Harbours in Cornwall

Cornwall’s life has always been shaped by the sea. Many of our towns were created by the fishing industry, and are now sustained by a mixture of fishing and visitors. There are many fascinating old harbour towns and villages to explore in Cornwall. Here are some of our favourites.


Looe has everything a seaside town should. Beaches, rock pools, fish and chips, ice cream, boat trips… Looe is very much a working harbour as well as a seaside destination – start your day early and watch the day’s catch being auctioned on the quay.


Charlestown is a popular film set, and when you visit this picture-perfect eighteenth-century harbour, you can understand why. It featured in BBC’s recent dramatisation of Poldark, and has starred in productions as diverse as Doctor Who and The Three Musketeers. Visit the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre to learn more about the Cornish coast’s dramatic history.


Padstow is a charming working fishing port surrounded by glorious sandy beaches. Chef Rick Stein has made the town synonymous with excellent seafood, so it’s a great place to dine or buy food. Explore the coast around Padstow by boat, and see Cornwall at its best from a different viewpoint.


A picturesque, traffic-free harbour-side village with narrow streets and old fisherman’s cottages, Polperro has been a port since the Middle Ages. It’s hard to believe that this pretty village was once the centre of Cornwall’s smuggling trade – visit the harbour-side Polperro Heritage Museum of Fishing and Smuggling to find out more.


Lively, fashionable Fowey is a great place to shop, eat, drink and generally people watch. Fowey is very popular with the yachting crew, however still runs as a commercial port. Leave the car in the main car park at the top of town, and explore its enchanting little streets on foot.


The beautiful, clear light at St Ives has inspired artists for generations. You can see why – even on a dull day, its sand glows golden beside the tropically-blue sea, giving St Ives a magic little-matched elsewhere. Visit the Tate St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Gardens, or simply enjoy its collection of beautiful beaches and delicious places to eat.


Now perhaps best known as “Port Wenn” in ITV’s Doc Marten, Port Isaac has been a fishing village since the early fourteenth century. Its narrow, winding streets are lined with old white-washed cottages and traditional granite Cornish houses. After an enjoyable meander around the streets, leave Port Isaac to explore the little coves nearby – this really is a wonderful stretch of the Cornish coast.