An Unmissable 10 Day Itinerary for your Cornwall Campervan Holiday
With its white sandy beaches, crystal waters and dramatic rugged cliffs, Cornwall is a little slice of paradise almost right on your doorstep.
Though a vehicle (and a pair of hiking boots) are essential for getting around, the beauty isn’t always in the driving but rather the magical spots to park up and watch the sunset, or spend the night. That’s why the best way to explore Cornwall is in your very own home-on-wheels.
We’re travel photographers and have road-tripped the most incredible places in a camper van, including Scotland and a wintery Iceland, but Cornwall easily holds its own versus the ‘wilder’ parts of the world. Quite simply, we were blown away at its beauty.
Outlined below is the ultimate 10-day Cornwall road trip, which in our opinion is the perfect amount of time to enjoy what this beautiful coastline has to offer. We’re going to squeeze a lot in, so feel free to spend more time in the spots you really enjoy, after all that is the beauty of a campervan holiday.
The Ultimate Cornwall Road Trip Overview
• Day 1: London – Bedruthan Steps
• Day 2: Mawgan Porth – Watergate Bay
• Day 3: Fistral Beach – Crantock Beach – Poly Joke Beach – Holywell Bay
• Day 4: Perranporth – Trevaunance Cove – St Agnes
• Day 5: Chapel Porth Beach – Porthtowan Beach – Gwithian Beach
• Day 6: Carbis Bay – Porthmeor Beach – Porth Nanven Beach
• Day 7: Sennen Cove – Land’s End – Nanjizal Beach
• Day 8: Porthcurno Beach – Pedn Vounder Beach – St Michael’s Mount – Mullion Cove
• Day 9: Kynance Cove – Falmouth – Dartmoor National Park
• Day 10: Dartmoor National Park – London
Day 1 – London, Bedruthan Steps
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ll be hiring your camper from London and making the 5-hour drive down to Cornwall. The good thing is the drive certainly doesn’t feel as long as it sounds. We picked up the Aero Plus, a 2 berth motorhome, from Bunk Campers’ London depot, and headed off to our first destination – Bedruthan Steps, arriving just in time for sunset… which would be the first of many!
Named after the giant granite rocks dotted along its beach, Bedruthan Steps is beautiful whichever angle you look at it. However, due to a recent storm, access to the beach is no longer possible so just enjoy the view from the clifftops.
Day 2 – Mawgan Porth, Watergate Bay
You can’t visit the north coast of Cornwall without trying your hand at surfing, and there aren’t many better locations than Watergate Bay. It’s a beautiful stretch of sand and a great first look at what your week in Cornwall has in store. Perched on the clifftop lies West Country Surf School, offering surfboard and wetsuit hire, along with surf lessons. Enjoy a quick breakfast at their Hangout Cafe, then head to the beach and wash it down with a mouthful of salt water…. if your surfing ability is anything like ours.
Cornwall is known for great food and the quaint little village of Mawgan Porth – only five minutes from Watergate Bay, has plenty of options. Famed for one of the best fish and chips restaurants in Cornwall, it is also home to a great pub on the seafront [Merrymoor Inn] and a stunning little coffee shop located just behind the town [Off the Path Coffee Co]. All very good options if you’re looking to reward your exploits in the water.
Now this is when you could head into Newquay, or visit the beaches that lie just beyond. However, there’s no need to rush on your first full day, so enjoy Watergate Bay and Mawgan Porth then book yourself into any of the campsites that line the clifftop – all great options around here.
Day 3 – Fistral Beach, Crantock Beach, Polly Joke Beach, Holywell Bay
There are plenty of beaches that surround Newquay, including popular spots like Fistral, Crantock and Polly Joke – the latter being a great spot for sunset.
Like everything on the north coast, nowhere is too far away so you can easily visit three or four locations in a day. Fistral Bay is the first up and there’s a little car park right near the headland providing easy access to the beach and the headland footpath. Fistral also has a windy links golf course if you happen to have brought your clubs (and a net) with you. Alternatively, head into the town and grab yourself a Cornish pasty, before continuing onto the next destination.
Crantock Beach is only a short drive around the headland, set within a narrower cove and therefore more shelter than Fistral. It can be a little hard to find parking, but if you head towards the far side (South-Westerly) near Piper’s Hole and Vugga Cove there’s a car park just beneath the Bowgie Inn pub. The views alone from here are incredible, but it’s also the perfect spot to walk down to Crantock or around to Polly Joke Beach.
Set within an even narrower cove, Polly Joke Beach is definitely a secluded spot and one of the best to watch the sunset. At high-tide it is stunning, especially when the resident seals are kipping on the last of the sand. To get to the beach, you can either walk around and down from the West Pentire car park (beneath the Bowgie Inn pub), or you can drive 2 minutes up the hill to the Polly Joke car park and walk down from there. We opted for the latter and it was a beautiful walk through daisies and bluebells.
From the top car park, you can almost see Holywell Bay and the grassy sand dunes that tumble away to the beach. This is another great spot for sunset, but we recommend visiting it before heading down to Polly Joke. You can walk from the Polly Joke car park and there are even surfboards to hire right on the beach.
Day 4 – Perranporth, Trevaunance Cove, St. Agnes
The unspoilt heritage coastline of St Agnes is the perfect getaway in itself, so it’s well worth a day spent exploring this area of outstanding natural beauty.
When driving from Holywell toward St Agnes, you’ll pass one of Cornwall’s straightest beaches – Perranporth. It’s not possible to park in the beach car park due to maximum vehicle height limits, but there is additional parking on the opposite side of the road, behind the petrol station. From here, take a quick hike up the southern headland above the natural rock bridge, and look back across the endless stretch of sand for a great photo opportunity.
From here, it is actually a spectacular walk along the coast to St Agnes which in spring/summer is particularly vibrant. The walk can take up to 3 hours each way though, so we got back in the van and took the lazy route.
When arriving in St Agnes, take a right turn toward Trevaunance Cove – one of the many gems this stretch of coastline has to offer. Only a short distance from the town, this adorable coastal village is the perfect spot for lunch, a swim and a bit of adventure. Nestled in a sheltered bay, where a handful of cottages line the cliffs, the sea here is crystal clear and perfect for snorkelling or enjoying from a kayak. You can hire these from the village and explore the caves, coves and beaches that wrap around the headland.
If lunch in Trevaunance Cove is not your vibe (no idea why!), then check out The Canteen located on the hill above, where fresh food is cooked up until 2pm Weds-Sat. From here you can also visit the coolest surf shop around – Open Surf, and watch (or photograph) how surfboards are made.
Now Cornwall isn’t all about eating and surfing, it’s home to some of the most beautiful walks this country has to offer, with one of our favourites being from St Agnes Head along the cliffs to Tubby’s Head. The longer route incorporates Wheal Coates Tea Room and the famous St Agnes Beacon – both worth visiting if you’re looking for a bit of history.
Day 5 – Chapel Porth Beach, Porthtowan Beach, Gwithian Beach
Today is definitely a beach day, which let’s face it is the reason you’ve come to Cornwall anyway. First up is Chapel Porth Beach, only a very short drive from either of the campsites above – grab some breakfast at the beach cafe and make your way to Porthtowan.
Wedged between the cliffs, Porthtowan is a minuscule town popular with surfers, walkers and holidaymakers. It is also well known for its tidal pool, accessible at low tide, which for some reason feels quite a few degrees colder than the sea. If the weather is baking, then this’ll definitely be a popular spot to cool off.
Continuing on toward St Ives, you’ll come across Godrevy and Gwithian beaches, easily two of the most beautiful and best for surfing. Hanging onto the edge of St Ives bay, Gwithian Beach is an endless stretch of white sand and rolling waves, which explains why there are so many surf schools based here. Head to Gwithian Towans long stay car park on the clifftop and set up for the afternoon. Just behind the car park is the ever-popular Sunset Surf Café where you can hire boards and wetsuits, and then walk down to the beach below. Gwithian can be known for rip tides however, so be careful in the water and try to surf with the rest of the surfers or near the surf schools.
After a good workout, it’s time to enjoy golden hour. Many race to the water for the evening, but you’ve already bagged yourself a great spot to watch the sunset from the comfort of your camper van. If however, you’re feeling peckish head to The Rockpool Pub on Godrevy Beach (5 mins away) and pick up some dinner to take back to the car park at Gwithian – something we certainly weren’t alone in doing.
When the night is up, just around the corner you’ll find the best and most relaxed camp site we visited – Gwithian Farm. These guys are super friendly and their palm tree ladened campsite is right in the heart of the village. Depending on the time of year, I can see them filling up quickly, but we booked a space 30 minutes before arriving, with no problems at all. The pub opposite is also a great option for dinner – their burgers are second to none.
Day 6 – Carbis Bay, Porthmeor Beach, Porth Nanven Beach
Today you might find yourself cursing that if you hired a larger motorhome, but don’t worry we’ve got your back.
St Ives, while it does conjure up images of the perfect English seaside town, with Cornish bakeries, artisan cafes, boutique shops and a thriving art scene, it isn’t best suited for a 7-metre camper van. However, both the rugby club and leisure centre located above the town have free parking and ample room for even the longest of vehicles.
From either of the aforementioned car parks, make your way down to Carbis Bay – the quietest of St Ives’ beaches. Its crescent shape provides ample shelter, so it’s the ideal sunbathing location or for dining out on the terrace of Carbis Bay Hotel.
The town centre is a sprawling mass of hillside cottages and beautiful bespoke apartments, overlooking the harbour and Porthminster Beach. It’s no wonder so many holidaymakers flood to these shores during the summer months. However, the real magic lies within the artists’ quarter – a maze of tiny alleys that line the trendy Porthmeor Beach, just the other side of St Ives Head. There are plenty of hidden cafes and art galleries to keep you entertained long into the afternoon. Porthmeor Beach is also another great surfing location, and popular with beginners and holiday daredevils.
It’s easy to spend more than one day in St Ives, but there’s a lot to fit into the Ultimate Cornwall Road Trip, so we continue on, toward Porth Nanven (Cot Valley).
The staggeringly beautiful coastline from St Ives to Porth Nanven (via St Just) is home to one of the most breathtaking stretches of open road in the UK, along with the rocky headland of Gunard’s Head. Chasing the sun down this road already makes for a stunning drive, but once arriving at Porth Nanven, it’s possible to witness the sun setting perfectly between two rocks out at sea – a spectacle we’ve only seen once before in Big Sur, California.
Day 7 – Sennen Cove, Land’s End, Nanjizal Beach
As we later found out, Sennen Cove has some of the coldest waters in the UK, due to how the currents wrap around Lands End and interact with those from the North. This doesn’t however, deter anyone from snorkelling, paddle boarding and surfing, all of which are a common sight here.
There are two options to park in Sennen, either the headland or beach car park. Both are private and monitored pretty aggressively, so be sure to clearly display your ticket. The grassy headland car park is often quieter and popular with walkers, or fellow campervanners enjoying lunch with a view. The lower car park might not be suitable for excessively long camper vans, but we had no problem parking there to enjoy the beach, café and a chilly surf. And yes, you can hire boards and wetsuits here.
A short hop south is Land’s End, which often divides opinion, but it felt like a crime to skip such an iconic landmark only 1-mile away. Due to the covid pandemic, the attractions and catering were all closed, leaving an eerie silence to the place, which in some way added to the feeling of being on the edge of the UK.
For those looking to spend the afternoon enjoying a walk across the blustery clifftops, be sure to check out one of Britain’s oldest pubs, famed as one of the most dangerous smuggler’s dens in the late 17th century. The First & Last Inn has sat on this spot since 1620 and welcomed some of history’s most notorious smugglers, wreckers and cutthroats. Today however, the inn has a friendly pub and 5* accommodation, and joyfully serves walkers with a well earned pint.
The wind can be pretty wild down here, but there’s an extra special spot to hide away and cap off a busy day. Nanjizal Beach.
Nanjizal is one of the most secluded beaches in the whole of Cornwall, often empty due to it being around a 20-minute walk from the nearest parking… which in itself can be hard to find. Lucky for you, we have marked the lay-by parking on the map.
The walk down to the beach winds through grassy fields and ancient farm houses, before opening into a meadow-like scene that falls away to the beach and its natural stone sculptures, archways, caves and freshwater waterfalls.
This charming beach is totally unspoilt, so you won’t find any cafes, toilets or anything in the way of facilities, which all add to its solitary character.
Perhaps the most eye-catching sight at Nanjizal is the rock arch known as ‘Zawn Pyg’ or ‘Song of the Sea’. The sea gushes through this natural arch, and in certain months so to does the sunlight before it sets below the ocean – that truly would be a sight to behold.
This dreamlike setting is perfect for photographers and couples looking to enjoy golden hour and a magical sunset. Once you’ve soaked in the last drops of Vitamin D, head on back and check yourself into the only campsite in the area – Treen Farm campsite.
Day 8 – Porthcurno Beach, Pedn Vounder Beach, St. Michael’s Mount, Mullion Cove
The world famous Minack Theatre is a wonderfully unique open-air theatre perched on the cliffs high above the spectacular Porthcurno Beach. This summer theatre is open from April to September and hosts dramas, musicals and opera concerts in the most dramatic of settings. Day visitors can explore the theatre and gardens, with exclusive access to their clifftop car park – a great spot for a photo with your van.
Connected to Porthcurno by a stretch of beach only accessible at low spring tides, is the magnificent Pedn Vounder Beach – pronounced ‘Pednee’ Vounder by the locals.
Dramatically positioned at the foot of ocean-side cliffs, Pedn Vounder is actually best accessed by Treen Farm campsite where you spent the previous night. The footpath leads directly to the clifftop, before giving way to a scramble through tight gullies and over rock faces to access the beach below. Its inaccessibility probably explains why it’s also a naturists’ beach, albeit not exclusively.
Despite the climb or risk of being cut off when the tide comes in, this once secret spot has become somewhat of a poster child for Cornwall’s coastline, featuring in magazines and the popular TV series, Poldark. As a result, you can expect more people sunbathing here than the likes of Nanjizal, but in no way is it busy or spoilt.
In stark contrast, only a few miles away St Michael’s Mount attracts a wrath of tourists from all over Europe, with visitors keen to explore the island’s castle and revel at the disappearing causeway. This cobbled walkway leading from the mainland out to the island, is only accessible at low-tide and so can become very busy. However, if you’re willing to wade through ankle-to-knee high water, then make sure you’re the last to walk back from the island, so to have an obstructed view and the best photo opportunity.
Today has been one of the busiest, but there’s one more stop before settling down for the night – Mullion Cove. To reach Mullion, the drive takes you off-the-beaten-path, through Cornish lanes and beautiful woodland before reaching a small car park on the outskirts of Mullion village (…more of a hamlet).
Day 9 – Kynance Cove, Falmouth, Dartmoor National Park
This place is for lack of a better word, epic! It’s an easy walk from Henry’s campsite or you can park in the National Trust car park on the headland, and follow the footpath down into the cove. There’s no wonder it’s the most photographed place in Cornwall, but we somehow had it all to ourselves – perhaps the weather played a part. If you’re visiting on a hot, sunny day then we recommend arriving early to bag yourself the prime sunbathing location.
Sadly, this is where the Ultimate Cornwall Road Trip takes a detour from the coastal-hugging road and heads back towards London…. but fear not, we still have two more stops on the way. Home to the third largest natural harbour in the world, Falmouth is the ultimate beach town and a gateway to secret coves, prehistoric gardens, beaches and the unspoilt Fal River. While many holiday in Falmouth for a week, we sadly only have an afternoon, so we recommend a quick walk along the high street before choosing any one of the following as your activity of the day:
- Visit Pendennis Castle
- Walk along Megavissey beach
- Paddle board in the bay
- Amble through the gardens and museums
- Enjoy a kayak up the Fal river.
Once you’ve soaked up every last bit of the salty air, it’s time to head inland toward Dartmoor National Park, to spend the night before the drive back to London in the morning.
Day 10 – Dartmoor National Park, London
We actually chose the more uncivilised route, waking up at the crack of dawn to drive directly from Falmouth back to London. Reminiscent of the journey to Bedruthan Steps on the first day, this drive wasn’t too strenuous, however it’s perfectly acceptable to break it in half and spend your last night in Dartmoor National Park.
And that folks, is the end of the Ultimate Cornwall Road Trip.
The beauty of a life-on-wheels is the unparalleled freedom it offers, so while we hope you are able to visit all the wonderful places in this list, fear not if you don’t have time and therefore choose to mix it up. Either way, you’re going to have an incredible time!
Sté & Rob
Why Hire a Campervan with Bunk Campers?
Bunk Campers have depots across the UK and Ireland making it easy and convenient to hire a campervan or motorhome for your Cornwall road trip. Simply choose the Bunk Camper that best suits you from our wide range of modern 2 – 6 berth campervans and motorhomes and get on the open road around Cornwall in your very own home on wheels.
About the Author
Sté Marques is a photographer & travel blogger who travels between places capturing the untold, the unseen, and the stories in-between. She loves to chase light and you’ll often find her catching sunsets with her partner Rob, which made this trip perfect for them!
Find out more at http://stemarques.com/