15 family-friendly things to do in Cornwall
Want some fresh inspo for where to go in Cornwall this summer? Make a beeline for our picks of the best of the fun stuff to do over the summer for you and the fam.
1/ SWIM IN GEOTHERMAL HEATED WATER at the Jubilee Pool, Penzance
Britain’s largest salt-water Lido, Penzance’s art deco triangular pool is re-filled with water only during the highest of spring tides and offers impressive views out across Mounts Bay. 2020 saw the opening of the long awaited geo-thermal warm pool, where water temperatures hover at a positively balmy 30-35 degrees. If you don’t fancy a dip, or to re-fuel afterwards, find a local, seasonal menu served at The Café. Look out this summer for the inflatable assault course (in the cold bit, so don’t forget your wetsuit)!
2/ FIND MAGIC IN THE WOODS WITH Rogue Otherworld, Tehidy Woods
Multi-award-winning Rogue Otherworld (including the Muddy awards most recently in 2021 and 2022) returns to the wilds of Tehidy Woods most holidays. Founders Ollie Oakenshield and Angelina Boscarelli create transformational theatre experiences at the heart of community life, celebrating their connection to each other and the living world, with stunning, magical, lightly Cornish themed stories for ‘children and those who still believe in magic’. Inspired by fairytales, myths, legends and folklore, as well as real-life stories, Rogue Theatre’s stories come to life in the wild setting of Tehidy Woods (as well as festivals around the country). Catch their new show, Forest Days, from 16 August.
3/ CROSS ONE OF THE LONGEST BURMESE ROPE BRIDGES at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Penewan, Nr St Austell
So much more than just a garden, The Lost Gardens of Heligan make a fantastic place to spend the day outside with the whole fam. There is over 200 acres to explore, including magical gardens and themed woodland walks as well as farmland complete with all sorts of interesting animals and a real bird hide from which to count birds and insects. There is also a huge wooden play area. Down in The Jungle, perfect for any budding Indiana Jones or Dora the Explorer, you’ll find raised boardwalks, giant exotic plants, pools, wildlife and one of the longest Burmese Rope Bridges in Britain (above). Don’t miss the iconic Mud Maid as you walk back up through the woods to the cafe.
4/ OOH OVER THE SEALS AND PENGUINS at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, Nr Helston
Winners of best family attraction at the Muddy Awards 2022, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a charity that rescues and rehabilitates grey seal pups from around the Cornish coastline. Visitors to the sanctuary (including dogs on leads) can explore the woodland site on the edge of the Helford River, observing the rescue seals and the permanent residents – the sanctuary restores around 70 seals a year back to full health where they are released back into the wild. Underwater viewing platforms give beautiful access to the curious habits of these lovely creatures; we found the seals swimming upside down to be fascinating (apparently they do this so they can see their surroundings better!). A picnic area has great river views, there’s an onsite cafe and a large play area and shop.
5 / RIDE THE ROLLER COASTERS at Camel Creek, Nr Wadebridge
Following a multi-million-pound makeover, Cornwall’s favourite family attraction, Camel Creek re-opened in May 2021, featuring a new and improved park layout and exciting new rides. Fun seekers can experience exhilarating rides including the park’s newest roller-coaster The Airbender, Vertigo and fan favourite Morgawr. For those on the lookout for a super soaking, Camel Creek’s water rides Thunder Falls and Raging Rivers will surprise and delight. There is also a state-of-the-art 5D Cinematic simulator plus plenty of animal attractions, and across school holidays, lots of themed character days.
6 / CROSS THE CAUSEWAY to St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Nr Penzance
The castle at St Michael’s Mount is perched on a tidal island, 500m off the coast of Marazion. Follow in the footsteps of giants across the causeway that emerges from the sea-bed as the tide drops, unravel the history of the St Aubyn family, who have lived here since the 17th century, wander the centuries old corridors and explore the sub-tropical gardens – but be quick, you’ll need to get back before the tide rises again, or it’s a long swim! Only kidding, there’s a boat service. National Trust members go free.
7/ WATCH OUTDOOR THEATRE at The Minack Theatre, Nr Porthcurno
Perched on the cliffs above the sea, literally carved out of the rocks, the Minack Theatre is one of the most extraordinary theatres in the UK, with all performances in the open air and views across Porthcurno and the surrounding coastline. You’d expect this place to be ancient, but actually, if you’d visited in 1931, standing where the stage is now, you’d have been clinging to a sloping cliff, knee deep in gorse, with a ninety-foot drop to the sea behind you. Back then the drama was made by nature alone. Now, watch some of the finest theatre the UK has to offer, all under the stars. Also worth a trip to learn about the history and see round when there are no performances.
8 / TAKE A TRIP TO SEE DOLPHINS with a Wavehunters Sea Safari
Take a private hire of a boat out from Rock or Port Isaac and see dolphins, seals and other sea life. Plus, swim from the boat and enjoy the boat ride along North Cornwall’s glorious coastline.
9/ SEE HOW THE VICTORIANS DID IT at Lanhydrock, Nr Bodmin (NT)
This late Victorian house is set in beautiful woodlands which are great for walking and cycling, but if you head inside you’ll be able to explore both upstairs and downstairs, dressed as it would have been in the Victorian era. My kids find the kitchens and larders/pantries fascinating, as well as the nurseries and bedrooms upstairs. The magnificent Victorian family home is now split into three routes for exploring: Kitchen, Family and Lady R’s Bazaar. Free to National Trust members.
10 / COMPLETE THE BEANO TRAIL at The Eden Project, Nr St Austell
There’s an action-packed summer programme at Eden – help Dennis and friends save Eden from the dreaded CO₂-Zilla! Track Dennis and Nasher round the grounds and the biomes, try out skateboarding, scooting, and check out the escape room style games.
11 / CHECK OUT CORNWALL’S ANCIENT PAST
The four stones of megalithic structure known as Mên-an-Tol (above) or the “Crick Stone” can be found on the West Penwith moor between Morvah and Madron. Dating back to the Bronze Age it is thought to be related to burial rituals. It is also thought the stones were used as a charm against witchcraft or ill-wishing, and could also for future telling. Apparently when two brass pins were laid crosswise on top of each other on the top of the stone they behave much like an ancient ouija board.
Still down in the far west you’ll also find Carn Euny which is an Iron Age village near to Penzance, with great views and an underground passage called a ‘fogou’. Up on Bodmin Moor meanwhile you’ll find The Hurlers, a standing circle of stones which date back to around 1500BC, as well as the (locally) famous rock formation The Cheesewring, which is basically a huge pile of large flat boulders precariously balanced on top of one another.
12 / CYCLE FROM COAST TO COAST
The Coast to Coast Trail (11 miles) starts at Portreath (above) on the north coast, to Devoran (near Truro) on the south. The route goes from the Atlantic to the channel, so you’re basically cycling across England in a couple of hours! Don’t fancy that? There’s also the new West Kernow Trail which starts and finishes in Penzance, and budding Olympians (or Tour de France riders) might enjoy the so-called ‘Cornish Alps’ near St Austell. Or for more, see here.
13 / GET UNDERGROUND at Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen
Set in the wide open spaces of the Lands End peninsula on the dramatic Atlantic coast, the stunning Cornish coastline around Pendeen was once at the heart of the Cornish tin and copper mining industry. Geevor Tin Mine gives you the opportunity to visit a real mine and learn what life was like for a Cornish miner. Head deep underground and find out what life was really like for the men and boys who worked the mines between 1911 and 1990 during which time it produced about 50,000 tons of black tin. Or, if mines don’t appeal, what about Carnglaze Caverns, St Neot, which are beautiful underground caves.
14 / STAND UNDER A WATERFALL
Over near Tintagel, after a wonderful walk through beautiful ancient woodlands you’ll find the waterfall at St Nectan’s Glen – 60 foot of water raining down to admire, or, if you packed a towel, stand under! Or, if you’re near Liskeard, find Golitha Falls near Sibley Back Lake.
15 / OR, JUST HIT THE BEACH!
With more than 200 beaches to choose from it can be hard to decide where to try first. Muddy to the rescue with our handy guide, divided up into areas (the north Cornwall coast, west Cornwall coast, and the south Cornwall coast) and by beach activities too… From sand castles to rockpools, crabbing to body boarding, we’ve suggestions for favourites for every part of Cornwall.