St Austell Bay: A Guide
The curve of St Austell Bay with its many sandy beaches is a haven for watersports and family holidays and is also fantastic for walking and cycling, with many woodlands and trails through a variety of landscapes. At its centre, the town of St Austell, has grown from the riches of the China Clay industry. Walk along Fore Street and you will discover the fine Holy Trinity Parish Church and opposite, the Italianate facade of the Market House. The town centre also has a cinema, restaurants, cafes and shops. To the north of the town you can learn all about the china clay industry at Wheal Martyn Museum and Country Park . This excellent open air museum is dedicated to the area’s all-encompassing industry and as well as displays of bygone work practices, you can also view the breathtakingly massive modern working pits where high-pressure hoses blast the clay from the ground.
The town is also home to the St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre near the railway station. It’s an interactive museum telling the story of over 150 years of pubs, beers, wines and spirits created by the Hicks family. If your really keen, book yourself onto a tour of the brewery, taste the beer and enjoy a proper pasty!
Nearby is the beautiful Georgian port of Charlestown, star of many recent films plus the odd Dr Who episode.The harbour is surrounded by a selection of restaurants and bars and you can also explore the Shipwreck Museum with over 8000 items recovered from wrecks around the world. Just along the coast, the Carlyon Bay Hotel offers quality accommodation, a spa and a golf course.
At the eastern end of the bay, the little village of Polkerris shelters behind its beach and harbour wall. It's a great place for watersports and eating! It's also the start of a coastal walk out to Gribben Head, a landscape immortalised by the author Daphne du Maurier who lived nearby.
Going west from Charlestown, the sandy beaches at Porthpean and Duporth can be accessed between rocky outcrops, but the cliffs soon grow higher running out towards Black Head where fantatic views reward a good walk. In fact, despite its industrial backdrop, there are plenty of pleasant walks around the St Austell area, including the Clay Trails which go through the heart of the pits and waste tips that tower over the town.
It's in one of these former clay pits that you will find the world-famous Eden Project, an ever evolving attraction where you can ice skate in the winter and swelter in a tropical rain forest all year round. If you would rather explore a more traditional garden, Pinetum Gardens on the outskirts of St Austell offers walks through landscaped woodlands and an authentic Japanese garden.
It just goes to show that Cornwall has more to offer than just the main tourist hot spots of St Ives, Newquay and Bude etc. St Austell may at first just seem like an industrial town, but explore a bit further afield and there's plenty to do and see.