“The best beach destination in England” sounds like faint praise—but with nearly 300 miles of coast, water warmed by the Gulf Stream, and a variety of native palm trees, Cornwall holds its own as an idyllic seaside spot you’d want to wake up in on Saturday. Palms aside, Cornwall is more Cape Cod than Caribbean, especially on the Roseland Peninsula, a family-friendly, preppy-posh enclave of manicured gardens, whitewashed villages, and “summer people” in Breton stripes and white jeans who pack their Longchamps and make the five-hour-plus drive southwest from London. A dowdy hotel scene kept most others away until recently, when part-time locals David and Karen Richards redid two waterfront inns in St. Mawes, drawing international travelers on long summer weekends from London or road trippers cruising the coast. Here’s why you should be one of them.
GETTING THERE & AROUND – It’s best to drive from London, but you can take the train to Truro, or fly from Gat wick to Newquay. Then you’ll need to rent a car: St. Mawes is a 40-minute drive from Truro, 50 minutes from Newquay. There are bike paths on the peninsula, and rental shops in Truro and Falmouth.
WHERE TO DROP YOUR BAGS – The Idle Rocks and St. Mawes hotels each have a distinct vibe. The Idle Rocks is more polished, with 19 nautical rooms; a prix fixe restaurant with an a la carte “oyster menu”; its own sailboat, the Osprey; and new status as part of Relais & Chateaux. The seven unfussy rooms at the casual St. Mawes sit above a living room-like lounge serving stone-baked pizzas to as many locals as visitors.
WHERE TO EAT WELL – On the Roseland, even pub grub is gourmet—the Kings Head serves Ruan duck and smoked haddock. For lunch on the sand, grab a Cornish pasty made with local steak at the Hidden Hut, which also does pop-up “Feast Night” dinners. Book ahead for haute fare at the Michelin-starred Driftwood, and take the ferry across to Falmouth for Sunday lunch at the revamped Star & Garter, where alums of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen do a rib roast with all the trimmings.
HOW TO DO THE BEACHES – The Roseland s seas are reliably calm—swim in August, when the average water temp is a cool 66 degrees, or walk the sandy shores year-round. St. Mawes has pebbly, kid-friendly Summers Beach, and a 15-minute ferry to Place Creek brings you to five more coves reachable on foot by the South West Coast Path, including the isolated Porthboer. To get out to sea by boat, Cornish Day Sailing’s Olympus leaves Falmouth on day cruises and sunset trips.