Are you looking for fun things to do in Bude? This guide has over 15 activities for all ages!
Breathtaking beaches with crashing Atlantic Ocean waves. Countless bars serving fresh Cornish beer and cider. Epic hikes and family-friendly attractions.
This is Bude in North Cornwall.
Located just over the border from Devon, but still very much Cornish in every sense, Bude is a wonderful holiday destination (especially if you want to visit Cornwall but don’t want to go too far!).
Thanks to the facts that I live around 90 minutes from Bude and that I have relatives from Cornwall who live close by (I come from a very long line of Cornish miners), I visit this town frequently.
So, I’ve compiled a list of all the best Bude attractions to enjoy on your holiday here!
Read on for my best tips on how to get to Bude, what to do when you’re here and where to stay.
Best Things to do in Bude
The best things to do in Bude include chilling out on its laidback beaches, surfing, swimming in the sea pool, taking challenging walks on the South West Coast Path trails and heading inland to the Bude Canal. Read on for my roundup of the top Bude attractions and activities!
Check out the best 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 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.
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.
Hanging out at Crooklets is definitely one of the best things to do in Bude!
Widemouth Bay Beach
The incredibly picturesque Widemouth Bay is south of Bude.
Make sure that you stop in the car park above the beach (Google maps location here) for an epic view of the bay.
On a recent trip to Bude, my partner and I stopped here and watched sunset, which was absolutely magical!
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 is situated about 5 miles north on the coast from Bude (around 15 minutes drive).
When my partner and I spent a week in Bude last year, we 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.
By now, you should have guessed that surfing is one of the main things to do in Bude! But are you a surfing newbie?
Go surfing in Bude
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 charges £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
Bude Sea Pool is a semi-natural, free-to-use, open-air Lido; it’s definitely one of the best free things to do in Bude.
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 is a historic water transportation system.
It was built to connect 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 to 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 for about five miles, around the Devon/ Cornwall border and enjoy the gently rolling countryside.
The start of the canal is just behind Bude Harbour.
The Castle Bude is home to 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.
He’s one of the Cornish characters that my dad always told me about growing up – click here for some more information about my family history in Cornwall and how we were connected to some of the most interesting Cornish people!
During the Russian Revolution, Bude Castle was a place of refuge for Russian princes and some of the Tolstoy family, who evacuated their homeland after the 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 wonderful great retail outlets in Bude selling Cornish goods and artisanal pieces.
The high street is home to Banfords, a fun Cornish gift shop (I purchased a magnet here on one of my trips to the town!) 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
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.
Before a trip to Bude a few years ago, I searched for some up-to-date 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.
There was a flurry of media attention in September 2022, when word on the street was that the tunnel would be demolished, and everyone panicked.
But fear not – a spokesperson from Sainsbury’s reported in Cornwall Live that these vicious rumours were just that, and there were no plans to demolish the tunnel.
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 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 county’s 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.
Hike to Widemouth Bay Beach, Crackington Haven or Boscastle
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.
The Bude to Widemouth Bay walk is fairly easy and family-friendly – it should take you around an hour, and if you don’t want to walk back there are frequent buses.
You’ll take in gorgeous coastal views with the Atlantic waves far below, without too much exertion!
We did this walk as part of a longer hike to Crackington Haven on our South West Coast Path adventure last summer.
After Widemouth Beach, the path gets a little more challenging, but Crackington Haven is a nice place to end the hike. Although some more intrepid hikers do venture all the way to Boscastle!
You can catch the 95 bus from Crackington Haven or Boscastle back to Bude, but check bus times before setting out, as they only run once every two hours.
I’ve used D&D taxis in Bude before (phone number: 07895 527605) and it was about £40 for a taxi from Crackington Haven to Bude. Call before you descend into the cove of Crackington Haven, as there’s very little signal in the village!
Hike to Hartland Quay
You can also follow the South West Coastal Path eastwards.
This route crosses the Devon/ Cornwall border and takes you to Hartland Quay.
Now, disclaimer: this walk is tough. It’s 15 miles of a rollercoaster-like up-and-down terrain, and while you can stop at Morwenstow (the first village in East Cornwall), there aren’t many other spots.
It’s definitely the hardest hike I’ve ever done – and certainly the most challenging of all the South West Coast Path hikes I’ve completed.
However, it’s also incredibly beautiful, with some of the wildest natural scenery I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the world.
If you’re up for a challenge, take a look at my full Hartland Quay to Bude guide (I did the walk the reverse way round).
There’s not really a feasible public transport link, so arrange a lift for the way back or call D&D taxis (phone number: 07895 527605).
Best restaurants in Bude
Exploring Bude is hungry work, so here are some of my favourite restaurants!
In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of the gastronomy scene of Bude – especially when compared to places like Falmouth and Newquay.
But there are a few places to choose from!
A friendly cafe close to Crooklet’s Beach, Rosie’s Kitchen has a huge menu with everything from sandwiches and jacket potatoes to mac and cheese and fishcakes.
With an extensive drinks menu featuring the best local Cornish beverages, it’s the perfect place to kick back and relax after a surfing lesson or day on the beach!
We grabbed a takeaway here when we were staying in Sandymouth, and it was a delicious Indian feast with all the trimmings.
You can either eat in or take away.
Definitely worth it if you’re craving a curry when in Bude!
Probably the most popular fine-dining restaurant in Bude, Potters is definitely one to check out for a treat meal during your holiday!
Offering “small plates”, “large plates” and “sides”, Potters serves up dishes like Cornish cod, butternut squash and fennel and Cornish blue cheese salad.
There’s a huge focus on local food and much of their menu is fish-based (plenty of water around to catch seafood in!), although there are a few meat and veggie options too.
It’s actually been commended in the Michelin Guide.
Sometimes when you’re by the sea, you just want a hearty serving of traditional fish and chips – and The Mermaid certainly delivers.
We fancied fish and chips one night when in Bude recently and decided on The Mermaid after a lot of researching.
Enjoy fresh chips and battered fish, with onion rings and mushy peas.
Not the healthiest, but it’s traditional British seaside food – and for us, it hit the spot completely!
Other attractions in North Cornwall
There are so many places to visit along North Cornwall’s coastline, and you can easily access these from Bude (there are even bus connections to some of them, which is a bit of a rarity in rural Cornwall!).
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 with epic beaches and coastal walks.
- Bodmin (inland), the gateway to the dramatic Bodmin Moor and home to a few interesting attractions like Bodmin Jail.
Take a look at my full day trips from Bude guide for more information.
Bude is in an excellent position to enjoy both North Cornwall and North Devon’s attractions.
Just over the border, enjoy destinations like:
- 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 (both surfing hotspots!).
- Ilfracombe, where you can take a boat to the epic Lundy Island.
Where to stay in Bude
Looking for somewhere to stay? Check out 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.
I stayed in here a couple of years ago on one of my visits to the town, and found it an excellent value accommodation option.
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.
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.
Suggested Bude itinerary
Here’s how to put all of the best Bude attractions together in a few easy-to-follow itineraries!
One day in Bude
If you only have one day in Bude, head to Summerleaze Beach and check out the Bude Sea Pool.
Then, take a stroll down the Bude Canal, popping into Lower Wharf for a coffee or bite to eat.
Check out the Bude Tunnel (got to be done…) when you go to Sainsbury’s to pick up some picnic bits.
Then, drive or take the bus to Widemouth Bay to either partake in a surf lesson and catch the sunset.
Three days in Bude
Complete day one as above, and spend day number two exploring Bude Castle, Bude Marshes and visiting Tamar Lakes, before an evening at Crooklets Beach.
On day number three, either conquer the Bude to Hartland Quay walk (very tough), take the easier walk to Widemouth and have a beach day (easy) or hike to Crackington Haven (moderate).
One week in Bude
If you have a whole week in Bude, do the three days as suggested above.
Then, do some day trips for the rest of your time. Here are my suggestions:
- visit the theme parks close to Bude (perfect with kids!)
- explore Tintagel and Boscastle – two of the most magical places in Cornwall
- drive down to Newquay and spend a beach day here
- head inland to Bodmin Moor and Bodmin Town – don’t forget lunch at Jamaica Inn!
- visit the Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan on the south coast
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!
Where is Bude?
Bude is a small seaside town in the North of Cornwall, just over the border from Devon.
It is the main town of the North Cornwall civil parish Bude Stratton.
It’s around 1 hour 20 minutes from both Exeter and Plymouth, and just over an hour from Newquay.
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!
Bude is also connected to Tintagel and Boscastle by bus.
See my guide on how to get to Cornwall for more information.
Is Bude worth visiting?
Absolutely! If you like beaches, lesser-known surf spots, epic (but difficult!) hikes and a fun holiday atmosphere and want to experience the best of the southwest 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.
Visiting Bude FAQs
What is there to do in Bude on a rainy day?
Bude is known for its beaches, so it can be a bit disappointing if you’re visiting in the rain!
However, there are some attractions in town and close by that are all-weather.
- Bude Castle
- Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle
- Tintagel Post Office and Toy Museum
- Lanhydrock House
- Bodmin Jail
- Bodmin’s other museums
- Tarquin Gin Distillery
Is Bude worth visiting?
Absolutely! I adore Bude’s many beaches and it’s a great place to visit for a summery holiday in East Cornwall. Hopefully this guide has proved so to you!
What’s Bude famous for?
Surfing and beaches!
While Bude isn’t as well-known as destinations like Newquay and St Ives, it’s getting a reputation for having some of the most gorgeous beaches in Cornwall – and I definitely agree.
It’s also quite well known amongst us South West Coast Path fanatics for being the end of a very, very difficult hike!
Is Bude in Devon or Cornwall?
Although Bude is close to the Devon/ Cornwall border, it is very much Cornish!
You’ll see the black and white flag of St. Piran flying high here, and jam goes on your scones first!
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!