Every year, around 4 million people visit the ancient and beautiful county of Cornwall. Most are drawn to the sandy beaches and turquoise water for some R and R, and maybe a spot of sandcastle building, too! But aside from great food, stunning scenery and a brilliant beach scene, there are so many other wonderful and adventurous things to do in Cornwall that are guaranteed to make your visit a little bit different.
Many visitors like to hit the surf for some high-octane thrills whilst others seek the relative solitude of the coast path to enjoy the calmer side of Cornwall. For those who don’t relish the idea of sharing that idyllic beach with 10,000 other sun-loving beach goers, there are hundreds of other unusual things to do in Cornwall.
Cornwall is the perfect place to go on an adventure. And when the beaches are stacked full of people, why wouldn’t you want to seek an alternative way to enjoy this magical place? If this sounds like you, then our list of alternative and adventurous things to do in Cornwall may just have something that’s right up your street!
9 alternative and adventurous things to do in Cornwall
- 7th Rise 1-Night Adventure
- Seaweed Foraging Course
- Creeks and Coves Paddle Board Adventure
- Cook breakfast on a beach
- Trail Run The Clay Trails
- Paddle the Gannel
- Coast to Coast Cycle: Bissoe Trail
7th Rise 1-Night Adventure
|Where:||Banks of the River Fal on the Roseland Peninsula|
|Cost:||£100 per person|
Nestled deep in the Cornish countryside on the banks of the River Fal is one of the most delightful hidden retreats you’ll ever come across. A night at 7th Rise combines the tranquillity of nature with the simplicity of outdoor living and adventure. And it’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
Firstly, you have to walk for 10 minutes down to the creek through rolling fields from where you park your car, leaving the outside world well and truly behind. Once you step into the woodland wonderland and spot the charred kettle steaming on the campfire, you’ll be wishing you booked in for the week!
Secondly, one of the accommodation options is a treehouse that overlooks the water! What a dream. Does it really get better than falling asleep to the hoots of owls, the lapping water and the creek of the trees around you?
Your stay also includes a choice of activity from foraging, canoeing, archery or bushcraft survival, as well as a wild food supper, a hearty breakfast and campfire coffee. This is one of the best things to do in Cornwall if you’re looking for something really different and magical.
|Where:||South coast is best, but anywhere sheltered|
|When:||Midday when it’s sunny|
|Duration:||Up to 1 hour|
|Cost:||Free, if you have your own snorkelling equipment or £40 for a session|
Snorkelling in Cornwall isn’t reserved to one single beach or area. There’s a ton of fantastic locations to choose from. However, some are most certainly better than others. So if you’re serious about getting the best snorkelling experience possible then it’s worth seeking out the good spots!
As a general rule, beach and coastal areas that are sheltered and calm provide optimal conditions that are safer to explore, better visibiliy and with more abundant wildlife than in wilder waters. As such, you’re best off hitting the South coast to places like Prussia Cove, Grebe, Penzance and Gyllyngvase. However, there are plenty of incredible spots on the North coast when the sea is calm and the sun is shining.
If you’re new to snorkelling then booking onto an organised session is most certainly the way to get the best out of snorkelling in Cornwall. Your instructor will ensure that you safely get to see all the best underwater curiosities in locations that work best with the tide and time of day.
Seaweed Foraging Course
|Where:||Prussia Cove, Helford area, Cape Cornwall, Falmouth|
|When:||All year round|
|Cost:||£45 per person|
Foraging isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly not a particularly good alternative to high adrenaline adventures like surfing or caving. But for foodies and foraging fans, a day pootling around in the rock pools is hard to beat.
Rachel Lambert is renowned in the foraging world for her inventive and delicious recipes, and her depth of knowledge and experience is impressive. She runs wild food and seaweed foraging courses in some of the most idyllic spots in Cornwall, so just being there is an adventure in itself.
By the end of the course you’ll come away with the confidence to forage seaweed on your own to supplement your diet. You’ll learn how to cook with seaweed and what to make. And there will be tasters of some pre-made seaweedy delights to sample. You’ll also struggle not to fall in love with seaweed!
This is one of the best things to do in Cornwall if you’re looking for a slow-paced adventure, that is both educational and fun.
Creeks and Coves Paddleboard Adventure
|Where:||Durgan, Helford River|
|Cost:||£55 per person|
Drive 20 minutes south of the bustling beaches of Falmouth and you’ll reach the picture perfect creeks and coves of the Helford River. This area is a delight to visit on foot. But to really enjoy all that the Helford River has to offer, I highly recommend exploring by paddle board.
If you have your own paddle board then you can launch from a few places along the river. But because it’s an estuary, the huge tidal range and currents can easily catch you out. Book onto a Paddleboard Adventure, however, and you can explore to your heart’s delight under the watchful eye of a highly experienced instructor.
A half day on the river will include instruction on how to paddle a stand up paddle board (SUP) before heading upstream and deep into the Cornish countryside on your SUP. Here you can take in the mystery of Frenchman’s Creek, the quaint village of Helford, the quintessentially English seaside scene at Helford Passage and all the little coves and creeks in between.
You’ll also get to enjoy the abundant birdlife that the river and its surroundings are home to.
|Cost:||£45 per person|
If you’re unfamiliar with coasteering then there are few better places to experience it than in Cornwall. It’s a superb way to explore the stunning coastline and all its spectacular cliffs, especially on the North coast where access to the sea can be very difficult in areas. It also happens to be an excellent way of pushing you outside of your comfort zone whilst still having a load of fun. Yes, being scared and having fun go together rather well when you’re in the hands of experienced and knowledgeable instructors like those at Cornish Wave.
A two hour session with them includes clambering over rocks, swimming between tine coves and leaping into the sea from cliffs (at a height that you’re sort of comfortable with). Just being in the water where no-one else is is a joy in itself. But coasteering is also a journey from one point to another. A true adventure in which those of any age will feel like a child again!
If you’re after an adrenaline-filled, water-based adventure but want to avoid the surfing scene, then coasteering in Cornwall is a not-to-miss alternative adventure that is suitable for all ages.
Cook breakfast on a beach
|When:||An hour before sunrise|
If you’re on a budget and looking for alternative things to do in Cornwall then why not head to a tourist spot for sunrise? Pick a beach or a cliff top on the south or east side of the county and you’ll be treated to stunning views all to yourself.
To make more of an adventure of the occasion, I recommend choosing somewhere especially out of the way, like the Lizard Peninsula, and hiking to the spot an hour or so before sunrise. Once you’re there and wrapped up in warm blankets, cook up an easy but yummy breakfast, camp coffee and all, on a portable camp stove or disposable BBQ.
You may resent the early start at first, but once you tuck into your breakfast burrito with the sunrise at your feet, you’ll be wondering why you don’t do it every day!
Eco-friendly disposable BBQ – Stove hire
Trail Run The Clay Trails
|Duration:||0.5 to 1.5 hours|
Another on the budget-friendly list of things to do in Cornwall is trail running. There are so many amazing places to go running in Cornwall. Simply hitting the coast path is a superb option. However, if you’re looking for something a little bit different that isn’t quite as challenging as the rocky ups and downs of coastal routes, then check out the Clay Trails.
Based in the St Austell Bay area, the Clay Trails offer a number of routes ranging from 2 to 5 miles. They follow disused railways, old miners’ tracks, woodland trails, footpaths and small roads, and provide a unique snapshot into the rich mining history of the area. Depending on the trail you choose, you can enjoy stunning views of the Eden Project, turquoise dams, towering clay tips, known as the Cornish Alps, working china clay pits and historical drying chimneys.
Trail running the Clay Trails is a completely unique way to explore Cornwall and something totally different to the usual walking and running trails on offer. Most of the trails can also be cycled and there’s even Geocaching opportunities to be had.
Paddle the Gannel
|When:||1.5 hours before high tide on a low wind|
|Duration:||0.5- 3 hours|
|Cost:||£25 for kayak or SUP hire|
For those visiting the Newquay area, stand up paddle boarding or kayaking on The Gannel River is an excellent way to dodge the crowds of the Newquay beaches. It’s also a good option for beginner paddlers, so long as the wind is low.
You can launch straight from the sandy beach at Crantock, where you can hire boards and kayaks. And from there you have a couple of options. Either take a little pootle upstream to enjoy the turquoise waters before heading back to base, or head further upstream on a bigger journey, packed lunch and all!
If you go for option two then it’s best to launch about 1.5 hours before high tide. By doing this, you’ll paddle upstream with the incoming tide. This will take you right up the river where it starts to meander and narrow and feels a little like paddling through a bamboo jungle! If you time it right then the tide will have turned just when the river gets a bit too narrow and shallow to continue.
There are a few delightful spots to stop for a picnic, however, Crantock Beach is also a rather delightful place for picnicking.
TOP TIP: Parking at Crantock Beach can fill up quickly during the summer months so get there early or go for an evening paddle.
Coast to Coast Cycle: Bissoe Trail
|Where:||Portreath to Devoran|
|When:||Mid-week when it’s as little quieter|
|Cost:||Free, if you have your own bikes. Bike hire is from £12 for a half day|
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore Cornwall. However, if you’re not much in favour of slogging it up big hills for miles on end, then this coast to coast route will be right up your street. Although it’s not completely flat, there are no big hills to tackle, which is the main thing!
Aside from the leg-friendly nature of this route, the Bissoe Trail is also up there with the best things to do in Cornwall for families as the majority of the trail is off road. It’s also good for those on a budget with affordable bike hire if you don’t have your own bikes.
Starting in Portreath on the North coast of Cornwall, the trail winds its way through small lanes and tracks, linking up stretches of old mining railways and tramroads. It feels a world away from the nearby bustling beaches and, like the Clay Trails, offers a great opportunity to learn about Cornwall’s mining heritage.
Crucially, there’s a superb cafe near Bissoe which serves up breakfast, lunch and sweet treats. You can also hire bikes and buy spare inner tubes from the shop.
Once you reach the South coast at Devoran, a picnic on the creekside provides a welcome break before the return journey back to Portreath.