20 things to do in Cornwall with kids
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Cornwall – first as a child on family holidays with my own parents, then with friends and now back again with my own daughter.
I think it might be unique as no matter what time of year I’ve been, or who I’ve been with, I’ve always had a fabulous time. The only drawback (for me) is that it’s such a long drive – but the fact I keep returning just goes to show how tempting it is.
It’s famously family-friendly, so I can’t possibly list every sight, attraction and day out across the country – though check out the Visit Cornwall website for even more suggestions. But here are my top 20 things to do in Cornwall with kids – are there any you’d add?
Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay
Sharks, turtles and a giant octopus are a few of the creatures you’ll find in 40 different habitats, with talks and feeding at this lovely beachfront aquarium – my full review coming soon.
This award-winning zoo is home to over 130 rare and exciting creatures, from creepy crawlies to big cats, as well as activity trails and a children’s play area.
Paradise Park and JungleBarn, Hayle
The wildlife sanctuary is a birdlover’s paradise, with over 650 from local Cornish choughs to flamingos and toucans, as well as red pandas and farm animals, plus an indoor play area.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, Helston
Meet seals and sea lions at the sanctuary and rescue centre, as well as otters, penguins, sheep, ponies and goats. As well as an interactive rockpool, feeding and talks, there’s also a quiz trail and pirate play area for kids.
Amusement and theme parks
Dairyland Farm World, Newquay
Calling itself an adventure park, it’s a cross between a farm, a play centre and a mini museum, with a nature trail thrown in – anything from tractor rides to milking cows as well as some Cornish history.
Cornwall’s Crealy Great Adventure Park, near Wadebridge
Split between Cornwall and Devon, the park has over 40 rides and attractions including family-friendly ones, plus giant play areas – there’s 40,000 square feet of indoor play if the weather’s bad, as well as hundreds of animals.
Flambards Theme Park, near Helston
The family-friendly rollercoasters, play areas and activities at this theme park have been joined by a new ride that’s one of the fastest of its kind in Europe, whizzing people round at up to 70kph. More sedately, there are also indoor exhibitions including a Victorian Village.
The Eden Project, St Austell
This astonishing global garden, tucked inside futuristic domed biomes, is home to the world’s largest indoor rainforest as well as interactive exhibits, a sensory garden and plants from around the globe. See our review.
Pirate’s Quest, Newquay
Journey back 300 years to the Golden Age of piracy, meet smugglers and buccaneers (and mermaids) and discover Cornwall’s 18th century history on an hour-long tour. There’s also treasure maps for kids, helping them claim some pirate booty if they can crack the secret code.
Castles and heritage
Pendennis Castle, Falmouth
One of the mightiest fortresses built by Henry VIII to defend against invasion, Pendennis Castle looms on the headland just outside Falmouth. An English Heritage site, you can explore the castle keep and discover exhibitions from the Victorian and First World War eras among others.
Tintagel Castle, Tintagel
Dramatic and rugged, the clifftop ruins have legends galore, particularly the tale that it’s the birthplace of King Arthur with Merlin’s Cave nearby. Best with older children who can manage the vertiginous steps, it’s one of the most memorable castle sites in Cornwall.
St Michael’s Mount
Like stepping into another world, you can walk medieval paths, explore the castle and discover the village and harbour. At low tide you can walk the causeway (following in the footsteps of giants) or hop on a boat to speed over from Marazion.
Geevor Tin Mine, near Penzance
One of the largest preserved mine sites in the country, it’s the perfect place to understand Cornwall’s mining history including an 18th century underground tour and the chance to pan for gems, as well as family activities. Poldark fans might recognise a few familiar spots too.
National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth
Voted one of the country’s most family-friendly museums, it traces the history of the island and its boating heroes across 15 galleries, plus a new two-year exhibition on the Vikings, which opened in March 2015. Including a 14m Viking trading boat which you can climb abroad and artefacts from museums across Europe – another review coming.
Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, near Penzance
Once Britain’s communications centre, with telegraph cables stretching under the sea from Porthcurno to the cities of the Empire, the museum had a major refurbishment in 2014 to open new family-friendly exhibitions with activities every day.
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
The oldest and largest museum in Cornwall, this tracks the area’s culture from the ancient past to the present, as well as art displays, an Egyptian mummy and temporary exhibitions, plus family-friendly events including some aimed at pre-schoolers.
Land’s End – and Shaun the sheep
After wandering the clifftop paths and looking out to the sea, plus getting your photo taken at the famous signpost, you can now discover the Shaun the Sheep Experience at Land’s End as well, including trying your hand on one of the real sets, starring in your own scene and meeting the characters.
Lappa Valley Steam Railway, St Newlyn East
Three small railways run through a conservation area, with nature trails and children’s rides as well as a chance to travel by steam or toddler-sized train.
The Camel Trail
An 18-mile trail linking Padstow, Wadebridge and Bodmin, this follows an old railway track alongside the river Camel. Perfect for a day out on bikes but there are also family-friendly walks.
The county is famed for its surfing (and beaches) but it’s definitely not just for adults. Surf schools like the Cornwall Surf Academy has lessons from age seven, or from five at Harlyn Surf School while Discovery Surf School and St Ives Surf School have various child and family options – check here for more suggestions.
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And for ideas of where to stay, check out this great post from Mini Travellers
Images: Eden Project image: Visit Cornwall website/Flickr. All other images copyright MummyTravels/Cathy Winston