A Cornwall Travel Diary

This summer I visited Cornwall for the first time and brought my Mum along on her first ever blog trip. We spent 3 nights at the Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa in Newquay and used it as our base to explore the surrounding area. Leading up to the trip, I had so many of you send me fantastic recommendations of where to visit and must-see things. It made me realise that 3 nights and 2 full days is nowhere near enough time to do the beautiful coastlines of Cornwall justice, so instead of trying to see everything, I wanted the trip to be an ‘introduction’ to Cornwall’.

As this was my first time in Cornwall, I’m not going to suddenly claim to be a Cornwall expert and this post definitely isn’t a definitive guide to Cornwall. Instead, I just wanted to share with you everything we got up to in a diary-style post. We planned to prioritise some of the biggest attractions in the area including St Ives and The Eden Project (both of which were under an hour away from Newquay). Here is my Cornwall travel diary…

My Cornwall Travel Diary

Day 1 – Getting There and Exploring

As we were only in Cornwall for 3 nights, it didn’t really make sense to spend +12 hours on the road getting there and back. Luckily, there are direct flights from Leeds Bradford to Newquay Airport with Flybe, so we booked two return flights and arranged a hire car through Car Hire Bible. The flight had no delays and lasted only one hour. As we touched down on the runway of tiny Newquay airport, I couldn’t believe how quickly we had arrived in Cornwall! Our hire car was waiting for us to be collected. If you’re flying to Cornwall a hire car is a bit of a must as the public transport is not the best.

No sooner had we checked into our room at Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa, we were itching to get down and explore Fistral Beach. The constant wave break makes Fistral one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall, and possibly the UK. It’s a surfer’s paradise, but even for non-surfers like me it’s a spectacular beach you can enjoy. We went for a wander and stopped for a drink at Fistral Beach Bar, next to Rick Stein’s fish and chip restaurant. Along with a few surf shops, this complex of establishments is the only one on the whole beach, so you can’t miss it. We sat outside, breathed in the sea air and didn’t care that our hair was getting severely windswept. It was lovely and I already began to feel myself relax.

Day 2 – Newquay Harbour and a Visit to St Ives

Our first full day in Cornwall was jam packed, starting with a local visit to Newquay Harbour. Much prettier than Newquay town itself, the harbour is nestled within a type of cliff edge. We visited early morning, and it was already a hub of activity. Fishermen were loading up their boats, a grandfather had brought his son fishing and tour groups in wetsuits were getting ready for a morning of activity.

The harbour was incredibly picturesque. From one angle it looked like your traditional British fishing harbour and from another it looked like an exotic scene from Thailand. The secluded sandy beach in the corner or the harbour was framed by a green cliff face and turquoise waters, which was like nothing I’d ever seen in the UK before. If we had a bit more time we would have definitely stopped off for breakfast or a coffee at the Harbour Hotel, which has an outdoor terrace overlooking the harbour.

We spent the rest of the morning enjoying the spa our hotel, before heading out to St Ives for the afternoon. A few of the hotel staff warned us how busy St Ives would be as we were in the peak summer season, but I still wanted to go and see it for myself. We hopped in the hire car and drove 50 minutes to the famous Cornish town. I realised that St Ives was the southernmost point I had ever been to in the UK (if you look on a map you’ll see its almost at the tip of the country).

The hotel staff were right! It was incredibly busy, especially around the main harbour. But despite the crowds we still enjoyed an afternoon of exploring (at a very slow pace!). To our surprise, the entire harbour had emptied of water when we arrived (due to the tide) so we took our sandals off and walked down to the waters edge.

We also enjoyed mooching around the artisan shops and many galleries along the harbour front, and picked up a souvenir from the Cornwall Candle Company. For dinner we stopped at The Rum and Crab Shack, which had been recommended to me by someone at our hotel. I indulged in a fantastic beer-battered fish and chips which was cooked to perfection. The prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is fantastic. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a good meal in St Ives.

Day 3 – The Eden Project

The Eden Project was one of the things I was most looking forward to visiting whilst in Cornwall and as one of the biggest attractions in the county, I knew I had to make it a priority. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, The Eden Project is home to two main biomes that house different microclimates and environments from around the world (the rainforest biome and the tropical biome). The result is that you can step into different places around the world and learn about their plants, wildlife, resources and vegetation. It was a sunny day when we visited so the heat in the rainforest biome was incredibly humid, and it really did feel like we were in a tropical country.

Surrounding the two futuristic biomes are other attractions, all focused around the environment and sustainability. Don’t miss the extensive outdoor gardens with their hidden sculptures and the stage has different events and exhibitions going on throughout the year. In the winter months you can go ice skating and in summer they have an ice tubing for children. I love that the whole premise of the Eden Project is built on sustainability, the environment and on-going research to protect our planet. Its a fantastic family day out but equally as enjoyable for adults. Check out As The Sparrow Flies’ Essential Guide to The Eden Project for more info about what to expect.

After arriving back in Newquay we decided to get our walking shoes back on and walk further around the coastline, beyond Fistral Beach. We reached Little Fistral and walked right up to the white bandstand on the headland (which we had spotted from our hotel room window). By the end of the day its safe to say my pregnant body was exhausted, and all I was up for was a burger, bath and bed. I remember falling into the deepest sleep that night, which must have been thanks to all the walking and sea air.

Day 4 – A Walk to Pentire Head

Our flight departed at around 3pm, so we had a bit of free time in the morning to take in one more coastal walk. This time, we ventured in the opposite direction of Fistral Beach and followed the footpath round to Pentire Head. This is the headland on the other side of Fistral Beach and the reason Fistral is so wonderfully sheltered and protected. The landscape around Pentire Head was spectacular and so easy to reach on foot from our hotel. For a final treat, we stopped at Lewinnick Lodge for a hot chocolate on their outdoor terrace. 

I remember feeling genuinely sad to be leaving and wishing we could spend a couple more nights at the hotel. My Mum and I got on so well and had such an amazing time that I wasn’t ready for the trip to be over. There’s something about that fresh sea air that makes me feel so at peace and gives me so much clarity, and I just wanted to be around it for a bit longer. I felt like I had only begun to scratch the surface of Cornwall and that there are so many places I still want to see. 

I’m so glad that I’ve finally visited Cornwall and can understand why its such a special part of the UK to so many people. I already know I am going to return to Cornwall time and time again, and hopefully next I will have Scott and our little baby in tow.

Read my review of Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa in Newquay

Have you visited Cornwall before, or are you planning a trip there? I’d love to know your thoughts on Cornwall. If you enjoyed this post, please leave me a comment in the box below. Jess x

Want to read more about Cornwall? Check out these fantastic blog posts from my friend and fellow blogger Wanderlust Chloe

  • 8 Unique Things to do in Cornwall
  • Padstow, Cornwall and Beyond: Best Restaurants, Hotels, Places to Visit and More

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.


  • Kenny Peel

    Hi , we have been on holiday in cornwall for the past 20 yrs, we love the place, especially Mevagissy, where time has stood still, so beautiful, my favourite place in Cornwall, I would say to anybody who has not been to go , people are fantastic and very welcoming, it’s my “Adopted County”, missed not going this year because of COVID-19, but we will be there again next year, Kenny Peel

    • Hi Kenny! Thanks for your comment. I absolutely loved Cornwall and although it was my first time, I know I will return time and time again. I will definitely add Mevagissy to my list for next time.

  • Jacqueline

    My stepson went to uni there and has stayed, so we go at least twice a year, always find another little gem, my favourite is Port Isaak we stayed 3 days and it is amazing, unfortunately Doc Martin was unavailable.

  • If you get as far as Mount’s Bay, I would recommend Porthleven. I stayed in a lovely cottage, there are some great restaurants around the harbour, including another by Rick Stein, and it’s not as crowded as Padstow.

  • Riu Bambuer

    I visit Cornwall every couple of months to see family, I’d recommend Port Isaacs which is where Doc Martin is filmed, Mousehole pretty little place and Newlyn known for great fish.
    If returning back to St Ives I’d suggest going by train as its easier.

  • I’ve not been for many years as it is quite a distance from us too but it is such a beautiful part of the UK!

    • Thanks Laura! The distance is also what has stopped me from visiting until now. It’s possible to drive of course but if you’re going to make the long car journey I think you want to be down there for at least a week. We were only there 3 nights so flew. Hope you get to re-visit beautiful Cornwall soon 🙂 x

  • It looks so nice, I’ve only ever been for work so I would love to go again properly and have a little explore. All I really remember from my time there was the insanely loud flybe plane, driving on roads that looked like they were going no where and a slightly cold hotel room – I definitely need to reset that experience.

    Lovely that you took your mum with you.


    • Thanks Jo! It sounds like maybe you didn’t have the best first experience of Cornwall! Hopefully you get to return on your own time and explore at your own pace. It really is so beautiful xx

  • Charles Newquay

    Try Cornwall in June or September, it’s less busy but still atmospheric x

  • Sounds like a love place- we went to Padstow or padstien as they know it and it was so good. Definitely would like to visit other parts

    • Ahh glad you also loved it! I definitely want to visit Padstow next time i’m in Cornwall. It wasn’t very far away but we just didn’t have the time x

  • Love Love Cornwall! X

  • I recommend a trip to Padstow next time! It’s so cute but with all the amazing Rick Stein restaurants.

    • Thanks Angie! We heard a lot of good things about Padstow, there just wasn’t enough time to visit. We’ll definitely head there next time 🙂 x

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