Must-visit harbours in Cornwall

Must Visit Harbours in Cornwall, Charlestown, nr St Austell

Cornwall's maritime legacy is intricately bound up in it's culture and there are many beautiful harbour towns and villages to visit dotted around the coastline. Here are just a few. Visit the Towns and Villages section of our website for a full list of places to visit.

The seaside town of Looe keeps visitors entertained all year round and is still very much a working fishing port. Start your day early and you can watch the day’s catch being auctioned on the quay and pick up some fresh fish for yourself. The popular family resort is divided into two; East Looe and across the seven arched Victorian Bridge is West Looe. The Looe River runs through the middle of the town and is lined with a collection of narrow streets, restaurants and cafes serving delicious local produce. The Banjo Pier that sits at the harbour entrance is a tourist attraction in itself with the main town beach beside it.  

St Ives
St Ives is an award-winning holiday destination, home to the Tate St Ives, offering a seemingly subtropical oasis where the beaches are golden and the quality of light is an inspiration. The picturesque harbour, which was once dependent on fishing, is a must visit attraction when holidaying in Cornwall. It boasts a golden beach along side the harbour, in which visitors can bathe and enjoy the suntrap that is sheltered by the Smeaton’s Pier. St Ives harbour and its beach are perfectly located in the centre of the town with fantastic shopping, restaurants, pubs and cafes at arms reach. St Ives harbour still retains much of its charm and there is still a small fishing fleet. 

Padstow harbour is a charming working fishing port surrounded by glorious sandy beaches, at the head of the Camel River, where watching the everyday ebb and flow of harbour life is a perfect way to spend a day. Although the fishing fleet in Padstow harbour has decreased over the years, various types of fishing vessel still head out for a daily catch, to sell on to locals and visitors alike. Surrounding the harbour is an abundance of quirky arts and craft shops selling Cornish goodies, cafes, pubs and restaurants including the famous Rick Stein Fish Restaurant. To explore the coast around Padstow by boat, take one of the daily trips from Padstow Harbour and see Cornwall at its best from a different point of view.
Charlestown harbour was built in the 1700s and is situated on the outskirts of St Austell, on the south coast of Cornwall. The original grade II listed harbour is split into two, separated by a lock gate which allows boats in and out of the two areas. The harbour has become a popular film set, showcasing its beauty in Alice in Wonderland, The Three Musketeers, Doctor Who and Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, just to name a few. There are pebbly beaches either side where visitors can enjoy the rugged coastal views and paddle, and there are small gift shops, galleries, cafes and pubs close by. 

The picturesque fishing village of Boscastle with its medieval past and distinctive natural harbour is one of Cornwall’s most romantic places. It is a village steeped in history, associated with authors and artists who have been inspired by its remoteness and rugged beauty. For fantastic coastal views take the left hand path at the harbour that leads to a slate platform where you can see the ‘Blowhole’ an hour before or after low tide. Boscastle's blow-hole beneath Penally Point is often called the Devil's Bellows. It can be seen thumping and snorting about an hour either side of low tide, blowing a horizontal waterspout halfway across the harbour entrance if the conditions are right.

Popular for retaining its original character, charm and beauty, Mousehole harbour is situated within a tiny fishing village in West Cornwall. The harbour is surrounded by narrow streets and yellow lichened houses which huddle together creating a stunning location. Along the harbour road you’ll find galleries, gift shops and restaurants and in the harbour itself is a safe sandy beach at low tide popular with families.

A trip to Newquay harbour is a must anytime of the year. Watch the brightly coloured fishing boats head out for their daily catch of crab and lobster, enjoy an adventure on a sea safari seeing a side of the north coast that you have never seen before, or simply sit back and relax on the harbour's small beach.    

Falmouth has the world's third largest deep-water harbour and is the country's first and last port. It is framed by Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) along the Helford and Fal Rivers and Roseland Peninsula, located on the outstanding South West Coast Path, a magnet for walkers, picnickers and families and is renowned as the one of UK’s premier day sailing destination. Its history abounds with tales of heroic maritime exploits and endeavours, from the days of the Packet ships and Trafalgar Way, to more recent around the world challenges, while its creative heritage boasts names such as Picasso, Henry Tuke and Man Ray. Today, as well as being a beautiful visitor destination, Falmouth is at the forefront of the region’s artistic and marine excellence.    

Fowey Harbour is situated on the south coast of Cornwall and is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the town hangs off the west side of the Fowey estuary where the large, deep water harbour is a magnet for the yachting crowd. As you walk the ever narrowing streets of the old town where medieval and Georgian buildings cast shadows over each other, a vibrant maritime history comes to life.  

Described as a tiny, picturesque, traffic free harbourside village with narrow streets of old fisherman's cottages and sail lofts, Polperro harbour is the perfect spot to perch on enjoy waterside views and indulge in a delicious crab sandwich from a local stores. Wander through narrow streets and browse shops filled with locally made handicrafts and confectionery.

Narrow streets and steep valley sides lead down to the centre of old Mevagissey where the distinctive twin harbour provides a safe haven for the many fishing boats that land their daily catch. Polperro fishing village sits on the South coast of Cornwall, just 5 miles from St Austell. Perch on the harbourside seating with a traditional Cornish pasty, take the ferry across to Fowey harbour or visit one of Mevagissey's attractions; the museum, aquarium or the model railway.

These are just a few. What's your favourite Cornish harbour and why? Let us know by commenting below.