9 Best Towns to Stay in Cornwall

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by Neota Langley

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Cornwall is a region of dramatic landscapes and unique character on the southwestern tip of mainland Britain. With its charming villages, historic towns, and stunning coastline, Cornwall offers a myriad of choices when it comes to selecting your ideal place to stay. Finding the best towns to stay in Cornwall can seem overwhelming at first, there are endless options to suit every traveller.

Whether you dream of waking up to the sound of crashing waves, strolling through picturesque fishing villages, or exploring the rich cultural heritage of this southwestern gem, Cornwall has it all. 

Best Places to Stay in Cornwall

St Ives – Best Area for Art Lovers

The quintessential Cornish experience, St Ives is a picturesque seaside town that blends artistic charm with the wild rugged beauty of the Cornish coast.

Using St Ives as a base to explore Cornwall is a strategic choice. Due to its location, you can easily access many of this region’s hotspots such as Land’s End, Penzance, and St. Michael’s Mount without spending hours in the car. 

The town itself is a vibrant hive of activity, known for its many art galleries, thriving food scene and boutique stores. Discover contemporary art in the iconic Tate St. Ives, and meander around the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, dedicated to the renowned 20th-century sculptor.

Watch the sunset over the harbour while you tuck into the catch of the day at one of the many seafood restaurants or grab a Cornish pasty to enjoy on one of the benches as you stroll along the famous South West Coastal path. 

Step away from the centre to discover the sweeping golden sands of Porthmeor Beach and the calm waters of Porthminster Beach. Here you will find multiple activity providers offering surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and windsurfing excursions. 

St Ives is a popular choice when it comes to finding the best location to stay in Cornwall, but this means it comes with its own set of challenges. It is one of the busiest towns in the entire region along with Newquay and Penzance and during the peak summer months, the crowds can become overwhelming.

Because of this, finding parking in the town can be difficult, and you may need to use the more remote car parks and walk into the centre. For this reason, St Ives may not be the best choice if you are a family with a lot of luggage or if you are hoping for a more serene countryside escape. 

St Ives Harbour
St Ives Harbour

Where to Stay in St Ives

Palma Guest House – This beachfront guesthouse is a great option in St Ives. They have a great location and a range of modern, comfortable rooms to choose from.

Lifeboat Inn – Situated overlooking the bay, this inn in St Ives is a great place to stay in this Cornish town. They have comfortable rooms along with a hearty breakfast served each morning.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in St Ives!

Padstow – Best Area for Foodies

If you are a foodie, there’s a good chance you will have already heard of our next destination, Padstow. World-famous chefs Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth have opened several restaurants in this charming fishing port. With beautiful ocean views and some of the best seafood in the UK, it’s not hard to see why. 

The village’s coastal surroundings are equally captivating as its culinary reputation. The Camel Estuary provides a serene backdrop for leisurely strolls and water-based activities, while nearby sandy beaches like Harlyn and Constantine Bay offer ample opportunities for sunbathing and surfing. From Padstow, you can also easily reach neighbouring villages Rock and Polzeath.

Explore the village’s nooks and crannies to uncover its rich maritime heritage and unique shops. Padstow is home to a variety of unique experiences such as the National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow Museum, Farmshop and Rick Stein’s coveted cookery school. 

Padstow is a great choice for couples wanting a romantic break, you will have plenty of restaurants to choose from including Michelin-star establishments for a special occasion and hidden coves along the coastal path where you can while away the hours relaxing on the beach.

Much like St Ives, Padstow can get very crowded during the summer months. It is a smaller town so it’s best to book accommodation in advance as hotels and B&Bs book up quickly.

If you want to be within touching distance of Padstow but don’t want to stay in the centre of town, there are several quaint villages in Cornwall along the coast. You could broaden your search to include Harlyn, Rock and Polzeath – all less than 15 minutes along the coast from Padstow. 

Rock Beach and the Camel Estuary
Rock Beach and the Camel Estuary

Where to Stay in Padstow

Trevose House – This cosy B&B is perfect for those who’ve decided to make this North Cornwall town their base. They have several rooms on offer, free private parking and great facilities for guests to enjoy.

Harbour Hotel – This luxury hotel is in a beautiful location location in Padstow. There are several gorgeous rooms on offer. The hotel has sea views, breakfast, an on-site restaurant, room service and much more.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Padstow!

Polperro – Bet Area for a Small-Town Feel

To escape the hustle and bustle of the larger towns and villages along the Cornish coast, head to the sleepy fishing village of Polperro.

Characterised by its narrow, winding streets, colourful cottages, and a scenic harbour, this quaint Cornish gem is a peaceful escape offering a glimpse into a traditional coastal lifestyle and is one of the best towns to visit in Cornwall. 

Whilst Polperro may not be home to as many activities or dining options as the larger destinations, there is a peace and serenity here that you won’t find anywhere else during the summer months. There is a strong sense of community and local culture that can often feel overshadowed in the busier tourist spots. 

In Polperro, you are never too far from the coastal path, with endless miles of rugged coastline to discover.

Sandy coves dotted between towering cliffs and mysterious caves. Whilst you can access the coast in several other destinations, the path around Polperro is much quieter so it’s much easier to discover your own slice of Cornish tranquillity, away from the crowds.

While Polperro itself is relatively small, it is well-connected to other popular Cornwall destinations, such as Looe, Fowey, and the Eden Project, which are just a short drive away. If you choose to stay in this charming village, it’s worth noting that you will need a car to explore the rest of Cornwall as public transport is not the most reliable. 

Polperro Village
Polperro Village

Where to Stay in Polperro

Natal House Bed & Breakfast – This cosy bed & breakfast makes for a good base in Polperro. They have a few rooms to choose from, free parking and a fab breakfast to enjoy in the mornings.

The Claremont Hotel – This swanky hotel is great for those looking for a romantic getaway. They have a number of beautiful rooms, an exceptional breakfast and an inviting shared lounge for guests.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Polperro!

Falmouth – Best Area for Nightlife

Cornwall is a varied county, from sleepy fishing villages to our next destination, Falmouth. Here you will find a vibrant maritime town, the perfect blend of culture, atmosphere and coastal charm. 

A busy university town, Falmouth has a range of activities available and is a great place for visitors who want a jam-packed trip. From the marina, you can take a boat trip, go paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing, coasteering and enjoy many other watersports. There is also the Maritime Museum for history enthusiasts and an art gallery. 

Falmouth is strategically located in the centre of Cornwall, making it a convenient base for those who want to explore both the north and south coasts by car. It is roughly 1hr from Land’s End and 1.5hrs from Bude in the north. 

You won’t find the quaint rural charm of the other coastal destinations but there is more to see and do in the immediate vicinity. This town on the southern coast appeals to all sorts of travellers but is one of the only places in Cornwall where you will find a lively nightlife scene. 

Falmouth Harbour
Falmouth Harbour

Where to Stay in Falmouth

Braemar – This place offers both double rooms, family rooms and suites so it’s a good option for those looking for a self-catering holiday destination. They have a great location in the centre of Falmouth.

Greenbank Hotel – This 4-star hotel is a great place for an upmarket stay. They have a number of beautiful rooms to choose from, a beachfront location, a wonderful restaurant and breakfast available each morning.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Falmouth!

Penzance – Best Area for Sightseeing

Nestled on the shores of Mount’s Bay in Cornwall, Penzance emerges as a historic maritime town where the centuries-old charm seamlessly resonates with the modern rhythm of coastal life.

Penzance is the definition of a crowd pleaser, here you will find cultural sites like the Penlee House Gallery and Museum and the Egyptian House alongside endless hiking and watersports opportunities. The town itself is lively but not as crowded as St Ives or Padstow which makes it one of the best places to stay in Cornwall. 

From Penzance, you can easily access St Michael’s Mount and the stunning coastal scenery around Lizard Point. A little further in the car and you will reach Land’s End, St Ives or Falmouth.

You may not get to experience the small village charm but the proximity to the A30 or the A394 (the two main roads connecting Cornwall to London and other major cities in the UK) means you are in the perfect position to explore further afield.  

St Michaels Mount in Cornwall
St Michael’s Mount near Penzance

Where to Stay in Penzance

Now if it’s Penzance that has won out when wondering where to stay in Cornwall, you’re going to need to find some accommodation in the town. There are myriad places to choose from in Penzance that can suit all travel styles. If you’re looking for the perfect spot, check out these suggestions:

Chiverton House – Located in a Victorian house close to the Penzance promenade, this guesthouse has a handful of cosy rooms, inviting and helpful owners and free parking for guests.

The Dolphin Tavern – This pub is an excellent place to stay when basing yourself in Penzance. There is a bar and restaurant along with lovely rooms, breakfast and great sea views.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more options in Penzance!

Newquay – Best Area for Beaches

Newquay is a vibrant coastal town that beckons visitors from across the world with its golden beaches, exhilarating surf culture, and a lively atmosphere. This popular seaside town, renowned as the surfing capital of the UK, is home to plenty of beautiful beaches, towering cliffs, and endless outdoor activities. 

Blending family-friendly activities such as Newquay Zoo and Blue Reef Aquarium with one of the most active nightlife scenes in the region, Newquay is the perfect destination for families or larger friend groups with varying interests.

Fistral is one of the most iconic surf beaches in the UK and is just a short walk away from the town centre and spending time here is one of the best things to do in the area. Spend the day sunbathing on the beach, join the southwest coastal path for a walk along the cliffs dotting the coast of Cornwall or spend the day rummaging through local boutiques.

From outdoor enthusiasts to those who prefer the hustle and bustle of a major hub, there is something to suit everyone in Newquay. 

Whilst the lure of an active nightlife scene can be a draw to some, others may find the late-night activities and subsequent noise a con if you prefer quieter, more peaceful settings. Newquay also hosts several major events and festivals throughout the summer months so it can get very crowded over certain weekends.

If you are travelling without a car, it’s easy enough to get to Newquay. Unlike most of the smaller villages and hamlets, Newquay has its own train station and the bus service spreads across Cornwall and beyond.

This surfer’s haven is also perfectly situated towards the middle of the west coast making it ideal for those who want to visit other nearby destinations such as Padstow, St Agnes coast and St Ives and is a great place to visit in Cornwall.

Fistral Beach in Newquay
Fistral Beach in Newquay

Where to Stay in Newquay

Cliff House – This hotel has a number of modern and bright rooms (some with sea views), a continental breakfast each morning and a great location on the beach.

Selkies NQY – This hotel has a range of lovely, ensuite rooms to choose from and a wonderful location with a stone’s throw of the beach. There is also a great bar and restaurant on site.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Newquay!

Truro – Best Area for those without a Car

Typically when you think of Cornwall you immediately conjure up images of the sparkling turquoise ocean, ice cream vans on the beach and the meandering coastal path. Our next destination, however, is inland.

Truro is the only city in Cornwall so if you are considering the best area to stay in Cornwall and want to be based in the beating heart of the region, Truro is ideal. 

Truro is perfect for those who are travelling without a car. The city has excellent transport links, including a train station and a well-connected bus network, making it easy to travel to other towns and nearby attractions.

The city itself is home to Georgian architecture, cobbled streets lined with boutiques and a beautiful cathedral. There are also art galleries, the Royal Cornwall Museum and several local markets to discover. 

Although Truro is the ‘capital’ of Cornwall, it does not have the lively atmosphere of Falmouth so if you are hoping to spend the evenings enjoying bars and clubs, consider Falmouth instead.

Truro is also inland so there are no sea views or easy access to the coastal path so this is something to consider if you are hoping for the quintessential Cornish seaside experience. 

For those on a budget, there are cheaper accommodation options in Truro because it is further away from the coast but you may end up spending more on fuel or bus tickets to reach the coast overall. 

Truro Cathedral
Truro Cathedral

Where to Stay in Truro

Cliftons Guest House – Centrally located in Truro, this guesthouse has friendly owners, private parking and a range of rooms to choose from – some including a seating area.

The Alverton – Located in the outskirts of Truro, this elegant hotel is in a beautiful, historic building. They have several gorgeous rooms to choose from along with a fantastic restaurant and lovely gardens.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Truro!

St Just – Best Area for Hikers

Another rural parish, St Just is the most westerly town on the UK mainland. Wild and rugged, this destination is perfect for those who want a quieter place to stay on the Cornish coast.

The compromise when staying somewhere this rural is that other popular destinations may require longer drives but if you are only interested in Cape Cornwall, Land’s End and the untamed coastal path then St Just is the best location to stay in Cornwall for you. 

Steeped in history, St Just is home to several ancient archaeological sites and historic mines, such as the UNESCO-listed Levant Mine. The coastal path takes you on a historical journey, with ruins around every corner.

There are not many activities available from St Just itself so it is more suited to travellers who want to ramble along the footpaths and rest and recharge. The village itself is however home to a thriving artistic community, with local galleries showcasing the talents inspired by this breathtaking setting. 

You will need a car if you decide to stay in St Just as the local transport links are limited. You can easily reach Cape Cornwall, Land’s End and the Penwith Heritage Coast but if you want to explore larger towns such as St Ives or Newlyn you will need to drive for around 45 minutes. 

Land's End near St Just
Land’s End near St Just

Where to Stay in St Just

The Old Post House B&B – Perfect for a cosy stay in West Cornwall, this bed and breakfast has a handful of cosy and comfortable rooms, friendly owners and a superb breakfast each morning.

Tredenwith House – This one-bedroom apartment is perfect for those after self-catering accommodation on the coast of Cornwall. It comes fully furnished and equipped with all you may need.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in St Just!

Bude – Best Area for Families

From the southern tip of Cornwall to our next destination on the north, the seaside town of Bude. Appealing to a wide range of travellers, Bude is a popular destination during the summer months and for good reason. 

If you are hoping to find the best area to stay in Cornwall for families, Bude is the perfect fit. The town’s family-friendly vibe extends to a range of amusements, mini-golf, and historic sites, including the unique Bude Sea Pool.

You can access a beautiful sandy beach in minutes from the town centre making it the ideal destination for families who want to limit time in the car and spend the trip relaxing on the beach and splashing in the waves. 

Bude is not just a family destination, it is also a popular spot for surfers seeking the perfect Cornish wave. There are several stunning sandy beaches, including the iconic Summerleaze Beach, Widemouth and Crooklets that lure beach lovers from all over the UK. 

Being so far north, Bude has its pros and cons when it comes to using it as a base to explore Cornwall. If you are hoping to visit some of the attractions on the southern tip such as Land’s End and St Ives, it’ll take just over 2 hours from Bude.

But, if you are only interested in exploring a smaller area, there are plenty of things to see and do within half an hour such as the villages of Boscastle, Tintagel and Port Isaac. Bodmin Moor is nearby for some excellent dog walks and if you want to spend a day in Devon, Bude is very close to the border. 

Beach in Bude
Beach in Bude

Where to Stay in Bude

Oak Lodge B&B – This spacious bed and breakfast is perfect for those looking to stay in this village in Cornwall. They have several comfortable rooms, a hearty breakfast and lovely facilities for guests.

The Edgcumbe Hotel – This Nordic-inspired hotel is a great base in Bude. They have a range of lovely rooms, a great beachfront location and an on-site restaurant and bar to enjoy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Bude!

From bustling towns to sleepy harbour villages, far away from the outside world, Cornwall has it all. No matter where you chose to stay, Cornwall will steal your heart and leave you dreaming of the wind in your hair, golden sands below your feet and mouth-watering local cuisine. 

Are you looking for the best towns in Cornwall? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

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