There are many things to do in Mevagissey, from beautiful beaches to charismatic pubs and cafes to stunning surroundings.
This Cornish fishing village is a charming place that feels a lot more local than other spots on the coastline, with cob and slate cottages that hark back to its historic pilchard trade and rich maritime history.
It still has an active fishing industry, and you’ll notice this as you walk around.
There are lots of places where you can appreciate its heritage throughout the town, as well as opportunities to see its beautiful coastline.
If you’re wondering what to do in Mevagissey, this post is for you!
Mevagissey is a Cornish village with a lot of history. The first mention of it was in the 14th century when it was called Porthhilly.
However, there has been a settlement in the area since the Bronze Age – this was proved when two Bronze Age urns were discovered in nearby Portmellon.
At the end of the 17th century, Porthilly combined with a nearby hamlet called Lamoreck.
The new village was called ‘Meva hag Ysi’, after St Mevan/ Mewan and St Issey. Hag is the Cornish word for ‘and’, so it meant ‘Mevan and Issey’ in Cornish!
Over time, the name evolved into what we call it now – Mevagissey. However, it does have a Cornish name, too – Lannvorek.
Mevagissey was the centre of the pilchard trade in Cornwall. Fishers would catch pilchards and export them all over the country.
However, because the crown imposed heavy taxes on salt, many locals got involved in the smuggling trade – mainly because they needed the salt to preserve their pilchards!
Mevagissey also has a long history of shipbuilding, dating back to 1745. It was one of the most famous places for boat building in the area.
Like all Cornish coastal towns, tourism has risen in Mevagissey over the last 200 years – although a little slower here than in other destinations. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of attractions in Mevagissey for you to enjoy on your holiday!
Why is Mevagissey famous?
Mevagissey is perhaps most famous for being the centre of the Cornish pilchard trade (and subsequently, a place where a lot of smuggling has happened over the years)!
Mevagissey pilchards were exported as far away as Italy and the Caribbean, and it is thought that the navy had some supplies of their pilchards, naming them ‘Mevagissey ducks’.
Its reliance on the pilchard industry has resulted in the Mevagissey Feast Week, which happens annually.
Mevagissey has also been famous throughout the years for its boat making expertise.
Where is Mevagissey?
Mevagissey is located on the south coast of Cornwall, just to the west of St Austell Bay.
It is about 6 miles/ 10 kilometres and a 15 minute drive from St Austell, and 15 miles/ 22 kilometres and a 30 minute drive from Truro.
How to get to Mevagissey
To get to Mevagissey, take the A38 to Liskeard and then the A390 to St Austell, before turning left then to Mevagissey.
The A38 is connected to Exeter and Plymouth – you can get to Exeter by the M5 (from Bristol, Birmingham and northern cities) and the A303 (which connects to the M3 and the M25 for London).
Is there a bus to Mevagissey?
Yes, you can also get to Mevagissey by public transport.
There is a train to St Austell from London Paddington, which goes through Reading, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and other stations in Cornwall.
From St Austell, you can take the 24 bus to Mevagissey. This bus also connects to Par, Charlestown and Fowey.
Where to park in Mevagissey
Willow Coach and Car Park is on the outskirts of Mevagissey (5-10 minute walk into town) and offers two-hour parking for £4 or all day for £6. So if you use this car park, you won’t need to drive through the town.
There is also parking available on the harbour walls of the town. This would involve driving through the narrow streets of Mevagissey and potentially having to reverse on the walls, which could be hair-raising! However, it is cheaper than Willow Car Park.
Best Things to do in Mevagissey
From history to scenery, there are so many things to do in Mevagissey. Here’s a debrief of the best!
Mevagissey History Museum
The Mevagissey History Museum is a fantastic place to visit while you’re in town.
If you’re interested in Cornish history, definitely visit here! You’ll learn lots of information about the town’s culture and some stories from its past.
Spanning over three floors, the Mevagissey museum is full of tales from the town, focusing on fishing, boatbuilding, pears soap (the owner is from the town!), and more. There is even a kid’s trail to keep the little ones entertained!
The Mevagissey Museum is completely free to visit. However, as volunteers staff it, it isn’t always open – check their website for up to date opening times.
World of Model Railways
The World of Model Railways is one of the best places to visit in Mevagissey and a must for train enthusiasts!
It features an expansive display with trains travelling through all sorts of different sceneries, including the city, countryside, and mountains.
You’ll also notice some distinctly Cornish features, like china clay pits and even the Beast of Bodmin.
There is also a ‘Junior Junction’ railway that has a Thomas the Tank Engine exhibit and an indoor garden railway that teaches guests how to build a model railway in their garden!
Whether you’re a train fanatic or just interested in seeing the world in miniature, this is not a Mevagissey attraction to miss!
Mevagissey Aquarium is one of the most popular free things to do in Mevagissey.
It won’t cost you a penny to look around (although donations are welcome). The aquarium has lots of local fish, and it is somewhere to learn about marine life in the area.
Nonetheless, I must say that I did feel like the tanks here were much too small, and I felt bad for a lot of the fish who were swimming in circles. We did pop our heads in to see what it was about, but I did then feel quite uncomfortable.
Animal tourist attractions can be very controversial, and although it is good when they are educational, I personally didn’t feel comfortable with the Mevagissey Aquarium.
Walk around Mevagissey Harbour
Mevagissey Harbour walls are a lovely place to have a stroll around, especially as it’s working harbour.
It’s the best way to take in the atmosphere of the coastal town; you’ll get a snapshot of local life with the array of fishing boats, as well as take in some of the best scenery in town!
The harbour has an inner quay and two outer harbour walls, which gave ships a safe place to dock. There has been a quay here since 1430, but it was then rebuilt in 1770 as the medieval harbour had fallen into disrepair and the pilchard trade was booming.
An outer harbour wall was built in the 1880s, although some of it was then destroyed by a blizzard in the 1890s.
Therefore, the harbour we see today has a mishmash of different styles and is a fascinating walk through time. From each end of the harbour wall, you’ll have beautiful views looking back over the village as well.
The Mevagissey Lighthouse dates back to 1896 when it was constructed to mark the south breakwater of the harbour, warning ships that it was there. It’s an imposing structure that stands out against the blue sky.
Walk through the old town
The narrow streets of Mevagissey are a wonderful place to go for a walk. You’ll notice lots of slate and cob cottages, which are typical of the time when the town prospered (around the 18th century).
Walking through Mevagissey feels like taking a stroll through another era, and there is plenty to admire while exploring!
Visit the local shops
From fudge shops to boutique stores, there are loads of places to get some retail therapy in Mevagissey.
Whether you want to purchase some souvenirs or just browse the shop windows, there’s plenty for shopaholics to enjoy in this lovely town!
- Digby’s Sweet Shop is a famous confectionery store to buy Cornish fudge or other sweet treats.
- Quay Craft is a gift shop right on the harbourside, and it’s a great spot to buy some souvenirs!
- Brocante is a boutique shop that sells clothes and artisanal gifts. They also have stores in St Ives and Fowey.
Browse the art galleries
There are tons of art galleries all over Cornwall – its sheer beauty has been inspiring people for decades!
Mevagissey has a similar beautiful light to St Ives, which has attracted artists for over a century. Although Mevagissey isn’t as much of a creative hub, it’s still a beautiful place that continues to inspire people!
You can see elements of this all around town. However, some specific galleries to check out are:
- Cofro has work by modern local artists; lookout for beautiful paintings, jewellery and photography!
- The Derek Preece Gallery has beautiful watercolours and prints of the local area.
- The David Weston Gallery specialises in oil paintings and watercolours.
Polkirt Hill is a beautiful place to catch a view of the town. You can see the entire town centre, the harbour, and the beautiful fishing boats from the top.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to the top of the hill, but it’s well worth it for the view!
Take a boat to Fowey
If you want to admire some of the beautiful Cornish coastline AND visit a different town without needing to drive, why not take the Mevagissey to Fowey ferry?
This boat trip will enable you to see some of the beautiful beaches of the area, and you might have the chance to spot animals like seals and dolphins!
Fowey is a charming town with plenty of attractions – scroll down for more information about what to do while you’re there.
The ferry costs £9 for a one-way trip and £15 for a return ticket for adults. For children, it is £5 one-way and £8 for a return trip. Bikes cost £8, and well-behaved dogs are free.
The times change, and boats can be cancelled due to bad weather. See their website for more information.
Seas the day boat trips
If you don’t want to go all the way to Fowey, you can do a 45 minute boat trip around the harbour.
As well as seeing some of the beautiful coastline and watching out for animals, you’ll be able to listen to a commentary about this area and ask your guide any questions!
Trips start at 10:30 am and leave every half hour. It costs £8 per person and is free for children under 3.
Tours are always weather dependent!
Walk along the South West Coast Path and Polperro Heritage Coast
If you want to admire beautiful scenery and do some exercise, you could go for a walk along the South West Coast Path!
The South West Coastal Path is a 630-mile long hiking trail popular with long-distance hikers, pleasure walkers and trail runners.
It will take you a long time to walk the whole distance – I’ve done half so far, and it took me two months (although I did stop at most tourist attractions on the way!) – but there are a few day or half-day walks you can do from Mevagissey.
A popular walk spans from Mevagissey to Charlestown, taking in some of the best clifftop views of the Cornish coast on the way. You’ll end in the stunning harbour town of Charlestown, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
You could also walk the other way to Gorran Haven, which goes past Portmellon Beach. This is a shorter hiking trail – Gorran Haven is 3.5 miles or around 6 kilometres – but there is no public transport, so you will need to get a lift, taxi or walk back.
If you want to walk a little further, you could walk all the way to the Dodman, which is a headland owned by the National Trust with some epic views.
Lost Gardens of Heligan
Mevagissey is the closest town to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. This is a beautiful garden with a fascinating story.
The Tremayne family previously owned the Heligan estate (fun fact: I’ve actually traced my ancestry back to this family – John Tremayne, who owned it in the 17th century, was my great x 8 grandad!).
After World War One, its acres of garden were effectively ‘lost’ – wholly overgrown and inaccessible. They stayed that way for decades until they were found again in 1990 and became the largest restoration project in Europe.
Nowadays, they have lots of beautiful flowers and funky statues. It’s a fascinating place to stroll around!
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm in the summer and until 4:00 pm in the winter. Tickets cost £17.50 for adults and £8.50 for children.
Caerhays Castle and Gardens
Caerhays Castle is one of the best castles in Cornwall, and it is located very close to Mevagissey.
It belonged to the Arundell family and dates back to the 14th century. You can learn the history of the building on a castle tour or simply stroll around their beautiful gardens.
You could also visit Caerhays Beach and Porthluney Cove, just a short drive away from the castle.
Mevagissey Feast Week
If you’re in Cornwall in late June, the Mevagissey Feast Week is well worth attending!
This festival celebrates Mevagissey’s fish industry and started in the 1750s as a feast day. Festival-goers would enjoy a feast tea, children’s sports, hymns and more.
Since the 1960s, the feast day became a feast week, with 7 days worth of festivities. It has been one of the best festivals in Cornwall ever since!
Does Mevagissey have a beach?
Yes, Mevagissey has a small beach in the town just by the west wharf. It’s not much bigger than just a tiny patch of sand, and you can’t swim here as it is in the harbour, but you can go out for a paddle!
Beaches near Mevagissey
There are lots of sandy beaches around Mevagissey, and enjoying them is one of the best things to do while you’re in the South Cornwall town.
- Portmellon Beach: this isn’t a hugely popular beach, mainly because it always has a lot of seaweed! But it is a sandy cove with rocks on either side. It has quite calm waters, but there is no lifeguard service.
- Gorran Haven Beach: this is a beautiful beach not too far from Mevagissey, sitting to the south of Gorran Haven village. The curved beach is well sheltered and has perfectly blue waters and the scenic Dodman Point to one end. There is no lifeguard cover at Gorran Haven, and dogs are allowed all year round.
- Pentewan Beach: This stunning white sand beach faces into St Austell Bay and is relatively sheltered, meaning it is popular with swimmers and watersports enthusiasts – although there is no lifeguard cover. The beach is owned by the Pentewan Sands Holiday Park, although it is open to the public.
Things to do near Mevagissey
The Eden Project is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cornwall. It consists of two large biomes sitting in china clay pits. One biome has the climate and flora of a tropical rainforest, and the other is the Mediterranean.
This means that you’ll be able to walk through the rainforest while in Cornwall!
The concept of the attraction is to educate visitors about these other environments and raise a meaningful discussion about the importance of global warming and what we can do from Cornwall to help save the rainforests and other places.
If you’re around in the summer months, check out the schedule for Eden Sessions, a series of concerts taking place at the venue, right in front of the biomes!
St Austell Brewery
St Austell is one of the biggest towns in Cornwall and is a mainly residential area.
However, it’s well worth visiting the St Austell Brewery. This company owns lots of the pubs in Cornwall – you may well have found yourself at one while travelling around the Duchy, or you may have drunk some St Austell beer!
You’ll have the chance to learn about how the beer is made on one of their beer tours. These include a talk about the history of St Austell Breweries, a guided tour around the brewery itself, and of course, some free samples.
Charlestown is one of the most popular places to visit in the area because of its famous harbour and film connections.
There are lots of Poldark filming locations all over Cornwall, but Charlestown is among the most famous. Its historic harbour is incredibly scenic, and the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s also well worth visiting the Shipwreck Museum to learn about Cornwall’s long history of shipwrecks.
Fowey (pronounced ‘Foy’) is a lovely Cornish town that dates back to the medieval period.
Sitting on the Fowey Estuary, there are so many things to do here. Readymoney Cove is one of the best beaches in Cornwall, and it is right by St Catherine’s Castle, a small coastal fortress that guarded the estuary.
In town, you can visit the Fowey Museum, take a boat tour up the estuary, walk around the quaint streets and pop into various shops, cafes and restaurants. Make sure that you try Fowey mussels!
Fowey is about 35 minutes in the car, or you can take the 24 bus the whole way there from Mevagissey.
This is quite a long journey (one hour 12 minutes), but it is direct.
Alternatively, you can take the ferry as described above, which takes less than an hour and lets you see some of Cornwall’s spectacular south coast!
St Mawes is not too far from Mevagissey, and it is a charming seaside village with one of Henry VIII’s castles.
Together with Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, St Mawes defended the Fal Estuary against possible European invasion.
St Mawes is also very scenic, and there are a few lovely restaurants and bars. You can also leave your car here and take a boat over to Falmouth, one of my favourite places in Cornwall.
It’s quite challenging to get to St Mawes from Mevagissey by public transport, but it takes 30 minutes in a car.
Truro is Cornwall’s only city, and it sits at the top of the Fal Estuary.
There are plenty of things to do in Truro, including the Royal Cornwall Museum which is an excellent history museum detailing Cornwall’s unique history, Truro Cathedral, Lemon Street Market where you can buy local food and drink and the Hall For Cornwall, where you might be able to catch a local band.
It is a 30 minute drive from Mevagissey to Truro. The best way to get between the places on public transport is to take the 24 bus from Mevagissey to St Austell Station and then hop on a train to Truro (this only takes 15 minutes).
Where to eat in Mevagissey
From ice creams to gourmet dinners, there are loads of places to eat in Mevagissey!
- The Fisherman’s Chippy is the most popular fish and chip shop in town. Selling fresh fish and delicious salty chips, you’ll love everything you buy here! Vegetarians can enjoy grilled halloumi, and gluten-free batter is also on offer.
- Alvorada is a popular restaurant serving Portuguese food with authentic and seasonal dishes. Don’t leave without trying a pastel de nata!
- For Cornish cream teas, head to the Teacup Tearoom, an adorable cafe in the town.
- There are also lots of charming town and waterfront pubs, each with their own charm and character. The Fountain Inn dates back to the 15th century and has an extensive pub menu.
- She Sells is a popular creperie on the seafront.
Places to stay in Mevagissey
There is a vast range of accommodation in Mevagissey, so here are some recommendations to narrow down your search.
- Treleaven Farmhouse is a comfortable guesthouse with cosy rooms with en suite bathrooms. There is a swimming pool on site and the hosts are very friendly and helpful. Click here for rates and to book.
- The Wheel House has deluxe rooms with comfortable beds and luxurious bathrooms. Some of the rooms have sea views, and there is also a holiday home on site which you could book out if you are in Mevagissey as a family or group. Click here for more information.
- Tremarne Hotel is an award-winning property right in the heart of town, with a swimming pool. All of the rooms are cosy and are furnished well. There is a restaurant and bar on site. Click here to read more about it.
The best attractions in Mevagissey
There are so many things to do in Mevagissey for all ages! It’s a fascinating place to visit in Cornwall to experience local life, so I’d definitely recommend seeing it while you’re in the area.