There are so many things to do in Falmouth. A historic port and defensive site turned university town, Falmouth has tonnes of history and an unmistakable hip, modern vibe.
Plus, this is coastal Cornwall, so there are countless beautiful beaches nearby!
Whether you’re on a Cornwall road trip or a staycation with the family, I highly recommend spending some time in Falmouth to see what the town has to offer. Spoiler: it’s a lot, and it’s one of my favourite places in Cornwall!
Falmouth is an incredible, unique Cornish town. However, it isn’t super historic town – in fact, it was only established in 1613 by Sir John Killigrew (although Pendennis Castle was built earlier!). Killigrew was the local noble family. They owned most of the land around Falmouth and dabbled heavily in piracy before (and after!) establishing the town.
The Killigrews created falmouth after a certain Sir Walter Raleigh visited and suggested they build a harbour here – it already had one of the deepest natural harbours in the country, making it the ideal place for boat traffic.
It expanded rapidly, and Falmouth became connected to the rest of the world through the Falmouth Packet. Boats left Falmouth harbour with messages to take to far-flung countries and then collected mail from these parts of the world before returning to Falmouth.
(By the way, the town’s newspaper is still called the Falmouth Packet, which is a quirky nod to its history!).
This meant that Falmouth was a multicultural place from early on, and it was somewhere that often heard the news before London.
The Falmouth Packet era stopped in the mid 19th century, when steamships took mail across the seas instead. It became a popular tourist destination, and Falmouth University opened in 1902, which changed the face of the town yet again.
Things to do in Falmouth
Historical Walking Tour
Falmouth Uncovered walking tours are definitely among the best things to do in Falmouth.
Run by a passionate Falmouth local, this walking tour is a wonderful family-friendly activity – you will learn a little more about the town and why it is such a special place.
The guide offers activity sheets for kids as well! Here’s some more information about Falmouth Uncovered.
Pendennis is one of the best castles in Cornwall and the most prominent Falmouth landmark! Henry VIII built the fortification in the 16th century – the king was concerned that the Fal River was vulnerable to attack from other countries.
Pendennis Castle and its sister, St Mawes, were built as coastal fortresses that could fire cannons across the estuary and attack any invading ships.
The castle was also used as training centres and lookout stations during both World Wars in the 20th century.
Nowadays, it is run by the English Heritage and operates as a historical site and museum. Don’t miss the Tudor castle, the bunkers and the WW1 exhibition. There is also a shop and cafe.
It’s worth visiting here in rain or shine – most of the points of interest are undercover, but there are extensive grounds and amazing river views over the Fal Estuary and Falmouth Harbour. Plus, sometimes, they have special events like jousting!
Click here to purchase your Pendennis Castle tickets. If you visit lots of castles, you could also consider buying an English Heritage membership. Click here to read more about this.
The National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum is a must-visit for all wannabe seafarers. This large museum explores the link between people and the sea throughout the centuries with fascinating exhibitions.
Exhibitions include the main hall, which is full of boats of all shapes and sizes, including the smallest ever to cross the Atlantic and a boat that six people were stuck in at sea for 38 days.
The next hall is all about aquatic creatures – both mythical and real life. You will also be able to explore exhibitions about Cornwall’s connection to the sea and the Falmouth Packet.
It costs £14 to enter the museum, but your tickets are valid for a year.
Make sure that you don’t miss taking a walk around the natural harbour while you’re in Falmouth!
Strolling around the harbour is a wonderful way to spend an evening and one of the most popular Falmouth activities. The seafront is a picturesque scene of boats and seafront houses looking over the estuary.
See where the city began
The Killigrew Monument is very unassuming and quite ugly, but it is dedicated to the family who started Falmouth.
The Killigrews were local nobility/ local pirates, who decided that building a town here would be a good idea due to its preexisting fantastic natural harbour.
You can pay homage to them at the Killigrew Monument located close to the National Maritime Museum.
Opposite the monument is the oldest part of Falmouth. Arwenack House is the Killigrew’s ancient estate and although the building has been renovated, historic parts still remain.
Check out the food scene
The food scene in Falmouth is one of the best in the country. With dozens of accredited restaurants, make sure that you spend some time eating while you’re in Falmouth!
If you’re after fish and chips, I highly recommend Harbour Lights Fish Bar. Kim Asia is another nice restaurant that is great for noodles (it’s hard to find authentic Asian food in Cornwall, but they do it really well!), and Cribbs is famous for Caribbean food!
Have a drink!
Falmouth also has a fun nightlife scene! While it doesn’t quite compare to big cities like London or Bristol, there are lots of pubs and bars which are great to grab a drink.
- The Front is largely considered to be the best pub in Falmouth. It has an extensive range of drinks, and they are happy for you to bring your own food. This means that you can buy fish and chips from Harbour Lights and eat it in The Front (as long as you buy a drink!).
- Beer Wolf Books is a fantastic pub for book lovers. It has a library in the pub, so you can grab a book while you drink!
There are lots of great shopping opportunities in Falmouth. Falmouth High Street has an eclectic mix of shops, from boutique stores to antique shops. So whether you want to shop til you drop or just fancy a bit of window retail therapy, I definitely recommend checking out the stores while you’re here!
Go on a diving trip
When you think of top global diving destinations, Cornwall doesn’t exactly spring to mind! However, the Cornish Diving Centre is one of the country’s best, and they provide diving and snorkelling trips to see different animals and shipwrecks in the nearby ocean.
Take a boat to St Mawes
If you don’t want to do an entire Fal Estuary cruise, you could take a boat over to St Mawes. This is a 10 minute trip where you can enjoy panoramic views of the harbour and the surrounding towns.
Boats to St Mawes leave from the Custom House Quay and the Prince of Wales Pier. If you go to the Prince of Wales Pier, you might be able to grab a return ticket for a fiver, rather than £9 (which is what we paid at the Custom House Quay). Just look out for these two huts – and purchase your tickets from the yellow one!
St Mawes Castle
Like Pendennis Castle, St Mawes was built by Henry VIII to defend the vulnerable Fal Estuary. This castle is a lot smaller, but it has some interesting engravings about Henry VIII and Edward I. You’ll also be able to enjoy breath-taking views over the estuary, Pendennis Point, and back towards Falmouth!
Take a boat to Flushing
Flushing is an attractive yet quiet village just over the water from Falmouth. It’s a charming spot where you can wander the streets and take in the peaceful atmosphere – a world away from busy, bustling Falmouth! There are also some nice pubs to try in the village. The ferry to Flushing takes 10 minutes and leaves from the Prince of Wales Pier. Click here for up to date times and prices.
Check out the Falmouth Beaches
There are lots of beautiful beaches in and around Falmouth town centre that are ideal for a relaxing day! Falmouth is on the South Coast of Cornwall, meaning beaches here have a rather subtropical air.
- Gyllyngvase Beach is the ideal beach for a family day and is the largest in Falmouth bay. It is a blue flag beach (which means that it is clean and safe), and there are lots of amenities, including toilets and cafes close by.
- Swanpool Beach is a stunning sandy cove just outside of the town. There are a few amenities here, including a crazy golf course and beach cafe.
- Castle Beach is shingle at high tide and has some lovely views over Falmouth Bay. At low tide, it’s an excellent place for rock pooling.
- Maenporth Beach – this beach is about two miles southwest of the town centre and has fantastic views and shallow water.
Trebah Gardens are subtropical gardens located close to Falmouth. With a beautiful coastal backdrop and a range of exotic plants, Trebah Gardens is like nowhere else that you’ll see in the UK. It’s a must-visit for garden or horticulture lovers, or if you want a unique place for an afternoon walk!
The gardens are open from Saturday to Wednesday and can be accessed by car (19 minute drive) or the 35 bus. Tickets are £12 for adults and £6 for children.
Falmouth Art Gallery
As you’d expect from such a creative town, Falmouth Art Gallery houses one of the most impressive art collections in the South West. Featuring over 2000 works of art, with everything from British Impressionist works to contemporary pieces.
It is free to enter the gallery, and it is open 10 am – 4 pm Monday to Friday, and 10 am – 1 pm Saturday.
There is a range of watersports that you can try on the waters of the River Fal or at Falmouth’s many beaches.
In particular, Gyllngvase Beach is a prime site for paddleboarding in Cornwall.
Walk some of the South West Coast Path
Pack your walking boots because one of the best hiking trails in the UK travels through Falmouth!
The South West Coast Path extends 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. This path traverses clifftops and beach towns, and it’s a bucket-list activity for keen hikers.
One hike you could do is from Falmouth to Durgan, about 8.6 miles or 14 kilometres. However, to get back to Falmouth, you will need to walk inland a little to Glendurgan Garden and take the 35 bus from there.
Alternatively, you could get the ferry to St Mawes and hike to Portloe. This is a varied walk, sometimes easy, sometimes more challenging. Unfortunately, the public transport options aren’t as good to get back to Falmouth so you may need to arrange a taxi for this.
Try some Cornish food
Cornish pasties are perhaps Cornwall’s biggest claim to fame. These are pastry-wrapped parcels of vegetables and/ or meat, traditionally served with a crimped edge.
Pasties were invented to provide miners with something filling to eat on their lunch break – they held it by the crimped edge with their dirty hands and then threw it away.
For the best pasties in Falmouth, head to the Dog and Smuggler. Traditional pasties are served with beef, swede, onion and carrot, but these pasties come with all sorts of ingredients, including lots of vegan options.
Cream tea consists of a scone, served with cream, jam and a pot of tea. Make sure that you put the jam on first in Cornwall – over the border in Devon, the cream goes on first! You can try a Cornish cream tea at Dolly’s.
Take a Boat Trip to Trelissick or Truro
Enterprise Boats run pleasure cruisers up the Fal Estuary from Falmouth to Trelissick, a National Trust site close to Truro. At high tide, the ferries can also travel to Truro! You’ll get a chance to explore the estuary, listening to a commentary with points of interest on the way, and will be able to disembark and explore your destination. Click here for more information.
Just a 10-minute drive (or on the 35 bus route) from Falmouth is Constantine Stores, a local convenience store. I know, this is a strange thing to put on a list of the best things to do in Falmouth – but wait until you see what’s inside!
If you’re partial to a few drinks, this store is a must-visit. It looks like a convenience store from the outside, but inside it is a treasure trove of beverages from Cornwall and worldwide. So if you’re stocking up for a week’s holiday or want to take some local booze back home with you, this is the place to do it!
Things to do near Falmouth
Gweek Seal Sanctuary
The Gweek Seal Sanctuary is one of the best day trips from Falmouth. The sanctuary takes in orphaned and injured seals who wouldn’t otherwise survive in the wild. It then rehabilitates and releases them when they are ready.
Some of the seals are not able to be released due to life-altering injuries. If this is the case, the sanctuary offers them a permanent home.
The sanctuary relies heavily on visitors to stay running, so I definitely recommend visiting – you’ll be able to see some adorable animals too!
It is a 28 minute drive or you can take the 35A bus from Falmouth to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. Booking is essential.
Lizard Heritage Coast
The Lizard Heritage Coast is south and west of Falmouth, and it’s a beautiful place to visit – either on a day trip or to spend a few days. There is ample opportunity to go hiking here, with treks like the Kynance Cove to Lizard Point walk.
Don’t miss other beaches and villages like Mullion Cove, Poldu Cove, Coverack, Cagdwith and Porthallow.
You can also do a range of activities on the Lizard, including coasteering and climbing.
Truro is a great day trip from Falmouth. It is Cornwall’s only city, and it is home to Truro Cathedral (the only one in Cornwall) and the Royal Cornwall Museum, which is perhaps the best history museum in the Duchy.
Truro is also a great place to go shopping; there is a pannier market with lots of local goods, and Lemon Street Market where you can buy souvenirs.
It is a half-hour drive between Falmouth and Truro, or you can take the U1 bus, or there is also a rail link.
Museum of Cornish Life in Helston
There are a surprising number of things to do in Helston, one of which is the Museum of Cornish Life. This museum focuses on work, education and recreation in Cornwall’s past. It is free to enter Helston Museum, and it is open from 10 am – 4 pm Monday to Friday, and 10 am – 1 pm on Saturday.
Helston is a 25 minute drive from Falmouth, or you can take the U4 bus.
Poldark Mine is one of the best points of interest near Falmouth. Although it has been named after the top-rated Cornish TV series, it is a historic working mine and is the only one in Cornwall where you can properly explore underground (with a guide, of course!).
Poldark Mine is only a 25 minute drive from Falmouth, so it’s a must-do while you’re on holiday here! Click here for more information.
Trelissick Garden is located halfway between Falmouth and Truro. It is a National Trust property with unspoilt views over the river. As well as the garden, there is also a historic house to check out.
Where to park in Falmouth
If you aren’t staying in Falmouth, you might be wondering where the best car park is.
The Maritime Car Park and The Dell Car Park are both close to the centre – the Martime Car Park does have a maximum stay of four hours, so bear that in mind!
If you want to park for free, road parking can be found towards Pendennis Castle.
Park and Float used to be a thing in Falmouth (ie. you’d park up and take a boat to the harbour!) – unfortunately, now it’s just your standard park and ride service. However, this is a cheaper option for families and large groups. Here’s the location of the car park.
Where to stay in Falmouth
Oasis House is a 3* property with comfy, cosy rooms all cleaned to a very high standard. It is in a prime location, just a 10 minute walk to the harbour. Click here for rates and to reserve your stay.
Pendennis Lodge is a cosy guesthouse just a five minute walk from the beach. It has boutique-style rooms and an on-site indoor pool. Click here for more information and to book your stay.
The Cutty Sark Inn is a luxurious place to stay in Falmouth, with bedrooms with four-poster beds and an on-site restaurant. Click here to read more and to book your stay.
The Best Falmouth Attractions
The many attractions in Falmouth make it without a doubt one of my favourite places to visit in Cornwall.
There’s so much history to uncover here and a contemporary food, shopping and drinking scene as well. Plus, it’s in a prime position to explore some of the best parts of Cornish nature on day trips! If you check out all of these places and activities while you’re in town, I guarantee you’ll love Falmouth too.