Entertain the kids
Cornwall is a great location for family holidays. There is much to keep adults interested while providing enjoyment for children at the same time. Read on for information about activities for children in and around the Falmouth area.
Falmouth Holiday Homes guide to rock pooling!
Lurid long tentacles, snapping crabs and transparent prawns. Discover a whole new bunch of creatures along the shoreline as you check out the fascinating marine life that inhabits Cornwall’s rock pools. At first the pools might look empty, but keep still and beneath the water the marine life will soon spring into action. Here are the major stars to look out for:
Tompot Blenny – distinctive red eyes and red tentacles protrude from its head like a stylish hat.
Pipefish – as their names suggests, this fish is long and thin and like seahorses, the male pipefish carries the young in his brooding pouch.
Velvet Swimming Crab – bright red eyes, bright blue banding on its legs and covered in dark hairs, this aggressive little creature packs a mean punch with its strong pincers.
Common Prawn – so transparent you can see all their internal organs as they dart around the water in jerky spasms.
Snake-locks Anemone – bright green with purple tips, this elegant creature has a sting in its tail; its tentacles are used to stun passing fish.
Here are five places we recommend:
Falmouth, Castle Beach
At low tide the beach has rock pools aplenty, there’s not much sand, but the ideal spot for rockpooling. The little beach cafe and shop sell the necessary buckets and nets you’ll need for a fun rock pool safari. Shop / Cafe / Toilets. Directions: At the Pendennis Castle end of Cliff Road in Falmouth, 5 minutes from Falmouth Docks train station.
Recommended by almost everyone with a passion for peering at sea creatures. A wide open bay where at low tide huge rock pools are revealed. Car park/Shop/Toilets. Dogs allowed all year. Directions: from Padstow on the B3276.
Gerrans Bay, Portscatho
The whole bay is scattered with tiny rock pools that are home to an amazing array of fish, anemones and seaweed. Especially check out Towan Beach just over a mile west of the village. NT car park/toilets at Porth Farm and about half a mile walk to beach. Directions: take A3078 then follow signs to Portscatho.
Duckpool Beach near Bude
Dramatically located on the northwest coast, high cliffs tower over the pebbles where at the far end of the beach large crabs lie in wait in the numerous pools. Small car park/toilets. Directions: Take A39 east from Bude.
Still a busy port for landing lobster and crab so where better to look for smaller varieties of sea dwellers? Rock pools around the harbour provide a great open air aquarium. Car park/local facilities. Directions: B1334 from Wadebridge.
Right down on The Lizard, Kennack Sands is not only a popular centre for scuba diving but also a perfect family beach – lots of sand, a little stream runing down to the sea and rock pools aplenty. Large car park/ shop/ café/ toilets. Directions: Take Ruan Major turning from main Helston-Lizard road A3083
…to replace stones if you move them and don’t prod or remove the animals
…to check the tides. Rock pools are exposed at low tide but make sure you have access to the main land at all times
…The Children’s Green Detective Guide to Cornwall, designed and written especially for children at Key Stage 2. It’s an entertaining guidebook for kids to Cornwall’s natural attractions from rock pooling to woodlands, £4.99 from Young Guides
…the Cornwall Wildlife Trust organises regular beach cleans, rock pool safaris, photographic wildlife courses, nature walks and more. Many of their activites are free of charge and their experts put you in touch with Cornwall’s facinating wildlife. Find out what’s coming up at their website.
An essential guide to crabbing in Flushing and Falmouth!
Find a suitable spot on the harbour wall or the quay. No need for a hook, just tie on the bacon (crabs love the rind best), tinned sardines are a favourite or any old fish head you have lying about.
Drop your line in the water and wait. We said wait. The Shore Crab, the most common in Cornwall, needs a little coaxing. About 5 minutes should do it.
Raise your line, it should feel a little heavier, and observe. Clustered to your now half eaten bait, there should be a few happy crabs munching away.
If you want to keep your crabs in a bucket for a while to look at, make sure you only put a few in at a time. They don’t like crowds and can become quite tetchy.
Make sure you place your bucket in the shade, crabs are not accustomed bright sunlight and don’t carry factor 25.
After you’ve observed their quirky antics, carefully place them back into the water. They are not edible so please don’t try them on the barbeque, let them go back home.
Did you know?
The Shore Crab grows to about 3 inches and is an opportunist scavenger. Because of its tolerance to fresh water can be found high up in river estuaries. It usually feeds on molluscs but also loves any dead matter on the shore, that’s why bacon is a real treat! After mating, Shore Crabs produce nearly 200,000 eggs which the female carries on her legs until they hatch.
School holiday Idea: You can go crabbing most days during the summer hols at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth where they’ll will give you the line, bait and bucket. Weather permitting the half-hourly crabbing sessions take place between 10.30am-3.30pm and costs just a little extra on top of the admission fee, but book your spot as they go quick!
location: Swanpool Beach, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 5BG
Elemental are a Falmouth company who offer all sorts of water based adventures including canoeing, sailing, surfing, coasteering, wind surfing, raft making and stand-up paddle boarding. Swanpool’s sheltered location and calm waters – which are protected from the wind in most directions – makes it ideal for the safe launch of small sailing boats and paddle craft. Their kids club is ideal for parents who want a quite couple of hours while the children learn valuable skills and, above all, enjoy themselves!
The guys at Elemental tell us that their aim is ‘to help people get the most from the coast by immersing them in the challenges and thrills of the natural world, all while learning valuable skills and having fun’ – which sounds pretty good to us!
They can even offer delivery of kayaks and equipment to your holiday home. For more details have a look at their website.
Padstow Lobster Hatchery
South Quay, Padstow PL28 8BL
The main attraction has to be seeing the young lobsters growing up ready to be released, but there is also a resident giant lobster, ‘Dai the Claw’ and Edible and Spider Crabs. The hatchery displays a wealth of information about lobsters, the fishery and marine conservation, as well as offering activities for all ages. Staff are always on hand to answer your questions and make sure you get the most from your visit, and there is a gift shop area with sea-life related goods and a range of books about marine life and Cornwall.
Ships & Castles Leisure Pool
Falmouth, TR11 4NG
One of Falmouth’s premier attractions, the Leisure Pool at Ships & Castles provides daily fun for all the family throughout the year for visitors and residents alike. With lots of exciting features including a wave machine which brings the thrill of the ocean in-doors and a river ride which sweeps you along at an exciting speed. These features are activated about every 20 minutes during fun sessions only.The 70 metre flume is the longest in the region and is a surefire hit with children and adults. There is a shallow beach area for little ones to play away from the main area; introducing them to the excitement of the pool at their own pace.
Falmouth, TR11 4LP
Having defended the anchorage of the Carrick Roads for more than four centuries, Pendennis Castle offers a taste of history coupled with spectacular views of the water and surrounding coastline.
An on-site museum and discovery centre present all the information you could wish to learn about the castle’s history via interactive displays and activities, while displays of costal defence armament give visitors a glimpse of what went into protecting Pendennis all those years ago.
Flushing, TR11 5TZ
This beach is a mixture of sand and shingle and there is a small area of grass suitable for picnics. Like the other small river beaches nearby it is rarely crowded. There are fantastic walks around the headland to Mylor Yacht Harbour. The beach is perfect for picnics, playing with the kids, or just relaxing. During Flushing regatta week it plays host to the famous sandcastle building competition. Access is easy and the beach is dog friendly all year.
Falmouth, TR11 5BG
Swanpool Beach is another very sheltered beach offering quite safe bathing. The golden sand is littered here and there with rocks. All the usual amenities are close at hand and due to its proximity to Falmouth, Swanpool is often quite crowded, especially in summer. Behind the beach lies the Swan Pool that gave the beach its name. There are excellent views across Falmouth Bay and a couple of other good beaches close by – namely Maenporth to the south and Gyllyngvase to the northeast.
Mawnan Smith, TR11 5JZ
Selected as one of the ‘Great Gardens of Cornwall’, Trebah is a hugely popular attraction that offers a different experience each time you visit. Depending on the time of year you wander through the gardens you could be lucky enough to witness a colourful array of rhododendrons, magnoliasm camellias, hydrangeas and sub-tropical tree ferns.
The gardens are situated in the grounds of a lovely 18th Century house and spill down into a 25-acre ravine before ending at a private beach on the Helford River.
Open all year round, Trebah is a no-brainer for anybody with an eye for the natural world.
Falmouth Surf School
Falmouth, TR11 4QU
Surfing is every bit as much fun as it looks and the true Cornish experience is not complete without riding the waves! Falmouth Surf School offers you the day of a lifetime with truly ‘no worries’. They provide the experience, expertise and enthusiasm to ensure that you and your family have the time of your lives, safe in the knowledge that their fully qualified and expert staff will get you cruising on clean Atlantic waves and feeling the rush that only surfing can bring! Falmouth Surf School provide transport to wherever the best waves are and all equipment including wetsuits and boards. Your first surf can change your life forever. It’s hard to believe anything this fun can be healthy!
River Fal Boat Trips
Flushing, TR11 5TY
If you’re visiting Cornwall then we’d recommend taking to the water to see Falmouth and the surrounding areas from a different perspective.
River Fal boat trips offer the chance to take in spectacular views of Falmouth Docks, Pendennis and St Mawes castles as well as nearby locations including Flushing, Restronguet and St Just. Other worthwhile sights include historic buildings such as Trelissick House and Tregothnan Mansion.
Mylor Boat Hire
Mylor, TR11 5UF
Hire a family day boat and discover the unique sheltered waters around Falmouth – explore idyllic waterside villages, historic castles, tranquil wooded creeks, bustling towns, beautiful gardens and charming waterside pubs and restaurants. There’s plenty of room on board for picnicking, fishing or just messing about on the water. You will be fitted with your own lifejacket and given full instructions on boat handling. Boats are available for hourly, daily or weekly hire, and during July and August we offer evening cruises. There’s something for everyone! Family motorboats, launches and punts, a great range of traditional sailing dayboats, fast dinghies and pocket cruisers.
Helston, TR13 0QA
Kids of all ages will get a real kick out of Flambards, a theme park with a difference. As well as the traditional thrill rides including rollercoasters and a log flume, the family-friendly attraction also offers a number of educational exhibits including the Victorian Village, Britain in the Blitz and the Memory Lane Experience. Also on site are award-winning gardens along with shopping and dining options.
The rides on offer cater for all ages and tolerance levels, so there’s plenty to do for the little ones, who will also enjoy the huge indoor soft play area situated alonside the main Falmbards theme park.
Crealy Adventure Park
location: Wadebridge, PL27 7RA
Crealy offers maximum fun, inside and out, with fantastic rides, animal encounters and parkland. An award winning family attraction and an unforgettable day packed with magic, fun, adventure and relaxation for the whole family; go wild on the Thunder Falls Log Flume, Raging Rivers Water Slide, Viking Warrior Pirate Ship, and in the huge indoor play areas. Ride, feed, or cuddle the animals in ‘Animal Realm’. Relax and unwind around the lake. Enjoy the Sunflower Maze, plus great restaurants and cafés and a fantastic gift shop.
The Camel Trail
Wadebridge, PL27 7AL
This 11-mile stretch of converted disused railway offers the opportunity to take in the beauty of Cornwall’s countryside at a leisurely pace. Situated alongside the River Camel, the trail links the towns of Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow.
Vehicles are not permitted on the trail which is virtually level in its entirety, ensuring smooth passage for cyclists, those pushing prams or buggies, or people in wheelchairs. This also makes The Camel Trail an ideal alternative to local woodland and coastal paths that may not be suitable for those with reduced mobility.
Nr Newquay, TR8 5AA
With a large range of rides, play equipment and various other forms of entertainment, Dairyland Farmworld is an ideal day out for families with young children. Thrill seekers will delight in operating mini JCB diggers and junior rally karts, taking flight on a cable ride or putting themselves through the paces of the assault course.
Those who prefer something a little more relaxing can enjoy pony and hay rides and pay a visit to all sorts of animals including piglets, rabbits, donkeys, hens – and even chinchillas, rats and meerkats.
St Austell, PL24 2SG
It’s not so long since this site housed a tired old clay pit. Transformed by the addition of two huge and visually impressive biomes – one with a Rainforest theme, the other a Mediterranean theme – the Eden Project has quickly become one of Cornwall’s most popular attractions.
With stunning garden displays all year round and spectacular sights including towering sculptures and waterfalls, a visit to the Eden Project is one that’s sure to live long in the memory.
Children are well catered for with generous play areas as well as storytelling session and workshops for all ages.
The site is also used as a venue for special events such as the popular Eden Sessions, which attract some of the biggest musical acts from around the world every year.
Lost Gardens of Heligan
Nr St Ewe, PL26 6EN
The Lost Gardens of Heligan offer a magical day out for people of all ages. Originally created during a period from the mid-18th Century through to the beginning of the 20th Century and underwent major restoration in the 1990s. Following the restoration work, BBC Gardeners’ World dubbed Heligan ‘The Nation’s Favourite Garden’ following a vote from viewers.
The gardens play host to an extensive collection of rhododendrons and camellias, a number of lakes and a particularly popular ‘jungle’ area filled with sub-tropical tree ferns.
Some of the most talked-about features at The Lost Gardens of Heligan include the Mud Maid and the Giant’s Head, two stunning sculptures created from rocks and plants.
The Minack Theatre
Porthcurno, TR19 6JU
Offering the kind of incredible beauty that only Cornwall can offer, The Minack Open Air Theatre is quite unlike anything else you will have experienced.
Set in the cliffs high above Porthcurno Bay with mesmerising views whichever way you look, the Minack is an absolute must visit not just for fans of theatre but also for anybody who appreciates incredible vistas and the sense of being in a truly special place.
The Minack Theatre was planned, built and financed by Rowena Case, a remarkable woman who left behind a site to treasure when she died in 1983.
National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Falmouth, TR11 3QY
Housed in a landmark building on Falmouth’s picturesque harbourside, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall offers an entertaining and educational experience for visitors young and old.
With a regularly updated range of exhibits covering all aspects of maritime life, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Previous themes have included Search and Rescue and Bronge Age Boats, which saw the museum host a project to construct a full-size replica of a period vessel.
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall is a registered charity but does not receive any Government funding or grants – so the support of visitors and locals alike helps this much-loved attraction continue to offer a fun day out for all the family.
St Michael’s Mount
Marazion, TR17 0EF
This scenic tidal island off the coast of Marizion can be reached by foot via a granite causeway at low tide or by boat when the water is high.
The island enjoys a rich history, having been a thriving port for the tin industry around two thousand years ago. The real star here is the castle that tops the island, which offers a fascinating look back at the history of the island.
With beautiful gardens as well as shopping and dining options, St Michael’s Mount offers a wide range of activities that are sure to fill a fun-packed day for any visitor.
National Seal Sanctuary
Gweek, TR12 6UG
This rescue, rehabilitation and release centre for seals is situated in the beautiful village of Gweek in the Helford Estuary.
The sanctuary, which dates back more than 50 years in its original guise and has been running at Gweek since 1975, rescues more than 40 seal pups in a typical season.
Visitors are able to witness grey and common seals as well as fur seals and Californian and Patagonian Sea Lions. The sanctuary also offers safe haven to a variety of other animals, including otters, penguins, sheep, ponies and goats.