Rock is an exclusive enclave in North Cornwall, situated across the Camel estuary peering towards popular Padstow. Don’t be put off by the name of this upmarket destination, because it is actually really sandy. Its name is historical; it came from the quarry (now a car park) once used to provide ballast for ships sailing from Padstow Harbour.
The little town of Rock, near Wadebridge, now contains some of the most exclusive properties in Cornwall, with everything you could need on the doorstep. The waterfront is an enthusiast’s dream with a sailing club and a wide range of water sports available for all to enjoy.
The easiest way is by car, as Rock is just a 30-minute drive from the main A30 which cuts across the Cornish countryside. At junction 31 of the M5, take the A30 signposted to Bodmin and Okehampton. The last section of your journey takes in the A389 and the B3314 to Rock.
By rail, the nearest station is Bodmin Parkway, which is about a 40-minute drive away from Rock. You can get a taxi there from Parnells Taxis (obtain a quote online). They also cover Newquay Airport should you decide to fly to Cornwall.
The airport is about 35-minutes’ drive away from Rock. Flights from London and other locations in the UK run during the summer months. Please check to see what flights are available at Newquay Airport.
Rock Quarry Car Park is operated by Ring Go. It has 126 spaces, and at the time of writing, costs £1.00 for an hour, or £5.00 for up to 12 hours. A week costs £40.00. The car park can be busy in summer but there is usually movement when the Padstow ferry arrives. There is some on-road parking but that usually means a half mile walk to the beach.
Rock is a foodie paradise alternative to Padstow.
Try Fee’s Food, deli and café for all occasions, with all you need to create a perfect picnic, Cornish – style. They offer freshly prepared quiches, sourdough and pastries but, better still, will also deliver them to holiday cottages. They also specialise in pies and curries, and donate £1 from each pie to the Wadebridge Foodbank, so ‘eating all the pies’ can only be beneficial. The Cornish food scene is exciting. Fee’s uses Cornish produce wherever possible, including the famous oysters and mussels from the estuary.
Meanwhile, the Blue Tomato Café at Ferry Point is an unpretentious, relaxed, comfortable eatery whose food nonetheless pushes culinary boundaries. Try breakfast from Layered Honey Granola to Eggs Benedict, burgers, sandwiches, pasta and salads, to mezze, specials and a children’s range – all with a special secret twist. The Blue Tomato was recommended by Jenny Eclair in the Telegraph.
For something exotic, why not try The Tiny Thai in Wadebridge, for modern Thai street food at its best? It is a family-run business, serving really authentic Thai food, not adapted to western tastes. Wadebridge is around 15 minutes’ away by car.
For fine dining, perhaps The Mariners is the one, overlooking the turquoise water offering an all-day menu. Day visitors may fancy a cream tea or a drink on the terrace overlooking the boats as they glide on the water. It was relaunched in 2019 by Paul and Emma Ainsworth, championing the very best local ingredients. The Mariners used to be in partnership with chef, Nathan Outlaw, who has since relocated to Port Isaac.
Meanwhile, the St Enodoc Hotel has fine dining at Karrek and a brasserie (plus a spa), or try The Dining Room run by a local husband and wife team, popular with locals and visitors alike, and where your table is yours for the evening, so you can totally relax and enjoy.
The picturesque beach at Rock is brilliant, with flat, clean, soft, and expansive sand, complete with sand dunes, a perfect bucket and spade paradise. At low tide, you can walk for miles with views across the Camel Estuary to Padstow. You can catch the short trip across the water by ferry to Padstow if you want the vibrant buzz of the town across the river. However, Rock has its own attractions, perhaps why it has been beloved by celebrities for some years. The long sandy beach is popular with swimmers, while the energetic might try stand-up paddle-boarding, wind surfing or water skiing.
For golfers, nearby St Enodoc has a golf course described as “quixotic and rather hilly” overlooking the glorious coastline and natural terrain, which is ranked 87th in the world and 11th in England. For family fun, the Camel Trail links Wadebridge, Rock and Padstow, with 18 miles of flat cycle track and bike hire if you need it. It runs parallel to the River Camel.
Why not try some down time at mood-enhancing and relaxing spa day at St Moritz Cowshed? It’s sheer bliss.
Kids aged 2-12 will love the Camel Creek Adventure Park, with rides and slides galore, plus toddler areas with soft play and ball pools. For outdoor adventures, then check out the Camel Trail, a bike-riding paradise.
Otherwise, there is an array of water sports and beach activities for them to try.
Wavehunters offers surf lessons for all abilities, surf and flatwater stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP) and fitness classes. Or try this glorious ensemble of activities – ski, wake, paddle, café – at Camel Ski. They offer wakesurf, waterski, wakeboard, inflatable rides, SUP and kayaking. It is the UK’s largest waterski centre.
Diving is another option, if you prefer being under the water, so check out the info here from the Harlyn Dive School.
Taking a painting home with you from your holiday is always a cool reminder of your stay. Rock boasts the likes of Melanie McDonald, for originals and prints of seascapes and beach scenes. You can also commission her.
Check out the contemporary art at Jackson Gallery, the Rock Road Gallery, and, of course, Jethro Jackson’s studio. Jackson is Cornwall born and raised, with an affinity for the local landscapes he sensitively portrays in his work. He curates the work of local artists at his gallery.
This fabulous beach is perfect for children, paddling, and beach games.
Dogs are allowed all year on the huge Rock (Brea) beach, which provides a brilliant stretch for long walks on the golden sand, backed by dunes and the prestigious St Enodoc Golf Club. The water here tends to be, sheltered, clear and safe though remember there are currents and an abundance of water craft. The estuary is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, providing a haven for wading birds.
Daymer Bay is not far away, sheltered, and another dog-friendly beach. More golden sand – what not to love?
Rock has a string of lovely shops. Try The Beach House for good-quality men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and homewares. It is the first shop walking up from Rock Quarry car park, perfect if you have caught the ferry over from Padstow, or the last shop if driving down to Rock beach.
Of course, some branded chains are here, too. At Ferry Point, is White Stuff, for clothes, accessories and nature inspired prints, and Crew Clothing for British-designed casualwear drawing upon nautical heritage. There are some fabulous food shops near Rock, such as The Chough Bakery in Padstow and Di’s Dairy and Pantry in Rock. Look out for local farmers’ markets, too.
A tour of the factory at the home of great beer, Sharp’s brewery, or a beer tasting event are perfect activities for a rainy day, and worth every penny. You can book on the website. It also has a well-stocked shop.
Try the Cornish Bird of Prey Centre, which is a non-profitmaking rescue centre, passionate about caring for its animals and birds. Try a falconry experience while visiting, or if you love photography, here is your chance to get close to these awesome birds both static and in flight.
The Blacktor Ferry operates across the river to Padstow, but there is also an annual swimming race across the Camel in July. You catch the boat from the slipway on Rock Beach, for a leisurely ten-minute ride across the Camel, where you can wander the charming streets, and pop into the independent shops or book a meal at the fabulous restaurants. Stay in Rock, pop to Padstow, gives you the best of both worlds.
A gentle four-mile walk along part of the South West Coast Path, through the dunes, takes you to Sir John Betjeman’s grave at St Enodoc. There are also spectacular walks across the sand or via the coastal path to Daymer Bay (a popular beach) and Polzeath. Lundy Bay to Rock is described by The Independent as “startlingly beautiful”.
Or try a circular walk from Rock to St Minver, perfect for beer aficionados. You will pass 2 churches, 3 pubs and Sharp’s brewery along the way. The distance is just under 7 miles. The inland section of the Camel Estuary is part of Cornwall AONB. A delight for bird lovers, the area is home to many wading birds with their distinctive long bills used for foraging; exploring the trail by bike is well worthwhile.
St Enodoc Church is a quaint chapel building, once mainly buried in sand, and is known as the burial place of Sir John Betjeman, who wrote a poem called Seaside Golf. It can be traced back to the 12th century.
Rock is also home to Sharp’s Brewery, proud brewers of delectable ‘Doom Bar’, named after the treacherous but protective Doom Bar sandbank at the mouth of the Camel Estuary in Rock. Careful navigation is required here by sailors where the water meets the sea. Look out for waves breaking where you would not expect.
There are myths attached to the Doom Bar. One is of a mermaid who fell in love with a local man. The siren tried to lure him below the waves. He escaped by shooting her, so she cursed the harbour with the ‘bar of doom’ from Hawker’s Cove to Trebetherick Bay. This hazard to sailors also tells a tale by Enys Tregarthen who tells of a young man who went to shoot seals at Hawker’s Cove but instead found a beautiful young woman. He asked her to marry him but when she refused, he shot her, only later realising she was a mermaid. So much Cornish mythology, poems and songs colours this historic area.
There are some Rock festivals to enjoy. Rock Oyster Festival end July – beginning of Aug is a festival of food and drink, hosted by Paul Ainsworth and friends. The Autumn Shrimper Festival is a long weekend of sailing races and seafood suppers in autumn.
Like most other parts of Cornwall, Rock is sunniest in May to July, though April and August are not far behind. These are also the least rainy months. There is always a risk of rain in Cornwall, however, so make sure you book yourself fabulous Cornish Secrets accommodation to keep you cosy and warm.
Public toilets are available in the Rock Beach car park.
Attracting famous names and even members of the royal family, renting a holiday home in Rock is something special. A ferry ride away from Padstow, this village has the ultimate in luxury holiday homes in Cornwall.