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THE ULTIMATE CORNWALL ROAD TRIP! 1 Week & 2 Week Itinerary, What To Do & Where To Visit!

You just can’t beat Cornwall… Wild landscapes, beautiful beaches and a breathtaking coastline - and the charm and lifestyle to match!


It might be England’s worst kept secret, but that’s of course only for good reason!


What better way to experience it than packing up a VW bus with your wetsuit and surfboard, spending the day at the beach and picking a good spot up on the cliffs to watch the sun go down?

That said, if it’s quaint fishing villages, good food and art galleries that sounds better to you then you can do just that and we've got it all in this blog post!

Check out our North Cornwall road trip guide & itinerary here!

Here is the ultimate Cornwall road trip itinerary, including all the must visit places and a bunch of hidden gems as well!


Sunset At Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

About The Itinerary!


If you’re driving down to Cornwall, then that’s simple enough - start at “PART ONE”. Of course, another option is to get a train and hire a vehicle once you’re here - you could get the train to St Austell, Newquay or Falmouth to name a few, and easily amend the itinerary to create a sort of circular route.

1 Week / 2 Week Cornwall Road Trip Itinerary Map

We've designed our ultimate Cornwall road trip itinerary to be a bit of a 'choose your own adventure' so you can tailor it to you and make it your own. There's going to be a lot to see and do along the way, and it will make for an incredible 1 week adventure! However, if you don't want to leave quite as much out of your itinerary, then it could quite easily be a 2 week road trip, or even 3!

Read Our Top 5 Drives In Cornwall HERE!

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Important Info!


It’s also worth knowing that a lot of the amazing locations and car parks around Cornwall are run by The National Trust, and that’s great! Not only is conservation a big part of what they do, but you can save a lot of money with an annual membership!


Finally, we should warn you about the narrow country lanes around Cornwall - especially so when the roads get a bit busier throughout the Summer months! So, with that in mind, we would recommend planning your visit for the Autumn or Spring time, but avoiding school holidays of course!


Still, when driving off the A roads, you'll want to drive at a reasonable speed because you never know what's coming right around the corner, which also means that you'll probably have to pull in and let people pass, or someone else will have to do the same for you, so give them a smile and a wave when they do - and remember that it’ll all be well worth it when you arrive at one of the many beautiful beaches or cliff top spots! Now, Let’s hit the road!

Colliford Lake, Cornwall

PART ONE - Bodmin Moor

For most, the A30 is going to bring you into Cornwall via Launceston with it's very own castle to explore, and then directly into the wildly beautiful landscapes of Bodmin Moor. Turning off towards Camelford will take you to a few places where you may want to head out on a hike - Rough Tor and Brown Willy. The latter of which is the highest point in Cornwall at 420m above sea level, and both offer impressive panoramic views.

Exiting the A30 and heading south takes you to Colliford Lake, which definitely makes for a scenic and enjoyable drive through the moorland. Golitha Falls makes for a lovely woodland walk alongside the River Fowey and more hikes around the town of Minions and Caradon Hill are not too far away at all.


Our favourite places in this area are The South Caradon Mines and The Cheesewring. Nearby is also Lanhydrock House, Bodmin Jail and Jamaica Inn - not to mention Adrenaline Quarry just outside of Liskeard, which offers an inflatable aquapark, a giant clifftop swing and more!

Sunset At Caradon Mines, Cornwall

Our Top Picks For Bodmin Moor:


In the day time:

Woodland walks at Golitha Falls


In the day time:

The Cheeswring, Rough Tor or Brown Willy


In the evening:

Sunset hikes at The Cheeswring, Rough Tor or Brown Willy

Read Our Top 5 Spots For Sunset In Cornwall HERE!

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PART TWO - South East Cornwall

Often referred to as the forgotten corner of Cornwall, you’ll be sure to find some peace and serenity in the south east. Not only do you have the impressively rugged Rame Peninsula, but secluded, sandy beaches too. From Rame Head all the way to Looe, you have a number of beaches worth visiting sat within Whitsand Bay, plus Portwrinkle or Seaton a little closer to Looe.


Just the other side of Looe, you have yet another peaceful little place to stop, Talland Bay, followed by one of our favourite little Cornish villages called Polperro with a semi-natural harbour and even a semi-natural tidal pool!

Sunrise At Polperro, Cornwall

Continuing down the coast, you’ve got the really lovely Lantic Bay before finally getting a ferry (£5 per car) from Bodinnick to Fowey - a town situated at the mouth of a stunning estuary within an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, famous for it’s maritime history and favoured amongst sailing fans. Alternatively, you could take a detour north of Fowey Estuary and pay a visit to the ruins of Restormel Castle.


Our Top Picks For South East Cornwall:


In the day time:

Coastal walks around The Rame Peninsula


In the day time:

Polperro


In the day time / evening:

Fowey

Read Our Top 5 Harbour Towns In Cornwall HERE!

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PART THREE - St Austell & The Roseland Heritage Coast


After Fowey, the next place of interest is Polkerris - a charming little village backing onto a beach offering a nice walk out onto the harbour wall. Par Sands is the next beach along, followed by Carlyon Bay, either of which could make for a nice place to spend the day.


For something a little different, you could head to Charlestown and take a tour of a spectacular collection of old tall ships. Alternatively, there's also The Eden Project nearby, with a whole host of reasons to visit - from it's eco friendly ethos, to a zip-wire and other adrenaline inducing activities! Other options in the area would be The Lost Gardens Of Heligan or Caerhay’s Castle.


From St Austell, the drive to Mevagissey is particularly nice via Porthpean and Pentewan, but you’ll probably want to stay away from Mevagissey’s town centre - especially in the middle of summer! Both Portpean and Pentewan are pretty nice beaches, with plenty more beaches to pick from further on such as Vault Beach, Hemmick Beach and Carne Beach, and even more quaint, little villages such as Gorran Haven, Portholland and Portloe.


The real bucket list locations for us, however, would have to be a bit further down in an area known as The Roseland... In particular, one of our favourite fishing villages in Cornwall, St Mawes, with breathtaking scenery and views from the mouth of the Percuil River. St Mawes is home to an impressive and well preserved coastal fortress built in the 1540's, St Mawes Castle, and also offers boat trips to St Anthony's Head via the Place Ferry, where you can enjoy incredible coastal walks over to the lighthouse there and a few quiet coves along the way.


St Mawes & The Percuil River, Cornwall

Our Top Picks For St Austell & The Roseland Heritage Coast:


In the day time:

The Eden Project


In the day time:

Caerhay’s Castle


In the day time / evening:

St Mawes & St Anthony's Head

Read Our Top 5 Quiet Harbour Towns In Cornwall HERE!

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PART FOUR - Falmouth & The Lizard Peninsula


Certainly an experience in itself, leaving St Mawes you'll want to cross The Fal River via the King Harry Ferry (£6 per car), which will take you right to Trelissick Gardens if you want to visit (free with The National Trust). Alternatively, you could choose to visit one of our favourite woodland walks on the way to Falmouth - a Cornwall Wildlife Trust nature reserve called Kennall Vale, with a river running through and the remains of an old gunpowder works.


Falmouth itself is home to Pendennis Castle which looks back over towards St Mawes and St Anthony's Lighthouse, so a pretty cool place for a quick visit. There's also a couple of stunning beaches in and around Falmouth, such as Swanpool, but are top picks for the area are actually still to come at The Lizard Peninsula.


Journeying on towards The Lizard Peninsula, on the way you have the optional detour to Trebah and Glendurgan Gardens - the latter of which is the one you want if you’re with The National Trust. Also on the way, you could visit The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in a town called Queek or Flambards Theme Park near Helston.


The list of places you could visit at The Lizard Peninsula is almost endless, and it gets a bit tricky being so spoilt for choice! Coverack, Kennack Sands, Cadgwith Cove or Mullion are all great options, but the absolute must-see spots are Kynance Cove and Lizard Point! The two could even be combined with Mullion Cove for an amazing coastal walk, or independently as sunset spots.


Kynance Cove, Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall

Our Top Picks For Falmouth & The Lizard Peninsula:


In the day time:

Pendennis Castle in Falmouth


In the day time:

Coastal walks around The Lizard Peninsula and Lizard Point


In the evening:

Sunset at Kynance Cove

Read Our Top 5 Beaches In Cornwall HERE!

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PART FIVE - West Cornwall & Mount’s Bay

Continuing on from The Lizard, you’ll quite quickly come to Porthleven, which is probably at it’s most impressive in stormy conditions with huge, crashing waves. In late April, it’s home to The Porthleven Food Festival, and is also a popular spot amongst some of the more experienced surfers, so a great place to get a good look at some surfing!


The same can be said about the next beach along, Praa Sands, but before that there’s Rinsey Head, and just a short walk away, Trewavas Mine standing tall up on the cliff top. Another nice coastal walk could be from one of our favourite secret beaches, Prussia Cove, round to the even quieter, Kenneggy Cove. Alternatively, walking in the opposite direction will take you to Cudden Point with breathtaking views of Mount's Bay, and even walking on towards Perranuthnoe Beach to make the walk more substantial and rewarding.


Whatever makes it onto your to do list today though, at the top of that list, without a doubt, should definitely be St Michael's Mount, a castle quite literally sat out in the bay on it's very own island! Even the first little glimpse you get of St Michael's Mount through breaks in the trees and quaint cottages is jaw dropping - only to then be exceeded again by walking the causeway at low tide. Words do not do St Michael’s Mount justice, and you should probably spend the majority of the day taking it all in.


Sunrise At St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

Further down the coast, West Cornwall still has plenty to offer which could be squeezed into the same day, and for that we'd recommend watching the sunset at Land's End - the most south westerly point of mainland Britain. However, the list doesn't stop there, so you may want an extra day to ensure you don't miss a visit to Mousehole Harbour, Porthcurno Beach and The Minack Theatre, the coastal walk to Nanjizal (the best secret beach in Cornwall) or a day of surfing at Sennen Cove.

Sunrise at Land's End, Cornwall

Our Top Picks For West Cornwall & Mount's Bay:


In the day time:

St Michael's Mount


In the day time:

Porthcurno and The Minnack Theatre


In the day time / evening:

Coastal walk from Sennen Cove / Land's End to Nanjizal


In the day time / evening:

Sunset at Land's End

Read Our Top 5 Secret Beaches In Cornwall HERE!

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PART SIX - St Just, St Ives & St Agnes


With much more of West Cornwall still to see and explore, the road trip continues just past Sennen Cove to St Just and Cape Cornwall, where you'll find another great spot for sunset if you have the time and want to stay. You'll also find epic coastal walks and the impressive beaches of Porth Ledden and Porth Nanven - known to some as Dinosaur Egg Beach.


A little further up the coastline are astonishing views at Botallack Mine and Levant Mine - meaning more opportunities for coastal walks - and finally Geevor Mine, where they offer an underground tour.


If those locations don't really take your fancy, then you can push straight on towards St Ives, with the coastal road via Morvah and Zennor being what could easily be the most scenic drive in all of the UK. More stops along the way could be Pendeen Lighthouse or Gurnard's Head.


Arriving in St Ives, you might be surprised to find yourself in a subtropical paradise, with numerous beautiful beaches, lush vegetation and the UK’s mildest climate. Oh, and even one of only four Tate Galleries in the world. The town does get overwhelmingly busy though, so the best way to visit is to travel via train from Lelant, getting to see Carbis Bay along the way.


Our favourite things to do in St Ives would have to be the walk out onto The Island, spending the day enjoying the white sandy beach of Porthmeor and of course treating yourself to some great food... But beware of seagulls!


If you'd prefer to avoid the crowds at Cornwall's most popular holiday location, you could follow the road around the bay to the stretching, sandy beach that is Gwithian Towans or just a little further for Godrevy Beach and it's phenomenal views of the fantastically photogenic Godrevy Lighthouse out in the bay.


Sunset At Godrevy, Cornwall

Following the road further up the coast, you'll get to enjoy more of Cornwall’s wild and rugged side as it winds it's way around The North Cliffs all the way to Portreath, which is then followed by Porthtowan - both of which are popular surf spots.


The next beach along is Chapel Porth, but at this point, you may just be hoping for a good spot for the sunset. Fortunately, sitting on the cliffs just above Chapel Porth Beach is one of Cornwall’s most impressive mines, Wheal Coates, with it's own carpark quite a bit closer to it. Also nearby is St Agnes Head and St Agnes Beacon, but the views from Wheal Coates pretty much beats the two.


Sunset At Wheal Coates Mine, Cornwall

Our Top Picks For St Just, St Ives & St Agnes:


In the day time / evening:

Coastal walks and sunset at Cape Cornwall


In the day time:

Coastal walks around Botallack and Levant Mines


In the day time:

St Ives & Porthmeor Beach


In the day time:

Gwithian Towans or Godrevy Beach


In the evening:

Sunset at Chapel Porth

Read Our Top 5 Spots For Instagram Photos In Cornwall HERE!

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PART SEVEN - Newquay & North Cornwall


The first of many surf spots coming up around Newquay is Perranporth, which is home to “the UK’s ONLY bar on the beach”, music festivals throughout the year and also a tidal pool. Holywell Bay and Crantock are next, and both have high-rising sand dunes with the former offering the iconic “Gull Rock” as an awe-inspiring backdrop. All three are some of our favourite beaches in Cornwall! Just before Crantock, however, sits the beautiful little secret beach, Poly Joke, with the walk from Crantock or West Pentire taking you through fields of stunning wildflowers.


Coming up next is Newquay itself - the surf capital of the UK, with too many beaches to count on one hand and also Boardmasters Music Festival. The beaches in Newquay that we recommend the most are Fistral Beach (home to the world renowned Cribbar surf break), or Lusty Glaze - followed by spending the evening at either if you have the time. Similarly, not too far further up the coast is Watergate Bay, which can also be great for a surf and watching the sunset.

On the way to Padstow, you're definitely going to want to stop at Bedruthan Steps to take in the impressive and iconic sea stacks. Better yet, you could do one of our favourite coastal walks round to Bedruthan from Porthcothan Bay via Park Head - a bit of a long one, but it's got to be a must-do for Poldark fans.


Sunset At Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

Porthcothan Bay is in fact one of the famous “seven bays for seven days” that surround the village of St Merryn - Porthcothan, Treyarnon, Constantine, Booby’s, Mother Ivey’s, Harlyn and Trevone - each with their own unique character and qualities. For beginner surfers, Harlyn Bay could be the one to choose due to it's surf school. Treyarnon Bay has an impressive tidal pool, and so does Trevone Bay. So, those factors should help you decide which you'd most like to visit.


And yet again comes another reason why you may want to make this epic road trip two weeks long instead of one! There's just so much to squeeze in and we haven't even made it to Padstow yet! So, because of that, we recommend staying for sunset at Trevose Head for spectacular views right from the car park and one of the most impressive lighthouses in Cornwall, perhaps staying the night at Mother Ivey's Bay Holiday Park before a full day in Padstow the following day.


Sunset At Trevose Head, Cornwall

Chances are, you’ve already heard of the harbour town of Padstow and probably regard it as a bit of a foodie destination all thanks to Rick Stein. The truth is that it’s so much more than that, with activities ranging from cycling The Camel Trail to water sports on the Camel Estuary, or even the coastal walk round to Trevone via Tregirls Beach, Hawkers Cove and Stepper Point - another of our favourites!


Just across the estuary from Padstow is the village of Rock, which you can get the ferry to, although the ferry’s not suitable for cars. Rock offers it’s very own beach with a walk across the sand dunes to Daymer Bay, as well as all of the same water sports that Padstow does, if not more! Most surfers however will head to the next nearby beach, Polzeath. Just up the road is a coastal walk to The Rumps which is sure to leave you lost for words - the view is well worth the mile or so walk.


Sunset At The Rumps, Cornwall

For fans of Doc Martin, a visit to the harbour town of Port Isaac might be an absolute must and you may even be able to catch Fisherman's Friends singing down on the slipway there. Further up the coast is another favourite beach of ours, Trebarwith Strand, followed by the village of Tintagel, steeped in myth and legend, and heavily associated with the legend of King Arthur. You'll even get to see the supposed home of Merlin and explore the old castle ruins sat atop the cliffs.


About a ten minute drive from Tintagel is one of the most amazing waterfalls you’ll have ever seen, St Nectan’s Glen - well worth the fairly long walk through woodland to get to it from the car park.


One of our final locations that could be of interest is the harbour town of Boscastle. The natural harbour itself, sat within an impressive natural inlet, will almost certainly leave you speechless - particularly when views from above via the coastal path. In Boscastle, there's also The Museum Of Witchcraft And Magic, which is perfect for Harry Potter fans.


Sunset At Boscastle, Cornwall

With the road trip nearly coming to an end, we still have a stunning stretch of coastal road to enjoy. For those that are faint of heart may want to avoid it with it's steep, winding roads, but the drive between Crackington Haven and Widemouth Bay via Dizzard and Millook Haven is not one that you’re going to want to miss either!


Widemouth Bay is an absolutely lovely place to pull into before the road trip eventually comes to close in Bude. Bude itself is a very nice place as well, with a number of sandy beaches and a tidal pool. From Bude, you could even continue the road trip on across the Devon border, with stops such as Hartland Quay and Clovelly. We talk a bit more about exploring North Devon in our dedicated North Cornwall road trip itinerary, and we'd also recommend checking it out if you want a road trip more focussed on the north coast. You can read it here!


Our Top Picks For Newquay & North Cornwall:


In the day time / evening:

Perranporth, Holywell Bay, Crantock, Poly Joke, Fistral Beach or Lusty Glaze


In the day time / evening:

Bedruthan Steps


In the day time / evening:

Porthcothan Bay, Treyarnon Bay, Constantine Bay, Harlyn Bay, or Trevone Bay


In the day time:

Padstow


In the day time:

Tintagel Castle


In the evening:

Boscastle

Disclaimer: This blog post was written in partnership with The National Trust, although all opinions are our own. All images and content copyright www.bythecompass.com.

Also read: Our Top 5 Beaches In Cornwall! Our Top 5 Secret Beaches In Cornwall! Our Top 5 Spots For Instagram Worthy Shots In Cornwall! Our Top 5 Coastal Walks In Cornwall!

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What's your favourite place in Cornwall? Leave a comment below to let us know!



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