A local's guide to Carlyon Bay in Cornwall: 20 beach walks, restaurants and day tripsPosted by Bethany Walton on
Botanical gardens, sunset suppers and beach walks
Known for its miles of golden sand, turquoise waters and prestigious homes, Carlyon Bay is certainly sought-after when it comes to holidaying. With the South West Coast Path weaving past its private roads, you can be in Charlestown in less than 10 minutes while the likes of Polkerris, Porthpean and Fowey are also within easy reach.
Having grown up in one of Carlyon Bay’s neighbouring towns, I like to think I know a thing or two about how to spend a week on this side of the coast. From beachside brunching to spa days and wine tastings, here’s a local’s guide to Carlyon Bay and its surrounding areas.
Where to eat
© The Longstore and The Mussel Shoal via Instagram
AJ’s Coffee Shop
Open since 2019 and gaining a great reputation amongst locals and visitors alike, AJ’s is a family-run café in the heart of Carlyon Bay. Open from breakfast through to lunch, expect poached egg breakfasts, savoury filled croissants and hot paninis. For smaller appetites, order buttery toast topped with warm honey or share a stack of fluffy chocolate pancakes.
With a menu dedicated to the changing seasons, Edie’s is loved for its fresh dishes and genius flavour combinations. Regularly featured in The Michelin Guide, expect truffled arancini, roast hake and delicate steak frites. Well-suited to family dining, the restaurant’s ambience is laid-back and welcoming, with a dedicated children’s menu too.
Bay View Restaurant
Set inside Carlyon Bay’s Hotel, this restaurant enjoys incredible ocean vistas and elevated evening dining. Reserve a table beside the window to watch as sunset settles on the horizon and peruse their extensive wine menu to begin. Their al carte menu features plenty of delicious seafood options, with chargrilled lobster amongst their most popular dishes. If fish isn’t your thing, opt for a decadent fillet steak or fresh pesto linguine.
It wouldn’t be a guide to dining on the south coast, without a mention for The Longstore. Having opened its doors in 2016, it’s become a tradition to visit here for celebratory meals and romantic date nights. Their menus change with the seasons and feature plenty of butcher’s cuts, fresh-of-the-boat seafood dishes and decadent plant-based burgers.
For more casual dining, they’re also open for breakfast and brunch downstairs in their Short and Strong Deli, while The Cellar offer cocktails, wine and tapas.
The Mussel Shoal
You may recognise this delicious seafood stop-off as one of our favourites from Porthleven. Popping up in the summer months on Carlyon Bay, The Mussel Shoal offer takeaway lunches to enjoy on the sand. Tucking into zesty fried squid, spicy bao buns and garlicky mussels, it’ll quickly become your first port of call on arrival into Carlyon Bay.
Loved for its extensive menu and lively atmosphere, The Rebellion is the perfect place for catching up with friends. Order a selection of appetizers to share alongside your favourite fiery cocktails. A longstanding favourite of ours, we’d recommend the loaded fries, the braised beef brisket and peppery squid.
Beaches and nearby walks
© Left: Porthpean by Adam Gibbard via Visit Cornwall. Right: Mevagissey.
Stretching for two miles and loved by locals for its laid-back atmosphere, Carlyon Bay is perfect for families. The arrival of the summer months also brings with it beachside pop-ups, shops and bars meaning you can enjoy a day on the sand until late evening. Find the likes of The Mussel Shoal, Callestick Farm and Jasper’s Kitchen open from noon, with Shoreside Bar hosting live music every weekend. It’s safe to swim here, so little ones can dip their toes into the shallows while the grown-ups cool off under the clear sea.
There’s a car park at the very top of the beach and access onto the sand is via a flight of steps or along Beach Road.
Join the coast path from Carlyon Bay and follow it to the right, over to Porthpean. Smaller in size, Porthpean is known for its watersports scene and gentle waters. Hire SUPs and paddle around to Duporth or simply bathe in the sunshine – calling by the beach shop for a scoop of Cornish ice cream before you amble back home.
There’s also a car park just above the beach and access onto the sand is via a short slipway.
Alternatively, you can reach Polkerris with a slightly longer route past Par Sands. One for wildlife watchers, this stretch of the coast path reveals hidden coves and fulmar nesting nooks. It’s also one of the best places to spot seals, so be sure to keep a watchful eye over the seas as you make your way over the headland. The beach itself is a small cove, sheltered by a sea wall. On good weather days, sit outside of The Rashleigh Inn with gin spritzers in hand or head onto the sand with takeaway pizzas from Sam’s.
There’s a car park a short (but easy) walk away but this does get busy in the summer and an overflow car park can be found in a nearby farmer’s field – access to the sand from here is via a countryside track and a short woodland walk.
A little further around the headland, towards Mevagissey, is Pentewan. A flat soft sand beach, it’s a great option for sandcastle building and gentle sea swims. There are also plenty of dining options nearby, with Hub Box serving topped nachos, stacked burgers and icy cocktails, and Pentewan Plaice open for takeaway fish and chips.
Depending on the conditions, you can sometimes surf from Pentewan and boards can be rented from Cornwall Watersports. They also have kayaks, SUPs and self-drive boats available to hire, so there’s everything you’d need for a beach day.
There’s parking close by in Pentewan Sands car park or you can join the coast path from Mevagissey to enjoy a salty sea walk.
Gorran Haven to Vault Beach
For those who love to stretch their legs with a longer coastal walk, this route takes you over the headland from Gorran Haven and into the beautiful crescent of Vault Beach. Recognisable as the setting of Richard Curtis’ About Time, this beach is perfect for summertime picnics and cold-water swims. As it’s off the beaten track, there are no facilities available on the beach itself so be sure to pack plenty of water and prepare for a slightly uneven walk down onto the sand.
On arrival back into Gorran Haven, stop by the Coast Path Café for a healthy slice of cake and pots of tea. Alternatively, you can reach Vault Beach from Hemmick Beach which takes you over Dodman Point. There are car parks dotted around the route and you can adjust the mileage depending on where you choose to join.
Outdoor activities and well-being
Carlyon Bay Golf Course
A championship 10-hole green, Carlyon Bay Golf Course is pretty spectacular with its shimmering sea views and winding woodlands. Spend an afternoon perfecting your swing, soak up the salty sea air and stretch your legs over the 6,400-yard course. After your game, head for the Clubhouse in search of scones topped with jam and cream.
Carlyon Bay Spa
Discover moments of pure tranquillity and luxury at Carlyon Bay Spa. There’s an indoor pool, bubbling spa bath, sauna and steam room for those wishing to truly switch off. During the warmer months, take to the outdoor pool for lengths and sunbathing sessions. To elevate your spa day, why not opt for a full body massage, a brightening facial or a luxury pedicure.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Made up of 60 acres of magical woodlands, orchards and walled gardens, Heligan provides a wonderful day trip for the whole family. Discover hidden sculptures amongst winding paths, spot curious creatures in wildflower meadows and unearth rope bridges underneath jungle canopies. They have a plethora of activities going on throughout the year, so be sure to check their upcoming events page before a visit.
A little closer to Carlyon Bay is St Austell’s Pinetum Gardens. Divided into 10 themed gardens, find beautifully scented wisteria, koi ponds and rose gardens. Spend sunny days admiring the blooms, relax on the green with a picnic or take your sketchbooks for an afternoon of whimsical drawing. There’s also a café on site and with paved pathways throughout the site, it’s also accessibility-friendly.
© Left: Eden Project by Matt Jessop via Visit Cornwall. Right: Caerhays Castle via Visit Cornwall.
Known worldwide for its botanical biomes, educational centres and wildflower playgrounds, a day out at the Eden Project is not to be missed while in the area. With a calendar of events taking you from winter ice skating to school holiday storytelling and summertime sessions, discover the wonders of Eden whatever the weather or season. Arrive early and make your way through the rainforest and Mediterranean biomes, stopping to admire the wildlife, insects and butterflies that call Eden home.
There’s also a fantastic café for lunch, ice cream parlours for afternoon treats and a huge outdoor play area for little ones to enjoy.
Not from the Eden Project, Knightor Winery is set amongst enchanting woodlands and evergreen countryside. Having opened its doors ten years ago, Knightor has become one of the county’s most-loved vineyards, producing delicious British wines. With tours and tastings available to book Wednesdays – Sundays, it’s a great opportunity to gather everyone together for a lesson in harvesting grapes, fermentation and tannins. As lovers of their sparkling wines, we’d recommend taking home a bottle of their Brut Classic Cuveé to sip on back at your holiday home.
The beautiful harbourside town of Fowey is just under half an hour away by car, so this makes a great destination for a day trip. Home to endless eateries, art galleries and independent boutiques, wander through its winding streets on fair weather days. A much-loved tradition amongst visitors is to pick up freshly made crab sandwiches from Captain Hank’s before ambling along the Esplanade over to Readymoney Beach for an al fresco lunch.
Tucked away behind beautiful gardens is a 19th century private castle which opens its doors to visitors in the springtime. Wander its historic rooms or explore the endless gardens filled with rhododendron blooms and sweet-smelling camellias. With the sand just footsteps away, make a day of it and spend the afternoon in the sunshine with the waves lapping into shore. There’s also a small beach café which serves cooked lunches, fresh salads and soft drinks.
Where to stay
Surrounded by sparkling sea views, Serenity makes an idyllic retreat on Cornwall’s south coast. Finished in fresh whites and blues, relish endless ocean vistas from every room or spill out onto the sea-facing terrace for spritzers in the sunshine. Sleeping five guests, it’s the perfect opportunity to steal a week away with your loved ones. Relax and recharge with sunrise yoga sessions, endless coastal walks and delicious dinner reservations.
Speak to our team to book your stay and plan your south coast itinerary: 01208 895 570 | email@example.com
Image credits: Charlestown (main image) by Matthew Jessop via Visit Cornwall. The Longstore and The Mussel Shoal via Instagram. Porthpean by Adam Gibbard, Eden Project by Matt Jessop and Caerhays Castle via Visit Cornwall. All other images are our own.
Featured in this post
- Carlyon Bay, Cornwall
- Sleeps: 5
- Bedrooms: 3 i
- Bathrooms: 2
A tranquil retreat for five guests, this home enjoys incredible ocean views over Charlestown and St Austell Bay. There are three ground-floor bedrooms, making it easily accessible with all three featuring French doors opening up directly onto the terrace. Situated on the South West Coast Path, it's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with Carlyon Bay Golf Club and Porthpean Beach within walking distance.
- Sea Views
- EV Charger
- Hot Tub
- Swimming Pool
- Games/TV Room
Per week from£1850
Short breaks from£1650