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Most beautiful harbourside towns in Cornwall

With Cornwall’s significant maritime history, it’s no surprise that some of the most beautiful harbourside towns in the country are found dotted along the Cornish coast. Each town is full of beauty and charm, along with plenty of things to do, from walking the coastal paths surrounding Looe harbour to browsing the harbour-inspired art in St Ives, read our guide to discover some of the most beautiful locations to visit during your stay at a Cornwall holiday park.

Polperro

Polperro harbour and fishermen cottages

Along the south coast of Cornwall is the picturesque port of Polperro, which is the perfect spot to experience a quieter pace of life. The streets that wind around the traditional fishermen cottages are so narrow that few cars can drive through the town, allowing visitors to enjoy a relaxing break without the disturbing noise of traffic.

The peaceful fishing cove was once notorious for smuggling during the 18th and early 19th century so, during your visit be sure to stop by the Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing and learn more about Polperro’s history. After strolling along the harbourside, change into a swimming costume and head to the Polperro bathing pool which could pass as a giant rock pool and is a popular spot for adventurous swimmers.

Looe

view of white sandy beach at Looe harbour

Just along from Polperro is the small coastal town Looe, which not only attracts and entertains tourists but also remains a fully functioning fishing port. Alongside the waterfront are many pubs, cafés and shops to keep you entertained during your trip, as well as the white sandy beach that stretches along the harbour, which is a beautiful spot to relax and unwind. Looe also is a great harbourside town for those who love coastal walks, as the Looe to Polperro path is a popular choice for families and avid walkers alike.

St Ives

Sunset on the sea at St Ives

Perhaps one of the most well-known harbours in the UK is St Ives, a town that mixes maritime museums, independent shopping and a contemporary art scene.

A must-visit art gallery is Tate St Ives, which you can find in a magnificent building that overlooks Porthmeor Beach. The Tate is home to many modern art collections as well as unique exhibitions. You can also visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, where the sculptures created by one of Britain’s most iconic 20th-century artists are displayed in amongst flowers and greenery.

One of the best ways to see the harbour view is from up above, so wander up the cobbled alleyways from the harbour and you’ll soon find a spot high enough to appreciate the harbour’s postcard-worthy beauty. It doesn’t take long to understand why St Ives has been a muse for artists for decades, as the shoebox cottages surrounding the harbour, the golden sand beach and the turquoise sea all add to its unique beauty.

We spoke to Mark from The Cornish Deli, a café serving local delights in the heart of the town to find out more: “Firstly, the multiple beaches – including the world famous surfing beach of Porthmeor, the ultra-family friendly Porthminster Beach and the quaint harbour beach. Also, there are many very decent cafes, restaurants and bars close by within a traditional fishing village feel. There are small boutiques and privately shops along the beautiful cobbled back streets. The traditional fishing village feel and the old fishing cottages also make St Ives great.”

We also spoke to Caroline from the team at St Ives Farmers’ Market, a community venture to help make fresh local produce available, selling everything from fresh fruit and veg to cakes and jams. Caroline reveals why St Ives is one of the most beautiful harbourside towns: “The sea here is crystal clear and the buzz of the local community seeps through the town. There is a lot to choose from food wise, walks and views, and the local artists always have a good mix on show.

“What has kept me in St Ives is the wild Atlantic Ocean, you cannot beat the air and water. Cornwall has a unique feeling, not only the dynamic sea and rock but the mix of people who enjoy the lifestyle we are lucky to lead. It is all about being outdoors. Relishing the local food and being part of a community.”

Mevagissey

What was once the centre of Cornwall’s pilchard fishery is now the place to go to relax in a traditional Cornish town. There is plenty of activities to do when visiting the ancient harbour, from enjoying a scenic boat trip to learning something new about the local marine life in the Mevagissey Aquarium.

Along the harbourside, there are plenty of shops to browse as well as restaurants that serve local freshly caught fish, one being the Salamander restaurant where you can enjoy a three-course meal made from local produce. If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key, grab a classic seaside fish and chips from The Fishermen’s Chippy to enjoy on a bench overlooking the beautiful harbour.

Falmouth

Paddle boat floating on water

If you love history, then Falmouth is the harbourside town perfect for you. Falmouth is famous for having the third deepest natural harbour in the world, which has been a popular spot for ship repairs for over 150 years, many mariners have referred to it as the “First and Last Port” and the “Port of Refuge.”

After learning about Falmouth’s rich history, wander through the town and explore the independent cafés and art galleries. The town is a hot spot for art lovers as it is home to Falmouth University, one of the UK’s leading places of education for the creative industries.

We spoke to Anna from the team at Huddle, a must-visit café in the heart of Falmouth, to find out more about why this harbourside town is so great: “With countless places to stop for food and drink, boutique shops to visit, family friendly beaches ideal for relaxation or play, and a variety of events and activities throughout the year – from Sea Shanties to Falmouth Week, to the Oyster Festival, there is always plenty to see and do in Falmouth.

“It’s got a bit of everything: open countryside, coastal walks, the picturesque Fal River, a bustling town centre, and fun beaches. Having the university here helps give the town a buzz throughout the year, and keeps it feeling fresh, creative and vibrant. Falmouth’s community is particularly special, the people are always friendly and welcoming: it’s the perfect place for people of all ages to feel at home!”

Fowey

View of Fowey harbour
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Situated between Looe and Mevagissey is the quaint harbourside town Fowey. The harbour is home to many commercial boats including the Polruan Ferry, which allows visitors to explore Fowey’s neighbouring seaside town.

We spoke to Melissa Jane Lee, a personal lifestyle blogger, to find out her pick for most beautiful harbourside town in Cornwall: “I always recommend that people who go to Cornwall visit the town of Fowey. It’s one of the most stunning seaside locations I’ve ever visited, and it’s nestled within the Fowey estuary. With blue sea, little beaches tucked into coves, and narrow winding streets lined with some of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen, it is a must-see.

“Fowey has wonderful restaurants, shops and galleries. The views across the estuary to the village of Polruan are divine. Fowey has a village community feel, with friendly locals aplenty as well as tourists. It also has a touch of the luxurious about it, with its elegant buildings and hotels. It’s perfect for a relaxing weekend break, sampling local produce and breathing in the refreshing seaside air.”

Why visit a Cornish harbour?

There are harbours up and down the whole of the UK but, there is something unique about the ones located on the Cornish coast. Melissa continues to tell us why it’s worth visiting a harbourside town in Cornwall: “With palm trees and a generally warmer climate, it feels as if you’ve crossed the English Channel. It also has a fascinating history, some incredible natural and manmade landmarks, and remnants of a different way of life.”

Anna from the Huddle tells us: “Cornwall seems to draw so many people to it: the foodie, the creative, the history buff, and more. I think the reason it’s such a popular tourist destination is probably down to a combination of the climate, the artistic legacy of the county, the calm pace of life, and the stunning scenery. But perhaps best of all: the sea!”

The best harbourside towns in Cornwall:

  • Polperro
  • Looe
  • St Ives
  • Mevagissey
  • Falmouth
  • Fowey
  • Padstow
  • Port Isaac
  • Charlestown
  • Mousehole
  • Mullion
  • Porthleven

Images: St Ives Farmers’ Market, Melissa Jane Lee

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