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Cornwall family holidays and breaks

Beach scene with view of St Michaels Mount
Land's End
Coastal scene, western Cornwall
Minack Open-Air Theatre
View of St Michael's Mount

No longer just about the pasties and the fish and chips (though it does these well!), Cornwall has oodles to offer for family holidays or breaks: mile on mile of beautiful coastline (both stunning beaches and cute coves and creeks for shrimping and crabbing), a thriving watersports community allowing kids to try their hand at swimming, surfing, sailing, body-boarding and so on, fantastic gardens, museums and a thriving arts centre based around St Ives. Facilities just about everywhere seem to have had a makeover, so shops, cafés, harbours… you name it!… are generally more chi chi than ever before. 

Due to the shape of Cornwall, nothing’s too far away (meaning less back-seat whinging) – it’s possible to visit a garden in the morning, have lunch in a pub and spend the afternoon on a beach before returning home for some crabbing if you’re lucky enough to be near a seaside wall and a shop that sells bacon. But this all comes with a price tag attached, and with more 2 million people visiting each year, Cornwall can also get very crowded in summer. 

Despite the overwhelming choice of attractions (of which we give the highlights below), Cornwall itself and its beautiful villages and beaches, each with its particular charm, should remain the main focus of any family holiday. It may come as a surprise to find that despite offering so many things to see and do, Cornwall’s pace of life remains reassuringly slow.

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Things to do with kids in Cornwall

Keep the family busy in Falmouth – enjoy the views from Pendennis Castle or take a boat-trip in the bay. Ferries operate year round and can take you over to St Mawes with its castle or up the Malpas river to Truro. The boat-trips themselves are enough to keep youngsters happy and the ferrymen are used to lugging buggies up and down the steps. There are five main beaches round the town, with Maenporth and Swanpool popular with families with young kids as the beaches are small and the water shallow. As on lots of Cornish beaches, you’ll find watersports facilities, lifeguards in summer, and cafés to keep the little ones from flagging. Gyllingvase is popular, with a great café year-round and lovely views. The National Maritime Museum has a pool where kids can try their hand at sailing wooden boats and holiday arts and crafts (the presence of its own café plus a Pizza Express and Rick Stein’s Fish and Chips outside in the square make this a popular choice).

Falmouth and its hamlets are surrounded by gorgeous gardens, most exceptionally child friendly, though some of the terrain makes it hard going for buggy-pushers. Trebah has a private beach to stroll down to; kids will enjoy the adventure play areas and children’s trails on the way. Trevarno has a vintage toy museum and a great play area in the middle of the woods. Younger kids will enjoy saying hello to Father Christmas’s reindeer, who take a well-deserved break there. Also worth a visit are Trellisick (catch the King Harry Ferry afterwards and head to The Smugglers Cottage for a cream tea, with the kids in full view below you on the beach), Glendurgan with its maze, and Trewithen

You can happily spend a day at The Eden Project eco-attraction whatever the weather. The Lost Gardens of Heligan will delight gardening enthusiasts but kids might find some of the paths difficult.  

Discover St Ives, an artists’ retreat with terrific galleries, a branch of the Tate and the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden. With its picturesque and lively harbour and great restaurants, it gets very busy but is bearable if you are just visiting for the day. Of the beautiful beaches, Porthminster has the added bonus of its famous Porthminster Restaurant and Café.  

Head to the north coast of Cornwall for better waves for surfers – Fistral Beach at Newquay is where the surfing championships are held, and older kids love the hive of activity that surrounds the beach, full of nightclubs and entertainment. There’s a great aquarium at Towan Beach. Cornwall’s Crealy Great Adventure Park and Dairyland Farmworld, both near Newquay, are good to have up your sleeve for bad weather. 

Venture to Fowey (pronounced Foy) – like other towns along the southern coast, it has a rich history. One of the most expensive towns in which to own property in the UK, it's brilliant for family holidays, with great restaurants and the famously child-friendly Fowey Hall Hotel (see Accommodation), which inspired Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows. Fowey Regatta is very popular for the spectacle of the giant pasty being rowed from Polruan to Fowey, the Red Arrows making a daredevil appearance and the Carnival Parade, which kids can enter.   

Pack a picnic and head to the Minack Theatre for an unforgettable experience in this amphitheatre hewn out of the rock (bring cushions and blankets). There are daytime and evening performances. Close by is St Michael's Mount, which you get to by boat if the tide is in, or by foot along the causeway when it’s out (popular with kids but make sure you’ve got the tides right!). 

Take the family to the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre with its artefacts recovered from lost ships over the last 50 years. Poldark Mine and Geevor Tin Mine are popular spots for learning what life was like underground for a Cornish miner. 

Experience what life was like in the Blitz at Flambards, a popular attraction that also boasts a Victorian village. Another unmissable is the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, which gives kids the chance to see seals close up as they recuperate before being released back into the wild. 


Cornwall is a haven for food-lovers, with great local produce and some internationally renowned eateries. You can enjoy everything from pasties from the local corner store to Michelin-starred restaurants, and, of course, fresh fish galore. No family holiday here is complete without at least one meal of fish and chips – they’re good all over but you won't regret making a trip to one of Rick Stein's eat-in or takeaway fish and chip shops in Falmouth and Padstow (just don't try to fight your way into the latter in high season). 

Rodda’s is famous for its clotted cream, ice-cream and fudge, and a famous Cornish cream tea is a must – Roskillys does a great one on its farm near Helston. 

By Rachelle Keyes

When to go to Cornwall

If you’re not put off by the crowds, summer is a great time to visit, with no end of regattas and carnivals (Falmouth Week and Fowey Regatta are both in August).  

But if you’re after a quieter family holiday, take advantage of the fact that the Gulf Stream means winters in Cornwall are milder than anywhere else in the UK yet the beaches will often be empty – and the cost of accommodation will be lower.

How to get to Cornwall

Gone are the days of hours sitting in overheating vehicles with little ones asking 'Are we there yet?' – Cornwall now has excellent road, rail and air links from all around the country. London–Falmouth is about 450km or 5hrs by road, or about 5hrs 30mins by train, usually with one change, at Truro. If you’re coming from northern England or Scotland, you might want to check out flights to Newquay Airport


Cornwall can be a very expensive famly holiday option if you choose to splurge and stay at one of its many splendidly family-friendly upmarket hotels. Parking costs can also mount up in high season.

Aim to self-cater if you’re on a more restricted budget – and think about coming outside of summer too. Expect to pay £300–700/wk to stay in a cottage, depending on time of year, size and proximity to the coast.  

Previous Accommodation

Family friendly places to stay in Cornwall

Cornwall has an almost overwhelming choice of gorgeous family-friendly hotels where you can all have fun and be pampered, many offering childcare. See our favourites below - we are especially fond of Sands Resort Hotel & Spa (voted best family hotel in the UK in Tripadvisor awards) and the nearby chic but ultra-child-friendly Bedruthan Steps.

If you prefer the flexibility of self-catering accommodation, Cottages4you has hundreds of cottages in Cornwall; become a TaketheFamily member to receive exclusive discounts. 

See also Hoseasons’ holiday parks and lodges in Cornwall or quirky and/or eco-friendly suggestions in our features Unusual Places to Stay: UK and Green Places to Stay: Europe.

Editors favourite
Kids Club
  • Fowey Hall, Cornwall

    Great service and family-friendly facilities at the place that inspired Toad Hall, located on the south Cornish coast.

  • The Rosevine, Cornwall

    Luxury family holidays and breaks in Cornwall with a flexible twist – stay on a B&B basis, self-cater, or do a bit of both.

  • Retallack Resort and Spa, Cornwall

    Luxury 5-star self-catering holiday homes near the beach in Cornwall, with kids club, spa and golf course.

  • Cottages in Cornwall, Cornwall

    A wide range of family-friendly cottages in Cornwall, in rural and coast locations and with a choice of facilities to suit your family.

  • Luxury Self-Catering Woodland Holiday Homes at The Cornwall Hotel, Spa and Estate, Cornwall

    Luxury self-catering holiday homes set within woodlands in Cornwall and just a short drive from a selection of beaches.

  • Sands Resort Hotel & Spa, Cornwall

    Friendly hotel overlooking beautiful beaches in Cornwall with a great range of activities and childcare.

  • Watergate Bay Hotel, Cornwall

    A great family hotel and resort for older kids and teens, who can take advantage of the excellent surfing tuition in Cornwall.

  • Haven Perran Sands, Cornwall

    Located on the Cornish coast, with direct access to the beach and its own surf school, making this holiday park a hit with all the family.

  • Feather Down Farms, Boswarthen Farm, Cornwall

    Family-run dairy farm, just a ten minute drive from the north and south coasts in Cornwall.

  • Bedruthan Hotel & Spa, Cornwall

    Stylish hotel for family holidays and breaks in Cornwall, ultra-child-friendly and also eco-friendly.

  • The Cove Cornwall, Cornwall

    Luxurious apartments and a cottage perched above a cove in Cornwall, with amazing sea views and very happy to welcome families.

  • Polurrian Bay Hotel, Cornwall

    Cornwall’s quintessential seaside family hotel.

  • St Mellion International Resort, Cornwall

    Contemporary and luxurious 4-star Cornish resort with something for the whole family.

  • Haven Riviere Sands, Cornwall

    Sensational sea views, gorgeous white sand and turquoise sea.

  • Coombe Mill Farm Holidays, Cornwall

    Family friendly farm and fishing holidays in Cornwall. Magical for children

  • The Olde House, Cornwall

    A family run farm with stone built Holiday cottages on the North Cornish Coast, with indoor pool, playbarn & pet's corner.

  • Sail Loft Five Star Apartments, Cornwall

    Five star luxury coastal holiday rental homes, interior designed with a relaxed modern style and a unique character.

  • The Royal Duchy, Cornwall

    Kind and friendly staff make this Cornish hotel a comfortable family-friendly holiday experience with high standard of facilities and service.

  • Gwel An Mor, Cornwall

    Overlooking the ocean, close to the beach and variety of pubs and restaurants within walking distance in Cornwall.

  • Penstowe Park, Cornwall

    A family friendly resort in north Cornwall, close to beaches.

  • Honicombe Manor Resort, St Ann's Chapel Village, Callington , Cornwall

    Quality accommodation and excellent facilities.

  • Hengar Manor, Cornwall

    Award winning resort offering activities and exploration opportunities.

  • Tresanton, Cornwall

    Elegant, stunning coastal location, terrific service and great reputation, this is an ideal family hotel in Cornwall.

  • The Esplanade Hotel, Cornwall

    Family friendly beach hotel in Cornwall with surf centre and plenty for the kids to do.

  • The Falmouth Hotel, Cornwall

    Within walking distance to the local centre where you will find a good selection of shops, cafes, the harbour and attractions plus kids under 15 stay free.

See more >

Family friendly organised days out in Cornwall

Editors favourite
Kids Club
  • Eden Project

    An iconic Cornish venue where where you can expand your knowledge of nature through exhibits and interactives.

See more >

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Previous Accommodation

Ring 08432 907480 and book your family holiday with our specialist travel consultant and receive a free Boden voucher. (ATOL T7480)
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