Let’s find the best places to visit in Cornwall near Penzance and Land’s End shall we? Penzance is a great base to explore this far south west corner of Cornwall and the mainline train station served by London’s Paddington is so handy. I’ve done this trip without a car, and you can too if you want to!
It’s no wonder Cornwall is an iconic summer British destination. The gorgeous wide sandy beaches, stunning azure blue coves and rocky headlands are a magnet if you love the beach, sea and endless windswept ocean views. Oh and if you’re a fan of Poldark you’re already sold!
Of course you can drive down instead of taking the train if you choose.
Just keep in mind it’s a 5 1/2 hour drive from London and almost 4 hours from Bath. The main road into Cornwall, the A30, is notoriously prone to traffic jams even when it’s not peak summer season so don’t dismiss traveling by train.You can always pick up a rental car when you get there.
The London to Penzance train takes from 6-7 hours but let’s you read, relax and watch the scenery go by instead of fuming while sitting in traffic inhaling fumes! The early morning train out of Paddington means you’ll arrive in Penzance just in time to check in to your VRBO.
Traveling by train but want the convenience of a car once you arrive? There’s a handy Europcar location at the station if you’d like to pick up a rental car in Penzance.
So let’s see where to go on our Cornish adventure shall we?
Best Places to Visit in Cornwall near Penzance
1. PENZANCE is an interesting mix of hip-ish boutiques, quirky shops and pubs along with a generous dollop of working and middle class residents who tolerate the invasion of daytrippers and sunseekers. Penzance makes a good base for day trips to St Ives and beyond by train.
I love to stay in a characterful home or cottage on these trips don’t you? Adds SO much to the trip when you feel as if you have a home from home base.
Things to do in Penzance
- JUBILEE POOL is a smashing public Art Deco outdoor salt water “lido” from 1935 with a geothermally heated pool where you can splash out and sunbathe right next to the harbour.
- THE EGYPTIAN HOUSE is an Egyptian revival landmark building from 1835 and now a hotel if you fancy staying somewhere that is completely unique. It’s worth taking a peek just for the architecture.
- CHAPEL and QUEEN STREETS are the best of Penzance for shopping, boutiques and pubs
- THE TURKS HEAD is a characterful pub with real fires, wooden pews and a smugglers tunnel right on Chapel Street.
- PENZANCE HARBOUR is an easy stroll along the water’s edge to Jubilee pool or all the way to Newlyn for a bite of seafood
- PENLEE HOUSE GALLERY & MUSEUM is the perfect place to find out more about West Cornwall history in this Victorian house and garden
Day Trips from Penzance
A 5-20 minute drive from Penzance
2. NEWLYN – the largest fishing port in England naturally has all the best seafood you could want. Get your fix at the Fresh Cornish Fish (to take home to your VRBO and cook) OR dine at the Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar. Newlyn is on the west side of Penzance and easily walkable.
3. MOUSEHOLE – just beyond Newlyn is this charming little fishing village that’s fun to just browse and mooch around. Mousehole (pronounced mow-zell) was home to fishing boats as early as 1309!
4. MARAZION– across the bay to the east of Penzance is Marazion, famous for St Michaels Mount. This island, which you can walk to at low tide, features a fairytale castle, Norman Church and subtropical Gardens – well worth the admission. The pretty petite town of Marazion is walkable and fun to explore too. Find a cafe to gaze at the Mount or while time away as you wait for the tide to go out!
Some of these destinations are walkable or can be reached by bus. Check availability and schedules off season.
Why not take a peek and see what’s available for a cozy stay in Penzance?
A 20-30 minute drive from Penzance
5. ST IVES – St Ives and Carbis Bay are must see destinations on Cornwall’s rugged north coast. St Ives is one of the most picturesque and sophisticated Cornish towns to explore boasting a stunning location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Carbis Bay was the site of the G1 Summit in 2021.
6. LANDS END – The first time I visited Lands End I was 17 and the scenery hasn’t changed much! There’s actually not much there but a very rugged coastline. Avoid the touristy bits and take in the magnificent views at this southernmost tip of England. Look out for the sign that shows the distance between Lands End and far away destinations.
7. SENNEN COVE – Walk along the cliff top from Land’s End to Sennen Beach by following the signs for the Southwest Coast Path. When you come around the point the beach is a dramatic sweep of creamy sand and rocks. Stop at the beach cafe for snacks and rent deck chairs or wetsuits depending on your activity preference. There’s even surf lessons if you’re ready to break out your board!
8. PORTHCURNO BEACH & MINACK THEATRE – This jewel of a beach with turquoise cove is just below the world famous “on the edge of a cliff” Minack Theatre. From May to September you can see plays such as “Tempest” with the pounding dramatic Atlantic surf as a backdrop.
Any of these destinations can be reached by bus, check schedules in the off season. St Ives and Carbis Bay both have train stations.
A 30 – 50 minute drive from Penzance
9. GODREVY BEACH – The National Trust has a car park and cafe at this windswept beach where surfers and surfboarders catch waves amidst walkers and picnickers. If you’re ambitious, walk all the way down to Gwithian and Hale Beach opposite the bay from Carbis Bay and St Ives. This is definitely the wild Atlantic coast!
10. PERRANPORTH – A favorite local beach which casts itself against the Atlantic in a long golden sweep of sand. Interesting little surfy town for souvenirs and beach kit/gear. Get to the beach early on sunny days if you want to be sure of a parking spot and to stake your place in the sand.
11. FALMOUTH is an interesting mashup of college town and maritime hub. The harbour is infinitely fascinating to watch if you’re a boating or sailing enthusiast. Lots of interesting spots along the quay to wander, shop or browse. Church St has a nice feel with plenty of window shopping opportunities. Walk out to Pendennis Point and Pendennis Castle or check out the National Maritime Museum.
I was in Falmouth to take a day sail and I can highly recommend it. Why not take a boat tour for great views of the coast and the opportunity to indulge in that quintessential Cornish activity, seafaring!
Seafood fan or love restaurants in fabulous scenic locations? Head on over to Hooked on the Rocks for a innovative and mouthwatering meal overlooking the bay in nearby Swanpool Beach.
You’ll need a car to reach these destinations, however Falmouth has two train stations in town so that’s an option.
You can see there’s a ton to explore within an easy day trip from Penzance. Although we did use the bus system from Penzance, it can be a bit of a juggling act to try and coordinate your stops. Also be aware bus services don’t run all year round. Here’s the bus times with Penzance schedules.
All of these destinations are well worth a visit but definitely don’t miss St Michaels Mount, Mousehole or St Ives.
The weather will definitely play a part in your journey, and can make all the difference to your beach hopping. My favorite month to travel is September. August in Cornwall is massively busy as everyone in England takes their holiday then, so avoid it if at all possible. Instead why not travel off season and you may be rewarded with stunning views all to yourself.