Situated on the north coast of Cornwall is the fishing town of Padstow. While Padstow has always been an incredibly charming harbour town, its recent rise in popularity can, for the most part, be attributed to celebrity chef Rick Stein who made his name here.
We opted to base ourselves in Newquay during our recent week-long trip to Cornwall. However, we were driving down from the north of England and arrived in the region far earlier than our accommodation check-in time.
Eager to make the most of our trip, we opted to call into Padstow. We spent the afternoon walking along the coast and dining on some of the finest food in the region.
Is Padstow Worth Visiting?
Padstow is well worth visiting for either half a day or a full day if you’re in Cornwall.
We’ve been to several different towns in the Cornwall region, such as St Ives, Newquay, and Perranporth. However, Padstow is unique. It’s completely different from all of them, which makes taking the time to visit it worthwhile.
How To Get To Padstow
Padstow is located in the north of Cornwall and is somewhat disconnected from the rest of the region. The nearest train station is Bodmin Parkway, situated 20 miles east, which makes the easiest way to get there from nearby towns and villages by car.
Of course, this poses a problem for the hundreds of tourists who choose to visit this small fishing town, and that’s parking.
Padstow wasn’t designed for the number of visitors it receives, especially during the peak season, which can make parking your car within walking distance of the beaches and harbour here tricky.
Having struggled to park ourselves (especially having arrived after lunch when most people had already set up for the day), we put together this detailed car park guide to the town.
However, I’d still recommend setting off early and coming with bags of patience to minimise the amount of stress getting to and parking in Padstow.
How Long To Spend In Padstow
Depending on what you want to do during your visit to Padstow will depend on how long you choose to spend here.
If you’re looking at venturing over to Rock on the ferry or cycling along the Camel Trail, you’ll want to spend anything from two to three days in Padstow town.
Alternatively, if you’re looking at dining at one of the fine restaurants, wandering around the town, and soaking in the atmosphere at the harbour, then half a day to one full day here is more than enough.
It’s also worth remembering that there’s a lot to do in the region of Padstow. Therefore if you’re unsure how long to spend here, you could always use Padstow as your base location while visiting Cornwall and use it as a point from which you can travel to other nearby towns and villages.
Things To Do In Padstow
Padstow is a small but mighty town with lots of great things to see and do.
If you want to experience everything in Padstow, then you’ll want at least two days here. However, if you’re happy simply experiencing a handful, then a day or half a day will do.
Visit Padstow Harbour
If you sat at home in a chair, closed your eyes, and pictured a traditional British harbour, you’d probably think of something very similar to that of the harbour in Padstow.
The picturesque harbour is surrounded by several unique and quirky colourful shops, bars, and restaurants. These often independent locations are the perfect place to pick up a bucket to go crabbing, ice cream or drink to cool off, or even a pizza or some fish and chips.
Hundreds of tourists will sit on the harbour wall to eat snacks, bathe in the sun, or even attempt to catch a crab or two.
Take The Ferry To Rock
Rock is a small coastal village situated opposite Padstow on the River Camel. You can take a ferry from Padstow over to Rock, and it takes just 5 or 10 minutes, instead of the 30-minute car journey.
The ferry operates throughout the year, from 8.00am until 5.30pm in the off-season or 7.30 pm during the summer holidays, and is very reasonably priced at just £3.00 return for adults, £2.00 return for children, and £1.00 return for dogs.
While the journey itself is a short one, you could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring Rock so, if you do plan to go, be sure to allocate enough time to explore both the town of Padstow and the village of Rock fully.
Check Out The National Lobster Hatchery
The National Lobster Hatchery is a unique charitable organisation situated in Padstow. Here you can learn about the marine conservation efforts of lobsters not just in Padstow but throughout Europe.
Admission to the National Lobster Hatchery is currently £7.00 for adults and £4.00 for children, and the attraction is open daily from 10am until 5pm.
Unlike many other things to do in Padstow, the National Lobster Hatchery is almost entirely indoors, making it the perfect attraction on a rainy day (although everyone else often has the same idea, so it will likely be busier than usual).
The visitor centre takes roughly one to two hours to walk around, which may seem like poor value for money given the entrance fee. However, given how unique the attraction is and where the money from your visit goes, it’s well worthwhile in our opinion.
Eat Some Delicious Food
Being a fishing town, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining in Padstow. Celebrity chef Rick Stein made his name here in Padstow. As a result, you’ll find his seafood restaurant, coffee shop, café and two fish and chip shops all within walking distance of the harbour.
The food is unsurprisingly very fresh, incredibly delicious, and very popular. This means that if you’d like to eat at any restaurant in Padstow, then booking a table in advance is highly recommended – especially during the peak season.
Even if you’re planning on simply sitting and eating on the harbour wall, getting served at popular places in the town can take up to 30 minutes, so be sure to plan/queue in advance.
Explore The Camel Trail
The Camel Trail is a pathway that runs along a disused railway line following the course of the Camel Estuary. This trail is home to some of the most incredible scenery and wildlife. You can take the trail by bike or on foot, and we opted for the latter on our most recent visit.
However, there’s no need to worry if you didn’t bring a bike to Padstow, as you can easily rent one from Padstow Cycle Hire (be sure to book in advance during the peak season to avoid disappointment).
The trail goes from Padstow to Bodmin and covers 18 miles. Therefore if you’re travelling with children, the entire trail might not be feasible.
Much like the ferry to Rock, this is an activity that can easily take an entire day on its own.
So, if you plan on doing it (which we highly recommend), then consider spending more than just one day in Padstow, so you’re able to experience everything the town has to offer.
Surf On Harlyn Bay Beach
There’s a whole host of beaches in and around Padstow. However, the most popular is Harlyn which is considered one of the best beaches in all of Cornwall.
Situated three miles from the harbour, Harlyn Bay Beach is home to a large sandbank perfect for families during the summer months.
This beach has several facilities including a small number of shops, cafés and a toilet at the nearby car park. However, there are also rental facilities where you can pick up wetsuits, bodyboards, or surfboards.
Walking over from Padstow Harbor to Harlyn Bay Beach takes around an hour, so depending on how busy the town is during your visit, you may want to consider driving over and parking in the nearby car park instead.