Things to do in Charlestown: A UNESCO World Heritage Town

View of Charlestown Harbour

Are you looking for things to do in Charlestown? This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall, so unsurprisingly, there are many attractions here! From the historic harbour to various filming locations, this post should help you plan your day trip to Charlestown!

About Charlestown

Charlestown harbour

Charlestown started life as a fishing village called Porth Meur (which means excellent beach in Cornish!). It only consisted of a few cottages, and, like many other spots in Cornwall, it made money from the pilchard trade.

However, in 1791 Charles Rashleigh, who was living outside the village in Duporth Manor, decided to build a harbour and dock around the village. He also designed the expanded village. 

The dock was built to export copper from the nearby mines and helped to connect Cornwall to the rest of the world. It grew in the 19th century to become a bustling trade port used to export china clay, which was a rapidly expanding industry within Cornwall. 

However, its days as a busy port were numbered – as the size of ships grew, the port of Charlestown was too small, with boats favouring nearby Par and Fowey. 

Filming company Square Sail purchased Charlestown harbour in 1994 and used it to accommodate their sailing ships. It has since been the filming location of Poldark and lots of other movies. 

One of the main appeals of Charlestown is that it hasn’t really changed since its 18th century beginnings. This makes Charlestown one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall to this day! 

Things to do in Charlestown

Shipwreck Treasure Museum

Inside the Shipwreck treasure museum

The Shipwreck Treasure Museum is one of the best things to do in Charlestown. It is a great place to visit if you’re interested in maritime history, as it details the history of shipwrecks and different things that have been found on boats.

With exhibits on everything from the Titanic to local boats, there’s so much fascinating history to learn about here!

It only costs £6 to enter and it is open from 10am – 5pm daily.

Cornish moonshine shop

Cornish moonshine

If you’re after a Cornish drink to take home with you, why not try some Cornish moonshine

They have all sorts here, including 50% proof Devil water and other spirits of varying flavours, all with the Cornish moonshine branding! This drink is available to buy from the shop by the Shipwreck treasure museum. 

Charlestown Harbour

Charlestown Harbour

Charlestown Harbour is a really interesting place to walk around and definitely one of the town’s best attractions. There are loads of historical sites here, from tall ships to props used on film sets! 

Since Charles Rashleigh founded Charlestown in the 18th century, the town has been home to many traditional sailing ships that transported people and goods from the harbour.

Used initially for mined goods, but later on for transporting people – and nowadays for film sets – these historic ships still call Charlestown harbour home. I recommend walking all the way down and seeing the boats close up! Look out for Kajsamoor, a Nordic ship that has been used for filming Poldark.

The entire town is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it has been used for filming lots of TV shows and movies, including the ever-popular Poldark. As you walk around, you’ll see lots of historic boats and plenty of interesting harbour features!

Part of the harbour spills down to the sea, which is a lovely area where you can admire the ocean views. 

Sailing trip

Sailing boat Charlestown

You can do a fun day trip sailing on one of the historic tall ships. Trips on Anny run for three hours, and you can either sit back as you watch the ocean unfold before you or try your hand at the sailing itself! It is only £50 to do a tour. Here’s some more information about the tour.

Walking tour

Pirate ship in Charlestown

If you want to explore Charlestown a little more, you can do a walking tour around the harbour! Run by local guide Lyndon Allen, the walking tour aims to show tourists a different side of the town while going through its whole history – from Polmear to Poldark! 

The tours take 1 hour 20 minutes and run at 10:30 am, 12:00 noon, 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm every day. Booking is advised. Click here for more information.

Charlestown Beach

Charlestown beach

Charlestown Beach is a shingle beach by the harbour. It’s a lovely stretch of sand spanning between cliffs, which is the perfect spot to relax!

Like other beaches in South Cornwall, Charlestown was a hotbed for smuggling in the 18th century. This was due to huge taxes being put on everyday goods, including simple salt, which became the most smuggled item! 

There’s a cave on Charlestown Beach, and nowadays, people think that it was used for smuggling. What’s more, the cave connects to tunnels which travel to the harbour – these could have been used as smuggling tunnels! 

Look out for doves!

Doves in Charlestown

As you walk around Charlestown harbour, make sure that you look out for doves! The doves were used in the film Mansfield Park and left on location, and the town has now adopted them. There’s even a dovecote which they call home!

Poldark tasting

Poldark tasting

There is a small tasting stand by Charlestown harbour where you can try local produce, including cream teas and alcohol! Like many other Cornish enterprises, they have cashed in on Poldark’s popularity and call it ‘Poldark tasting’. Look out for it while you’re walking around! 

Other shops

Surfer shop Charlestown

Whether you want to purchase art or clothes, there are plenty of other shops to enjoy while exploring Charlestown, such as Surfbox, which sells surfer-style clothes.

Art galleries

Art gallery Charlestown

Cornwall is a very arty place, and Charlestown is no exception. If you’re an art fan, there are a few galleries that you can check out in the town!

Charlestown Gallery is perhaps the most famous. This gallery has lots of paintings, pottery, and more – and you can buy art too!

You can also head to the Craft Kiln, which nods to Charlestown’s historic china exporting heritage. Enjoy the shelves, which are packed full of pottery and other wares, and even purchase one to take home with you! 

Quay Road

Quay Road Charlestown

Quay Road is an iconic Charlestown road with beautiful colourful houses, many of which are Grade II listed. If you want to live the Charlestown dream for a few days, you can rent one of these houses out – many are now Airbnbs. 

South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path to Fowey

The South West Coast Path is a national trail of the UK, stretching from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. The path is one of the most famous and beautiful walking trails in Europe. You can walk part of this trail to Par and Fowey in the east or Mevagissey in the west and enjoy dramatic cliffs and the beautiful Cornish coastline. 

Porthpean Beach

Porthpean Beach is a lovely white sand beach in Carlyon Bay, close to Charlestown (you can walk here on the South West Coast Path!). It’s sheltered, has beautiful blue water and golden sands, and generally calm water – although there is no lifeguard service. There is also a toilet and a small snack bar by the beach. 

See the best Poldark filming locations

Charlestown Poldark

As I mentioned, there are lots of Poldark film locations in Charlestown!

  • Charlestown was used as the setting for Truro, Falmouth, and the Isles of Scilly at various points throughout the series. 
  • First, head up to Quay road, which is used as an iconic street in the series – where Verity goes to see Captain Blamey. 
  • Charlestown Harbour Docks were used for scenes in ‘Truro’. 
  • The Tall Ships were also used for various seafaring scenes, and the beach was used as ‘the Isles of Scilly’. 

You’ll notice loads of different filming locations as you walk around! 

Where to eat and drink in Charlestown

Harbour BBQ 

Harbour BBQ is situated right in the heart of the historic port of Charlestown. Either sit by the water or on Harbour BBQ’s own boat. Meals include burgers and dirty fries, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. 

Rum Sailor

Rum Sailor Charlestown

Rum Sailor is a popular bar serving lots of – you guessed it – rum! Whether you fancy spiced rum or another flavour, they’ve likely got it at the Rum Sailor, which has beautiful views over the harbour. 

Rashleigh Arms

The Rashleigh Arms is a lovely pub in the heart of Charlestown. It’s a great place to enjoy some classic pub grub and traditional drinks, with an airy beer garden. 

The Pier House

Pier House Charlestown

If you want to dine right by the harbour, The Pier House is the place to go! Its waterfront location makes it the ideal pit stop while you’re exploring Charlestown, and they serve lots of delicious local produce. 

Longstore

The Longstore is a lovely bar and restaurant in Charlestown, with cocktails and lots of options on their menu for both veggies and meat-eaters. You can either cosy away in the inside of the restaurant or enjoy the outdoor terrace with views over the tall ships! 

Where is Charlestown?

View of Charlestown Harbour

Charlestown is located on the coast of South East Cornwall, about a mile (1.5 kilometres) away from St Austell. You can easily access it from St Austell and Par and other nearby towns like Mevagissey and Fowey. 

The postcode for Charlestown is PL25 3NJ.

How to get to Charlestown

Most tourists drive to Charlestown, and it’s a great addition to a Cornwall road trip

It is also accessible by bus from Mevagissey, Par, St Austell and Fowey. 

Par and St Austell are on the main train line from London. Trains from these two stations connect to Penzance, St Erth, Truro, Bodmin Parkway, Liskeard, Saltash, Plymouth, Exeter and London. 

Par also has a rail connection to Newquay

Where to park in Charlestown

There is a paid-for car park in Charlestown, which is by the roundabout close to the Shipwreck Museum. 

However, if you don’t mind a walk, you can also park on many residential streets leading to the town. 

We parked on Church Road, which doesn’t have any restrictions. 

When is the best time to visit Charlestown? 

Beautiful Charlestown

To enjoy all of these amazing things to do in Charlestown, it’s best to visit on a sunny, clear day. 

As it is a small yet popular place, it can be absolutely rammed during the summer months, particularly the last week of May and the last week of July and all of August, which are school holidays in the UK. 

June and early July are usually the warmest months in Cornwall, but it can still be very busy. If you visit during this time, I recommend going at the start or the end of the day. 

Cornwall in September often sees fewer crowds and pleasant weather, and this could be a good time to visit Charlestown!

However, you can enjoy all of these Charlestown attractions if you’re in Cornwall in winter – but I would recommend avoiding the town on particularly windy or rainy days, as there isn’t much shelter. It would be a lovely town to visit on a crisp, sunny winter’s day! 

Places to visit near Charlestown

If you’re staying in Charlestown (see below for my hotel recommendations!), you might be wondering what there is to do in the local area. You could easily do two or three day trips by seeing all of the following attractions. 

St Austell Brewery

If you’re into beer, this is the place to go! 

St Austell is Charlestown’s nearest town, and the brewery is a great spot to learn all about its favourite tipple. 

St Austell beer is famous all over the country. The brewery is one of the oldest in Cornwall, and it owns pubs across South West England. 

A brewery tour includes a talk about the brewing process, details about the interesting history of St Austell beers, and of course, lots of samples! 

Brewing experiences are 11 am and 2 pm Monday to Saturday, and it costs £15.00 for a ticket. 

If you’re staying in Charlestown, the St Austell brewing experience is a must-do, as you can get the 24 bus or even walk (about half an hour) to the brewery, meaning that you can enjoy all of the samples! 

Lost Gardens of Heligan 

Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are situated near Mevagissey and are also located on the 24 bus route from Charlestown. 

These are one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall because of their uniqueness and mystery!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan were part of the Tremayne estate of Heligan (fun fact: one of the Tremaynes who grew up on this estate married Charles Rashleigh, the architect of Charlestown!). The gardens became overgrown and ‘lost’ at the outbreak of WW1, only to be ‘discovered in the 1990s. 

Nowadays, they are beautiful gardens, a fine example of Cornish horticulture and a wonderful place to go for a stroll. 

Mevagissey

Mevagissey is another popular seaside town, accessible by bus from Charlestown. 

Like many other Cornwall seaside towns, Mevagissey found its fortune from the fishing trade – in Mevagissey’s case, the pilchard trade. It’s still a working fishing port, and you’ll see lots of boats going out all over the town. 

There’s also a free aquarium and a toy train exhibition in town, as well as lots of shops and restaurants. 

Fowey

Narrow Streets of Fowey

Fowey is a beautiful ancient port town and one of my favourites in Cornwall. 

There’s so much to do here, from walking the historic streets of the Medieval fishing village to walking up to St Catherine’s Castle, which Henry VIII built as one of Cornwall’s coastal fortresses

It’s also worth taking a boat trip up the River Fowey and seeing Daphne Du Maurier’s old house. You can learn more about her and the history of Fowey in the Fowey museum!

Fowey also has a fantastic dining scene, with lots of restaurants, including Pintxo, a Spanish tapas bar, Bufala pizza restaurant, and the seafood restaurant Havener’s. 

See all of the best things to do in Fowey here.

The Eden Project

Eden Project, Cornwall

The Eden Project is one of the most popular attractions in the whole of Cornwall! 

Situated in two giant china clay pits, The Eden Project consists of two huge biomes that house a particular climate. One has tropical plants and flowers from a rainforest, and one replicates a Mediterranean climate. 

It’s a really cool place to visit – you can quite literally walk through the jungle in Cornwall – but it’s also important to learn about these different climates and how our actions here can affect them. 

The Eden Project a great place to visit with kids, but also fun for adults! 

You can either drive or take the D7 bus to The Eden Project. 

Places to stay in Charlestown

If you want to stay in the historic port of Charlestown, here are my suggestions!

  • Baytree B&B is a cosy bed and breakfast in the town centre. Rooms are basic but very clean, and the hosts are friendly and helpful. If you’re looking for a hotel in Charlestown, this is the place to stay! Click here to for more information.
  • Waterwheel Apartments are luxury flats in Charlestown. They have bright, airy bedrooms with comfortable furniture and balconies. Click here to read more and reserve your stay.
  • Lowen Cottage is a two-bedroom holiday home. It has all the features that you’ll need for a comfortable stay, making it your home away from home! Click here to read more and book your stay.
  • Carlyon Bay Hotel and Spa is a four-star property that is a lovely luxury place to stay. With two pools, a spa, a bar and restaurant, there are loads of facilities here, and the rooms are comfy, deluxe and modern. Click here to make a reservation.

The best Charlestown attractions!

Hopefully, this list of the best things to do in Charlestown has shown you how to have a really fun day trip or holiday here! It’s a beautiful Cornwall destination with plenty to offer tourists. Check out the rest of my Cornwall posts for more!

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