Things to do in Padstow: food, the harbour and beaches!

Padstow, Cornwall

If you’re looking for things to do in Padstow, this blog post is here to help you out!

It features a complete list of the best Padstow attractions, as well as tips on where to park, sleep and eat. 

With a bustling harbour, rich food scene and beautiful estuary views, Padstow is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall.

It is famous for being the heart of Cornwall’s gastronomical culture, but there are many more things to do here than meets the eye – and the stomach!

Try some delicious food, breathe in the salty air of North Cornwall, gaze at the beautiful boats on the harbour and take a trip out onto the Camel Estuary or the ocean. 

If you’re after a travel guide to Padstow, read on!

Padstow History 

Close Up Almshouses Padstow

Due to its proximity to the north coast of Cornwall and 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 harbour village where many people entered or left Cornwall. Indeed, when people started emigrating from Cornwall, many left from Padstow! 

Trade was in flux over the centuries, with Padstow’s shipbuilding industry declining but the winter fishing industry growing.

Tourism in the area soared when the railway opened, becoming its main industry in the 20th century.

Padstow is nowadays famous for its Mayday celebrations (the Obby Oss), it picturesque harbour and its stunning surrounding beaches.

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, on the Camel Estuary.

The mouth of the River 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. 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. 

Things to do in Padstow

Eat at the many restaurants

Caffe Rojano Pizza Padstow

Padstow is famous for its food scene, thanks to its celebrity chef Rick Stein and others.

Rick Stein owns a seafood restaurant, a fish and chip restaurant and a deli and gift shop, and Paul Ainsworth chairmans the Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at Number Six and Caffe Rojano, an Italian eatery. 

I visited Padstow with my mum and my boyfriend in September, and we went to Caffe Rojano, which has a delicious menu of pizza and pasta.

It is also the only restaurant I found that had vegan options. That being said, I had the non-vegan pizza!

I would definitely recommend the pizza. My mum and boyfriend had the crab and salmon pasta and said it was delicious too, 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. 

Cherry's Padstow Cakes

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, which is famous for its fresh fish.

Take in the atmosphere of Padstow harbour

Padstow Harbour is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall. It is a quintessential Cornish harbour and is a lovely place to stroll around or sit and people watch.

Grab a takeaway coffee from Cherry Tree Cafe and walk around or take a seat on one of the benches, looking at the boats and admiring the estuary views across to Rock. It’s a classic Padstow activity!

Padstow Harbour in North Cornwall

Do one of the popular boat trips

There are lots of boat trip opportunities to enjoy in and around Padstow. They are a fantastic chance to see the wild coastline of North Cornwall and to enjoy some of Padstow’s beaches.

You can also go on a Padstow sealife safari, where you may see seabirds and mammals like seals, whales and dolphins. 

There are two companies that you can book boat trips with. Padstow Sea Life Safaris offer:

  • a one hour Camel Estuary powerboat tour
  • a one hour coastline powerboat tour
  • a one hour seal safari tour
  • a two hour sea life safari tour
  • and more! You can see their offerings here.
Fishing boat arrives in the port of Padstow at the Camel estuary in north Cornwall.

Jubilee Queen is a boat that has been cruising around Padstow for over 40 years. They offer 1.5 hour boat trips at fairly affordable rates, where you can see beautiful North Cornish nature and wildlife.

Unfortunately, when we were in Padstow, we couldn’t do their tour as it was cancelled because of the weather. You can see their website here.

Explore the Padstow Museum

Padstow Museum

The Padstow Museum is one of the best places to visit in Padstow. It is located in the town centre and is a mine of information about the town’s history.

It is staffed by volunteers and is free to enter, but donations are welcome to enable it to continue running. 

Learn about lobsters at the lobster hatchery

The National Lobster Hatchery aims to educate people about the importance of protecting the vulnerable lobster population in the area.

It is essentially a museum and exhibition about lobsters, with 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 includes a big donation to protecting the lobsters and other marine life.

Padstow Lobster Photos

Cycle the River Camel Trail

The Camel Trail is a disused railway that runs beside the scenic Camel Estuary, taking in some of the best riverside views and wildlife of North Cornwall.

The 18 mile route is predominantly a cycling track, although hiking is also an option. It connects Padstow and Wenfordbridge via Wadebridge and Bodmin.

The distance between Padstow and Wadebridge is 5.5 miles and Padstow and Bodmin is 11.25 miles. The 11A bus connects the three towns.  

If you don’t have a bike with you, Padstow Cycle Hire rents out bikes at affordable rates. They are also a mine of information about the Camel Trail!

Go beer tasting at the Padstow tasting co

The Padstow Tasting Co. is a bar that is famous for its beers.

You can purchase a sample platter 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! 

Beer Tasting Rooms Padstow

Prideaux Place

Prideaux Place is a grade one listed country house close to Padstow.

Built in the Elizabethan period in 1592, this vast manor house is open for tours and you can also visit the gardens and deer park, from which there are views to Rough Tor and Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor.

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!

You can read more about Prideaux Place on their website.

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! 

You can read all about the beautiful beaches near Padstow in this blog post.

Attend the Rick Stein cookery school

Rick Stein doesn’t just have multiple restaurants in Padstow, but he also has a cooking school!

There are lots of courses for different cuisines; you can learn to cook everything from curry to seafood.

If you are a vegetarian, there are also options available.

You can see all of the options and book on the Rick Stein cookery school website. 

Tour Tarquin’s Gin Distillery

bottle of gin and mixer Tarquins near Padstow

Tarquin’s Gin Distillery is located halfway between Padstow and Wadebridge and is a fantastic place to visit near Padstow if you’re a gin lover!

Tarquin’s Gin was created by a certain man named Tarquin – after living away from Cornwall, he decided to return to Padstow and try his hand at making craft gin.

A few years later, and Tarquin’s Gin Distillery 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. 

You can learn all about Tarquin and his gin story and try some of his favourite tipples on a tour of the Tarquin’s Gin Distillery.

You can read my full post about the Tarquin’s Gin Distillery here.

Tarquins near Padstow bird

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.

It has origins in pagan customs but celebrates the Celtic feast that marks summer approaching.

It is essentially a huge Mayday festival with giant horses with horse recreations walking around everywhere!

It is bizarre, and if you’re in this area during Mayday, you shouldn’t miss it.

Padstow Obby Oss

Take a boat over to Rock

The Rock Ferry connects to Rock, a stylish village on the other side of the Camel Estuary.

There are a few decent restaurants here – try The Mariners or Blue Tomato Cafe – and you can also go on a lovely walk along the South West Coastal Path.

If you keep following the trail, you’ll end up in the chilled village of Polzeath (pronounced Polzeff) – which is the perfect place to try surfing! 

The Rock Ferry connects the two settlements and runs every 20 minutes from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm in the peak season. It costs £3.00 for an adult and £2.00 for a child’s return. 

Camel Creek Adventure Park 

If you’re looking for things to do in Padstow with kids, look no further than Camel Creek adventure park.

Sitting just a few miles from the town, this family-friendly attraction has rides like a clown coaster and creeky’s water rush log flume. 

Hike to Porthcothan 

Although Padstow isn’t right on the coast, it is part of the South West Coast Path – and hiking this is one of the best things to do in Cornwall!

Padstow to Porthcothan is an easy 13 mile (20km walk) on mainly flat paths or low cliffs.

You’ll take in some fantastic views of the Cornish coast and beaches like Booby’s Bay. From Porthcothan, you can take a bus back to Padstow. 

Hike to Port Isaac

Cove and harbour of Port Isaac, Cornwall, England

If you take the boat to Rock, you can hike the South West Coast Path the other way to Port Isaac.

This is a slightly harder walk as you get towards Port Isaac, but the beautiful coastline views are absolutely stunning.

Plus, you end up in the glorious village of Port Isaac, where Doc Martin was filmed. 

Other places to visit near Padstow

Padstow is in a prime location to go on a Cornwall road trip and see lots of other towns and attractions. Don’t miss: 

Newquay

Newquay harbour, Cornwall, South West England

Newquay is a popular Cornish coastal town with epic beaches, excellent dining and lots of shops, bars and pubs. It gets jam-packed in the summer, but it’s a fantastic spot with a great atmosphere. 

Don’t miss Towan Beach, surfing at Fistral Beach, its fun nightlife and street food market by Newquay Harbour.

Here are all the best things to do in Newquay.

Port Isaac

Sunset in Port Isaac, Cornwall, South West England

Port Isaac is a picturesque village that is famous for being the filming location of Doc Martin.

It’s popular with fans of the show to see all of the filming locations, however, it’s absolutely stunning and well worth visiting if you’ve never watched Doc Martin!

Don’t miss the historic harbour, the authentic pubs and restaurants and a Doc Martin walking tour (if you’re a fan of the show!).

You can see all the best things to do in Port Isaac here.

Tintagel

Merlin statue at Tintagel

Tintagel is a scenic village with breathtaking views of the Cornish coastline.

It is most famous for Tintagel Castle, which is allegedly where King Arthur was born. There’s also the King Arthur Hall, the Medieval Post Office and the Tintagel Toy Museum. 

Bodmin

Golden Glow, The Cheesewring, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Bodmin town isn’t the most touristy place in Cornwall, but it has a few interesting attractions, such as Bodmin Jail.

There’s also Bodmin Keep and, of course, the foreboding Bodmin Moor which is a wonderful place for hikes.

In the middle of Bodmin Moor sits Jamaica Inn, a somewhat infamous smuggler’s inn where you can stay the night.

Here are all of the best things to do in Bodmin.

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. Click here to read more.

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. Click here for more information.

Drang House is a cosy guesthouse with comfortable rooms. It has free wifi and tea or coffee making facilities in each room. Click here to read more.

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. Click here for more information.

Padstow FAQs

When is the best time to visit Padstow? 

Coloured Houses in 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! 

Here’s some more information about the best time to visit Cornwall.

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 Busy Streets

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? 

Beautiful St. Ives bay in Cornwall, UK

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? 

Padstow Tasting Rooms Outside

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

You can see all of the best things to do in Cornwall in the rain here.

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

From eating at restaurants to enjoying the North Cornish scenery, there are so many things to do in Padstow. Check out the rest of my Cornwall posts to help with the rest of your trip planning!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *