Last Updated on November 8, 2023 by Suzy
While lots of families make a beeline for Cornwall’s surf-lashed North Coast, our favourite spot to holiday in the UK’s south-west is the charming town of Falmouth on the South Coast. Boasting a medley of beautiful beaches, bucketfuls of maritime heritage, vibrant festivals, watersports galore and finger-licking food beside the ocean, here you can lap up Cornwall’s bounty from land or sea, inside or out.
Home to the world’s third deepest harbour and cradled by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Falmouth is the perfect place to step into its seafaring history, dip into its creative heart, get your blood flowing with a smorgasbord of fun-packed activities, or kick back and take it all in from the shoreline.
When you’re in a maritime Mecca, there’s no better way to explore than by messing around on boats. Castaway on a Fal River Ferry and you can explore the Carrick Roads and Falmouth Bay, hopping off at the likes of St Mawes, Mylor, Flushing, Place and Trelissick, or even floating all the way to Cornwall’s city of Truro. If you want to follow in the footsteps of sailing heroes Robert Knox-Johnston and Ben Ainslie, there are plenty of outfits where you can learn the ropes, or you can celebrate alongside the entire yachting fraternity during August’s Falmouth Week, when the bunting fluttering streets come alive with parades, family entertainment and live music alongside sailing competitions.
With its mostly calm waters luring paddle boarders and kayakers in every season, you don’t have to fight the summer crowds to try Britain’s fastest-growing watersport – stand-up paddleboarding. Get to grips with the basics with WeSUP or Elemental UK, then head off on family adventures afloat, paddling between bays and briny nooks, pausing to picnic on secret coves and coming nose-to-nose to wildlife and sublime scenery. If you want to up the ante on your ocean-bound adventure and guarantee wildlife sightings, hop aboard a cruise with AK Wildlife Cruises or Orca Sea Safaris.
Whether bucket-and-spade days or ice creams and cocktails by the coast are on your wish list, Falmouth’s necklace of beaches attracts all types of beachgoers. Within an easy stroll of town, you’ll find four sublime sandy coves – all with excellent family facilities. Hailed as one of the jewels in Cornwall’s pearly crown, Gyllyngvase is famous for its sugar-white shoreline, sub-tropical backdrop and turquoise waters where wild swimmers congregate in every weather. Overlooked by the renowned Gylly Beach Café, you can congregate here in any weather, too.
To the east of ‘Gylly’ lies Castle Beach – a hotbed of discovery with a sunken U-Boat wreck and beautiful rocky reefs made for low-tide rock pooling. To the west, Swanpool Beach and Maenporth Beach are also sandy meccas, with cafés, summer lifeguards, equipment hire and – essential for family beach days with younger kids – easy parking. If you’re a little more adventurous and keen to find a quieter cove, take supplies and trot along the coast path west of Maenporth, where you’ll find a trickle of secluded bays all the way to the banks and inlets of the Helford River.
Besides its beaches, Falmouth offers a never-ending reel of things to do for families. Experience oceanic adventures whilst keeping your feet firmly on dry land at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, where you can take the helm of a model sailing boat, check out the underwater gallery and witness a magnificent array of exhibitions and interactive displays documenting the region’s seafaring history.
History lovers or not, stand at the forefront of bygone battles at Henry VIII’s magnificent Pendennis Castle, then retreat to Little Dennis for Cornish ice cream from the glorious vantage point of the mighty headland. Animal lovers should visit the Donkey Sanctuary in nearby Penryn, and nature lovers should lose themselves in the verdant wonderlands and tangled canopies of Trebah and Glendurgan gardens.
Food and Drink
Hot on the heels of Padstow as one of Cornwall’s most famous foodie hotspots, Falmouth harbours no shortage of restaurants, cafés, bars and bistros where artisan producers and super-talented chefs weave their magic into the best Cornish fare fit for families with appetites big and small. The best advice for a holiday in Falmouth is to arrive hungry.
Café classics for delectable delights include Stones Bakery, the New York-style Max Bagels, and the Bakery on the Beach – adjoining our hard-and-fast family favourite, the Gylly Beach Café. For dirty burgers and chips in town, Meat Locker is the place to go, while Harbour Lights is the long-standing institution for old-fashioned fish and chips. There are plenty of places to feast with sea views – whether that’s on ice cream with your toes in the sand at Swanpool Beach Café or a special family dinner at Hooked on the Rocks.
Family Accommodation in Falmouth
Hungry for more? Whatever takes your fancy, Falmouth is overflowing with family holiday appeal in every season. Nudging its salt-encrusted shores there’s a bundle of holiday accommodation – from historic Captain’s houses and cove-side cottages to rooftop apartments and luxury family beach homes. Step out onto the sandy beaches or peer out to the sailing boats on the Carrick Roads from one of Cornish Holiday Cottages’ handpicked collection of family retreats in and around Falmouth.