Child Friendly Activities In Cornwall
Some of you may know that Matt, Elle and I live in North Cornwall, so today I’m sharing some of the things we enjoy doing here as a family. We know lots of you love to come to Cornwall on holiday and so hopefully some of these ideas and insider tips will make your next visit even more enjoyable.
Are We Nearly There Yet?
Getting here is without a doubt your first challenge. Having moved to Cornwall over two years ago, and now with a one year old and dog in tow, I’m pretty accustomed to 4-5 hour drives with plenty of stops. If you can, do the drive at nighttime. The traffic can be AWFUL arriving and leaving Cornwall at peak times and they are currently widening the A30 so it’s even worse. It’s not unusual to be in stand-still traffic for hours before you’ve even made it to Devon…which isn’t much fun with a screaming baby.
A top tip for service stations (!) Gloucester services on the M5 is amazing and on the A30 Cornwall Services has an amazing soft play area and is brand new and very clean. Ideal if you’re travelling to the very bottom of Cornwall, as you’ve still got a fair way to go. If you’re coming from London through Dorset – take lots of antibacterial hand gel – the service stations are interesting to say the least…Although having said that, Felicitys Farm Shop is a great place to stop (NOTE – they don’t have a baby change unit, but there’s lots of space and if the weather is ok, just do it outside).
If you’re coming from London or Manchester way, consider flying! Newquay airport is really accessible, they have car hire facilities on site and it can make what would be a day long trip, into a couple of hours journey. Plus it’s more exciting for toddlers and young children as they can move around. And once you’re here, you’re more than welcome to borrow my car seat for your stay if needed 😉
If the weather is on your side, whatever time of year it is, the beach is the best place to be in Cornwall, just wrap up warm and make sure you’ve got layers. The weather changes here within a matter of minutes, so it’s likely that you’ll need to add and remove clothes throughout the day. There are an infinite number of beaches to explore, but these are some I feel should have a special mention either because the are really easy with kids, or because they are simply beautiful.
Fistral Beach – probably the most famous beach in the UK, there is plenty of parking, really great facilities for kids and a fab pizza restaurant and a Rick Steins fish & chips. Whether you like Rick or not, there’s no denying – they are tasty. Plus there aren’t any steps so you can get onto the beach easily with a buggy (if your buggy is ok with sand).
If steps aren’t an issue and you want to be further away from people, park for free on the other side of the beach (head to Pentire, rather than following signs to Fistral). There are rock pools galore for exploring and a cute independent cafe called Bodhi’s which is right in the cliff edge (and does amazing cake). Then head up to the Lewinnick Lodge for lunch or dinner – there’s a log fire to cosy up in front of, or if the weathers nice, a terrace with views of the Atlantic that can’t be beaten and it’s very child and dog friendly.
Porthcurno – I cannot stress enough how incredible this beach is. I know I’m one to get carried away – but this is honestly like being in the Caribbean, the water is that blue. There’s a large carpark and getting to the beach does involve a path and some steps – it’s about a 5/10 minute walk, but it wouldn’t be too tricky with a buggy and it’s just so stunning you need to see it. (And it’s around the corner from the Minack Theatre – an incredible outdoor theatre with the ocean as a backdrop).
St Agnes – Adorable little village, with cafes/ice cream and a beach that’s just there. If you’re feeling adventurous, or have older kids, you can park at Chapel Porth (which has a National Trust car park and cafe) and walk over to Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes via the coastal path. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous walk but quite steep and definitely one where you’ll want to pop your baby in a carrier (and probably make your other half carry him/her)…
Porthcurnick – Really cute beach with a legendary beach-hut-cum-shed-cafe called The Hidden Hut that hosts epic feast nights, as well as serving sandwiches and soup by day. It’s not open til March unfortunately, but if you’re here out of school holidays, you should be able to park on the road to the beach, meaning that you can take your buggy.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING THE BEACH
– Check which beaches are owned by the National Trust – if you’re a member you’ll be able to park for free, which is handy as parking fees soon start to build up on holiday.
– Out of season, lots of the beaches are dog friendly, so if your little one is nervous about dogs, make sure you check this. And there are some beaches don’t allow dogs at all, so equally you might want to check if you’re bringing your own pooch.
– Cafes & facilities on the beach can be closed during the Winter months, so it’s always worth calling ahead or checking on their Facebook page as there’s nothing worse than not being able to warm up with a hot chocolate after a brisk beach walk.
– Always have change with you for car parks, hot chocolate, ice creams…lots of places are starting to get card machines, but there are still some who don’t, or lots with a minimum card transaction fee.
– Keep a large bottle of water in the back of your car for sloshing sand off boots – not all beaches have taps or showers like they do on the Continent and I’ve found sand in the car = grumpy partner, which doesn’t make for a good day 😉 Or just be organised and have a spare pairs of shoes in the car for everyone. (In the Summer, talcum powder is amazing for getting sand off feet as it soaks up the moisture, allowing the sand to be brushed off – a top tip from the lovely Lauren at Rock My Style).
Rainy Day Fun
It can pour solidly in Cornwall all day long and so you definitely need some back up plans for days out. I know lots of people shudder at the thought of soft play – but sometimes it’s an absolute requirement. Dairyland & Springfields both have excellent indoor soft play areas, for tiny ones right up to teenagers and out of school holidays, they aren’t actually that hellish. Plus if it means your little one burns off some energy so they go to bed at a reasonable time, allowing you to drink wine, that can only be a good thing! These two places have the added bonus of lovely things to do outdoors too, should the weather make a turn for the better.
Hawksfield is a complex of shops (think lovely homeware, upcycled furniture, flowers and local produce) and a great cafe called Strong Adolfo’s. It’s literally ON the A39 and so easy to get to. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some time while the weather is hideous. (This might be a good one for those on baby-moons or with tiny babies, as I’m not sure toddlers and fancy homeware shops mix…)
I literally cannot recommend The Lost Gardens of Heligan enough – it’s essentially an expanse of jungle, farmland and kitchen gardens open for exploration. They regularly put on activities too – this half term there’s a workshop for little ones on how to attract wildlife to your garden. You can take a picnic or eat in one of the cafes (which have just been refurbished) and basically just lose yourself there for hours. I prefer it hands down to the Eden Project, which is fab, but much more structured and sometimes a bit overwhelming. Although having said that, if you’ve never been before, Eden is a great day out, and a good one if it’s drizzly.
There are lots of pretty towns and villages to explore, but one of the issues I’ve found is that narrow, winding, cobbled streets aren’t the easiest places in which to negotiate a buggy. I’d avoid Padstow and St Ives for this reason – unless you’ve got your little one tucked up in carrier. My recommendation would be Coverack – it’s absolutely tiny, there’s a lady who sells pasties from her front porch, an adorable cafe with room for four people, one gift shop brimming with childhood memories and a harbour to walk along. And that’s it. But it’s very sweet, the beach is easily accessible and it’s round the corner from Roskilly’s Farm, which is FREE to visit, and another lovely place for families.
Falmouth is also a lovely place for a mooch – much easier to get around with a pushchair, there’s a lovely book shop, The Falmouth Book Seller, with an epic children’s section, lots of art shops to buy originals and prints from upcoming artists, great cafes & bakeries (Baker Tom’s is best) and lots of boats to watch.
Where to stay
I won’t repeat things that Charlotte and Lolly have said previously – but here are links to their features on Bedruthan Steps (family friendly hotel on the North Cornish coast that has thought of everything) and St Mawes Retreats (luxury self catering on the South Coast, with all of the additional things you’ll need to keep your little one happy).
And a final recommendation from me, the apartments at Crantock Bay are in an incredible location, with free access to an indoor pool and tennis courts, and with the gorgeous Crantock beach just a stones throw away. I’ve never actually stayed there, BUT have frequented the C-Bay restaurant a few too many times with the NCT girls and can report that it’s a lovely little holiday complex. All three places are perfect for a child friendly holiday in Cornwall.
Are any of you lovely lot planning baby-moons or mini breaks to Cornwall? If you’ve got little ones, make the most of being able to travel out of the school holidays, it’s wonderfully quiet down here at the moment. And as always, please leave any recommendations or tips you’ve picked up from visits to Cornwall in the comments below – I’m always on the look out for new places to take Elle too.
P.S. Images of Mabel at the beach at St Mawes and Elle at lots of the places mentioned in this post 🙂