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Things to do in and around Port Isaac

Situated in a sublime spot on the north Cornish coast, Port Isaac is a beautiful seaside village and the perfect spot for your holiday in Cornwall. With crystalline waters that spill into the cobbled harbour, fishing boats that meander back and forth with the day’s catch and narrow, oh-so-pretty streets to explore, it’s an idyllic scene that has captured the heart of everyone who pays a visit.

The sprawling coastal village of Port Isaac perched atop the cliffs

But there’s more to Port Isaac that meets the eye; the vicinity is awash with exciting, intriguing and exhilarating things to do, from water activities and stately homes to walking, sight-seeing tours and sports.

Abandon the sea gazing and people watching for a while and embark upon an eclectic mix of other things to see and do in and around Port Isaac…

Must-visit sights and attractions…

Doc Martin Tour

The pretty slipway in Port Isaac surrounded by cottages

Port Isaac has enjoyed recent fame through the beloved TV series, Doc Martin. Known on screen as ‘Portwenn’, you can join a guided tour of the area and discover Doc Martin territory, where you will be shown both recognisable and secret spots in and around Port Isaac including the Doc’s house and surgery, while revealing fascinating facts about the area and its history.

Port Isaac Sea Shanty Festival

The pretty harbour and beach at Port Isaac

19th – 21st April 2024

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Port Isaac over this April weekend, you’ll be in for a fantastic surprise. This up-and-coming shanty festival is a recent affair set up in 2019 following the worldwide success of local The Fisherman’s Friends. Completely free and with more than 30 acts expected this year, make sure to get your yo ho ho’s and bottles of rum lined up for this boisterous, oh-so-Cornish event.

Port Quin & Doyden Castle

The pretty inlet at Port Quin, where cottages sit on the cliffside

Doyden, Port Quin, Port Isaac PL29 3SU

A walk west on the South West Coast Path will find you in pretty Port Quin, a charming little hamlet of fishermen’s cottages with a narrow cove and quaint pebble beach. After a terrible storm the village was abandoned in the 19th century only to be reclaimed and brought back to life in more recent times as a popular spot for visitors. Walk further along the path for 10 minutes and you’ll find Doyden Castle, a gentleman’s folly built in the 1830s by Samuel Symons. Used as a retreat away from prying eyes to entertain friends, it’s now owned by the National Trust but you can admire it from the outside; it has featured in both Doc Martin and the 1975 version of Poldark.

Church of St Endellion

The beautiful historic Church of St Endellion in Port Isaac

A steep stomp from Port Isaac (or quick drive) is well worth it to visit this pretty church which dates back to the 11th century. Filled with history, it’s a peaceful escape for a moment or two with lovely wooden carvings, roof timbers and memorials to admire. There are fascinating displays covering the history of Port Isaac and its fishing industry, whilst outdoors the graveyard has stunning views over the Camel Estuary. It’s also host to a music festival and other events throughout the year.


Port Isaac beach

The pretty harbour beach in Port Isaac

Port Isaac’s harbour beach itself has a sandy beach at low tide which you’ll share with the stranded fishing boats. It’s dog friendly all year and there’s a small stream and rock pools that’s great for little ones to explore.

Port Gaverne beach

The pretty beach at Port Gaverne near Port Isaac

To the east, half a mile away, you’ll discover the National Trust owned, beautiful cove of Port Gaverne. Once a thriving fishing port for pilchards and for landing coal and slate, today it’s a lovely spot that’s dog friendly all year and especially popular with families due to its sheltered and safe location and plentiful rockpools.

Polzeath beach and beyond

The large sandy beach at Polzeath near Port Isaac

Four miles beyond Port Gaverne lies Polzeath, one of north Cornwall’s best surfing beaches with a huge expanse of sand when the tide is out. Beyond that lies New Polzeath which is a better beach for swimming and enjoys great sunsets. Further along, Daymer Beach boasts a huge sandy beach backed by dunes overlooking the Camel Estuary.

Tregardock beach and beyond

The small cove at Tregardock beach near Port Isaac

Up the coast eastward you’ll find quiet Tregardock, often empty due to its difficult access and only exposed at low tide, the stunning Trebarwith Strand which is easier to get to and dog friendly, and finally Tintagel Haven which lies under Tintagel Castle – tricky to get to but worth the scramble to explore Merlin’s Cave.


Explore the shops and streets

People walking up one of the pretty streets of Port Isaac

Port Isaac is just lovely to explore on foot. If you’re visiting for the day, it’s best to park in the main car park at the top of the town and walk down, ending at the harbour and beach. Take your time to peruse the narrow cobbled streets that date back to the 14th century, popping into the shops and galleries that line the way, such as Port Isaac Pottery and the Cliffside Gallery. Highlights include the picturesque whitewashed and granite cottages and the wonderfully-named ‘Squeezy Belly Alley’!

Boat trips

Two Wavehunters boats full of visitors in the harbour of Port Isaac

Get out on the water with a scenic boat trip with the likes of Wavehunters where you’ll explore hidden-away coves and spot sea life such as seals, dolphins and puffins whilst cruising through the spectacular turquoise waters. With sea safaris, private charter and boat trips available, there’s something to suit everyone.


People kayaking in the inlets around Port Isaac

For a different view of the coastline surrounding Port Isaac, why not try a spot of stand up paddleboarding or sea kayaking with Cornish Coast Adventures? Suitable for adults and little ones alike, this is a unique way to explore the gorgeous coast between Polzeath and Port Isaac. Offering both lessons and tours, there’s something for all the family.

South West Coast Path

The beautiful headlands and cliffs around the South West Coast Path near Port Isaac

With Port Isaac and Port Gaverne both lying in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Heritage Coast Area, cliff top walks are an absolute must to take it all in at your own pace. For experienced walkers, enjoy the 9.1 mile walk to Tintagel, which has spectacular views twinned with challenging climbs up and down valleys and cliffs. Alternatively, head west towards Polzeath, a 5.4 moderate walk with lots of steps up and down, rewarded with views over Port Quin Bay and featuring puffins, gannets and kittiwakes in spring.


People cycling along the Camel Trail near Port Isaac

If exploring by bike is more your thing, there’s plenty of cycle routes available – especially the brilliant Camel Trail, which runs from nearby Padstow to Wadebridge over 18 miles along a disused railway line and offers mostly level, traffic-free stretches for all pedallers’ levels and ages. With stunning scenery over the Camel Estuary and surrounding countryside, there’s plenty of opportunities to stop with tearooms, pubs and villages en route.


Looking out over the greens at St Enodoc Golf Club

Should you be a fan of a sedate game of golf, the north coast around Port Isaac is dotted with fabulous courses which make the most of the expansive, flatter landscape and are well worth a visit. St Kew Golf Club is a great option, as is the Bowood Park Hotel & Golf Club and St Enodoc, which has amazing views over the Camel Estuary.

Food and drink to savour…

The famous Outlaw's Fish Kitchen at the top of the slipway to Port Isaac's harbour

Port Isaac may be relatively small, but it certainly packs a big punch when it comes to eating out, offering everything from a cream tea to Michelin-starred fine dining

The name Nathan Outlaw has become synonymous with Port Isaac, owning not one but two stunning restaurants here: Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen is fantastic for a celebration with a seafood tasting menu and excellent wines, whilst the slightly more casual Outlaw’s New Road offers an ever-changing set menu serving hearty fish dishes.

For something a little less formal head to the Angry Anchovy for delicious pizza (where even your pooch will get his or her own complimentary mini pizza) - make sure to book ahead as it gets very busy, both in the restaurant and for takeaway. Alternatively, Fresh From the Sea is another delightful spot, offering fresh crab sandwiches and lobster salad, best eaten in their sunny courtyard. Chapel Café is a great little spot, offering breakfast through to afternoon tea, and it welcomes dogs too. A former chapel, you can even have a table in the pulpit!

Head to neighbouring Port Gaverne to the Pilchard’s Café for its beachy, laid back vibe that’s teamed with large and small plates such as seared octopus, hand-dived scallops and tomahawk steak for two - a fantastic pause for hungry tums after a day on the beach.

Day trips from Port Isaac…

Pencarrow House and Gardens

The beautiful estate at Pencarrow House and Gardens near Port Isaac

Pencarrow, Bodmin PL30 3AG

About a 30-minute drive away in Bodmin, you’ll find Pencarrow House and Gardens - a privately run, largely Georgian estate with a Grade II listed garden, Iron Age fort, and over 50 acres of land to explore. It also offers guided tours of the house itself with beautiful paintings, china, porcelain and antique furniture on display. Owned by the same family for almost 500 years, this dog friendly stately home also has a children’s play area, café and gift shop. It’s worth checking the website for opening times as it changes throughout the year.

Tintagel Castle

The incredible bridge high above the seas at Tintagel near Port Isaac

Castle Road, Tintagel PL34 0HE

Head up the coast for a great day out for all the family, where you can immerse yourself in Arthurian legend and natural beauty at this spectacular spot. Cross the award-winning footbridge, walk along the cliff tops of the north coast, explore Merlin’s Cave and discover the remains of the 13th century castle. Wander into Tintagel itself where you’ll find shops and places to eat, plus the National Trust-owned Old Post Office, a magnificent Medieval building. 

Bodmin Jail

The courtyard at Bodmin Jail

Berrycombe Road, Bodmin PL31 2NR

For something a little different (and a tad gruesome) a visit to Bodmin Jail is a unique day out. Built in 1779 on the edge of Bodmin Moor as part of the new Prison Reform, you can delve into the immersive world of Georgian and Victorian crime and punishment with an award-winning tour of this historical landmark. Expect a glimpse back into Cornwall’s darker history through their brand new ‘Bodmin Jail Experience’ that offers an interactive, state-of-the-art experience.

Bodmin Moor

People walking on Bodmin Moor

If you fancy exploring inland away from the coast, head to atmospheric Bodmin Moor, where tales of phantom beasts and smugglers abound. Whether you want to explore on foot or take a scenic drive around the little villages that dot the landscape, it’s a great contrast to the coastline and the wild, empty moors will make you feel like you’re in a Du Maurier novel.


The pretty boats sitting in the harbour at Padstow

Padstow stakes claim to a particularly pretty location on the beautiful Camel Estuary, offering everything from fabulously fresh seafood and fine dining to an array of watersports and, of course, spectacular beaches - one for each day of the week. Take a walk through the streets for a spot of shopping, take to the Camel Trail on a bike or pop on your walking boots and explore the coastal path.


The beautiful house and gardens at Lanhydrock

Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 4AB

Managed by the National Trust, Lanhydrock is a stunning Jacobean house, offering a glimpse into the ‘upstairs, downstairs’ way of life which is fascinating to explore, whilst the magnificent 17th century garden is full of colour year round. The wider wooded estate offers plenty of space to roam which you can walk and cycle (bikes are available to hire), while fishing on the River Fowey is also possible with a permit bought in advance.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway for you and your loved one, or looking for a family friendly escape, take a look at our holiday cottages in Port Isaac and start planning your coastal Cornish escape.

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