Falmouth is a bustling harbour town and the perfect place to base yourself for a fantastic holiday on the south coast of Cornwall. Many fabulous Falmouth attractions could keep you occupied for all of your time in Cornwall, but if you want to explore the surrounding area, you will be spoilt for choice.
Spend your time in Falmouth visiting exotic gardens, having animal encounters joining in with watersport activities and relaxing on sandy Falmouth beaches.
Day trips from Falmouth will take you to famous Cornish landmarks such as Lands End, the Eden Project and Kynance Cove, where you can swim in waters as blue as the Caribbean!
All around Falmouth, you will encounter the most beautiful Cornish villages and towns and a warm welcome from the local Cornish people.
Where to Park in Falmouth
To see the best Falmouth attractions, there are two large car parks near the National Maritime Museum. Make sure to have coins or a credit card available as they are both pay and display. Be aware that there is a maximum of a 4-hour stay, which is important if you plan to take the ferry across to St Mawes. There is also a Tesco express here which is handy if you stay in self-catering accommodation.
Looking for a self-catering hot tub holiday in Falmouth? I can recommend Boskensoe Barns – my family enjoyed a wonderful stay in The Pig House in Mawnan Smith, a 15-minute drive from Falmouth Harbour.
Best Things to Do in Falmouth Cornwall
Explore Falmouth’s High Street
Falmouth has a lovely chilled vibe, and its high street mixes eclectic independent stores and small high-chain stores. There are fabulous places to eat and drink in Falmouth, ranging from the award-winning Harbour Lights fish and chip shop to vegetarian and fine dining options, including my favourite restaurant, Harbour View.
And pubs in Falmouth are plentiful, some hidden down narrow alleys, with others nestled in the harbour. If you are looking for a pub with a real Cornish character, the Pandora Inn dates to the 13th century and is Falmouth’s oldest pub. It is located just outside Falmouth, but worth the journey to sample freshly caught fish and traditional real ales from St Austell Brewery.
For art lovers, the Falmouth Art Gallery displays over 2000 works of art spanning the centuries. It also hosts exhibitions highlighting local Cornish artists.
In Summer, the town has a buzzing holiday feeling, and the high street is dressed with nautical bunting flags.
Stop for a cornish pasty at The Cornish Bakery or grab a beverage at Beacon Coffee before perusing the beautiful homewares store Cream Cornwall, full of the most original seafaring designs you could imagine.
Stroll around Falmouth Harbour
Falmouth is the world’s third-largest natural harbour and was once the second-busiest port in the British Empire. Today Falmouth Harbour is a bustling working port, home to sailing and fishing boats, local ferries and Royal Navy vessels.
Once, this harbour was the hub for communication with the rest of the British colonies via the Falmouth Packet. From Falmouth, special boats delivered and collected messages from distant shores and brought them back to England.
Nowadays, the harbour is used by visitors to hop aboard local ferries for quick journeys to neighbouring headlands. St Mawes, St Anthony’s Head and Flushing are three popular ferry tours from Falmouth.
Discovery Quay is a great place to observe activities in the harbour from one of the many eateries visitors will find there. It also hosts local events throughout the year, including Falmouth Week, Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, Falmouth Spring Festival and Falmouth Oyster Festival.
Nearby Discovery Quay, you will see the Killigrew Monument, a stone pyramid erected and named after Falmouth’s founding family.
Learn about Seafaring Heritage at The National Maritime Museum
Falmouth’s maritime museum is a must-visit for those interested in the sea and the history of Falmouth. It is a modern piece of architecture that sits proudly in Falmouth harbour.
The museum’s main hall includes fascinating exhibitions, including the smallest boat to cross the Atlantic. Mythical and real-life sea creatures are also highlighted in the museum. And not forgetting the history of the Falmouth Packet and its contribution to maritime communications for over 200 years.
Visitors can also find information about the round-the-world solo expeditions by Ellen MacArthur and Robin Knox-Johnston in the museum, as Falmouth was the start and finish of these expeditions.
Take the Ferry to St Mawes and Beyond
The picture-perfect St Mawes is one of the most beautiful villages in Cornwall. With its tiny harbour and white-washed cottages, this quaint village is accessible by road or water. Jump aboard the St Mawes ferry from either Custom House Quay or Prince of Wales Pier, and you will be across the water in 20 minutes.
Although a lot smaller than Pendennis Castle, St Mawes Castle is counted as one of Cornwall’s most important Tudor defence forts. It has stunning views across the Fal Estuary back to Falmouth. Take the steps down to the beach from the car park or relax in the castle’s beautiful garden.
If you have longer on St Mawes, the circular walking trail to St Just starts from the castle and takes in the sub-tropical church gardens of St Just-in-Roseland. Or take the short ferry ride from St Mawes to St Anthony Head at the southern tip of the Roseland Peninsula.
Step Inside Pendennis Castle
Cornwall’s largest fortress is perched on the headland above Falmouth in a position chosen by Henry Vlll to defend the county from invasion by sea.
The impressive 16th-century defence fortress is maintained by English Heritage and gives visitors a chance to wander around a Tudor stronghold complete with medieval weapons, gun battlements and turrets. An interactive exhibition tells of Pendennis Castle’s role as a secret army base during WW2, and there is a First World War Guardhouse, complete with cells.
Pendennis Castle has water on three sides with outstanding views of Falmouth and the Cornish countryside. It’s a lovely setting to bring a picnic, and there is also a small cafe at Pendennis Castle for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
Pendennis Castle, Pendennis Point, Falmouth TR11 4LP
Go Rock-Pooling on Castle Beach
Castle Beach is a two-minute drive or a ten-minute walk from Pendennis Castle. It is a beautiful beach with fantastic rock pools, but be aware that the sea does cover the beach at high tide, so watch the tide times.
Facilities include toilets and a small cafe in the summertime.
Build sandcastles on Gyllyngvase Beach
The largest and most popular beach in Falmouth is Gyllyngvase Beach. It can easily be reached on foot from the town centre in 10 minutes. Its excellent facilities, including toilets and cafes, are close by, making it the ideal place for a family beach day.
The South West Coastal Path links Gyllyngvase Beach to Swanpool Beach, and between the two is an excellent snorkelling and crabbing area called Gylly Reef.
Queen Mary’s Gardens sit above the beach and offer a tranquil place to relax amongst the palm trees and other exotic plantings that thrive in Cornwall’s temperate climate.
Take a walking tour with Falmouth Uncovered.
For a fascinating look at Falmouth’s legends of pirates and hidden gems, a 90-minute walking tour with Falmouth Uncovered is the perfect activity to book.
Looking for a great place to stay in Falmouth? Check out prices and availability for Falmouth accommodation on Booking.com.
Best Things to do near Falmouth Harbour
See Hydrangea Valley at Trebah Garden – a 15-minute drive
Nature lovers will find wandering around Trebah Garden in Helford a lovely way to spend the day. Listed as one of the Great Gardens of Cornwall, the grounds are bursting with various plants, from tropical palms and ferns to the most beautiful autumn displays of blue and white hydrangeas, for which Trebah is famous.
The pathways in Trebah can be pretty steep, going down and up, so be sure you are of a suitable fitness level. Wheelchair users may find the valley route difficult, as will those with walking disabilities (we saw several people struggling to make it back up from the beach).
Don’t forget to check out the private beach leading from the gardens down to the Helford River and get yourself a Cornish ice cream from the beach kiosk.
Trebah Garden, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, TR11 5JZ
Follow the maze in Glendurgan Garden – a 15-minute drive.
Near Trebah Garden is Glendurgan Garden, with over 300 acres of National Trust woodland and coastline. Expect to see a subtropical garden full of exotic giant palms, ancient trees and a maze. Bring a swimsuit and swim at Durgan beach.
Glendurgan is an inclusive property with an all-terrain electric mobility scooter available for those with disabilities. It will safely navigate the rough ground and steep slopes in the garden.
Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5JZ
Take to the water on the Helford River – a 30-minute drive.
For watersport enthusiasts, Helford River is great for paddleboarding and sailing. Rentals for all types of equipment, including self-drive boats, can be found at Helford River Boats.
The Shipwrights Arms in Helford Passage offers excellent food in a riverside setting, as does The Ferry Boat Inn, near Trebah Gardens, on the opposite side of the river.
To get across the river, passengers can jump aboard the Helford ferry, boarding by either of the pubs.
Get close to wildlife at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary – a 25-minute drive.
Gweek Cornish Seal Sanctuary is one of the best places to visit near Falmouth. It is a sanctuary for injured seal pups and is managed by The SEA LIFE Trust. The charity rescues and rehabilitates grey seal pups from around the Cornish coastline.
The charity aims to re-release the rehabilitated seals back to the water; however, some have to stay at the sanctuary for the remainder of their lives. Visitors can see the seals in their chambers, visit the seal hospital and rockpools and see the other rescued animals that call Gweek their homes.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek, TR12 6UG
Relax on the Falmouth Beaches
Swanpool Beach – a 5-minute drive
Swanpool Beach is one mile from Falmouth and is a sheltered shingle beach with clear blue waters; great for swimming and paddleboarding. WESUP runs taster courses on the local beaches if you want to learn to paddleboard in Cornwall.
Beach facilities include a large car park, toilets, crazy golf, and a beach cafe serving luxurious, topping-laden ice creams and hot chocolates. Hooked on the Rocks is hard to beat for freshly caught Cornish seafood.
Behind the beach is the Swanpool Lake Nature Reserve, a habitat for kingfishers, ducks and other coastal birdlife.
Maenporth Beach – a 10-minute drive
Maenporth Beach is two miles outside Falmouth and is a sheltered cove with a gently sloping beach, great for swimming and watersport activities.
Beach facilities include toilets and a small cafe. The parking is limited, so get there early!
Book a table at The Cove in Maenporth Beach for fine dining by the sea, owned by Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines.
Explore the South West Coastal Path
Cornwall’s Atlantic coast is both a dramatic and unforgiving landscape carved from the relentless pounding of the sea. The South West Coastal Path, known as one of the world’s best walks, is the longest coastline in the UK, measuring 630 miles, and will take you past stunning waterscapes, beautiful Cornish villages and ancient landscapes.
For a challenging coastal walk, pick up the coastal path in Falmouth Harbour and walk 13 miles to Portloe.
For a more gentle walk, start at Falmouth train station to do the two-mile circular Falmouth Packet walk.