13 Things To Do in St Mawes

With St Mawes receiving considerable press coverage over the past few years, it’s become an increasingly popular place to visit and stay in Cornwall.

A wide estuary with boats and yachts in the distance and dense green trees

St Mawes is a small, pretty and somewhat salubrious town on the tip of the Roseland Peninsula. It’s the biggest village on the peninsula and it comes to life with visitors and holidaymakers over the summer season. I live on the Roseland Peninsula, and regardless of when I nip to St Mawes, I tend to feel like I’m on vacation. It must feel pretty good for those who holiday here too.

a small harbour with tress and gras land in the foreground

While St Mawes is home to some Cornish residents, we are getting thinner on the ground here. St Mawes is a prime Cornish holiday destination. There are lots of second homes and holiday cottages; many locals can no longer afford the modest fisherman cottage with a sea view price tag. If you visit St Mawes, you’ll find well maintained (and somewhat gentrified) ice cream coloured terraced homes and coastal cottages lining the seafront, edging up the incline away from the water.

There’s some select hotels here too, all with an excellent reputation for their hospitality and food. Take your pick from sister hotels The Idle Rocks and The St Mawes Hotel, or there’s Hotel Tresanton, owned by Olga Polizzi.

Whether you’re just visiting for the day or staying longer, here are 13 things to do in St Mawes. There’s something for everyone, and for people of all ages.

lots of white houses along the water edge at St Mawes

Getting to St Mawes & essential information

There’s only one circular road in and out of St Mawes, and once there, you can’t go any further (unless you want to go in the sea!).

If you’re coming from west Cornwall, you can always hop onto the King Harry Ferry. They offer a locals, and a visitors, pre payment card if you think you’ll use it frequently. It’s well worth it!

There are a few car parks in St Mawes. The most obvious, and largest, is next to The Rising Sun pub. There is a small car park on The Quay and another by St Mawes castle.

St Mawes Castle overlooking the water on a bright sunny day

Visit St Mawes Castle

Maintained by English Heritage, St Mawes Castle is one of Henry VIII’s artillery fortresses. It’s not massive, like Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, so don’t expect a visit to take the day. Spending time in St Mawes Castle will definitely fit in with other attractions and things to do in this small Cornish town.

St Mawes Castle is in an excellent position, overlooking the water. Inside, you will see where traitors and prisoners were held and you’ll find the gun platform at the top. Don’t forget to explore the landscaped grounds and discover the Tudor Blockhouse on the edge, where the water meets the land.

St Mawes Castle belongs to English Heritage. If you’re a member, entry is free. Cornish Heritage members can also visit free of charge.

lots of green foilage and a pond at Lamorran Gardens, St Mawes

Lamorran House Gardens

Just up the road from St Mawes Castle are the beautiful Lamorran House Gardens. In a spectacular elevated position, the sea view is framed by subtropical plants and rich green foliage. This Italian inspired garden comes with a range of influences, including a Japanese style garden, emulating a feeling of calm and tranquility.

Lamorran House Gardens have seasonal opening times, please check the website for dates and times.

a cup of creamy hot chocolate with a chocolate star and sprinkles on top

Cornish coffee and people watching

In my view, sipping a coffee and watching people come and go is one of life’s simple pleasures.

There are a few places to sit and reflect while nursing a deliciously rich coffee. My personal favourite is the St Mawes Hotel. You can chill out in the comfort of the hotel which is on road level, or you can take advantage of the kerb side tables and chairs.

Failing that, there’s St Mawes Bakery (good pasties happen here!) who have seating overlooking the harbour, not forgetting Mr Scorse Deli and Wine who also have roadside tables. You’ll find them adjacent to The Rising Sun pub.

a stretch of sad and trees with calm sea . Bluebelles and green in the foreground

Spend time on one of St Mawes’ beaches

There are 2 main beaches in St Mawes, with a few additional coves and hidden sandy shores if you’re up for exploring. The beaches here aren’t massive, even at low tide but they’re definitely worth a visit.

Summers Beach

I’d say Summers Beach is St Mawes’ main beach and you’ll find it to the side of the Idle Rocks Hotel. Dogs are only welcome here in low season. There is a ban in place from 1st July to 31st August.

Summers Beach, St Mawes on a grey day

Access to the beach is via some steps from the pavement, or the slip on the far side. St Mawes is quite a busy place for boat owners, fishermen and water sport lovers. If you fancy a swim here, do respect the positioning of the buoys that protect the swimming area. The last thing you want is to get in the way of the Fal River ferry!

in peak season, Summers Beach has a pontoon. We’ve spend many a warm evening jumping into the sea from this one. At low tide, rocks are exposed at the far end. Great for exploring, seaglass hunting, crabbing and rockpooling. Oh, and by the slip, there’s also a swing. Random, but true.

A shingly strip a sand with clear water and rocks

Tavern Beach

Tavern Beach is the second bathing spot in St Mawes. Again this can be reached by a slipway opposite Hotel Tresanton. Like Summers Beach, there is a dog ban here in the summer.

This isn’t a large sandy shore, and at high tide there’s no sand at all. Even so, there’s low level rocks to explore and it’s a safe, calm beach. While I always advise to check conditions before a salty dip, St Mawes is relatively sheltered and swimming from both beaches is frequented by locals.

Harbour Beach with bright blue water and houses along the sea front

Harbour Beach

Harbour beach is along St Mawes’ seafront, opposite the shops. It disappears at high tide and dogs are welcome here all year round. You can access harbour beach via the slip (not sure if this is really allowed) or from a small walkway between the seafront wall and the Idle Rocks.

In more recent years, it’s become popular to wall jump here at high tide. Lots of visitors seem to partake with much squealing and delight. Be sure to check tide times though, sometimes it looks deeper than it is.

It is also from Harbour Beach that you can hire watersports gear and boats, which leads me to the next item.

3 yellow and white boats for hire on the water
the top of a yellow boat and life saving ring

Hire a boat

During the summer months, you’ll find these delightful yellow boats available for hire from St Mawes Boat Hire. Ideal for exploring the local waterway and Carrick Roads, or for a little fishing trip.

a tip of a yellow kayak out on the water with a boat in the background

SUP or kayak from St Mawes

Likewise, hire a SUP or kayak and spend some time on the water, heading to different areas of interest. We hired a kayak last summer and I was pleasantly surprised how much distance we covered in a few hours. Next time, we’re taking a camping stove!

Whether you’re on a SUP, kayak or in a boat, you can head to Place which is opposite St Mawes, or paddle further up to Percuil. Alternatively, why not go around the headland to St Anthony Head and check out the lighthouse from the children’s programme, Fraggle Rock. There’s some beautiful coves here too.

the bow of a boat with bunting with more small boats on the water and some houses and buildings

Savour fine food

St Mawes has some excellent places to eat. For a special occasion and dining experience, Olga Polizzi’s Hotel Tresanton will serve you a delicious and memorable experience while you look out to sea.

Sister hotels, St Mawes Hotel and The Idle Rocks will also not disappoint. Even though they have the same owners, I like how they have their own identities. Dining at The Idle Rocks, you have the option of sitting on the terrace, soaking up the Cannes-esque vibes. You’ll find a more relaxed dining experience at the St Mawes Hotel. I’ve eaten here and can honestly say, it’s fantastic!

the side of a white building in with The Watch House painted on the side

Fish and chips by the sea

If you fancy some good ole’ British fish and chips, head for the kiosk at The Watch House. On my most recent birthday, we enjoyed their fish and chips, sitting on the benches next to The Idle Rocks. Massive pieces of cod and a generous helping of chips, topped off with a fizzy drink. Some of the best views you could hope for too.

The small town of St Mawes from the water on a sunny day
the small beach in St Mawes with houses behind a wall

Walk along the water to St Just in Roseland

Fancy walking in the local area? No problem.

There’s a lovely walk from St Mawes, across the fields which lead to St Just in Roseland. Head to the bottom car park by St Mawes Castle, and keep the water on your left. You can make into into a looped course, which is just shy of 6 miles. You can find out more here, including a map.

Watch a film at the St Mawes Hotel

Did you know the St Mawes Hotel has it’s own secret hidden cinema? How cool is that?

Films are shown regularly at weekends and school holidays, alongside major sporting events, like the rugby. From popular films to cult and independent productions to child friendly favourites, this luxury will have you enjoying your film in comfort. With only 25 seats, blankets and refreshments aplenty, there’s no reason not to sit back and enjoy a private cinema experience.

You can level up your ticket to include dinner for £35 all in. Sounds like a good night out to me.

Check out the St Mawes Hotel film listings here.

2 cream and red vintage petrol pumps in front of a tatty white building and window
blue sea on a summers day with St MAwes in the distance

Take the foot ferry to Place

If you look across the water from St Mawes you’ll spot an estate with a butter yellow manor. This is Place and you can catch a little ferry (a small motorboat) from St Mawes to have a closer look. The estate has it’s own church and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s usually open so do go in and see for yourself. I believe some of the buildings that belong to the estate are available as holiday lets, with Place House also hosting weddings.

There’s a great 6 mile looped route which covers Place and St Anthony Head. It’s one of my all time favourite running routes. This route takes you along the waters edge and the south west coast path to Towan Beach.

You can find out more on the Fal River website.

the top of the TIcket Office in St Mawes
a single tree leaning over the roadside towards the water and beach

St Mawes makers market

From March to October, you will find a makers market every Thursday and Friday in the Memorial Hall from 10am until 5pm. It’s next to the GP practice.

This is a great market where you can buy locally made soap, ceramics, lamps, jewellery, art and clothes. I’ve been and there’s a great selection of items and products on offer.

There’s an up to date Facebook page, offering all the details.

2 ice creams being held up oin front of the Idle Rocks Hotel in St Mawes

Meander around the shops and explore away from the seafront

There are a few shops in this lovely small Cornish town. Near the main car park you’ll find Fat Face and 4the@arcade. This is the home to the delicious deli, Mr Scorse and The Square Gallery, which is jammed packed full of art, jewellery and cards. There’s also a beautiful homeware store, housing coastal and stylish products for you home, like the gluggle jug (I have one!)

white houses and buildings leading down to the water at St Mawes

Along the sea front there are some small independent retailers. You’ll find excellent ice creams at Fudge and More, and homeware and gifts at Willow. Futheralong, tucked up a side street is a new addition, St Mawes Scent Room (Lucinda’s scents are divine). There’s also Birdie and Bert, selling towelling beach cover ups and swimwear. Walking towards the castle, just as you think you’ve done all the local independent shops, you’ll discover Waterside Gallery, a light, beautiful space selling tasteful art, and Grace and Favour, selling you clothes and accessories (open from mid-February onwards).

If you’re based in St Mawes and fancy an excellent day out, I’d highly recommend getting the ferry from here to Falmouth. It’s a great mode of transport and despite recent press, Falmouth is wonderful! I’ve done it many times and you can see a bit more on this Instagram reel.

What’s your favourite thing to do in St Mawes?

a pinterest pin for information on 13 things to do in St Mawes from The Great Cornish Outdoors.

Author: plbedford

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