Where to Stay in Cornwall: TOP 14 Best Areas

With so much on offer, spread out across almost 1,400 square miles, it can make deciding where to stay in Cornwall quite a challenge. That’s why, in today’s article, I will be looking at the best areas to stay in Cornwall.

I will outline each of the best areas, explain what they have to offer and tell you who each is best suited for. So, if you aren’t sure where to stay in Cornwall but are desperate to make the trip, I highly recommend reading on.

Located in the south-west of England, Cornwall is a part of the west country known for its outstanding natural beauty, sandy beaches, historic castles, fishing villages and so much more. In fact, it and the Lake District are often regarded as the two best outdoor locations in the UK.

Where To Stay In Cornwall: Tips & Info

Before we begin, I want to give you some tips and info. These will be things you need to consider if you want to ensure you select the perfect place to stay in Cornwall.

For example, Port Isaac is your best bet for a traditional looking fishing village. Used as the setting for film and TV productions, it will give you exactly the type of iconic imagery you’ll have dreamt of.

If you want the convenience of lots of shops and amenities close by, you should strongly consider Truro. As the only city in Cornwall, it has everything you could need within walking distance, ensuring you don’t need to worry about anything during your stay.

Couples looking for a romantic getaway will undoubtedly enjoy St Ives. Its collection of art, beaches and natural beauty spots make it ideal to relax and take in some culture together.

If you want to visit some historic castles, then Tintagel is a great place to start, as Tintagel Castle is perhaps the most historic in all of Cornwall.

If you keep these and similar issues in mind while reading, it will make choosing where to stay in Cornwall as straightforward as possible.

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Where To Stay In Cornwall, England: 14 Best Areas to Stay in Cornwall

So, now you know exactly what to look for, I’m going to show you what I feel are the 14 best areas to stay in Cornwall. This will hopefully give you everything you need, to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Best areas to stay in Cornwall map

1. St Ives, where to stay in Cornwall for first time visitors

St Ives the best area in Cornwall for first timers
St Ives

Located in west Cornwall, St Ives is one of the most popular places to stay in Cornwall. The reason St Ives is such a popular holiday destination is that it has options that appeal to a wide range of visitors.

For starters, St Ives has a number of beautiful beaches, such as Carbis Bay Beach. This makes St Ives ideal for anyone hoping to have a relaxing break walking and sitting on the sand.

Carbis Bay also features the Carbis Bay Estate. A stunning building featuring bay windows and ball painted walls, it has recently hosted the leaders of the world at the G7 Summit. What better way to get that exclusive feeling that to stay where the most powerful people in the world have?

Then there is the reputation St Ives has for its artwork. Renowned for having an incredible collection of local artists, this busy seaside town will always have something to wow you. 

Perhaps nowhere represents this quite as well as the Tate St Ives Gallery. Here you can find works by both local and world-famous artists side by side, giving fans of art the best of both worlds.

You also have the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Gallery. Dedicated to the famous sculptor, her works have been preserved on the very grounds that she lived for 26 years, until her untimely death in 1975.

Depending on what time of year you visit, you may even be able to attend a fabulous festival as well. With attractions like the St Ives Feast, St Ives May Day, St Ives September Festival, and West Cornwall May Day Celebrations, there is almost always something going on to get involved in.

St Ives is also located on the South West Coast Path. The coastal path is one of the longest and most popular walking routes in the country, making St Ives a fabulous place to stay in Cornwall for anyone who enjoys coastal walks, while taking in the sea air

St Ives Bay is located right along the coastal path. One of the best holiday parks in not just St Ives but Cornwall as a whole, it is a great way to choose from a range of self-catering cottages, that will keep you right in the thick of things throughout your stay.

Stay in St Ives if:

  • You want to visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum or the Tate gallery
  • You like to stay in holiday parks
  • You’re visiting Cornwall for the first time
  • You enjoy beautiful beaches
  • You are a fan of art
  • You are attending one of St Ives many festivals
  • You are following the South West Coastal Path
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2. Penzance, the best area to stay in Cornwall on budget

Penzance Cornwall
Penzance

Penzance is located in west Cornwall, less than 10 miles from the most south-eastern point in the United Kingdom, Land’s End.

At the heart of Penzance, you will find Chapel Street, the former main street of the town. With attractions like the Egyptian House, Branwell House, the Union Hotel and a Georgian theatre, it is a great place to take a stroll and soak up some history.

However, for many it is the outstanding natural beauty further away from the heart of the town that is the real attraction. For example, you have the Tanglewood Wild Garden, featuring ponds and manicured gardens in the Cornish countryside, surrounding a café serving fresh cakes and drinks.

Then there is the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. This time featuring more exotic plants, it boasts a fabulous collection of modern art installations, as well as stunning views of the bay.

For the more adventurous among you, you even have the opportunity to visit St Michaels Mount. St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island just off the Cornish coast. With a beautiful chapel and castle, it is a great destination for boat trips or even long walks when the tide is out.

Stay in Penzance if:

  • You want to visit the wild garden or the sculpture garden
  • You’re traveling on a budget
  • You want to take a trip to St Michael’s Mount
  • You are traveling to the most south-eastern point in the United Kingdom
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3. Padstow, one of the best areas to stay in Cornwall for nature lovers

Padstow Cornwall

We begin our search in one of the most popular areas of Cornwall, Padstow. Located on the north-west coast of Cornwall, it began to gain traction for having some of the most outstanding natural beauty spots in the region.

The Marble Cliffs and the Tregudda Gorge are both fabulous places to see how millions of years of erosion from the sea has affected the landscape. For the more adventurous, there is also The Round Hole, a collapsed sea cave, for you to explore.

The natural features even lend themselves to those simply wanting to relax as well. Cornwall is known for its rock pools and Padstow features some of the best in the entire region.

It isn’t all about natural beauty here though, as there is plenty of local culture, art and architecture to enjoy as well.

Churches and memorials dating back as far as the 13th century allow visitors the chance to delve into history, while a considerably more modern skatepark gives you somewhere to leave kids who don’t want to tag along.

Depending on when you visit, you may even get lucky enough to witness one of the annual events that take place in Padstow. ‘Obby ‘Oss Festival and Mummers’ Day both see the streets filled with people singing and dancing, allowing you the chance to see some Cornish culture live and in person.

Stay in Padstow if:

  • You want to attend one of Padstow’s annual festivals
  • You are a fan of history or skateboarding
  • You enjoy natural beauty spots
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4. Newquay, where to stay in Cornwall for nightlife

Newquay Cornwall

Newquay is an incredibly popular place to stay in Cornwall. A former fishing village, it has become one of the most famous surfing destinations in the United Kingdom. 

With numerous beaches and surf schools, it is a great place to hit the waves, no matter how much experience you have. Fistral Beach is perhaps the most popular option. With waves from the Atlantic Ocean breaking onto golden sand, it is ideal for surfers and casual tourists alike.

Further north you also have Watergate Bay. Located on a stretch of more rugged coastline, it is better suited to more experienced surfers, looking to avoid the crowds, as well as anyone who simply enjoys beautiful coastal walks.

The surfing community has also helped the area to develop a distinctive culture. Various “hip” bars, shops and restaurants are dotted around, helping you to enjoy a truly laid-back and relaxing stay.

For those who don’t want to spend all of their time at the beach, there are a number of other attractions available as well. For example, you have the Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay. 

Featuring more than 40 displays that include creatures like sharks, seahorses, lobsters, octopus, turtles, terrapins, rays, all manner of tropical fish and even a 4-foot polychaete worm, it is a great place to learn about the ocean, without actually being in it.

Stay in New Quay if:

  • You want to learn at a surf school
  • You’re into great nightlife
  • You are a surfer or enjoy surfer culture
  • You want to visit Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay
  • You enjoy coastal walks
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5. Looe, where to stay in Cornwall for families

Looe Cornwall
Looe

Further east along the south coast you’ll come to the town of Looe. Originally formed as two separate towns, East Looe and West Looe, connected by a bridge over the River Looe, it is centred around a beautiful harbour.

Known primarily as a fishing village, a number of fishing dealers operate in the town quay in East Looe. This makes it a fabulous choice for anyone seeking to enjoy some fresh seafood. There is also Looe Island just offshore, for anyone who really wants a watery getaway.

That said, in more recent times, the town has developed a strong surge in tourism, to the point it became the primary source of revenue. Hotels, guest houses, pubs, restaurants, souvenir and beachwear stores, as well as ice cream and Cornish pasty vendors have sprung up all over the town.

Similarly, so have a number of tourist attractions, such as the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary. The park was originally designed as a refuge for woolly monkeys; however, it has expanded to include capuchin monkeys, barbary macaques, and even the rare lesser horseshoe bats as well.

With them all living in large enclosures that represent faithful recreations of their natural habitats, it makes a great way to get a break from the beach for a while and enjoy some wildlife.

Stay in Looe if:

  • You want to visit Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary
  • You want to take a boat ride to Looe Island
  • You are a fan of areas targeted towards tourists
  • You like a great choice of beaches and amenities
  • You’re traveling as a families
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6. Bude, a great base in Cornwall to travel along the South West Coastal path

Bude Cornwall

The town of Bude is located on Cornwall’s north coast. While historically a busy fishing town, it is now known primarily as a tourist destination. With plenty of small businesses and sandy beaches, it’s a great place to stay in Cornwall for some good, clean family fun.

Perhaps its most famous attraction is the Bude Sea Pool. A partially man-made tidal pool, it’s a great place for the whole family to safely enjoy some time in the ocean. Further inland, you also have Bude Castle, a perfect attraction to keep the history buffs entertained while you’re enjoying a swim.

Being on the north coast also means it will be the first major town you come to in Cornwall for anyone traveling down the South West Coastal Path. This makes it a great place to stop and rest up while hiking the route, as it adds plenty of options to keep you entertained during your break.

Stay in Bude if:

  • You are traveling along the South West Coastal Path
  • You want to swim in the Bude Sea Pool
  • You want an area that is specifically targeted at tourists
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7. Port Isaac, a small fishing village with picturesque harbour in Cornwall

Port Isaac Cornwall
source: The Slipway Hotel in Port Isaac

The town of Port Isaac is primarily known as a fishing village. Its picturesque harbour is one of the most important points for the fishing industry along the Cornish coast. For years people have come here to enjoy the outstanding natural beauty on offer, as well as the relaxing atmosphere that accompanies it.

However, in recent times it has gained notoriety for its appearances in movies and television shows. Its narrow streets, independent shops, village pub and country houses made it the ideal setting for shows like Doc Martin and films like Fisherman’s Friends, the latter of which was based on a true story that actually took place in the village.

With the opportunity to enjoy fresh seafood, take in the stunning views, embrace the local culture and even hunt for recognisable locations, Port Isaac has transformed itself into the perfect place to stay in Cornwall to ensure there’s something for all the family to enjoy.

Stay in Port Isaac if:

  • You want to visit a stunning small fishing village
  • You are a fan of any of the projects recorded here
  • You prefer independent shops, pubs and businesses
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8. Truro, one of the best areas to stay in Cornwall for foodie

Truro Cornwall

Truro is the administrative capital of Cornwall, its only city, as well as the most southerly city in the United Kingdom. This means you are much more likely to find things like large chains and high street stores than you would elsewhere in Cornwall.

While this may make it more appealing to those who enjoy their home comforts while away, it shouldn’t put off those looking for a more traditional experience either.

Originally settled as a market town, it still features the permanent Pannier Market, as well as holding multiple farmers markets each week, on a Wednesday and a Saturday. This gives you the opportunity to buy traditional wares and foods, while taking in some of the local culture.

As with many places in the UK designated a city, Truro also features a cathedral. Truro Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in all of Cornwall, which was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Gothic-Revival style.

Combined with The Royal Cornwall Museum, which holds relics and teaches the history of the entire region, it makes Truro one of the best places to stay in Cornwall when traveling as a group, as there is something that will please all types of visitors during their stay.

Stay in Truro if:

  • You want to shop in a market town
  • You want to visit Truro Cathedral or The Royal Cornwall Museum
  • You prefer an area with more home luxuries
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9. Falmouth, for good selections of beaches

Falmouth Cornwall

Falmouth is located on the east coast of Cornwall, about 11 miles south of Truro. Throughout history it has remained an important location as the largest port in Cornwall. While not as busy as it once was, the docks still represent a huge portion of the city’s economy to this day.

Outside of the docks, the other main contributor to the city economy is tourism. For starters, it has a collection of 5 beaches: Castle, Gyllyngvase, Maenporth, Swanpool and Tunnel. This gives beach fans a great selection to choose from based on their tastes and how busy each is, ensuring they can always find somewhere to relax.

Beyond the beaches, there are also a couple of popular tourist attractions as well. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall tells the history of boats and the sea and explains how they have shaped Cornwall and the lives of the people who have lived here through the centuries.

Then there is the Trebah Tropical Gardens. Located 7 miles outside the town, it features a wide range of strange, yet beautiful tropical plants, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a completely different side of nature for a while.

Stay in Falmouth if:

  • You want to visit the Trebah Tropical Gardens or the National Maritime Museum Cornwall
  • You like a good selection of beaches
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10. St Just, a small residential town in Cornwall

St Just Cornwall

St Just is located in the very southwest of Cornwall, 7 miles west of Penzance and just 6 miles north of Land’s End. In fact, it is recognised as the most westerly town in all of mainland Great Britain. It is also one of only two towns located within the famous Cornwall Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A very small town with a quiet residential community, its main source of income throughout the centuries has largely revolved around the mining of copper and tin. In terms of physical attractions, the 15th century Parish Church Of St Just is really all there is to speak of, as beautiful as it is.

However, what makes St Just worth visiting is the distinctive culture you will find there. For starters, the town has a thriving artistic scene. Local painters, musicians and legendary comedian Jethro all hail from the town and regularly display their works for locals and visitors to enjoy.

A number of Plen An Gwarry, essentially open-air Cornish playhouses, are also located in St Just. In addition to hosting the types of performance we have already looked at, they also provide a sense of history and culture, as well as the ability to be used for something else St Just is known for, festivals.

Most prominently, the Lafrowda festival is a week-long festival held every July. With feasting, church services and performances, it celebrates the dedication of the parish church and is perhaps the best way to get a true sense of the culture and community that exists in St Just.

Stay in St Just if:

  • You are visiting the Cornwall Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • You want to attend the Lafrowda Festival
  • You are interested in the local art
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11. Bodmin, the best area to stay in Cornwall for walking

Bodmin Cornwall

Bodmin is located at the very centre of Cornwall, making it an excellent destination for those who are planning to explore more than one area. The former capital of Cornwall, it is one of the more built-up areas in the region. 

Bars, restaurants, coffee shops and stores provide plenty of convenience to help fuel a relaxing break. This makes Bodmin a  perfect place to stay in Cornwall for those who don’t want to leave their city luxuries behind.

While there are a number of attractions in Bodmin that draw visitors to the area, there are two that stand out above the others. 

First, you have Bodmin Jail. Opened in 1779 and in operation for 150 years, the ruins are a popular destination for history buffs. Parts have even been renovated and turned into a museum and hotel, allowing you to learn about and stay in one of the town’s most famous institutions.

Then, you also have Bodmin Moor. Covering 80 square miles, this is where the town takes its name from. Abundant with marshes, rivers, plants, wildlife and even historic buildings, monuments and ruins, it is a fabulous place to spend some time walking and taking in the beauty and culture of the Cornish countryside.

Stay in Bodmin if:

  • You want to visit Bodmin Moor or Bodmin Jail
  • You prefer a slightly more built-up town
  • You enjoy walks in the countryside, looking at wildlife, landscapes and historic sites
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12. Fowey, in the south coast of Cornwall

Fowey Cornwall

Our next destination is connected to our last by the River Fowey. Located on the south coast, it has long been an important trading point, due to its beautiful, natural harbour.

The combination of its river and seafront location make it a great place to stay in Cornwall for anyone wanting to take a boat trip. Whether it be a quick water taxi or a longer voyage, it’s a perfect way to get out on the water.

In fact, most of the people who visit Fowey do so based on its watery amenities. Perhaps you want to attend an event at the Royal Fowey Yacht Club? Maybe you want to try some of the fresh seafood caught by the many local fisherman? You might even want to go out and catch some yourself?

Whatever it is you have in mind, if you’re a fan of the sea, Fowey is a place you definitely need to consider when deciding where to stay in Cornwall.

Stay in Fowey if:

  • You are attending an event at the Royal Fowey Yacht Club
  • You want to take a boat trip
  • You are a fan of fishing or enjoy fresh seafood
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13. St Austell, one of the biggest towns in Cornwall

St Austell Cornwall

St Austell is again located on the south coast, this time to the west of Fowey, and is one of the largest towns in Cornwall. However, the majority of its visitors are actually looking for somewhere to stay in Cornwall while they visit the attractions located in the surrounding area.

Most prominently, you have the Eden Project, located 3 miles to the south-west of St Austell. Completed in May 2000, the Eden Project features two huge, domed enclosures, that house thousands of species of plant.

Designed primarily as a way for people to see and learn about all manner of plants, it has evolved into a full-scale tourist attraction. In recent years, facilities including art installations and stages for musical performances have been added, ensuring it can provide entertainment for the whole family.

Another popular attraction in the area is the Lost Gardens Of Heligan. It boasts walled gardens, lakes, a charcoal kiln, various plants, fruits and vegetables, as well as the only pineapple pit in Europe. This makes for a great place to have some unique outdoor adventures.

There’s even the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum, where visitors can learn about China clay mining at a preserved, Victorian clay works.

St Austell’s central location makes it the ideal place for anyone wondering where to stay in Cornwall while visiting these and some of the other attractions located in the area.

Stay in St Austell if:

  • You want to visit the Eden Project or the Lost Gardens
  • You want to stay in a larger town
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14. Tintagel,  a great area to stay in Cornwall to visit Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Cornwall

Tintagel is located on the west coast of Cornwall, less than 10 miles north of Port Isaac. While it can still be enjoyed for many of the same reasons as the rest of Cornwall, the primary reason people visit Tintagel is for its archaeological value.

Excavations of the area began in the 30’s and have uncovered a rich past, with numerous buildings and artefacts having been unearthed. A building believed to be either a Celtic monastery or fort is surrounded by an ancient trading settlement. Mediterranean oil and wine jars show the diverse nature of the inhabitants, while traces date the settlements as early as the Bronze Age.

Perhaps the most famous location in the area is Tintagel Castle. Built in the 13th century and standing right on the coast, the imposing structure demonstrates the power of the area throughout the ages.

Tintagel is also a place steeped in Arthurian legend. From the mention of a castle called “Tintagol” in the legends, to the Artognou Stone found in its ruins, Tintagel is a place many believe to be the best proof available that the legends were perhaps true after all.

Stay in Tintagel if:

  • You want to visit Tintagel Castle
  • You are a fan of archaeology
  • You are interested in the legend of King Arthur
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So, that’s our list of the 14 best areas to stay in Cornwall. By now most of you will have decided where to stay in Cornwall to get the most out of your trip. That said, I’m sure there will be others who are still undecided.

That’s why I’ll now answer some of the most frequently asked questions people have about Cornwall, to try and help you decide as well.

What Is The Best Part Of Cornwall To Stay In?

The best place to stay in Cornwall varies based on your tastes. Those after beautiful beaches will enjoy St Ives***, for a built-up area it must be Truro***, while for a historic fishing village Port Isaac*** is unrivaled. In this case, the word “best” truly varies from person to person.

Where Is The Nicest Place In Cornwall?

When thinking of the nicest place to stay in Cornwall, St Ives*** and Padstow*** are at the top of my list. Both offer a combination of natural beauty and luxury amenities that make them perfect for either a romantic getaway or a trip with the family.

Where Should I Stay To Explore Cornwall?

If the priority of your trip is exploring Cornwall, I’d recommend staying in Bodmin***. With a relatively central location, it’s a great place to explore the entirety of Cornwall from, while also offering its own attractions, to keep you occupied on days when you want to stay closer to home.

Where Is The Nicest Beach In Cornwall?

Deciding the best beach would depend on what you are looking for. For example, do you prefer sandy beaches, pebbly beaches, shingly beaches etc. That said, as far as beach locations go, St Ives*** is the best option, as it has a selection of stunning beaches that should please everyone.

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Conclusion

Cornwall is a wonderful location that’s equally brilliant whether you want a relaxing vacation enjoying beaches and quaint villages or a fast-paced trip surfing and taking in the sights.

Hopefully, this article will have helped you decide where to stay in Cornwall to best meet your own needs. All that’s left is to start getting things booked, so you can set off on your perfect trip and experience it all for yourself as soon as possible.

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