For ages we’ve been talking traveling down to Cornwall for a short stay-cation and this summer we finally made it happen. I used to visit Cornwall as a child but there was still so much I hadn’t seen, and as Darryl had never been, it made sense to take the plunge and plan the ultimate Cornish road trip. Before I get into the post, don’t forget to watch my Cornwall vlog for a better look at what we get up to!
We left everything pretty last-minute, but after a quick bit of research I figured out a rough guide of where we wanted to go. The only tool you need for a trip like this is ‘Your Places’ on Google Maps. We first used this for Amsterdam last year, and then again for Rome and Paris. It just makes city breaks and road trips easier to navigate.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, read my post on how to use the tool.
As much as I would have liked to book seaside cute little Airbnbs for this trip, it wasn’t affordable for us, so the next cheapest option was to camp. Originally we were going to campsite-hop every night but decided that we’d spent more time faffing with the tent then actually exploring, so we settled for a more central campsite called Lower Polladras Touring Park near Helston which we booked with Pitchup. Because of its location, it meant we were only a maximum of 50-minutes from all of the places on our route. This campsite cost £63 for 3-nights with a non-electric pitch, and because we already had a tent and some camping essentials, all we needed was some foodie bits and cooking equipment.
When you’re going to Cornwall you need to go at the crack of dawn to beat the traffic, especially when your route involves the M25, so we got up at 4am and left just before 6am. Despite this we still managed to get stuck and ended up arriving at our first stop just before 12pm, with a quick 15-minute McDonald’s breakfast stop on the way.
Tintagel Castle: 270 miles later we arrived at Tintagel Castle. We decided not to go into the ruins as it was £9 per person, but you could see a fair amount from the trail anyway. This place is in such a beautiful location with its own mini beach and caves. We could have easily spent a few hours here hiking along the top of the cliffs but we only had an hour on the parking, so we headed back up, quickly explored the town and left.
Newquay: Stop number two was only about 45-minutes from Tintagel. To be honest, Newquay town underwhelmed me but Darryl wanted to visit to do some surfing. We grabbed our first pasty of the trip and headed down to the huge beach where we he rented a board and wet suit for £10 for a couple of hours. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the warmest and there was no shelter from the wind, so I sat what felt like miles back from the shore on the wet sand huddled under various blankets and coats while he surfed.
Porthleven: After setting up our tent at the campsite which was 45-minutes from Newquay, we drove 10-minutes into a little harbour town called Porthleven where we ate fish and chips, ice-cream and watched the kids jumping off the walkway into the harbour. Bit different to my childhood here in Milton Keynes!
St Ives Harbour: Day two was solely dedicated to St Ives, which is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It was even more beautiful than I imagined and felt a million miles from Newquay. The town was full of quaint shops and cafes and the harbour was lined with fudge shops. We stopped at an old fudge shop called Fudge Kyst which was full of letters from children addressed to ‘Mrs Fudge’. So adorable. For me the highlight of this part of the day was spotting a seal in the harbour! As you might have seen on the news, the day before they’d had a 9ft shark. Glad that had moved on…
Porthminster Beach: For lunch, we walked through St Ives to Porthminster Beach. It would have been nice to spend the whole afternoon here but we had other plans, so instead we sat out on the sunny terraced area of Porthminster Beach Cafe and indulged in a traditional Cornish cream tea for two. And a cappuccino for me, because I hate tea.
Porthmeor Beach: After lunch we headed back round to Porthmeor beach, to the left of St Ives Bay, and hired a board and two wet suits for £18 for one last surfing experience. I haven’t surfed since Bali in 2015 so was pretty rusty but I did manage to stand up 1.5 times *holds for applause*. I’m going to blame the horrific water temperature. Before heading off we picked up some BBQ supplies for a campsite feast, s’mores and all.
Gwenver Beach: This was a busy day which started with a trip to this stunning beach. We didn’t spend long here but we did manage to walk from this beach to Sennen Cove just off to the left, which was a bigger version of the same thing. It was a bit of trek down but it was only £2 to park all day, and seemed to be a bit of a surfer’s spot.
Lands End: Just 5-minutes away was Lands End. I’m still outraged that it was £6 to park but you can’t go all that way and not get a photo with the sign. Although if you want a proper one, you do have to pay. Our ones were taken in between the professional ones from behind a fence. Lands End was a tad disappointing and almost like a mini amusement park which I didn’t expect, but I’m still glad we went.
Enys Dodnan Arch: Annoyingly we drove away from Lands End thinking that this arch was elsewhere. Turns out you access it from the Lands End car park. Thank God those extortionate tickets are valid for 7-days so we could just drive straight back in! This arch was about a 20-minute walk along the cliffs and was really beautiful to see. Makes a good shot for the ‘gram too (you can see mine here).
The Minack Theatre: Stop number four was only another 15-minutes or so from the last stop. Though I didn’t realise that this theatre was actually in use and typically when we arrived a performance was on, so we couldn’t go in. That said we could pay £1 each to go into the small gardens and look down on the theatre from above, which was worth it. If you go down the path to the left of the theatre entrance you get to see these absolutely breathtaking views across Porthcurno. If we’d had more time, we would have gone to one of those beaches!
St Michael’s Mount: 45-minutes later we arrived at St Michael’s Mount next to Penzance. You have to time this well as if the tide is in, you can’t walk along the causeway. Though you can pay to go by ferry. You can find all of the causeway opening times on their website. Before we ventured across we grabbed another pasty and some fudge, because when in Cornwall…
Porthleven: We wanted to stick around for dinner to see the tide come in but we had another 45-minute drive back to the campsite and were both exhausted, so we headed back early and stopped in Porthleven for the second time where we had dinner and gin outside in the sun at the Harbour Inn pub.
Kynance Cove: After packing up the tent and repacking the car we headed to a place which I’d heard amazing things about. This cove was absolutely stunning. The parking was a pricey £5 and once again it was a bit of a trek to get to, but if you plan to spend the day there then it’s worth it. We arrived about 10am and it was already rammed with families and screaming children, so I’d say that was a bit of a negative. Regardless, we managed to have a nap in the sun, get lunch in the cafe and take in the views from the top of the cliffs before braving the cold waters to swim from one beach to another. Before heading onto the final stop of the trip, we drove up the road to Lizard Point for Cornish Rocky Road and Candy Floss ice-creams.
Falmouth: For our very last stop, we drove up to Falmouth for pre road trip fish and chips. We didn’t get any time to explore here, but we took our food down to the harbour before setting off on the 5-hour journey home.
As happy as we were to get home to our cat and home comforts, this was an amazing road trip around the Cornish coastline. If you’re thinking of doing it, book yourself a few days off and drive down. There’s so much to do in Cornwall you’ll never run out of options. We would have liked to go to the Eden project too but simply didn’t have time, so if you can, maybe schedule this into your trip too!
Don’t always listen to your sat nav: we did for location and road speed limits and both of these ended up giving us problems. Unless your sat nav is really up to date, maybe use your phone instead, or a map if you have no signal which is likely!
Be wary of ridiculous roads: we spent more time reversing down single track roads to let people by then we anticipated. Especially in the smaller towns and villages. Just be prepared!
Take the weather forecast with a pinch of salt: every day it said about 20 degrees and cloud, and every day it was close to 30 degrees with sun. A local told me to ignore the weather because “when you’re by the coast it’s always different”, and she was right.
Pack lighter than light: I told myself not to over pack and somehow I still managed it. We don’t have a small car and yet we still had to cram everything in. This also made finding things difficult.
That said, pack for all weathers: the days were stifling and the evenings were freezing. Less than ideal if all you have is shorts and t-shirts. Luckily I packed a coat, hoodie and joggers for the evenings huddled in the tent.
Use the free parking: it’s a bit cheeky but we always found a free spot in a street whenever we visited a town. Parking can rack up costs quickly and if it isn’t blocking anyone’s house or business, why not? We did this everywhere we could.
Double up on toiletries: by this I mean toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel, etc. We quickly realised that to save time by getting ready together, we’d have to linger outside the men’s and women’s showers trying to exchange toiletries. Less than ideal.
Take comfortable bedding: it turns out that roll mats and crappy old sleeping bags don’t cut it for 3-nights. If you want a decent sleep, take a blow up bed and either a thick blanket or duvet so you feel a little less like you’re back to being 13 at a Guides camping trip. It’s worth sacrificing some car space for the comfort aspect.
Heading to Cornwall soon? Save this map to use whilst you’re there!
Simply click the star icon to add it to your collection. To find it again, open the left-hand tab in Google Maps and click Your Places > Maps.
New to this tool? Learn more about My Maps in this post.