15+ fun things to do in Bude, Cornwall

Bude, Cornwall, South West England

Are you looking for fun things to do in Bude? This guide has over 15 activities for all ages!

Bude is a chilled out town in North Cornwall. It’s a lovely spot for surfing, lazing on the many beaches, and enjoying Cornish life. 

If you want to check out Cornwall but don’t want to drive too far (Bude is only over the border from North Devon!) Bude could be an ideal holiday destination

Where is Bude?

Bude is a small seaside town in the North of Cornwall, just over the border from Devon. 

It’s a popular holiday destination, particularly during the summer. It is the main town of the North Cornwall civil parish Bude Stratton. 

How do I get to Bude? 

The best way to travel to Bude is by car. To reach Bude, take the M5 or A303 to Exeter and then join the A30 to Okehampton. Then, drive across country roads to get to the town!

You can also travel to Plymouth by road or rail and then transfer to bus 12 to reach Bude.

See my guide on how to get to Cornwall for more information.

Beach in beautiful Bude, North Cornwall

Is Bude worth visiting? 

If you like beaches, lesser-known surf spots, and a fun holiday atmosphere and want to experience the best of the south west without having to drive too far, Bude is a great place to stay in Cornwall.

It does get quite busy in the summer, but you can generally always find a spot on one of its many beaches!

Best Things to do in Bude

Beaches in Bude

As with most Cornish tourist towns, there are bountiful sandy beaches in Bude. Here’s a short guide to the best: 

Summerleaze Beach

Beautiful Summerleaze Beach, one of the best things to do in Bude, North Cornwall

Summerleaze Beach is an expansive family beach with acres of sand. It is sheltered from most wind due to its west-facing position, but it is still great for beginner surfers.

It’s a excellent spot for strolling along the sands, practising your coastal photography, admiring the beautiful beach huts and just chilling out on the beach – there’s enough sand here for everyone! 

Summerleaze Beach is generally a safe swimming beach. The Cornish coast can be rough and wild, so do be aware wherever you swim – don’t go out further than you are able to and avoid it if the sea looks rough – but Summerleaze is certainly better than most. 

Summerleaze is also in an ideal location for the rest of Bude’s attractions. 

Crooklets Beach

Just along from Summerleaze is Crooklets beach, one of the most charming beaches in the town. 

Crooklets Beach is one of the best surfing beaches in the area – in fact, it has been called ‘the Bondi of Britain’ because its waves are so high! 

This popular beach is smaller than Summerleaze, but it’s really atmospheric – there is a beach cafe on site and its only a short walk from here to the town centre. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Bude!

Widemouth Bay Beach

Widemouth Bay near Bude, Cornwall

Widemouth Bay is south of Bude, and it’s an incredibly picturesque beach. Make sure that you stop in the car park above the beach (Google maps location here) for an epic view of the bay. 

Widemouth Bay beach is also popular with surfers and has some epic waves. But with acres of sand and rock pools, there’s plenty for you to enjoy, even if you aren’t a surfer! 

Black Rock Beach

Black Rock Beach is situated just to the south of Widemouth Bay. Named after the black rock in the distance, it’s another popular spot for surfing. 

If you visit this beach, be aware of your tidal times – Black Rock Beach becomes isolated at high tides. 

Sandymouth Beach

Image by Stephengg via Flickr

Sandymouth Beach is situated about 5 miles north on the coast from Bude (around 15 minutes drive). When I spent a week in Bude last year, I stayed in Sandymouth Holiday Park and loved the view over the cliffs to the beach.

This wonderful beach, the Easternmost tip of North Cornwall’s coast, is run by the National Trust. As it is such a huge sandy beach, it’s possible to find a sunbathing spot even in the height of the summer. 

You can hike over the cliffs here on the South West Coast Path towards Bude, or when the tide is out, it is possible to walk all the way to Summerleaze – but do confirm the exact tide times with a lifeguard before attempting this. 

Surf Schools in Bude

By now, you should have guessed that surfing is one of the main things to do in Bude! But are you a surfing newbie? 

Fear not – there are plenty of surf schools in Bude. Here are three of the best, that are rated highly on TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook: 

  • Big Blue Surf School charge £30 per person for group lessons, lessons running from 2.5-3 hours. They also offer specialised 1:1 surfing lessons for Autistic and Disabled People, costing £45 for 1.5 hours. 
  • Bude Surfing Experience charge £35 for 2.5 – 3 hour group lessons. They also offer Stand Up Paddleboarding lessons (see below).
  • Freewave Surf Academy are based in Widemouth Bay. They charge £40 for a session, and offer cheaper rates for 2 or 3 day courses. 

Bude Sea Pool

Image by Lee via Flickr
Image by Lee via Flickr

Bude Sea Pool is a semi-natural, free to use, open-air Lido. The tidal swimming pool offers a place for safe swimming and watersports – I meant it when I said that the Cornish coastline can be wild! Here, you can try stand up paddleboarding, or practice swimming with your children. There are normally lifeguards present at the sea pool. 

Bude Canal

Image by RPM via Flickr

Bude Canal is a historic water transportation system – connecting the hilly land of North Devon and Cornwall to the sea using tub boats. It mainly hauled lime-rich sand from the coast to the villages inland.

It dates back from 1774, although it wasn’t opened until 1825 and ended up closing in 1901.

It was revamped in 2006 and opened as the tourist attraction it is today. From the town, you can walk inland about five miles, around the Devon/ Cornwall border and enjoy the gently rolling countryside. The start of the canal is just behind Bude Harbour. Here’s some more information about this walk.

Bude Castle

Photo by Leigh Dodds from Flickr
Photo by Leigh Dodds from Flickr

The Castle Bude is home the town’s heritage centre, detailing the history of Bude. If you’re looking for rainy day activities, Bude Heritage Centre is your answer! 

Bude Castle has an interesting story. It was built by Sir Goldsworthy Gurney in 1830. Sir Gurney is known as Cornwall’s ‘forgotten genius’ – he is not very well known outside of Bude, but he made extraordinary contributions to the inventions of different types of light and heating systems. 

During the Russian Revolution, Bude Castle was a place of refuge for Russian princes and some of the Tolstoy family, who evacuated Russia after the Russia revolution. 

In the latter 20th century, Bude Castle was turned over to the council and was the magistrate’s court and the library for a brief period. However, since 2007, it has been the town’s interesting and compelling heritage centre. 

Learn more about the story of Bude castle, and life on the Cornwall Devon border, by visiting the exhibition! 

Bude High Street and Independent Shops

If you like shopping, there are some great retail outlets in Bude selling Cornish goods and artisanal pieces.

The high street is home to Banfords, a fun Cornish gift shop, or check out the Lower Wharf area, a group of traditional buildings refurbished to house shops. Bude Tourist Information Centre is also located here. 

If it’s raining and you want to shelter inside, take a stroll around and grab a coffee at the Strand Shopping Centre! 

Tamar Lakes Country Park

Just inland from Bude is Tamar Lakes Country Park. If you’ve had enough of the Atlantic’s crazy waves, this is a great family-friendly spot to visit!

The lakes are perfect for canoeing, kayaking or stand-up-paddleboarding, and the area around is rich with wildlife – ideal for birdwatching and hiking. 

The area is set up well for tourism – there is a cafe, should you get hungry, and a place to hire all of your watersports equipment. 

Rock Climbing Near Bude

rock climbing in Polperro, Northern Cornwall

Bude is right by the steep, jagged cliffs of the Clum Coast, which is ideal for rock climbing. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a newbie, there are rock climbing and abseiling opportunities available on these dramatic rocks.

Shoreline Activities offer beginner or intermediate classes, both on the Clum Coast and in nearby Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. 

Bude Tunnel

Before my last trip to Bude, I searched for some fun things to do in the town. I typed ‘Bude attractions’ into the search bar, and the place that was recommended as number one was Bude Tunnel. 

Unbeknownst to me, I’d just stumbled into a local joke. Bude tunnel is merely a plastic tunnel that runs from the car park to the entrance to Sainsbury’s. 

TripAdvisor reviews dub Bude Tunnel as ‘a life changing experience’, ‘better than the Taj Mahal’ and ‘a magical attraction’. 

Don’t get too excited though – it’s literally just a covered walkway unless you visit at Christmas, when it’s a lit-up covered walkway. 

I’m not sure if it’s a marketing strategy by Sainsbury’s or just an inside joke, but Bude Tunnel managed to shoot up to number one on TripAdvisor. They ended up banning people from making reviews. 

Now it sits at number 4 for things to do in Bude, with a handful of disgruntled 1* reviews from people who thought it was actually Cornwall’s Taj Mahal.

I’ll leave the decision on whether to visit Bude Tunnel or not to you – but even if it is a disappointment, you can grab some snacks from Sainsbury’s next door! 

Bude Marshes

Bude Marshes is another peaceful area set out of the town. They were actually formed because of the Bude Canal and the nearby railway, but Cornwall council made the area a Local Nature Reserve in 1981. 

They are one of the most fertile nature reserves in Cornwall, and they are a prime area for birdwatching and looking out for other wildlife, like otters and even snakes!

Theme Parks Near Bude

If you are visiting Bude with kids, there are a few fun theme parks in the vicinity. 

  • Camel Creek is one of Cornwall’s best theme parks, with lots of rides and the counties only 5D simulator!
  • Just over the border, Milky Way Theme Park is an intergalactic theme park.
  • If you want to cool down on a warm day, try North Devon Wakepark. 

Hikes near Bude – South West Coast Path

Bude is situated on the South West Coast Path, which is one of the best things to do in Cornwall and Devon. You can enjoy the sights by taking a hike in either direction. Eastwards takes you towards Hartland Quay on the Devon/ Cornwall border, and if you hike west, you will end up at the astounding beach of Crackington Haven. 

This part of the coast path is difficult – many people say it’s the most challenging part, so make sure that you are in good fitness before hiking. 

From Crackington Haven, you can catch the 95 bus back to Bude. If you are hiking to Hartland Quay you can catch the 218 or 219 from Hartland and return to Bude. 

Other attractions in North Cornwall

There are so many places to visit along North Cornwall’s coastline. Some of my favourites are: 

  • Boscastle, a National Trust owned village and harbour
  • Tintagel, home to the mystical Tintagel Castle
  • Port Isaac, a quaint fishing village which was the filming set for Doc Martin
  • Newquay, a popular tourist town
  • Bodmin (inland), the gateway to the dramatic Bodmin Moor

Take a look at my full day trips from Bude guide for more information.

Cove and harbour of Port Isaac, Cornwall, England

North Devon

Bude is in an excellent position to enjoy both North Cornwall and North Devon’s attractions. Just over the border, there are places like the following: 

  • Hartland Point, an epic clifftop area of North Devon and Cornwall’s coastline. 
  • Clovelly, a preserved 17th-century historic fishing village
  • The world-famous golden sand beach of Woolacombe and nearby Croyde
  • Ilfracombe, where you can take a boat to the epic Lundy Island
Lundy Island

Where to stay in Bude

Here are some of the best hotels in Bude.

Sea Jade Guesthouse is a popular budget guesthouse in the town, just a short walk from the beach. It has a high level of cleanliness and very friendly staff. Click here for more information about Sea Jade Guesthouse.
The Falcon Hotel is a famous historic hotel in the middle of Bude, not far from the popular beaches. The hotel twins classic and contemporary features, and there’s a restaurant serving delicious food on site. Click here to read more about this historic hotel.
The Beach is one of the best luxury hotels in Bude, with stunning modern rooms decorated in a beautiful nautical style. There’s a great bar and restaurant on site. Click here to read more about The Beach Hotel.

Here’s our full list of places to stay in Bude

Where to go after Bude

You may decide to spend your whole holiday in the lovely town of Bude. I don’t blame you at all!

However, if you are on a road trip around Cornwall or just want to extend your stay, you could tour around the entire county. 

How far is Bude from Newquay? 

Bude is about an hour from Newquay. You can visit on a day trip, as I suggested above, or stop in Bude before venturing further west. 

How far is Bude from Padstow? 

Bude is located about an hour from Padstow. Padstow is also a lovely Cornish town to visit – although because of the connection to Rick Stein, it gets busier than Bude in the summer. 

How far is Bude from St Ives? 

Bude is the other side of Cornwall to St Ives – it takes about 2 hours to drive between the two towns. St Ives is in a great location to enjoy Lands End and other west Cornwall attractions. If you have the time, visiting both towns on one Cornwall trip is a great idea! 

Other notable places to visit in Cornwall include Mousehole, Marazion for St Michael’s Mount, Polperro, Perranporth, Looe and Fowey

Bude’s best activities

Whether you’re spending a few days or a week in Bude, you’ll be able to make the most out of your holiday with this guide. Check out all of my Cornwall posts for more travel tips!

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