I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Cornwall – first as a child on family holidays with my own parents, then with friends and now back again with my own daughter to rediscover all the best things to do in Cornwall with kids.
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And no matter what time of year I’ve been, or who I’ve been with, I’ve always had a fabulous time. The only drawback (for me in London) is that it’s such a long drive – but the fact I keep returning just goes to show how tempting it is.
It’s famously family-friendly, so with so many places to visit in Cornwall I can’t possibly list every sight, attraction and day out across the county – so here are my top 20 things to do in Cornwall with kids to start you off.
Cornwall with kids: Attractions with animals
Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay
Sharks, turtles and a giant Pacific octopus are a few of the creatures you’ll find in 40 different habitats, with talks and feeding at this lovely beachfront aquarium – one of my favourite things to do in Newquay, check out my full review and video.
You can wander through the ocean tunnel, spotting loggerhead turtles and reef sharks, as well as seeing some of the other unusual inhabitants, including pufferfish.
Set right on the seafront, it’s perfect if you want to team the beach with the chance to see beneath the waves – or if you find yourself looking for something to do on a rainy day in Cornwall.
For more ideas on what to do in Cornwall in the rain with kids, check out these suggestions to avoid the worst of the weather
This award-winning zoo is home to more than a thousand of the world’s rarest and most exciting creatures, from creepy crawlies to big cats, as well as activity trails and a children’s play area.
You could see armadillos to zebra, but also discover the gardens – including the lovely Secret Garden – as well as being transported to the tropics and the south-east Asian jungle as you explore the different habitats.
It’s small enough not to be too overwhelming if you’re visiting Cornwall with a toddler, although at 13 acres, there’s still plenty to keep everyone entertained on a day out.
Paradise Park and JungleBarn, Hayle
The wildlife sanctuary is a bird lover’s paradise, with over 130 species ranging from local Cornish choughs to flamingos and toucans, as well as red pandas and farm animals – don’t miss the penguin feeding too.
As well as wandering around to check out the animals, you can also hop onto the Jungle Express Train, which takes you on a small route around the grounds and some of the garden.
There’s also an indoor play area, including a toddler zone soft play and jungle theme – tickets include an option just to check out the Junglebarn play, or for a ticket which covers this and the animals.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, Helston
Meet seals and sea lions at the sanctuary and rescue centre, as well as otters, penguins, sheep, ponies and goats at one of the quirkiest Cornwall attractions you’ll find.
As well as an interactive rockpool, there are talks and feeding times which take place throughout the day (so you can finally find out the difference between a seal and a sea lion) plus a quiz trail and pirate play area for kids.
The centre rehabilitates over 70 grey seal pups every season, as well as being home to others which need special care. It’s even dog-friendly if you’re travelling to Cornwall with the furry members of the family (as long as they’re kept on a lead).
Check out this post from Suitcases and Sandcastles for more on the seal sanctuary.
Cornwall with kids: Amusement and theme parks
Dairyland Farm World, Newquay
Calling itself an adventure park, it’s a cross between a farm, a play centre and a mini museum, with a nature trail thrown in – anything from tractor rides to milking cows as well as some Cornish history.
Basically, Dairyland Farm World is small child heaven. The biggest decision is what to try first: take a pony ride, follow the wildlife trail, jump on the trampoline, eye up the meerkats, pet the guinea pigs, stroll round the Cornish Life Museum or check out the bug zone… to name just a few options.
And because there are a whole string of indoor activities, it’s a great option on a rainy day in Cornwall with kids too.
The replacement for Crealy’s Adventure Park which used to be on this site (with a sister theme park in Devon), Camel Creek is a great option if you’re looking for a bit of everything – indoor and outdoor play, animals, a 5D theatre, various rides…
With gentle rides for little ones, including a carousel, plus more adventurous rollercoasters for slightly bigger thrill-seekers, it’s ideal if you’ve got children of different ages.
With soft play and the animal zones to explore too, it’s another great option if there are showers forecast. Camel Creek closes during the winter months (except for some weekends and school holidays) so it’s worth checking before you go, and prebooking tickets is recommended.
Flambards Theme Park, near Helston
The family-friendly rollercoasters, play areas and activities at this theme park are perfect if you’re in Cornwall with younger kids – although having said that, there’s also a ride that’s one of the fastest of its kind in Europe, whizzing people round at up to 70kph.
More sedately, you can also explore the indoor exhibitions including a Victorian Village, with more than 50 shops from a sweet shop and toy store to a milliner’s and butcher’s, and an impressive 52,000 original items on display.
You can also explore Britain in the Blitz, a life-sized replica of a London street bombed during the Second World War, among the indoor attractions.
Plus there are outdoor and indoor play areas, a chance to go dinosaur spotting, gentle rides such as the new Western Mine Train, and more adrenaline-fuelled fun, as well as a log flume.
Cornwall with kids: Family-friendly attractions
The Eden Project, St Austell
This astonishing global garden, tucked inside futuristic domed biomes, is home to the world’s largest indoor rainforest as well as interactive exhibits, a sensory garden and plants from around the globe.
It’s perfect for families too: as well as transporting yourself to the Mediterranean and into the rainforest, there are spaces to play, areas to get hands on and artworks to intrigue along the way.
Visit during school holidays and you’ll often find special exhibitions and extra activities at the Eden Project too.
Pirate’s Quest, Newquay
Journey back 300 years to the Golden Age of piracy, meet smugglers and buccaneers (and mermaids) and discover Cornwall’s 18th century history on an hour-long tour at Pirate’s Quest.
There are also treasure maps for kids, helping them claim some pirate booty if they can crack the secret code, as part of the immersive experience.
While restrictions have been in place, there’s also a swashbuckling new adventure golf course, with 12 holes winding through the streets of 18th century Cornwall, as well as a chance to explore caves, discover local legends, search for a mermaid and pose in the stocks (as well as trying for a yo ho hole in one!)
Cornwall with kids: Castles and heritage
Pendennis Castle, Falmouth
One of the mightiest fortresses built by Henry VIII to defend against invasion, Pendennis Castle looms on the headland just outside Falmouth.
You can explore the castle keep at the English Heritage site, as well as gazing out at the views from the top of the Tudor keep, trying family activities and exploring the old buildings, including exhibitions from the Victorian and First World War eras.
Plan your visit for the right day and you can even see guns being fired, including Tudor replicas as well as Edwardian and Second World War models which would have been used to protect the coast.
Tintagel Castle, Tintagel
Dramatic and rugged, the clifftop ruins have legends galore, particularly the tale that it’s the birthplace of King Arthur with Merlin’s Cave nearby.
Best with older children who can manage the vertiginous steps, Tintagel Castle is one of the most memorable castle sites in Cornwall – even crossing the bridge is magical, while there’s a sculpture of the Once and Future King on the cliffs.
If you’re worried that ruins aren’t going to capture your kids’ attention, there’s also an exhibition to bring the castle to life, tracing its history, the key figures who’ve been linked with it, and how its legends have inspired them.
St Michael’s Mount
A visit to St Michael’s Mount is like stepping into another world, where you can walk medieval paths, explore the castle and discover the village and harbour, including free guided tours to learn more about life on this little island.
As you wander around the village, imagine what life is like for the 30 islanders who still call it home – the tours also share more of its history as well as stories about the families who live on the Mount.
At low tide you can stroll across the causeway to reach the island (following in the footsteps of giants, so legend says) or hop on a boat to speed over from Marazion, also home to one of the loveliest beaches in Cornwall.
Geevor Tin Mine, near Penzance
One of the largest preserved mine sites in the country, it’s the perfect place to understand Cornwall’s mining history including an 18th century underground tour and the chance to pan for minerals.
Along the way, there are interactive exhibits in the museum as well as the chance to see areas preserved when the mine was closed, plus extra family activities during the year.
Any Poldark fans will recognise Wheal Leisure if they do venture out for a short walk along the cliffs – plus there’s also a VR tour to give extra access to parts of the mine workings, and to make the experience more accessible.
Cornwall with kids: Museums
National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth
Voted one of the country’s most family-friendly museums, the fantastic National Maritime Museum traces the history of the island and its boating heroes across 15 galleries.
The perfect place to understand the role the sea plays in life in Cornwall (especially when the weather is too bad to actually be out on the waves), you’ll hear tales of the sea and seafarers through the centuries, as well as temporary exhibitions, ranging from the Vikings to Titanic.
There are also storytelling sessions for kids, interactive exhibits and the chance to head into the basement Tidal Zone to look out into the waters of the harbour during your visit.
Check out my review of our day at the National Maritime Museum with a toddler.
PK Porthcurno: Museum of Global Communications (Porthcurno Telegraph Museum) near Penzance
Once Britain’s communications centre, with telegraph cables stretching under the sea to the cities of the Empire, the little Cornish village of Porthcurno was once home to the world’s largest telegraph station.
And while technology has moved on, the fascinating stories at the museum are still worth discovering, from the spot where underwater cables came ashore to Second World War tunnels, used for secret wartime communications, as well as exhibitions on the way we communicate today.
There are activities, hands-on exhibits and dressing up among other options to entertain kids, while a major refurbishment in 2014 added family-friendly exhibitions.
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro
The oldest and largest museum in Cornwall, the Royal Cornwall Museum is the county’s oldest and largest museum, set up to showcase Cornish heritage and culture from the ancient past to the present.
Expanding since then to include art and exhibits from around the world, including an Egyptian mummy, there are also art displays, regular temporary exhibitions, plus family-friendly events including some aimed at pre-schoolers.
It’s also free for children under 16, so ideal if you’re looking for days out in Cornwall on a budget.
For more ideas of free days out in Cornwall with kids, I’ve got 15 ideas that won’t cost you a penny.
Cornwall with kids: Getting outdoors
Land’s End – and Shaun the sheep
There’s far more than just the famous sign at Land’s End, with a string of other attractions to discover once you’ve wandered the clifftop paths and looking out to the sea, plus getting your photo taken at the iconic signpost.
Smaller kids will love The Grand Experience from Aardman Animations, following on from successful the Shaun the Sheep Experience, including experimenting in Wallace and Gromit’s inventing workshop and meeting the characters.
There’s also a 4D cinema, interactive walk-through experience Arthur’s Quest, and an exhibition on people who’ve walked from here to John O’Groats.
If you’re inspired, you’ve also got miles of dramatic coast to wander around, as well as easy family-friendly walks on the South West Coast Path, while the Cornish Way cycle trail also starts from Land’s End with a traffic-free section.
Lappa Valley Steam Railway, St Newlyn East
Toddlers and preschoolers in particular will love getting to go on the small railway that’s run through the conservation area at Lappa Valley Steam Railway, although there’s more to discover here than trains alone.
Inside, there are nature trails and children’s rides, a toddler path maze plus indoor play carriages and a woodland railway. Or you can even have a go at crazy golf while you’re visiting.
The Camel Trail
An 18-mile cycle and walking trail linking Padstow, Wadebridge and Bodmin, this follows an old railway track alongside the river Camel – it’s easy to explore smaller sections of the Camel Trail too if you don’t fancy the complete trail.
The five-mile stretch from Wadebridge to Padstow is a perfect easy introduction to the Camel trail for younger kids to try, and the disused railway line means there are no unexpected hills to tackle.
With plenty of chances to stop for a rest in the villages along the route, it’s a lovely day out on bikes or if you’re looking for family-friendly walks.
The county is famed for its surfing (and beaches) but it’s definitely not just for adults. Surf schools like the SSS Surf School has lessons from age six, or from five at Harlyn Surf School while Discovery Surf School and St Ives Surf School have various child and family options – check here for more suggestions.
PIN FOR LATER: THINGS TO DO IN CORNWALL WITH KIDS
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Images: St Michael’s Mount/Land’s End courtesy Depositphoto, Camel Creek courtesy Camel Creek theme park, all other copyright MummyTravels/Cathy Winston