If you’re into beautiful fishing harbours, historic houses lined along quaint cobbled streets, and epic views spanning over coast and country, Port Isaac is one of the best places for you to visit in Cornwall. Most famous perhaps for appearing in ITV’s Doc Martin, the scenic fishing village is a delightful film set, but it is also well worth visiting if you don’t like the show.
As well as a charming beach, Port Isaac has friendly cafes, a strong local culture, and staggeringly beautiful walks just by the town – it is on the South West coastal path, so you can hike from here over the cliffs to other beautiful villages.
As it is close to other spots in Cornwall, such as Newquay, Bodmin, and Bude, Port Isaac is a lovely village to stay in for those who want somewhere quiet and relaxing, and don’t mind driving a little to see places outside of the village. It’s also a popular stop on a road trip around Cornwall.
How to get to Port Isaac
Port Isaac is located around 10 miles off the A39, which stretches from Minehead in Somerset to Falmouth on the south Cornish coast. Port Isaac was built in the 14th century, long before the advent of motor cars, and the roads reflect that. You won’t want to drive into the town – park at the Main Car Park and walk. It’s around 10 minutes to the centre.
Things to do in Port Isaac
Doc Martin Tour
A 1.5 hour Doc Martin tour will show you around the village and many of the settings used in the popular TV series. You’ll see where Doc Martin lives, where certain pivotal moments of the series took place, and learn some fun trivia about the show. The tour takes 1.5 hours – click here to read more about it and book your spot.
Doc Martin’s House
If you don’t do a tour, it is still easy to spot Doc’s house and surgery which is in Fern Cottage (google maps location here). It is a private property, so don’t go trespassing, but it’s interesting to walk past!
Louisa’s school is actually a restaurant in real life. However, you’ll notice the building and the large carpark which was turned into a playground in the TV series.
Walk to Port Gaverne
Just half a mile from Port Isaac is Port Gaverne. You can take a stroll here, along the South West Coast Path, and enjoy the sheltered beach with rockpools, as well as the 17th century inn.
Walk to Port Quin
This is a slightly longer walk of around 3.5 miles, You’ll be able to take in the stunning scenery before arriving Port Quin, and also look out for Doyden Castle, which is famous for appearing in Poldark.
Explore the small shops and cafes of the village
Despite being a small village, Port Isaac has plenty to offer tourists. The small cobbled roads are lined with shops and cafes, where you can purchase a cup of coffee or admire some locally made products. Be sure to factor in some time in Port Isaac for just walking around the village – there is plenty to admire!
Boat trips – see dolphins!
As you’d expect from a harbour town, there are plenty of opportunities to see Port Isaac’s surrounding marine life. Wavehunters is a Cornish boat trip company that operate in Port Isaac. You’ll have the chance to see dolphins and seabirds, and take in the beautiful Cornish coastline. Sometimes Wavehunters also offers Kayaking trips.
Long Cross Victoria Gardens
These gardens are located in St Endellion, and have lots of different flowers, a maze, and plenty of beautiful sculptures. They are well worth popping into if you’re driving into or away from Port Isaac.
Listen out for the Fisherman’s Friends
The Fisherman’s Friends is a sea shanty band, consisting of a group of fishermen. They often pop into St Isaac, so listen out for them during your stay!
Places to visit near Port Isaac
Port Isaac makes for a great place to stay, but it will only take a maximum of two days to see it all. Here are some ideas for day trips from Port Isaac.
If surfing’s your game, the nearby town of Polzeath is worth stopping at. It’s got a great surf break, with waves that are suitable for beginners. There are also plenty of surf schools offering lessons in the town.
The busy hub of Newquay is famous for its beautiful beaches, its great surf and its bustling nightlife. Visit to go beach hopping and to explore the town, and make sure to stop at the beautiful Bedruthan Steps on the way back to Port Isaac.
Bodmin town isn’t the most popular tourist destiantion in Cornwall, but there’s a lot to see and do here. Not only is it the gateway to Bodmin Moor, which has endless hiking opportunities, but in the town itself is the Bodmin Keep (now the Cornish military museum) and Bodmin Gaol, which has recently reopened to provide a fully immersive experience on what the penal system was like in the Victorian era.
Tintagel Castle stands on a rocky outcrop, and has been the site of legends and myths for centuries. Connected to the mainland by a bridge and run by the English Heritage, it’s a wonderful place to visit to get a slice of Cornish history.
Near to Tintagel is the protected harbour of Boscastle. The National Trust runs the whole storybook village, and there are plenty of photo opportunities both around the village and at the coastline.
Port Isaac is in a good location for most of Cornwall’s attractions – it’s an hour and 40 minutes drive to Lands End in the west, and an hour and 20 minutes to Plymouth, which is just over the River Tamar from the edge of Cornwall. So if there’s something in Cornwall that really takes your fancy, you should be able to do it as a day trip from Port Isaac! Take a look at this things to do in Cornwall guide for more information.
Where to eat in Port Isaac
As it is a village catered to tourists, there are plenty of places to eat in Port Isaac. Here are some ideas on where to try:
- Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, an eatery with four AA rosettes, serving up some of the best Cornish food, including seafood plucked straight from the Port Isaac sea.
- The Golden Lion is an 18th century pub, and serves up hearty pub grub and a range of beverages.
- The Harbourside Cafe and Terrace is located on the ground floor of The Slipway, which serves up local favourites – Cornish cream tea, seafood, and local cider and beer.
Where to stay in Port Isaac
I am creating a full post about accommodation in Port Isaac, but here are two of the standout places:
- The Slipway is a friendly guesthouse located right in the heart of the village. It is home to the Harbourside Cafe and Terrace (see above) and spent time as a smuggler’s hideaway! Nowadays, it’s a cosy hotel, with rooms with en-suite bathrooms, some with panoramic vies of the harbour. It’s just a short walk from the beach. Click here for rates and to reserve your spot.
- The Longcross Hotel is close to Port Quin, so around an hour’s walk or a short drive to Port Isaac. If you want somewhere that’s a little secluded and don’t mind driving, The Longcross is for you. It has cosy, en-suite bedrooms and a restaurant with a terrace looking over Cornwall’s countryside. Click here for rates and to reserve.
Port Isaac was made popular by Doc Martin, but it deserves to be a holiday destination in its own right. With a charming village atmosphere, plenty of things to do for a couple of days and in close proximity to other places in Cornwall, it’s a wonderful place to stay in the county.