This beautiful estuary on the west side of Falmouth Bay is a haven for sailors, gardeners and lovers of the quieter side of Cornwall.
From its wide mouth to the muddy creeks upstream, the Helford is loved by all who know it. Sailors take shelter in the entrance, moor up and have a run ashore to one of the waterside pubs.
On the northside of the estuary, close to Helford Passage, are the adjacent gardens of Trebah and Glendurgan. Both offer valleys full of sub-tropical plants dipping down to the water’s edge. The same can be said of the grounds of Budock Vean Hotel, which also has a golf course.
The main areas of settlement alongside the river are Gweek, Port Navas, Helford village, Helford Passage and Durgan. Helford and Helford Passage are linked by a passenger ferry that has existed for over 300 years. Both villages have popular pubs with views of the water where you can wait for the ferry to arrive.
For those who prefer the wilder side of things, there are many footpaths in the area giving access to some wonderful quieter spots. The South West Coast Path crosses via the ferry at Helford on its way to Falmouth or the Lizard and book lovers can wander through the woods to Frenchman's Creek, immortalised by Daphne Du Maurier.
The further you go up stream, the more the woods close in, access is restricted to the water until you get to Gweek where the Seal Sanctuary is a popular all year round visitor attraction.
Plan your trip
Everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to the Helford
Follow the M5 to Exeter, and then take the A30. Follow signs to Truro and then Falmouth. On the outskirts of Falmouth, head for Mabe Burnthouse and then follow signs to Helford Passage.
If you wish to visit the southern side of the estuary, it is best to head for Helston and follow the main road past RNAS Culdrose before turning onto the B3293 and winding your way through narrow lanes.
National Express serves Falmouth from destinations throughout the UK. From here the No35 bus serves Helford Passage and the gardens of Trebah and Glendurgan (April 2023)
From Helston the No33 bus serves the villages along the south side of the estuary. (April 2023)
The nearest railway station is Falmouth from where you can catch a bus to Helford Passage.
Yes, there are several small beaches where you can enter the water (which is often a little warmer than the nearby sea), just be aware of boats and other users of the river.
The South West Coast Path runs from the Helford Passage towards Falmouth and from the Porthoustock around to Helford on the south side of the estuary. A ferry takes you across.
There's also a permissive footpath alongside the iconic Frenchman's Creek, made famous by Daphne du Maurier's classic novel.
Frenchman's Creek is up river from the village of Helford on the south side of the estuary. It can only be reached on foot or by kayak.
It became known after Daphne Du Maurier published her novel of the same name in 1941. The story is set during the reign of Charles II and tells the story of a love affair between Dona, Lady St. Columb, and a French pirate who is hiding out in her husbands ruined house on the creek.
The Helford lies to the south of Falmouth and forms the northern border of the Lizard Peninsular. The north side is the easiest to access with good roads coming out of Falmouth passing the gardens of Glendurgan and Trebah before dropping down to Helford Passage.
The southside requires navigating narrow lanes through wooded valleys, but you are rewarded by quieter locations.
Discover your Cornwall
Long sandy beaches, hidden coves, rugged moorland, quaint fishing villages, deep wooded valleys, bustling seaside resorts, industrial heritage, rocky headlands, colourful gardens, idyllic rivers and a bijou city, Cornwall has a bit of everything for those who want to explore.
Your weekly dose of Cornish cheer!
When you can’t be in your favourite place all the time, catch up on the latest stories, upcoming events, holiday ideas, and offers with a newsletter straight to your inbox. Terms and Conditions / GDPR compliance: by providing personally identifiable information Visit Cornwall will use it to provide you with ongoing information about their products and services. No one from Visit Cornwall will rent, sell or lease this personally identifiable information to other companies or individuals.
Find us on socials and stay connected with the Cornwall you love.