young girl in a white dress sat on a wooden bench on the pentire headland overlooking a cornish beach

Visiting Cornwall with kids. The Ultimate Guide

Cornwall has to be one of the most popular family holiday destinations in the UK. The miles of stunning beaches, many child friendly activities and family friendly hotels make for the perfect UK staycation. If you’re planning a holiday to the South West read on to discover everything you need to know about visiting Cornwall with kids. For things to do with kids in Cornwall just scroll down to below my hotel recommendations.

In this post I’m going to talk you through my favourite places to stay in Cornwall. Then all the best free things to do in Cornwall including some of the very best Cornish beaches to visit with kids and some other great value options. I’ve included some fabulous villages and towns to visit in Cornwall and all the must try foods to order when you’re here. I’ll take you through the best times to visit Cornwall and how to stay safe during your holiday. Plus all the usual admin headaches like parking and how to get here. If you want to jump to any section in particular just use the list of contents below.

This post contain affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission if you book through any of them. At no extra cost to you.

view from the top of a cliff over looking turquoise water under a bright blue sky. Beneath cliffs you can see a small stretch of pale sand, this is pedn vounder beach

List of Contents

Best places to stay in Cornwall for families

Family friendly hotels can be found all over Cornwall. They really know how to make all ages feel welcome. Many will have indoor pools, organised family activities and even kids clubs. For the grown ups you’ll find luxurious Spas and gourmet restaurants. These are a few of my favourites.

Bedruthan Hotel and Spa

Located on the North Cornish Coast overlooking stunning Mawgan Porth beach the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa offers everything you could want from a family holiday in Cornwall and more. You can read all about it in my review of the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa. It’s home to both indoor and outdoor pools, a fantastic kids club and surf school, amazing restaurants and a luxurious outdoor spa.

Check the best prices for the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa here.

Outdoor Heated Pool At Bedruthan Hotel

Watergate Bay Hotel

Perched on top of the cliffs overlooking one of the best beaches in Cornwall, Watergate Bay Hotel is seriously luxurious and absolutely family friendly. It’s where I spect every summer as a child and love to return with my own daughter. The beach is perfect for surfing with a kid friendly surf school and has heaps of caves just ripe for exploring. Foodies will love the cafes and restaurants connected to the hotel including Emily Scott Food and it offers brilliant kids club activities and play areas.

Check the best prices for your stay at Watergate Bay here.

View Of Watergate Bay Hotel From The Beach
View Of Watergate Bay Hotel From The Beach

Esplanade Hotel

If you prefer stay in the centre of the action then Newquay is a great place to choose. The Esplanade hotel is located just above Fistral Beach, one of the top surfing beaches in Cornwall. The hotel has a lovely pool, good sized family friendly rooms and each child will receive a gift on arrival. It’s within walking distance to all the family friendly activities Newquay has to offer and some fabulous restaurants and cafes.

Check the best prices for your stay at the Esplanade Hotel here.

girl in bikini top and wetsuit on a pretend surf board infront of a sign at the esplanade hotel in newquay

Carbis Bay

For the ultimate luxurious stay in Cornwall with kids head further east towards St Ives and book into the Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa. You’ll probably remember it from the 2020 G7 summit where the world leaders stayed. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for your kids right?! They have a gorgeous spa, family rooms and apartments and a fabulous kids menu. Plus the stunning Carbis Bay Beach on your doorstep.

Check the best prices for your stay at the Carbis Bay Hotel and Spa here.

outdoor seating area at Carbis Bay hotel

Holiday Rentals

Of course if you’re a large family or just prefer having your own space a holiday rental is probably your best bet. These can be found all over Cornwall and range from sprawling high end villas with pools overlooking the sea to cosy cottages in town which can be surprisingly good value for your stay in Cornwall with kids. Just have a search on AirBnB and you’re sure to find something to suit. You might even find something super quirky like a tree house, tiny cabin or gorgeous teepee. Make sure you book well in advance, if you’re planning on visiting during the summer holidays they get booked up super quick.

row of 6 cream teepees in a grass covered field

Family friendly things to do in Cornwall with children

Free things to do in Cornwall

For me, the best free thing to do in Cornwall with kids is to visit a beach. It’s how we spend most of our time. There are always heaps of activities which are completely free or wont break the bank. Spend your beach days hunting for sea-life in the rockpools, playing ball games in the sand or swimming in the sea.

Best family beaches in Cornwall

Cornwall is home to over 300 beaches, some hidden away and almost impossible to reach but many have heaps of child friendly facilities so you can keep the little ones entertained all day. It’s crazy hard to pick the best ones but I’ve popped a few of our favourites below.

a couple in the distance walking on a deserted beach, they are passing a beach estuary and heading out to sea with cliffs in the background

Beaches on the North Cornish Coast

If you’re heading to the North Cornish coast make sure you read this post on beaches in North Cornwall which include some secret spots that never seem to get busy even in the height of summer.

Watergate Bay on the North Coast is one of our favourite for its facilities, it has a lovely cafe, surf school, pop up bar and a large overflow carpark. Close by is Mawgan Porth beach which has similar facilities but a smaller carpark. When it’s busy you can park at Carnewas and walk along the cliffs to access the beach. On busier days we head slightly up coast to Porthcothan Beach which tends to be less crowded. Again you’ll find a good sized carpark, toilets and lovely cafe and beach shop.

girl and her dad walking on Mawgan Porth beach with cliffs in the background as the sunsets in a cloudy sky
Mawgan Porth Beach as the sunsets

You’ll find some brilliant beaches around Newquay, Fistral is popular with surfers and families although it can get busy over summer. Crantock is another one just past the Pentire headland. Again it fills up pretty quickly during peak season, you can also park below the fabulous Bowgie Inn and walk down to quieter Vugga Cove.

crantock beach in winter
Beautiful Crantock Beach

Further North toward Tintagel is Trebarwith Strand another popular beach for families with a large carpark. There’s a fab little beach shop, cafe and toilets. Plus the excellent Port William pub which serves delicious fish and chips with a view across the sea.

Girl In Wetsuit Rock Pooling
Rockpooling on Trebarwith Strand Beach

One we discovered last summer and absolutely fell in love with is Mother Iveys Bay near Padstow. The water here looks positively tropical and it never seems to get too busy, probably due to the lack of facilities. It’s a bit of a walk from the National Trust Carpark at Trevose Head to access it. If you’re looking for somewhere with more for the kids then head to nearby Harlyn Bay.

turquoise sea seen from above with a lifeboat station in the distance near mother iveys bay
Breathtaking Mother Iveys Bay

Anther really popular one for families is Perranporth south of Newquay. Being super close to town it has every facility you could want plus the amazing sunset bar which has live music and a great atmosphere over the warmer months. It really is a fabulous place to watch the sun go down.

Perranporth beach seen from across the river, the sand is dark yellow and there are rocks out towards the sea
Perranporth beach on a cloudy day

Beaches in West Cornwall

If you’re staying further west then Carbis Bay beach is an absolute stunner. It doesn’t have many facilities apart from the famous Carbis Bay hotel. Enjoy your day on the beach hunting for the three shipwrecks you can find at low tide then book yourself into the hotel for dinner. It’s gorgeous! Carbis Bay is also super close to the popular village of St Ives which is home to several beautiful beaches and all the facilities you could need.

carbis bay beach in winter
Carbis Bay beach

Porthcurno beach near the stunning Minack Theatre feels somehow more like the Caribbean than Cornwall, the sand is soft and white and the water perfectly turquoise. It has a large carpark and is right next to the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum which is a fun place to spend an hour or so. This beach is the next one down from Pedn Vounder beach which is thought to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s very hard to access and involves quite a walk and scramble down the rocks. Not ideal if you’re with kids.

tropical looking beach in cornwall with a few people walking along the sand
Porthcurno Beach

Beaches on the South Cornish Coast

The South Coast of Cornwall feels very different to the North, the scenery is less dramatic, and more pretty. Land slopes gradually down to the sea rather than the steep cliff drops of the North. This can make it ideal if you’re in Cornwall with toddlers or little kids. We love Looe Beach, it’s easily walkable from town and there are a wide range of facilities in Looe meaning you can easily spend a full day here.

stetch of yellow sand at looe beach
The beach in Looe

Par Sands near St Austell is a huge stretch of sand with a large carpark. Again it’s easily accessible and it’s size means it never feels too busy.

par sands beach as the sun goes down
Par Sands

And finally my favourite beach with a view is Marazion which overlooks St Michaels Mount. Again it’s close to town and is home to many rockpools and shallow waters just perfect for exploring.

Take part in a beach clean

A great initiative we’ve discovered recently are these beach clean stations located on many Cornish beaches. You can borrow the litter picker for a while and help keep these beautiful beaches clean and family friendly. Kids find this a surprisingly fun activity and it’s a great way to start a discussion on ways to help the planet.

beach clean station at the entrance to a beach in cornwall it contains brightly coloured instructions, a litter picker and rubbish bags
Beach Clean Station, a fantastic initiative!

Cornwall beaches with dogs

Dogs are allowed on pretty much all Cornwall beaches over the winter months. You’ll see dog walkers crossing the sand throwing balls in all types of weather. Over the peak summer months some beaches operate a no dog policy so it’s definitely worth checking before you turn up with your furry friend. Cornwall Beaches has a fantastic list of where you can and can’t visit.

ten year old girl in short wetsuit throwing a ball for her large brown dog on the beach. They are standing in water next to yellow sand under a bright blue sky
They do this for hours!

Discover the Tin Mines

Cornwall has a rich and varied history and a lot of its industry was in mining. You can still see many abandoned mining towers all over the county and they make a fascinating place to bring the kids. We love the walk up to Wheal Coates on the North Coast just South of Perranporth. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and should take you around 20 minutes to walk from Chapel Porth Beach National Trust Carpark.

wheal coates abandoned tin mine on the side of a cliff park under a dramatic cloudy sky next to a cliff overlooking the sea
Wheal Coates abandoned mine

Walk The Coast Path

The Cornish section of the South West Coast Path is 300 miles. I’d absolutely love to walk the whole length of it one day but thats not very practical if you’re in Cornwall with kids. It’s best to pick a section and walk as far as you can then head back. It’s a great way to discover quieter beaches that can only be accessed via a good walk. Our favourite sections include Bedruthan Steps down to Mawgan Porth Beach which can be accessed from the National Trust Carnewas Carpark which has an amazing cafe! And the walk to the Trevose Head lighthouse which has another National Trust carpark open over the summer months.

a girl in jeans and jumper following her father along the coastpath in cornwall

Body boarding

Not entirely free, you’ll have to buy or hire a board and maybe a wetsuit but these are great value at the beach shops all over Cornwall. It’s a lot easier than surfing and I promise you the kids will love riding the waves. We can barely drag Piper away once she’s in. Opt for a beach with lifeguards and safety flags to make sure you stay safe in the sea.

girl in a wetsuit holding a body board walking along a beach

Explore the fishing towns and villages

There are so many delightful towns and villages to visit in Cornwall it deserves a whole other post to do it justice. If you’re on the North Coast then Padstow is an absolute must see with it’s amazing restaurants and pretty harbour. Tintagel to the East of the county is brilliant for kids with it’s castle ruins and tales of King Arthur. Close by is beautiful Boscastle which has a gorgeous sloping estuary leading out to sea or Port Isaac with its smugglers tales and fishermans friends made famous by TV program Doc Martin.

port isaac harbour, a great destination for holidays with kids uk based
Port Isaac fishing village

To the East of Cornwall St Ives is a must visit which has several beaches and the fabulous Tate Cornwall modern Art Museum.

view of St Ives from a brick archway
Pretty St Ives

The South Coast is home to many popular fishing villages. Mevagissey is a firm favourite where you can walk along to the lighthouse or pop in the tiny (free) aquarium. Or head to Looe which is a lovely town split in two by the river Looe leading to a pristine stretch of sand.

young girl in camouflage shirt sat on a harbour wall looking at a bright red fishing boat in the sea at mevagissey harbour
Mevagissey Harbour

Cycle the Camel Trail

The totally car free camel trail is one of the best places in Cornwall to go cycling with kids. It’s an 18 mile relatively flat stretch which goes from Bodmin to Padstow. We tend to hop on at Wadebridge and bike the five and a half miles to Padstow. You can bring your own bikes or conveniently hire one for the day at the start of the trail in Wadebridge.


A cheap net and a bucket can buy you hours of peace on a Cornish beach. There are heaps of sea creatures to discover in the rockpools. We come across seemingly thousands of shrimps, crabs, tiny star fish, sea anemones, little fish and even some jellyfish. It doesn’t really matter which beach you’re on, you’re bound to find a rockpool or two. Be super careful with the jellyfish and remind kids not to touch them. Most are harmless but you’ll come across compass jelly fish in the summer which can give you a nasty sting.

girl submerged to her waist holding a green fishing net in a seaweed covered rockpool with a larg brown dog looking on

Cardinham Woods

If you fancy a break from the coast then Cardinham woods in central Cornwall is a gorgeous place for a walk with kids. It’s home to a brilliant Superworm trail and has plenty of cycle paths and easy walks alongside the river.

Watch a sunset

Cornish sunsets really are something else. On a clear day the sky lights up with every colour imaginable. For me the best season for sunset lovers in autumn when you’ll see purples, deep reds and oranges which seem to last for ages. North Cornwall is probably the best to spot a sunset we love grabbing a takeaway and heading to our local Mawgan Porth Beach or enjoying it with a drink outdoors at the fantastic Lewinnick Lodge.

Best Place To Watch A Sunset In North Cornwall
Sunset View from the Lewinnick Lodge

Spot some seals

Spotting seals in Cornwall really is a bucket list activity. It’s hard to pinpoint when and where you can unless you’re on an organised tour but just keep your eyes peeled as you walk the coast path. This January we were lucky enough to see some bobbing about in the water at Mother Iveys Bay and I’ve also heard Godrevy Point out towards Hayle is a great spot.

Swim in a beach river

If your little ones are too small to face the waves or you don’t fancy jostling with the crowds for space in the sea, many of the beach rivers are ideal for a quick dip. We love jumping in the River Gannel at Crantock Beach or the Red River at Marazion over looking St Michaels Mount.

young girl swimming in a beach river with the sand in the background

Fly a kite on the beach or try kite surfing

Cornish beaches are ideal for kite flying. Obviously you’ll need plenty of space away from crowds you risk getting tangled up in and really it’s the bigger and brighter the better.

a couple flying a large red kite over yellow sand. The sky is clear and blue

Adrenaline junkies will also love kite surfing across the waves. We watched loads speeding across the surf at Constantine beach this winter. It looks like so much fun!

Sand Dune Surfing

Many Cornish beaches are backed by silky soft towering sand dunes, perfect for sliding down. You can give it a roll or if you have a body board jump on that and ask for a push. Crantock beach is one of the best places to try this and the dunes offer a welcome break from the breeze on a less than perfect day. Make sure you check before you head into the dunes. Some dunes, such as Constantine are home to ancient war defences which could give you a nasty cut. Be sure to follow the guidance on any beach signs first.

10 year old girl in a short wetsuit sat on a red body board sliding down sand dunes at crantock beach
Surfing the dunes at Crantock

Watch a traditional game of hurling

Hurling is an ancient Cornish sport, it’s rough and pretty tricky to explain but it’s a great thing to watch. It covers a playing area of around two miles and involves getting a small silver ball into your goal. The town of St Columb Major holds an annual hurling normally on Shrove Tuesday and then the second Saturday after.

painting of a game of hurling

Great value things to do in Cornwall with kids

Very few attractions in Cornwall will cost you a fortune and some paid for family activities are well worth parting with some cash for.

Minack Theatre

For me this is one of the most magical places to visit in Cornwall. It’s located near Lands End right to the West of the County. This is an ancient open air theatre where you can watch live performances against the gorgeous backdrop of the Atlantic Sea. You can visit even if there are no performances or book in to a show. They present many family friendly productions, we watched a kid friendly interpretation of A Midsummer Nights Dream this summer and all ages absolutely loved it. Check the Minack Theatre website for their show schedule or to book a ticket to visit.

audience watching a performance at the minack outdoor theatre you can see the sea behind the stage and cliffs in the distance
The breathtaking Minack Theatre

Tintagel Castle

If your kids are fans of legend and lore then they’ll absolutely love a visit to Tintagel Castle. Home to King Arthur and his round table (so the story goes) it’s perfect for a bit of imaginative play. Make sure you cross over the new Castle Bridge and take a photo with the statue on the middle of the island. It’s owned by English Heritage and you’ll need to book your visit before you arrive.

You can see more photos of the castle in my post about Tintagel with kids.

Knight Statue At Tintagel Castle

Watch a drive in movie

Over the summer months all manner of attractions pop up over Cornwall. One of our favourite ways to end a day is at one of the pop up drive in movie locations. The best we found is Wavelength, just outside of Watergate Bay. We booked ourselves in to watch jaws one night but it’s not just about the movie. They have live music before the showing, an outdoor bar and some amazing food trucks. It’s possibly the best view from a movie in the whole world. Keep an eye on their website for this summers schedule.

open air cinema screen infront of a sunset at wavelength

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Cornish Flora and Fauna is like no other, with temperatures slightly higher than the rest of the UK you can find unusual, vibrant plants all over the county. The Lost Gardens of Heligan is one of the best places to see this in Cornwall with kids. It’s a huge open space perfect for running around in with a fabulous rope bridge, play area, animal farm and sculpture garden.

Take a surf lesson

If you or the kids want to try your hand at surfing I highly recommend taking a lesson first. Instructors will talk you through the safety aspects and best technique and are particularly helpful with kids. The North coast is probably best for surfing and there are surf schools dotted all over the coastline. You’ll also be able to hire boards and wetsuits for your session so you don’t have to spend a fortune if the kids don’t like it. Our favourite surf school is the Extreme Academy at Watergate Bay. Or the Big Green Surf School at Crantock.

big green surf school crantock
Surf School at Crantock Beach

St Necturns Glen

This one could almost be filed under free but you will need to pay a small fee to see the actual falls. The walk to St Necturns Glen near Tintagel is absolutely stunning through woods and along the river. After about 30 minutes you’ll reach the path for the falls. They are stunning and it feels like a very mystical place. There’s even a meditation room if you want to find your zen. After your visit to the falls make sure you spend some time exploring the nearby wildlife trail and grab a drink from the fabulous cafe.

piper quinn in a t shirt and joggers standing infrony of the circular shaped waterfall at st necturns Glen
Posing at St Necturns Glen Waterfall

Stunning St Michaels Mount

St Michaels Mount is another one you can visit for free although you will have to pay for a ticket to walk up to the castle. There’s heaps to see and do with kids on the island from viewing the statues guarding the castle to playing soldiers in the gun batteries. If you buy a ticket you can hop on the boat across from Marazion or just wait for the tide to go out and cross the cobbled walkway. It’s one of my favourite places to take photos in Cornwall. St Michaels Mount is part owned by the National Trust so members can visit for free.

Piper quinn in green jumper and shorts smiling at the camera posing on the causeway infront of st michaels mount
Walking the causeway at St Michaels Mount

The Eden Project

The famous Biodomes of the Eden Project are the first thing you’ll notice about this beautiful garden but there’s so much more to keep the kids happy. The Domes are home to the world’s largest indoor rainforest, there’s a minibeast mansion and heaps of places to play.

Newquay Zoo

Newquay Zoo is a lovely little zoo which is the perfect size for little kids. It’s home to lions, penguins, monkeys and much more. But it’s not just animals to discover, kids will love the outdoor play areas, secret garden and the free flying bird enclosure is guaranteed to make them smile.

National Trust places to visit in Cornwall

The National Trust owns a huge part of Cornwall and its glorious coast and beaches. This means a National Trust membership can save you a fortune on parking and family days out. Many of the beaches can be accessed from a National Trust Carpark. Just hop over to their website and do a search for “Cornwall” to see if there’s one where you want to visit.

Lanhydrock House

Stunning Lanhydrock house near Bodmin is a huge space just ripe for exploring with kids. The house itself is beautiful and it’s tucked away in acres of beautiful gardens and woodland walks. There’s an excellent kids play area and a couple of cafes to refuel during your visit. You’ll also find some well marked bike trails which are great for developing the kids confidence on two wheels.

Lanhydrock House in Cornwall
Lanhydrock House


Trerice is another gorgeous Elizabethan stately home located near Newquay. The grounds are a bit smaller but there’s still plenty to do on a visit to Trerice with kids. We played some old style games on the lawn, tried out brass rubbing in the stables and had lunch in the magnificent restaurant.

frontage of Trerice an Elizabethan manor House in cornwall
Trerice National Trust Property

Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps used to be one of the best secret beaches in Cornwall as you had to walk down so many steps to access it most people just didn’t bother. Unfortunately due to unstable cliffs the steps and beach are now closed but it’s still an outstanding place to visit. You can walk along the cliff top – there are still some steps to tackle and look down at the rock formation that are some of the most recognisable in Cornwall. There’s the National Trust Carnewas carpark and great cafe with views out to sea. We often park here and walk across to Mawgan Porth Beach on a busy day.

dramatic coastline at bedruthan steps
The walk to Bedruthan Steps

Indoor family attractions in Cornwall

It’s likely that you’ll see at least some rain during your visit to Cornwall no matter what time of year you choose to visit. Whilst beach and woodland walks can still be fun in the wet kids will most likely want to stay dry. These are some of the best things to do in Cornwall on a rainy day.

Lands End

What used to be a natural attraction right at the very end of the UK has now become a sprawling selection of family friendly activities. It’s quite an expensive day out if the kids want to try everything but you could easily spend a full day here with most of it being indoors. You’ll find Arthur’s Quest, The Aardman Experience, the Jolly Roger 4D experience and a kid friendly farm. There’s also the iconic Land End sign and plenty of places to grab some food or a drink. I love looking out to sea and taking in the various unusual rock formations. If you just want to visit but not try the attractions you still can, just be warned that parking is a bit steep at £10 for the day. You can prebook tickets online before you visit.

entrance to lands end attraction in Cornwall

Blue Reef Aquarium

If it’s too wet to hunt for sea creatures in the sea then head to Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay to discover some more unusual sea life. Home to over 40 habitats and thousand of creatures to discover they have sharks, an octopus and a brilliant underwater tunnel.

The Tate St Ives

A visit to the Tate St Ives is an absolute must for little art lovers. Much more family friendly than its stuffier London siblings. This gallery is light and bright and the artwork is contemporary and offers up some brilliant talking points. The cafe at the top is the perfect spot for cuppa and a cake with stunning views out to sea. Plus it’s absolutely free for kids to visit!

inside the tate gallery in st ives
Exploring the exhibitions at the Tate

The Lobster Hatchery

For a uniquely Cornish experience, head to the Lobster Hatchery in Padstow where kids can learn all about marine conservation and everything you need to know about lobsters. You’ll likely meet a few very cute baby lobsters and then have a chance to adopt and track your own.

Bodmin Jail

If your kids are fans of a bit of horror then a visit to the Bodmin Jail Experience will be talked about for years to come. Home to “The Dark Wall” a terrifying (ish) immersive experience which will take you through Cornwalls murky past and a few inhabitants of the jail. This is also a fantastic place to learn about Cornwalls past.

piper quinn holding up a frame at bodmin jail

Where to eat it Cornwall with kids

Cornwall is home to a ridiculous amount of amazing restaurants. You’ll find everything from high end Michelin starred beauties to cheap and cheerful cafe bars. I’ve listed a few of these in my post on the best restaurants in North Cornwall which I’ll keep adding to as we explore more.

A few foods you really must try during your visit include:

  • Take out Fish and chips on the beach.

takeout plate of battered fish on chips in front of a beach

  • A freshly baked Cornish Pasty for lunch.
  • Fabulous fresh seafood from a food truck.
  • A traditional Sunday Roast at a lovely local pub.
  • A Cornish Cream tea with oodles of clotted cream. (Jam first!)

traditional cornish cream tea with jam, scones, clotted cream and a large pot of tea

Best time to visit Cornwall

Without a doubt Cornwall is most popular over the school summer holidays. Especially over the last few years it feels like it’s been bursting at the seams. We’ve struggled to get tables at restaurants or space on busier beaches and prices absolutely skyrocket. Don’t be completely put off though, there are plenty of secret beaches and coves which just take a little research and effort to reach. Plus you can always grab a pasty or take out chip supper and enjoy it on the beach. The weather also makes up for the crowds being several degrees warmer (generally) than the rest of the UK. It’s never guaranteed but you’re sure to be able to find sun somewhere in Cornwall over the summer months.

lots of people in the sea on a busy beach in cornwall in summer
The sea can get pretty busy in Summer

Autumn in Cornwall is magnificent, the sea manages to retain some of its summer heat and it starts to calm down after the busy season. Sunsets are absolutely spectacular and family friendly attractions are a bit quieter. You’ll often be able to find some great deals for the October half term week. If you’re in planning a trip to Cornwall with kids that haven’t started school yet September and early October are brilliant months to visit.

Karen Quinn On Outdoor Terrace At Bedruthan Hotel
Soaking in some late autumn sun

Don’t be put off visiting Cornwall in the Colder months, Cornwall in Winter is actually one of my favourite times for a trip. It’s way quieter than at other times of year, hotels and holiday rentals are a lot cheaper and you’ll always find space on a beach or a table at a great restaurant. Yes its probably too cold to let the kids swim and a lot of places close for winter but the scenery is just as stunning as summer.

Christmas tree at Watergate Bay
Christmas tree at Watergate Bay

Spring is when the whole of Cornwall comes back to life. Headlands are covered in flowers and the air starts to feel considerably warmer. Everything opens back up fully and you’ll start to see pop up seasonal cafes and attractions around the beaches and towns.

How to get to Cornwall with kids

The thing that mostly puts people off visiting Cornwall is just how far the drive is. And yes, it can take an extremely long time to get to especially if you hit any holiday traffic on the way. But I promise you, it really is worth the drive. As soon as you’re there the memories of a cramped car will melt away and it’s straight into the fun. Plus most kids love a road trip right? Take plenty of snacks, car games and download an audio book or two. Have a look at these brilliant travel games for kids we always pack in our backpacks. If you can face driving in the dark then it’s a good idea to tackle the journey at night. That way the kids can sleep on the way down.

Walking along a cornish beach with kids and a dog
You’ll soon forget the stress of the drive

If you’re coming from the North you’ll want to jump on the M5 then the A30 or A39 depending on where you’re going in Cornwall. From London it’s the M4 then A303 again depending of where you’re going. Make sure you break the journey up with a couple of stops on the way to stretch your legs, grab a hot drink and take a comfort break.

It’s easy and quick to fly into Newquay airport from several airports around the UK. Newquay airport is very small and sweet and easy to get in and out of. You can also jump on a train which will get you straight into Newquay, Plymouth or even Paar which although a fairly long journey is very scenic along the way.

How to get around Cornwall

Honestly the best way to explore Cornwall is by car. Many beaches and villages are inaccessible by public transport and taxis are few and far between when it’s busy. Plus if you are in Cornwall with kids having a car makes it easier to lug all that equipment around and you can leave a beach bag in the boot ready to go. There is a lovely trainline that will take you all the way down to St Ives but I think this is best used as a day out rather than to get around.

stone steps on the edge of a cliff with the vibrant sea in the background
Much of Cornwall is not accessible by bus or train

If you are relying on buses and trains, don’t despair, you’ll just have to stick to the more popular routes. First Bus has a fantastic route planner on their website plus you’ll save money and stress finding parking.

What to pack to visit Cornwall

I think footwear is the most important thing to get right for your trip to Cornwall. Yes you may have a few nice nights out but this is not the place for heels or your best shoes. We always take sturdy walking boots for tackling the coast paths. And good quality water shoes to protect our feet in the rockpools. Keen does a fantastic range of both. You’ll also need things to keep you warm after a dip in the sea. We have both long and short wetsuits for Piper and a brilliant Dryrobe she can just throw on to warm up after surfing or body boarding.

young girl in a wetsuit sat on a rock on a beach eating crisps
A wetsuit is a must if you’re visiting Cornwall with kids

How to stay safe in Cornwall with kids

In terms of crime Cornwall is an extremely safe place to visit. We have never had any issues but as always just remain vigilant in busier areas. It’s one of the things we love about visiting Cornwall with kids. The things you really need to be aware of are the natural environment.

The sea is extremely unpredictable and a calm day can very quickly turn blustery. Over the summer months there will be lifeguards on all the busier beaches. They place flags in the sand indicating where is safe to swim or surf. ALWAYS follow these rules, they don’t do it to be mean, it’s to keep everyone safe. I would go so far as saying do not go in the sea with kids if there isn’t a lifeguard present. Bringing the kids to Cornwall means you’ll need to also educate them on what the coloured flags mean before you arrive.

lifegaurad van infront of a red flag on chapel porth, a very rocky beach with the sea in the background
Always follow life guard instructions

Be wary of getting too close to cliff edges as rock falls are pretty frequent and there are rarely barriers or fences. Always pack the right shoes for your walk, I’ve seen so many bleeding toes due to flip flop disasters! Rocks and stone steps can also get very slippy, be super careful with your footing. If you’re in Cornwall with your dog I recommend keeping them on a lead if you’re on a cliff walk.

man walking with a dog on a lead on top of a green clifftop. There are no fences or barriers

Even seemingly small things can end up creating big problems. The tide comes in quickly and you could easily find yourselves cut off or at the very least having to wade through the water to get back to dry land. We’ve even seen cars submerged on the harbour in Port Isaac. Be vigilant and always check tide times. Many beaches will have them on a sign on the entrance or you can just use google.

If the worst does happen as it did to me last year there are plenty of places to look after you. I fell over Pipers bike on the Camel Trail. I split my lip very badly and after a quick trip to Newquay Minor Injury unit I ended up having to go to Truro for stitches. Everyone was really helpful but not what you want on holiday. If in doubt during your trip to Cornwall with kids, remember the emergency number for the UK is 999.

Parking in Cornwall

Parking in Cornwall can be an absolute nightmare over the summer months. Popular towns, villages and beaches really struggle with space, they just weren’t built to accommodate so many cars. Many villages will have large carparks out of town and you’ll need to walk a short distance to reach the action. The same goes for some of the more popular beaches. Which is not ideal if you’re in Cornwall with kids. If you do want a prime spot then arrive as early as possible or even in the late afternoon. We often have success finding a great spot at 4pm when everyone else is heading home. Many carparks now accept card or you can pay via a phone app. But several don’t. I recommend having plenty of cash on hand to avoid being caught out.

colourful boats moored in mevagissey harbour with the pretty town in the background
Many towns like Mevagissey have out of town parking

There are plenty of National Trust Car Parks dotted around the County. These are fantastic money savers if you have National Trust membership. Many of the Council Car parks are free over the winter months, another great reason to visit out of season.

I know there’s a lot of information to process in this guide to visiting Cornwall with kids. Make sure you save it to Pinterest or bookmark so you can come back to it whenever you need.

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