In South East Cornwall, family fun is closer than you think!
Free Family Activities
Many of our best activities won’t cost you a penny. There are our brilliant beaches (some of which you can take the dog to). Try a sandy beach like Whitsand Bay one day for building sandcastles and burying Dad and a rocky beach like Plaidy or Hannafore the next day for rock-pooling. And if you want to get a bit wetter, how about snorkelling at Downderry, where if you’re lucky you might spot the wreck of the Cutty Sark’s sister ship! If your family is artistic, why not try your hand at some beach art? All you need is sand, stones and anything else you find on the beach. You’ll be surprised what you can make. It’s only a shame you can’t take it with you!
Rockpooling at Seaton, image Matt Jessop
A real South East Cornwall tradition is crabbing. Get a line, stick some bait on it, find a space on the quayside, dangle your line over the side and wait for a crab to take the bait. Go to Looe on a sunny day (and we have plenty of those), and you’ll see lots of people of all ages crabbing. You only need one hand to hold the line, leaving the other hand free for the all-important clotted cream ice cream!
Crabbing, image Matt Jessop
It won’t cost you anything to walk the South West Coast Path, explore the uplands of Bodmin Moor, or for that matter the country parks at Mount Edgecumbe and Kit Hill. And remember that much of South East Cornwall is in the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, so expect to stumble across dramatic ruins from Cornwall’s mining past.
Surfing and Paddleboarding
Southeast Cornwall has a thriving surfing scene even if it doesn’t get the publicity of the north coast. (It’s worth mentioning that unlike the famous surf beaches on the north coast, you won’t find other surfers getting in your way.) Whitsand Bay has two surf schools where you and the kids can learn to surf. Also based at Whitsand Bay is SUPRental, where you can try your hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding. Because of the wide open beaches and surf with plenty of space, the area is also popular with kitesurfers.
Stand Up Paddleboarding, Whitsand Bay, image Matt Jessop
Animals and Nature
You’ll find all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures in rockpools, but if you have a family interested in wildlife, you’ll love South East Cornwall. Our rivers and estuaries are great places to go to spot wading birds, including unusual and beautiful waders like egrets, avocets and even spoonbills. Off the coast, it’s not unusual to see seals and dolphins, and in the summer the amazing basking shark. Boat trips are available for trips up our rivers and around our coast.
We also have a number of zoos and animal sanctuaries either in South East Cornwall or within easy reach. Looe has both the Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary and the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary, Launceston has the Tamar Otter Sanctuary, Gunnislake has the Tamar Valley Donkey Park. Just outside the region are Dartmoor Zoo and the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo.
With all this moorland and open countryside, South East Cornwall is a great place to ride. Polmartin Riding in Lanreath is a BHS Approved Riding School and offers horse and pony trekking.
Pony-trekking, Fowey, image Barnacle and Bird Photography
And of course no visit to South East Cornwall would be complete without a visit to the biodomes of The Eden Project.
If you’re looking for something truly exciting, how about Adrenaline Quarry near Liskeard? The Quarry has the UK’s “maddest zip wire”, coasteering, a giant swing and deep water wild swimming. Nextdoor is Kartworld, Cornwall’s best kart circuit. If you’ve only ever been karting indoors, you’ll be amazed at just how much faster and more thrilling it is on a wide open outdoor 800m track with fast straights and sweeping bends. There’s also a smaller gentler circuit for children under 6.
If you fancy trying your hand at coasteering, off-road driving, rock climbing or shooting, give SECTA members Active-8 a call. They know all the best local suppliers and negotiate the best rates with them. They can also arrange sightseeing light aircraft and helicopter flights.
China Fleet Country Club in Saltash has a big leisure pool with water slide and indoor sports facilities for sporty families plus a golf course.
China Fleet Country Club, image China Fleet
We also have plenty of interesting family heritage attractions. The Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre is the largest private collection of ships maritime artefacts on display of Europe and recently featured in an episode of Doctor Who. Bodmin Jail is a restored 18th century jail. The Jail’s Ghost Walks are not for the faint-hearted! Looe also has a 16th century jail (more accurately a ‘gaol’) that you can explore. Carnglaze Caverns near Liskeard is a former slate mine offering guided tours that is part of the World Heritage Site.
Just across the Tamar from South East Cornwall is the historic city of Plymouth. Explore Plymouth Hoe (where Sir Francis Drake prepared for the coming Spanish Armada by famously playing bowls), the Barbican and Sutton Harbour, from where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World in 1620.
And there are several great houses in the area. The National Trust has properties at Cotehele House (a Tudor Mansion) and Antony House (an 18th century house that provided the setting for the Tim Burton film Alice in Wonderland, while Port Eliot and Pentillie Castle are privately owned but sometimes open to the public. Mount Edgcumbe House dates back to the 1500s and is open to the public for most of April to September. (The country park is open all year round.)
Saltash is home to Mary Newman’s Cottage (reputedly the home of Sir Francis Drake’s first wife) and Elliott’s Store, a general store where time stood still in the late seventies, which will bring back some memories for people of a certain age. Polperro has the Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing. You’ll also find local museums at Liskeard, Launceston, Callington and Lostwithiel.
Finally, rail enthusiasts will find heritage railways at Launceston Steam Railway, and the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, plus of course the main line to Paddington – Brunel’s Great Western main line, and its spectacular bridges, notably the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.