Picturesque Padstow is a very popular place, especially with the current trend for south-west ‘staycations’. With sea views, a harbour, and plentiful fresh air, Padstow is the perfect premier resort for a stay or a day visit. If you enjoy cafe society, then Padstow’s ‘sitting outside people-watching’ vibe is for you. Time passes a little more slowly here. Its friendly, alfresco lifestyle with some of the best seafood restaurants in Cornwall, and its working harbour gives you a chance to totally relax. Sublime food, sun and sea – it’s a no brainer.
As with most of Cornwall, Padstow is easiest to reach by car. The most direct driving route from London is via the A303 and A30, but from other areas, you will take the A30 from the M5.
A train from London Waterloo involves a change at Exeter St Davids and ends at Bodmin Parkway, from where a bus to Padstow runs (at the time of writing) hourly.
Alternatively, you might fly to Newquay Airport, but bus links run only around every 3 hours. For a taxi, try this company.
You may be lucky to find parking on-street in Padstow depending on when you are visiting, so look down by the quay and the lobster hatchery for your best chances. Most people use the car parks as they are easier.
Padstow Town Council owns two car parks: the Railway, which provides level access to the town centre and the Camel Trail; and The Lawns next to the library with a 10-minute downhill walk into town (and – remember – uphill on the way back!)
There are two Cornwall Council owned long-stay car parks: Link Road (312 spaces), by the fire station, and Porthcothan Bay (174 spaces). At Link Road, an hour costs £1, and 24 hours only £6 at the time of writing, so it is reasonably good value.
Parking for the Park and Ride service is available on the A389 Wadebridge Road, near Tesco, with onward travel provided by bus down into the town. Parking costs £5 for the day. This service is seasonal, operating Easter and Spring bank holidays through to the end of September, but provides a good stress-free option with buses every 15 minutes.
It has to be said that celebrity chef, Rick Stein, helped to put Padstow, once a small fishing village, firmly on the map, when he opened his exclusive Seafood Restaurant there back in 1975. So big an impact did he have on the town that it earned the nickname ‘Padstein’. The Stein empire has grown to incorporate eating, Stein at Home delivery service, and accommodation. His fish and chips are a cut above the average and his cafe is popular. Stein’s Deli on the quay has fabulous fresh fish, so try a bucket of seafood and wonderful garlic aioli.
Now there is other competition. Chef Paul Ainsworth has made Padstow his own with No 6, and Caffe Rojano. Prawn on the Lawn opened in 2015. They change their small plates every day and are regulars in the Michelin Guide. Cherry Trees is fabulous for afternoon tea and cake, or light lunches.
For a traditional Cornish pub, try The Shipwrights. It is a beautiful traditional brick built pub on the far side of the harbour, originally built to serve fishermen and tradespeople in the bustling port. The Golden Lion and The London Inn are beloved by locals and both have a great atmosphere.
As with everywhere in Cornwall, if you walk and seek, you shall find. Often, the best days out are created by meandering and following your own curiosity, though it is said of Padstow that all roads lead to the harbour. However, there are some spots you should not miss. Nearby are fabulous family beaches, such as Hawker’s Cove. Just across the river by the Black Tor passenger ferry is the town of Rock, with its own attractions. The crossing takes around 10 minutes. If you love being on the water, then try one of the many sightseeing and nature tours. History-lovers should visit Prideaux Place and deer park, built in 1592, a fine Elizabethan House overlooking Padstow.
The Camel Trail also begins in Padstow, passing through stunning scenery, and the areas of Wadebridge, Bodmin and Blisland. Padstow to Wadebridge section is just 5 miles long, with glorious views across the Camel Estuary, secret beaches, and insanely glorious coastal scenery to explore.
The Camel Trail extends for 17 ‘car free’ miles from Bodmin to Padstow passing through the town of Wadebridge, which is perfect for families to safely enjoy some fun and laughter while cycling together off-road on relatively easy level terrain. You can hire bikes here. Grab a pasty on your travels to refuel.
Off load, the kids will enjoy a Padstow sealife safari to see the local marine wildlife, such as seals, porpoises and even basking sharks. Or just spend some time rockpooling and crabbing crabs can be enticed at the harbour).
Nearby Polzeath is also gently shelving, so good for those new to the sport. Waterski-ing is another option. Try Camel Ski School for wakesurfing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, SUP/kayaking and inflatable rides on the river. You may also charter a boat. Sailing and powerboating are other options for thrill-seekers. Try Camel Sailing.
Padstow is more known for its harbour than beaches, as it was well situated for shelter along the wild north coast. There’s more on the history of Padstow here. Beach lovers need not fear, however, for sandy spots are not very far away at all.
St George’s Cove is Padstow’s nearest beach, just over half a mile from the harbour with views to Rock and Daymer Bay. On a full low tide, you can walk to Hawkers Cove and Harbour Cove. Trevone Bay is popular with both families and surfers.
Padstow is known for its Christmas Festival if you are taking a winter break in early December. It is perfect for festive treats and chef demonstrations. The rest of the year, DydhDa in the Arcade is a shop filled with beautiful, unique, ‘made with love’ hand-crafted artisan items.
If you are a fudge-lover, then don’t miss Buttermilk Artisan Confectionery.
Chough Bakery is something of an institution for Cornish pasties, cream teas and tray bakes. Meanwhile, many say that Roskilly’s overlooking the harbour, is the best ice cream in Padstow. The only supermarket is Tesco on the edge of town, but there is a Spar in the town.
If you want to be indoors on a rainy day, who can blame you? It gives you a chance to try the Lobster Hatchery, Padstow Brewing Company craft brewery with a chance to stock up on high grade beers, Padstow Museum, small but beautifully packed with local artefacts about the history of the area, or not too far away and something completely different, the challenging Retallack Aqua Park with wakeboarding and the flow rider where you can surf the perfect wave whatever the weather.
Padstow’s May Day celebrations include the renowned centuries old ‘Obby ‘Oss Festival. Two hobby horses cavort around the town in search of maidens. There are Morris dancers and a band with accordions and drums, too. It is believed to be connected to the ancient Celtic Festival of Beltane. More info on this spectacle here.
Wine lovers might wish to try the Trevibban Mill Vineyard, for locally made wine fresh from the vineyard – all are vegan and organic. Try a vineyard tour. Booking is essential.
Walks around Padstow are many and varied, but the South West Coast Path predominates. For an easy walk with views over the River Camel before heading inland, try the 4.8 km to historic Tudor mansion, Prideaux Place.
A 9.4 km walk to Stepper Point is perfect for those liking more of a challenge. This is a headland walk, giving views to the infamous Doom Bar, where mermaids allegedly lured poor sailors to their deaths. For those with true grit, a challenging walk is the 11.1 km to Harlyn Bay. The first mile, to Gun Point, is accessible to all, but then it becomes too rugged for wheelchairs or pushchairs. Autumn is a perfect time for this walk. There are many other walks of varying degrees of strenuousness here.
Home to the unique National Lobster Hatchery, Padstow raises awareness of the vulnerability of Cornish coastal lobsters. At the visitors’ centre, you can see for yourself why lobsters form a vital part of marine conservation. You can also adopt a lobster and track yours when released. Outdoors, hang out by the harbour, grab a deli or bakery treat and simply breathe in the atmosphere.
Padstow rests on the west side of the Camel estuary in a deep valley protected from the prevailing winds of the Atlantic Ocean, so is fairly sheltered.
There are 4 public conveniences in Padstow, 3 of which are maintained by Padstow Town Council. These are free of charge. North Quay is for ladies, and gents with disabled access using a radar key. Baby changing facilities are available. Cory toilets are ladies only. Railway Toilets are open 7 days a week from 10 am until 4pm for ladies, gents, disabled (radar key) and baby changing. 1 is maintained by Cornwall Council (Link Road, ladies, gents, disabled) and requires 20p to enter.
There are public toilets in Trevone which are maintained by Trevone Bay Stores (01841 520275). These toilets require 20p to enter with ladies, gents, disabled and baby changing facilities available.
The original food lovers destination, Padstow brings the best of Cornwall’s food scene to your self-catering holiday. We have brought together our favourite luxury holiday cottages in Padstow, to inspire your Cornish escape.