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Best things to do in Cornwall with kids: top sights and free attractions, as recommended by parents

Planning a staycation in Cornwall? Keep the kids entertained with our roundup of the best things for families to see and do, as recommended by parents on the Mumsnet forums. 

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Jul 29, 2022

a view across St Ives, Cornwall on a sunny day

Cornwall has it all - beautiful beaches, a rich history, diverse culture and stunning scenery. Its popularity with UK families as a holiday destination shows no sign of waning, and millions flock to England’s most southerly county every year.

Whichever part of Cornwall you choose for your family holiday, you can be sure of a plethora of activities, landmarks and things to do on your doorstep. We’ve searched the Mumsnet forums for Mumsnetters’ top picks for what to do in Cornwall with kids that will make your family holiday unforgettable. 

1. Camel Trail to Padstow

two people cycling next to a sandy beach

Search for hotels in Padstow | Hire bikes for the Camel Trail

"Drive to Wadebridge, cycle the Camel trail to Padstow, fish for crabs, eat fish and chips, cycle back again" - recommended by Mumsnet user, L0glady

"From Padstow, you must cycle the Camel Trail - it is gorgeous. You can go as far as Bodmin, or just go half way to Wadebridge and turn around. The trail is built on an old railway line, so it is pretty flat and very safe" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, CointreauVersial 

For a scenic day out - and to avoid trying to park in Padstow - Mumsnetters love the Camel Trail. Following a disused railway line, the flat and almost traffic-free path takes you through some of Cornwall’s most breathtaking countryside. The route is best experienced on a bike, and you can hire them in Padstow, Wadebridge and Bodmin. It’s a lovely way to take in some of Cornwall’s most picturesque villages, stop for fish and chips or a dip in the sea at Padstow and leisurely make your way back again. 

2. Hayle Beach

a sandy beach

Search for hotels in Hayle | Book cheap trains to Hayle

"Huge sandy beach and there's lifeguard cover. Dc used to love sliding down the sand dunes at the back of the beach on their body-boards. Hayle is a nice little place with a good pasty shop and chippy (tho I haven't been there for some years) and a short train ride to St Ives" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Silkchiffon

Cornwall has more than its fair share of beautiful sandy beaches, so it was difficult to narrow our search down to just one - you could easily visit a different Cornish beach every day of your holiday and have a brilliant time doing so. We picked Hayle for its miles of sand dunes, shallow, kid-friendly waters and rockpools - plus surfing lessons and an excellent cream tea on hand. It’s relatively easy to get to via public transport, too, with a train station in the village and buses to the beach. 

Nearest train station: Hayle (2.5 miles)

3. Heartlands Play Park

a boat shaped climbing frame

Search for hotels in Redruth | Book cheap trains to Redruth

"Heartlands play park is totally free and fabulous" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Serin

"Best actual value round here would be Heartlands in Pool because it's free!! It's part of the old South Crofty tin mine, and you can go inside the buildings which have been sensitively restored, and learn all about tin mining, if that's your bag. There's an amazing 3D film too. The big draw for kids, though, is the best adventure playground EVER!" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, stubbornstains

The holy grail of family days out - an epic playground with a cafe and toilets - plus it’s completely free. Heartlands is a community-run project celebrating Cornish history and culture. There’s a mining museum and indoor soft play for rainy days, and Mumsnetters love the adventure play area which keeps kids busy for hours. 

Nearest train station: Redruth (3 miles)

4. Callestick Farm

children sitting on a haystack eating ice cream cones

Search for hotels in Truro | Find cheap train tickets to Truro

"Callestick Farm where they make their own ice cream. My DC love it there and were playing in the rain in their play park last year" - recommended by Mumsnet user,  TarquinMoriartyGruntfuttockII 

"Callestick Farm is lovely, you can watch the ice cream being made and there’s a little play area with pigs and chickens around it. Plus they have a cafe" - recommended by Mumsnet user, TalcumMucker

Come and see ice cream being made, then eat ice cream - what’s not to like! Callestick Farm is a lovely day out for all the family, with a cafe, factory tours, farm animals to pet and a playground for the kids to run around in. You’ll find the farm in the countryside between Truro and Perranporth. Be sure to try the clotted cream and fudge ice cream in their on-site parlour. 

Nearest train station: Truro (five miles)

5. Lappa Valley Railway, near Newquay

a black and red steam train

Search for hotels in Newquay | Find cheap train tickets to Newquay

"This place is not 'cheap' but fantastic value & a fab day out. We have been several years in a row and I thought our three children (8-12. years) had outgrown it this year but all complained heavily when we didn't go. Worth every pence and a whole day out as a special trip" - recommended by Mumsnet user, threenotfour

For a properly fun-packed day out with the kids, Lappa Valley gets Mumsnetters’ seal of approval. There’s a boating lake, a crazy golf course, woodland, soft play and a miniature steam railway - plus a gift shop, cafe and even a self-catering apartment available if you want to base yourself at this family-friendly wonderland. Located outside of Newquay, under-3s go free and tickets are £12-15; you can even bring your dog for £1. 

Nearest train station: Quintrell Downs (three miles)

6. Lanhydrock Country House & Estate

a stately home behind a flowerbed

Search for hotels in Bodmin | Find cheap train tickets to Bodmin

"The house is pretty awesome. If you ask for it they'll give the children a 'things to spot' sheet. You can go on long walks in the grounds if that's your thing, and there's a stream with some great places for children to have a good paddle and play, so consider water shoes" - recommended by Mumsnet user, FurrySlipperBoots

One of Mumsnetters’ favourite National Trust houses, Lanhydrock can be found outside of Bodmin. It’s got all the features of a great National Trust property - a huge and opulent house to wander round, manicured gardens, woodland and a great cafe. The gardens are buggy-friendly and there’s a buggy-accessible route through the woods, plus a playpark, a kids’ menu in the cafe and a quiet breastfeeding room in the house. 

Nearest train station: Bodmin Parkway (three miles)

7. Minack Theatre, near Penzance

an open air theatre built into the side of a cliff

Search for hotels in Penzance | Find cheap trains to Penzance

"It's a beautiful outdoor theatre built into the cliffside. They run children's shows in the morning. I think we only paid £4 for each adult. My then 4-year-old loved it but suited older kids too. We loved it actually too. The beach below is gorgeous and well worth a visit" - recommended by Mumsnet user, ilooklikegrotbagstoday 

"Minack theatre, open air built in to the side of a cliff. Really interesting and special place, to walk around and see it, even if not going to watch a performance" - recommended by Mumsnet user, 321zerobaby

With views as dramatic as the shows you can watch there, the Minack Theatre is a real one-off. Booking ahead is essential, so grab your tickets before you head off on your holiday to avoid disappointment. Aside from the theatre itself, there are subtropical gardens to explore, a visitor centre and a cafe. As the theatre is built into a cliff face, it’s accessible for wheelchairs only at the top levels, and buggies can’t be brought into the theatre. Dress for all eventualities as the theatre is very exposed to the elements.

Nearest train station: Penzance (10 miles)

8. Cardinham Woods, near Bodmin

a bridge in woodland

Search for hotels in Bodmin | Find cheap train tickets to Bodmin

"Cardinham Woods is near Bodmin and is great. There are a number of marked trails. A stream for kids to play in. A fab play park. An amazing Woods Cafe which is reasonably priced. All for the cost of a car park ticket" - recommended by Mumsnet user, HemanOrSheRa

A day exploring the woods is a must while in Cornwall, and Cardinham is the perfect place for a wild adventure. Grab a snack and a coffee in the cafe while the children check out the playground, then pick one of the walking trails, which range from 1.7 - 4 miles in length. The Lady Vale Walk is suitable for buggies, or take the Wheal Glynn route that takes in an old tin mine. 

Nearest train station: Bodmin Parkway (three miles)

9. Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay

tropical fish and coral

Search for hotels in Newquay | Find cheap train tickets to Newquay

"The Blue Reef Aquarium is a must. There is an underwater tunnel, feeding demonstrations and rock pool encounters on a weekend! There is a café too, with a microwave for parent use" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Ricekrispie22

If you’re unlucky enough to plan your holiday on a wet and chilly week, Newquay is a great place to head for indoor activities. Mumsnetters particularly recommend the Blue Reef Aquarium, which has plenty of amazing underwater sights to keep kids enthralled for hours. Trerice Manor, Oasis Fun Pools and Pirate’s Quest indoor crazy golf are also worth a visit. 

Nearest train station: Newquay (one mile)

10. St Michael’s Mount

a tidal island with a castle at the top

Search for hotels in Penzance | Find cheap trains to Penzance

"You can walk round the harbour, there's a display on the amphibious vehicle used over the winter and another with a short video of some of the works which was quite interesting. The castle and grounds are National Trust, so yes there's a charge to get in. It was quite interesting, when we went there were also free crafts for the children and storytelling in the garden. Don't think I'd want to do it in bad weather, we didn't spend that long on the castle tour and the rest was outdoors with little shelter. It's also not suitable for buggies, although I think they had carriers you could borrow" - recommended by Mumsnet user, gigglingHyena

This stunning tidal island is a must-see, with a castle, gardens and a picturesque village to explore. Connected to the seaside town of Marazion by a cobbled causeway, there’s a boat crossing for when the walkway is submerged by the tide. National Trust members do need to pay for the boat crossing, but not the island admission fee. The St Aubyn family still live in the castle, but a large section of it is open to visitors. The garden is open at selected times only, so do check ahead before you set off. Each part of the island is ticketed during the summer, including the village, and only assistance dogs are allowed. 

Nearest train station: Penzance (four miles)

Which part of Cornwall is best for families?

If you want to explore the area, picking a place to stay near Truro or Bodmin will mean you’re centrally located and within easy reach of plenty of beaches, plus there’s lots to do around these towns for families. The county is blessed with gorgeous beaches along its north, west and south coasts, with Bude and Newquay excellent, family-friendly bases on the Cornish coast. 

Is Cornwall expensive to visit?

There’s no getting away from it, you can easily spend a lot of money on a family holiday to Cornwall - more so than other counties in the UK. However, a budget-friendly trip to Cornwall is definitely possible, providing you’re flexible on location and make sure to take advantage of the plentiful free and low-cost things to do in the area. 

What’s the best family-friendly attraction in Cornwall?

The Camel Trail is the best family-friendly attraction in Cornwall. Mumsnetters love how much you can pack into a ride along this gentle coastal path, with crabbing and chips at Padstow a welcome reward for a hard day’s cycle.

How we chose our recommendations 

To help us create this list of tried and tested family days out, we first searched our Mumsnet forums for trusted ideas from parents themselves. We listened to the experts on what families want to provide a successful trip for everyone to enjoy, and weighed up a variety of considerations such as location, accessibility and budgets. 

Our research allowed us to round up the best family days out in Cornwall that Mumsnetters rate to help you plan your Cornish holiday.

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advise you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

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