Padstow in Cornwall

Padstow is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Cornwall having enjoyed a huge rise in visitor numbers over recent years. The towns appeal is obvious; built around a picture postcard harbour, fronted with fine Georgian merchant’s buildings there are seemingly randomly planned streets full of quaint cottages interspersed with fine villas. This tells the story of a town that’s prosperity grew out of the fishing and trading. Padstow’s unique position on the NorthCornishCoast meant it was the only save haven for shipping for many miles in either direction. 

Padstow Harbour(130610)
Credit: © Chris Leather

Today the town is prosperous again, but now the money comes from a different industry and with it a host of cafes, shops and holiday accommodation. Some attribute Padstow’s rise in popularity to Rick Stein, a celebrity chef well known from numerous television series. Although this may not be the sole reason it has definitely played its part in defining the current Padstow.

 The harbour is still the centre of activity in Padstow, but again much of this is driven by the holiday trade. There are a fair few trawlers and crab boats working from the harbour but most of the activity is in the cafes and shops around the quayside. Most of the boats in the harbour these days are visiting yachts or the pleasure boats used for day trips up and down the coast.

 Whilst one can easily wile away the hours around this picturesque scene for those staying a little longer I’ve made up a list of suggestions based on a few of my favourite things to do in Padstow. Hopefully there will be something for everyone, including those with young families and it will help you to enjoy your holiday in Padstow.

1. Visit Padstow's Beaches

This stretch of the North Cornish Coast is renown for a number of fine sandy beaches. The great news is many are within minutes of Padstow. The closest are within 10 minutes walk of the harbour, a little way along the coast path. The glorious stretch of sand from St George’s Cove to Hawkers Cove is an ideal family beach. Facing into the Camel estuary it is sheltered from the sometimes rough Atlantic Ocean and there is plenty of space here for everyone.

Hawker's Cove beach, Padstow(130505)
Credit: © Anthony Brown Photography

A little further away and on the NorthCoast proper are the beaches of Harlyn and Trevone. Both are beautiful, big sandy beaches with plenty of rockpools and stuff to keep the kids entertained. They both have summer lifeguard cover and are located near villages, so have good facilities. Harlyn has the added advantage of being home to one of the areas top surf schools.

 An alternative for those not wanting to drive is to hop on a ferry across the river to the upmarket village of Rock. Once you’re done celebrity spotting you can take advantage of the large, dune backed, sandy beach that follows the estuary round to the coast. There’s always space if you walk far enough and if you head a little further you’ll arrive at another lovely beach, DaymerBay. For those who fancy a spot of surfing or posing (or both!) Polzeath is the next beach around.

2. Take a Boat Trip

There are no shortage of boats offering day trips up and down the coast out of Padstow. Whether you fancy a spot of fishing, sightseeing or wildlife spotting there’s a boat for you. And there’s plenty to see around Padstow. Just to the east are ‘The Rumps’ an impressive double headland jutting out into the sea. There are a few islands scattered around the headland most notably PuffinIsland - you can guess what kind of bird life they have here! Along with razorbills, guillemots and more. Heading west past Stepper Point and the beaches of Harlyn, Trevone and Mother Ivey’s is Trevose Head, another great spot for wildlife.

 Whilst what you might see on a wildlife spotting excursion will vary with the time of year there are a number of permanent residents such as seals, dolphins and any number of seabird. Most of the trips are run in summer when there are a host of visiting species to be seen. Basking sharks are common in the early summer and more exotic fish such as sunfish can also be spotted. Last year there were even reports of killer whales sighted just down the coast.

Seal off the Cornish Coast(130611)
Credit: © Chris Leather

3. Obby Oss Festival

The Padstow Obby Oss is a unique and ancient celebration of May Day or Beltane. It is suggested that, like these things often are, that it was originally a pagan fertility rite. Given that the main activity seems to be the two Obby Osses cavorting around town in search of maidens then this may well be the case. For those of you wondering what an Obby Oss might be, think hobby horse, and if that doesn’t help try a one-man pantomime horse. 

Padstow Obby Oss

4. Visit 'Padstein'

As mentioned some of Padstow’s popularity may be attributable to chef Rick Stein and he certainly has made his presence felt in and around the town. Running an empire of no less than four eateries, four shops, a pub and several accommodation options it is little wonder that some have dubbed the town Padstein.

Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant(130508)
Credit: © Cornwall Guide

Whilst I haven’t personally eaten in any of Mr Stein’s establishments the impression I get is that the food is good but it’s a bit pricey - exactly as you’d expect. The certainly appears true of the original Rick Stein Seafood Restaurant. A slightly cheaper option is Stein’s Fish & Chips which are slightly pricier than the run of the mill chip shop, but then the menu is a bit fancier too with the likes of battered scallops. The most modest option would be the café on Middle Street, just behind the harbour, where you could have coffee and cake and still tick Padstein off the list!

5. The Camel Trail

For those of you wanting something a little more energetic, although not too taxing then cycling the Camel Trail might be right up your street. The trail stretches from Padstow to Bodmin, via the town of Wadebridge, a distance of 11 miles. As the trail follows the route of a disused railway line along the banks of the River Camel it is fairly flat. Surfaced with all weather chippings it is suitable not only for bicycles, but walkers, mobility scooters and even horses. 

Cycling the Camel Trail(130510)
Credit: © kneafsey

There is some beautiful scenery along the route and plenty of wildlife, particularly wading birds. Anyone fancying something a little more strenuous can continue on the trail passed Bodmin as it climbs to the village of Blisland on Bodmin Moor. From here the views are great, as is the local pub!

 The Camel Trail is perfect for families and inexperienced cyclists as it is traffic free. The route is well maintained by Cornwall Council and even if you didn’t bring a bike with you there are plenty of places to hire one. If you don’t fancy doing the whole route there are lots of refreshment stops where you can put your feet up before heading back.


 I hope that’s given you some ideas how to spend a few days in Padstow. The list is by no means exhaustive and there are other things worth seeing and doing such as driving a few miles to see the weird and wonderful rock formations at Bedruthan Steps beach or visiting the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow. Alternatively, you can completely ignore all of the above and you’ll probably still have a great holiday in Padstow!