If you’re looking for things to do in Padstow, this blog post can help you out!
It’s got a full list of the best Padstow attractions, as well as tips on where to park, sleep and eat.
When tourists think of Padstow, they usually think of delectable food, a picturesque harbour and the dramatic north coast of Cornwall.
The town is fairly small – you can walk around the centre in 15 minutes or so – but it is packed full of attractions that appeal to all the senses.
Try some delicious food, breathe in the salty air of being so close to the coastline, gaze at the beautiful boats on the harbour and take a trip out onto the Camel Estuary or the ocean.
There are a lot more things to do in Padstow than originally meets the eye – and one thing’s for sure, you’ll be heading back here to visit time and time again.
I should know – I’ve visited Padstow countless times, as I live a short distance away in Devon and have Cornish family living nearby – so I often pass through the charming harbour town.
So, if you’re after a full Padstow travel guide, read on!
Things to do in Padstow
The best things to do in Padstow include enjoying its rich culinary scene, hiking around the South West Coast Path and taking in spectacular views, exploring indoor attractions like the National Lobster Hatchery and Prideaux Place and visiting the many nearby beaches, including Constantine Bay – and looking out for seals!
Eat at the many restaurants
Padstow is somewhat famous for its food scene, largely thanks to its celebrity chef Rick Stein who spent many long childhood holidays in town.
He opened up his famous seafood restaurant in 1975, which was the catalyst for other celebrity chefs (including Paul Ainsworth) to set up their own restaurants in town.
Nowadays, you’ll find not only Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant, fish and chip restaurant and deli and gift shop but also Paul Ainsworth’s Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at Number Six and Caffe Rojano, an Italian restaurant.
My mum, my partner and I once went to Caffe Rojano; we found that it had the best vegetarian options and lower prices than most other Padstow establishments!
I would definitely recommend the vegetarian pizza – my mum and boyfriend had the crab and salmon pasta and said it was delicious, although the portion size was small!
Are you after dessert? I recommend the puddings or cream teas at Cherry Tree Cafe (which has some vegan cakes!) or ice cream at Roskillys.
For coffee, head to Cherry Tree Cafe. I had the best plant-based cappuccino of my life there!
Other options include Barnaby’s and Prawn on the Lawn; the latter is famous for its fresh fish.
Personally, while I’ve got nothing against Rick Stein, I find his restaurants to be quite overpriced; you can usually find much cheaper dishes elsewhere!
Take in the atmosphere of Padstow harbour
A quintessential Cornish harbour with boats gently bobbing on the water, you can happily plod around Padstow, people-watching or spending quality time with your travel companions!
The harbour is always busy with boat traffic, and there’s a mix of pleasure boats and fishing vessels. Padstow’s harbour is mainly focused on tourism, but the angling boats nod to its historic seafood trade!
To enjoy Padstow Harbour at its best, grab a coffee from Cherry Tree Cafe (which is right on the harbour), take a seat on one of the benches and gaze over the river as it spans to Rock.
It’s no surprise that Padstow harbour is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall!
Do one of the popular boat trips
If watching the boats isn’t enough, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of passenger boats that you can jump on and explore more of the estuary!
Padstow Sea Life Safaris
Padstow Sea Life Safaris offer excursions to explore the wild coastline of North Cornwall, with seabirds and mammals like seals, whales and dolphins amongst the crashing waves.
The boat company offers tours like:
- one hour Camel Estuary powerboat tour
- one-hour coastline powerboat tour
- one hour seal safari tour, a two hour sea life safari tour and more.
Another option for boat trips in Padstow is Jubilee Queen, which has been cruising around Padstow for over 40 years.
They offer 1.5-hour boat trips at fairly affordable rates; from the deck, you can witness the stunning North Cornish nature and wildlife.
I was booked onto one of these tours during my last trip to Padstow – but it was actually cancelled due to the weather (which I didn’t think was that bad – although sea conditions may have factored into it) – so do bear in mind that these tours can be weather dependant.
Explore the Padstow Museum
Situated in the heart of town, the Padstow Museum showcases a mine of information about the town’s history.
Whether you want to learn about the ancient Halyn Burial Site, the origins of Mayday in Padstow and shipwrecks around the town.
The museum is staffed by volunteers and is free to enter – but donations are always welcome to enable it to continue running.
Learn about lobsters at the lobster hatchery
Discover some of Padstow’s loveliest residents at the National Lobster Hatchery!
Aiming to educate people about the importance of protecting the vulnerable lobster population in the area, Padstow is essentially a museum about lobsters and their habitats.
But you’ll also encounter a few opportunities to see baby lobsters themselves and lots of information about looking after our oceans.
It’s well worth visiting while you’re in town!
Tickets cost £7.50 per person, which mainly goes towards protecting the lobsters.
Cycle the River Camel Trail
What better way to burn off all that glorious Padstow food?
The Camel Trail is a disused railway that runs beside the scenic Camel Estuary.
It takes in some of the most breathtaking riverside views and wildlife of North Cornwall.
The 18-mile Camel Trail is predominantly a cycling track, although you could also hike or run along it!
It connects Padstow and Wenfordbridge via Wadebridge and Bodmin.
The gently-flowing Camel River is known for its rolling hills and beautiful river beaches.
Don’t want to travel the entire hiking trail? You could just walk to Wadebridge or Bodmin; the distance between Padstow and Wadebridge is 5.5 miles and between Padstow and Bodmin is 11.25 miles.
On your return leg, the 11A bus connects the three towns.
Padstow Cycle Hire rents out bikes at affordable rates and they’re also a mine of information about the Camel Trail.
Go beer tasting at the Padstow Brewing Co
Feeling thirsty after all that sightseeing? Head to the Padstow Tasting Co., a bar famous for its craft beer.
You can purchase a tasting flight of beer where you can try a few different brands.
Don’t like beer? You can also enjoy a glass of wine or a gin and tonic.
I also got some of the best olives I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a lot) there!
Or, if you’re in Padstow at 4pm on a Thursday, join in one of their guided tastings.
These run through six of their beers, with commentary on the different flavours of each.
Visit Prideaux Place
Step back into North Cornwall’s history by visiting Prideaux Place.
This grade one-listed country house, a stone’s throw from Padstow, dates back to 1592.
The vast Elizabethan manor house is open for tours, where you can explore the period decor and learn about what daily life in the house was like.
From the house, step out into the gardens and deer park, from which there are views over Rough Tor and Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor (Cornwall’s tow highest peaks).
Prideaux Place is privately owned – it is actually still inhabited by the same family that it was built for.
This means that unfortunately, it is not free for National Trust members!
See the best Padstow beaches
While Padstow is not directly on the coast, it is part of the Camel Estuary and there are plenty of sandy beaches just a short journey away.
- Harlyn Bay Beach is home to the Harlyn Bay Surf School, where you can surf or go paddleboarding.
- Trevone Bay is one of the most popular nearby beaches. It is one of Cornwall’s seven blue flag beaches and is popular with experienced surfers (although there is a powerful rip off the beach).
- Daymer Bay Beach is on the other side of the estuary – you can take the Rock ferry to reach it. The sands stretch from Rock to Polzeath. It’s not safe to swim here but it’s a beautiful spot for hiking.
- Booby’s Bay is a dog-friendly beach not too far from Padstow. It has many rock pools visible at low tide and is lifeguarded during the summer months. However, the water is often flagged as dangerous for swimming and surfing due to its position. This beach is for experienced surfers only.
- Bedruthan Steps are a little further from Padstow, but they are well worth visiting. Here, you can enjoy the dramatic rock stacks and stumps which jut out into the Mediterranean-blue waters. It’s a National Trust site and while you can’t climb down to the beach at the moment, they are well worth visiting.
- Port Quin is a quiet nearby cove that is great for paddleboarding. There are no facilities here, so come with a picnic!
Attend the Rick Stein cookery school
Not only does Rick Stein own a restaurant, a fish and chip shop and a deli in Padstow – you can also learn to cook like Stein and head to his cooking school!
Whether you want to learn to fry the juiciest fish or whip up a sumptuous vegetarian curry, the cooking school offers a plethora of courses.
Just one caveat – Rick himself won’t be giving the lesson, unfortunately!
Tour Tarquin’s Gin Distillery
Padstow Brewing Co is right in town, but what if gin is more your tipple?
Gin lovers head Tarquin’s Gin Distillery, located halfway between Padstow and Wadebridge.
Tarquin Leadbetter is the namesake of his gin company, Tarquin’s Gin.
After living away from Cornwall for a number of years, he decided to return home to Padstow.
Reliable jobs can be difficult to acquire in Cornwall (the job market is very seasonal) so Tarquin decided to try his hand at making craft gin, initially using his aunt’s shed for the creation process!
A few years later, Tarquin’s Gin was born.
Nowadays, you’ll see its distinct bottle with a wax seal in bars and restaurants all over Cornwall and the West Country – as well as destinations further afield.
I even saw Tarquin stocked in a bar on a recent trip to Malta- and it was voted World’s Best Gin at the 2022 San Francisco spirits awards
On a gin tour, you’ll learn all about Tarquin and his gin story and try some of his favourite tipples.
It’s excellent value – you effectively get four drinks included in the £18 for your tour.
Stay in town for the Obby Oss
Cornwall is famous for its unique festivals, and Padstow’s is no exception.
The Obby Oss takes place on May Day every year and is one of the oldest festivals in the UK.
With origins in Pagan customs, nowadays it celebrates the Celtic feast that marks summer approaching.
It’s become an exciting event to ring in the start of the busy season!
It is essentially a huge may day festival with giant horses with horse recreations walking around everywhere!
Sound bizarre? It is, but if you’re in this area during Mayday, you shouldn’t miss it.
Take a boat over to Rock
The Rock Ferry leads to – you guessed it. Rock, is a stylish village on the other side of the Camel Estuary.
This area of Cornwall is certainly the most star-studded, and yet another celebrity chef – Gordan Ramsay – owns a home in Rock.
If you’re not all restaurant-ed out by spending a few days in Padstow, there are some more to sample in Rock – I recommend The Mariners or Blue Tomato Cafe.
Alternatively, head out for a hike along the South West Coastal Path, which runs through the town (technically, the Padstow to Rock ferry is part of the path!).
If you keep following the trail, you’ll end up in the chilled village of Polzeath (pronounced Polzeff) – one of the best beaches for beginner surfing in Cornwall!
The ferry runs throughout the year, seven days per week for most of the year and six days per week in the winter.
It operates until around 4:30pm out of peak summer season, when it runs until around 7:30pm.
Camel Creek Adventure Park
Searching for family-friendly adventures?
Head to Camel Creek adventure park and enjoy the Clown Coaster and Creeky’s Water Rush Log Flume!
An all-weather attraction, Camel Creek boasts rides for all ages – from preschoolers to teens.
There’s also a mini zoo with meerkats, reptiles and horses and events like storytime and Halloween and Christmas festivities run all year.
Hike to Porthcothan
Although it’s not coastal, you can still access the South West Coast Path right from the town centre!
One of the best outdoor activities in Cornwall, the coastal path spans the entire Cornish coastline.
As Padstow sits on the Camel Estuary, it’s part of the path – as hikers need to head inland at Polzeath and take a boat over to Rock to reach the town.
Padstow to Porthcothan is an easy 13-mile (20km walk) on mainly flat paths or low cliffs.
Extraordinary views of the Cornish coast and beaches like Booby’s Bay await, with crashing waves beneath you and vistas towards Newquay’s coastline.
The Atlantic Coaster Bus connects Portcothan back with Padstow, making it a glorious day hike that you don’t need a car for!
Hike to Port Isaac
Fancy more of a challenge? Take the ferry to Rock and then hike to Polzeath, traversing eastwards to Port Isaac.
The coastal path starts resembling a rollercoaster as you reach Port Isaac – but the extra climbing means even more surreal views!
You’ll end up in the historic fishing port of Port Isaac, home to authentic cottages and filming locations for Doc Martin.
Other places to visit near Padstow
Padstow’s central Cornwall location puts it in a fantastic place for day trips – or you could even road trip around a few of the nearby locations!
From Padstow town, you can visit towns like Newquay (famous for surfing, bars and a range of attractions), Bodmin (visit for the moor and Bodmin Jail), Port Isaac (Doc Martin’s stomping ground) and Tintagel (for the epic castle). Here’s a bit more detail about these places!
Bright blue sea? Check. Towering waves? Check. A range of attractions for all the family? Check. Plenty of pubs and bars? Check.
Newquay has all the ingredients for a relaxing UK beach trip; making it a holiday centre for the country.
It does get busy (that’s what happens when your beaches are considered the best for surfing in the UK!), but there’s ample sand to stretch your beach towel out on, along with independent shops and restaurants.
Close to town, you’ll find attractions like the National Trust property Trerice.
Absorb quintessential Cornish fishing village culture by exploring tiny Port Isaac.
Famous for being the filming location of Doc Martin, Port Isaac is popular with fans of the show to see all of the filming locations
However, it’s absolutely stunning and still well worth visiting – even if you’ve never watched Doc Martin!
Hear the sound of seagulls cawing as you sit on the picturesque harbour or hike up the South West Coast Path to gaze at the stunning scenery.
Sitting high on a rocky outcrop, you’ll find the scenic village of Tintagel.
This village sits amongst some of Cornwall’s best coastline – hike either side of the village for breathtaking views from clifftops – and is famous for Tintagel Castle, which is allegedly where King Arthur was born!
This has been debated throughout the years, but it was certainly the residence of Medieval monarchs!
In Tintagel, you’ll also find the King Arthur Hall, the Medieval Post Office and the Tintagel Toy Museum.
Away from both coastlines, the town of Bodmin is significantly less touristy than many other places in Cornwall.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting.
Here, you’ll find the fascinating Bodmin Jail, a historic prison where Victorian convicts spent time.
Nowadays, it’s been refurbished to create an immersive visitor centre, enabling tourists to go right back in time and witness what the 19th-century penal system was really like.
Also in town, you’ll find Bodmin Keep, which serves as a military museum – and of course the foreboding Bodmin Moor.
This is a wonderful place for hikes and has the smuggling inn, Jamaica Inn, in the middle.
Where to stay in Padstow
Padstow Harbour Hotel is a four star property with spacious, bright rooms featuring deluxe, plus decor and modern bathrooms.
It is located in a prime position and is one of the biggest landmarks on the harbour. There is a bar and restaurant on site.
The London Inn is a luxury pub with modern bedrooms and bathrooms.
These are all decorated to a high standard, with all the mod cons that you’ll need.
The pub downstairs serves a range of local drinks and delectable food.
Drang House is a cosy guesthouse with comfortable rooms.
It has free wifi and tea or coffee making facilities in each room.
YHA Treyarnon Bay is located a 15 minute drive from Padstow.
It has dormitories, private rooms, a communal lounge and shared kitchen facilities.
It’s an ideal place to enjoy Padstow’s attractions and the nearby surf beaches.
Due to its proximity to the north coast of Cornwall and its position on the only sizable estuary in the area, Padstow was an ancient port, part of a Celtic trading route between Brittany in France and Ireland.
This saw Padstow harbour being created in the 16th century, as pilchards, slate, copper and tin were exported from the harbour, and coal, timber and salt were imported.
Many of the medieval houses are still intact today.
As trade developed, the town grew alongside, eventually becoming a genteel village where many people entered or left Cornwall.
Indeed, when people started emigrating from Cornwall, many did so from Padstow!
Trade was in flux over the centuries, with its shipbuilding industry reclining but the winter fishing industry growing. When the railway opened, tourism in the area soared, and in the 20th-century tourism became its main industry.
Padstow is nowadays famous for its May Day celebrations (the Obby Oss) and the midwinter festival Mummer’s Day. It is also a popular spot for foodies with a wide range of restaurants, as Rick Stein moved to the area and set up a few restaurants (and other famous chefs followed him!).
Where is Padstow in Cornwall?
Padstow is located near the North Cornwall coast and is on the Camel Estuary.
The mouth of the Camel is about halfway between Tintagel and Newquay.
Padstow is also close to the surfing resort of Polzeath and not too far from Port Isaac.
Where to park in Padstow
There are a few places to park in Padstow.
I’ve always used Link Road Car Park which is a 10-minute walk from town and you can pay for it using the RingGo app (the code is 8227).
There’s also the Padstow Harbour Car Park which is obviously close to town but is more expensive.
The Railway Car Park is also a bit pricier than Link Road but is closer to the town centre.
When is the best time to visit Padstow?
It’s always a good time to visit Padstow! Well, that’s not strictly true, but you can visit this Cornish harbour town throughout the year.
I would recommend avoiding Padstow in the peak summer months – i.e. the end of July and the whole of August. These are children’s summer holidays in the UK, and the small town is packed then.
It’s also busy during June, early July and September. However, the weather can be nice then as well. May, apart from the last week which is also a kid’s half term, can be a very pleasant time to visit.
April and October are shoulder seasons and can also be good months to visit.
Over the winter, Padstow is a lot quieter, but many of the best Padstow attractions are still open, so you can enjoy them!
Of course, the weather isn’t as reliable in the winter – although it’s not completely reliable in any month!
Can you walk from Padstow to Rock?
I mean, technically, you can walk anywhere in mainland Cornwall – but walking from Padstow to Rock would mean travelling inland, through Wadebridge, and negotiating several hair-raising country roads and possibly the A39.
Not exactly an enjoyable or safe hike!
Taking the ferry is a much more sensible option. The ferry takes 10 minutes and is a lovely way to enjoy the Camel Estuary. It leaves from this Google Maps location.
Why is Padstow so popular?
Padstow is a charming Cornish harbour town; it has been a popular spot for decades.
However, it has increased in popularity in recent years because all of the top dog chefs have moved in, and it is now known as the gastronomical capital of Cornwall.
Personally, I prefer the food in Falmouth, but that’s because I prefer veggie/ global food. Padstow is definitely the place to go to get fine dining, Michelin star restaurants serving fresh seafood!
Which is better Padstow or St Ives?
It depends on what you’re looking for!
As I’ve mentioned, Padstow is popular with foodies.
In my opinion, St Ives has better beaches and more to do – but it also gets very busy in the peak season (Padstow does too, but I personally find St Ives to be the busiest place in Cornwall in the summer!).
Both Padstow and St Ives are worth visiting if you have time!
What is there to do in Padstow in the rain?
There are a few things to do in Padstow in the rain, including:
- The National Lobster Hatchery
- The Padstow Museum
- The many restaurants of Padstow
- Beer tasting at the Padstow Tasting Rooms
- Gin tours at Tarquin’s Distillery
Can you walk to the beach from Padstow?
Yes, you can either take the ferry to Rock and walk to the surfing beach of Polzeath from there (about an hour) or walk to St George’s Beach, which is a Camel Estuary beach just half a mile from Padstow.
Is Rick Stein from Padstow?
You’ll notice Rick Stein’s presence everywhere in Padstow. He grew up in London but spent many of his holidays in Padstow and moved to the town after graduating from Oxford University, founding his first restaurant in 1975.
He is a controversial character in Cornwall, with some people horrified at how gentrified Padstow has become and accrediting it to him, even calling the town “Padstein”.
However, it is a nuanced situation. While Stein isn’t native to Cornwall, those closest to him say that he considers it home. He has also injected millions of pounds into Cornwall’s economy and created jobs for hundreds of people.
The Best Padstow Attractions
Whether you want to spend your days sitting by the harbour, crawling around Padstow’s best dining and drinking establishments, taking to the seas and looking for wildlife or exploring the Camel Estuary and South West Coast Path, Padstow delivers.
Whatever you’re style, you’ll bask in a wonderful atmosphere in this Cornish holiday town!