walk Along the Headland to Stepper Point

The Camel Estuary from Stepper Point
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Padstow is also the starting point for some spectacular coastal walks, including the one to Stepper Point and back. This 5.8-mile stretch of the South West Coast Path climbs swiftly from the harbor to the headland, affording jaw-dropping views of the Camel Estuary and Doom Bar (an infamous sand spit that has claimed more than its fair share of shipwrecks). On the way, admire sheer cliffs and hidden coves, as well as fields filled with wildflowers and marked by ancient stone walls. Look out for historic landmarks, too, including the sacred St. George’s Well and a daymark tower built to guide sailors in the early 1800s. The SWCP website has more detailed route guidance. 

04 of 10

Encounter Marine Life on the Jubilee Queen

Atlantic puffin swimming in the sea

Paul Souders / Getty Images

North Quay Parade, Padstow PL28 8AF, UK
Phone +44 7836 798457

If a glimpse of a gray seal from atop the headland has you keen to get closer to these charismatic creatures, consider booking a day trip aboard a Padstow legend: the Jubilee Queen. This white, red, and blue sightseeing boat has been plying the Camel Estuary and Cornish coast for more than 40 years, offering visitors the chance to see local wildlife at close quarters. On your guided tour, learn all about local history while keeping an eye out for gray and common seals, basking sharks, and bottlenose dolphins. Seabirds abound, too, with puffins being a particular highlight for most thanks to their comic appearance and large, brightly colored bills. Trips run during the summer months only and last 1.5 hours.

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05 of 10

Pay a Visit to the National Lobster Hatchery

Lobster hatchlings at the National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow

Ashley Cooper / Getty Images

The National Lobster Hatchery, South Quay, Padstow PL28 8BL, UK
Phone +44 1841 533877

Padstow is also home to the National Lobster Hatchery, a conservation, research, and education initiative set up to preserve the European lobster. This species is both highly valuable (bringing in over 30 million pounds per year for the U.K. economy), and at risk of collapse due to overfishing. The hatchery increases the survival rate of wild hatchlings a thousand times over by hand-rearing them in a protected environment before eventually releasing them back into the ocean. On a tour of the hatchery, discover more about lobster biology while the kids choose hatchlings to name and adopt. The hatchery is open from 10 a.m. every day.

06 of 10

Explore the Camel Trail on a Bike Ride

Wildflowers along the Camel Estuary, Cornwall

Graham Custance Photography / Getty Images

Wadebridge PL27 6HF, UK

The Camel Trail is a scenic foot and cycle path that follows a disused railway line along the edge of the Camel Estuary from Padstow to Wenfordbridge. The surfaced, virtually flat trail is 18 miles long, with hardly any traffic and plenty of places to stop along the way—including the picturesque towns of Wadebridge and Bodmin. For the perfect day out, rent bikes from Padstow Cycle Hire. Whenever you need a break, stop for a traditional Cornish pasty, fish and chips, or cream tea; take a swim in the estuary; or scan for birds along the shoreline. From Wadebridge, the trail passes through beautiful, ancient woodland and moorland. A standard adult bike costs 19 pounds to rent for a full day. 

07 of 10

Eat Dinner at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant

Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant, Padstow

Ian S / The Seafood Restaurant, Riverside, Padstow / CC BY-SA 2.0

Riverside, Padstow PL28 8BY, UK
Phone +44 1841 532700

Since its doors first opened in 1975, Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant has earned significant international acclaim while also becoming something of a local legend. The foundation upon which Padstow’s culinary scene is built, the restaurant serves the very best fresh fish and shellfish, much of which is caught locally and prepared using superior Cornish produce. At the seafood bar, watch platters being piled high with oysters, langoustines, and scallops. Or, peruse the à la carte menu for mouthwatering dishes that range from whole Dover sole to Padstow’s own lobster, served grilled or in the French Thermidor style. In summer, meals are best enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the Camel Estuary.

08 of 10

Discover Elizabethan History at Prideaux Place

Inside Prideaux Place, Padstow's historic house

Andreas von Einsiedel / Getty Images

Prideaux Place, Padstow PL28 8RP, UK
Phone +44 1841 532411

Just above Padstow itself lies Prideaux Place, a fantastic Elizabethan Manor built by the Prideaux family when they acquired the estate during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The house itself was completed in 1592, and has been occupied by the same family ever since. Guided tours give you a chance to experience its exquisite period furnishings, crenellated ramparts, and sweeping Bodmin Moor views for yourself. Afterwards, take a stroll through the Victorian Formal Garden or meet the residents of the ancient deer park. Fans of the "Poldark" novels and TV series will particularly enjoy this attraction, which doubles as a much-used filming location. Prideaux Place is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Sunday to Thursday. 

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09 of 10

Raise a Glass at the Padstow Brewing Company

4a, Trecerus Industrial Estate, Padstow PL28 8RW, UK
Phone +44 1841 532169

After working up a thirst exploring Padstow’s cultural treasures, head to the award-winning Padstow Brewing Company. The microbrewery has two tasting rooms in the heart of town—one on Duke Street that doubles as a gastropub, and another for tasting and retail on Broad Street. It also offers brewery tours and the Brewday Experience, a hands-on invitation to become a brewer for the day. However you choose to visit, be sure to try signature brews including the Padstow IPA and a popular Cornish copper ale known as the Padstow Windjammer. Broad and Duke Street open at 10 a.m. and midday respectively, and close at 9 p.m. 

10 of 10

Meet Local Heroes at the Padstow Lifeboat Station

Padstow Lifeboat Station, Cornwall

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Padstow PL28 8SL, UK
Phone +44 1841 520667

Since 1827, the volunteer crew of the Padstow Lifeboat Station has been saving lives along 50 miles of the rugged and often-dangerous Cornish coastline. This heroic institution has come a long way since the early days when lifeboat crews ran from Padstow town to the launch site at Hawkers Cove, where an uncovered rowboat awaited. The latest lifeboat station is located at Mother Ivey’s Bay near Trevose Head, and was purpose built to accommodate the state-of-the-art Tamar Class lifeboat known as the "Spirit of Padstow." Visitors are welcome to tour the lifeboat and the station with its steep slipway on weekdays, and to watch the weekly training launch on Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. 

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The 10 Best Things to Do in Padstow, Cornwall