The things to do in Cornwall Ontario for an unforgettable trip are plentiful no matter the season. This historic city on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario provides visitors with a great selection of attractions, activities, sights, and places to visit.
Whether you want to explore the outdoors, learn about local history and culture, enjoy the water, eat delicious food, or find indoor fun, Cornwall has something for everyone.
Get ready to take a trip back in time as you walk among heritage buildings in historic downtown. Marvel at the iconic clock tower overlooking the river, with boats gliding by after passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway. See what life was like for prisoners at the 19th century Historic SDG Jail. Experience the thrill of whitewater rafting at Long Sault Parkway. And savour flavourful food from local farms and fisheries.
In this article, we highlight the diversity of top things to do in Cornwall, Ontario – from outdoor activities to cultural sites and beyond. So read on to start planning your Cornwall itinerary!
Don’t miss the diversity of experiences in Cornwall! Key highlights include:
- Iconic outdoor spaces like the Long Sault Parkway for driving and Gray’s Creek for hiking
- Family-friendly aquatic fun at the Cornwall Aquatic Centre’s indoor and outdoor pools
- Delicious food and drink from fresh seafood to cider tastings
- Cultural immersion through historic sites like the iconic clock tower and SDG Jail tour
- Rainy day activities like the Cornwall Community Museum and indoor shopping
With stunning scenery, an array of attractions, and plenty of adventures, Cornwall offers endless opportunities to create memories. Get out and explore this vibrant city on the stunning St. Lawrence River!
Outdoor Activities in Cornwall
1. Drive the most beautiful road from St Ives to Land’s End
The drive from St Ives to Land’s End offers some of the most magnificent coastal views in Cornwall. This picturesque 100-mile route winds along cliffsides showcasing the vibrant blue Atlantic Ocean.
Stop to snap photos of hidden coves, historic lighthouses, and striking rock formations. Pack a picnic to enjoy along the way. No matter the season, this drive constantly delights.
2. Walk at low tide to St Michael’s Mount
When the tide goes out, a causeway emerges providing access to the iconic island and castle of St Michael’s Mount. Time your visit for low tide to embark on this unforgettable walk, with the mount rising from the sea ahead of you.
Explore the mount’s subtropical gardens, medieval church, and maritime museum. Then enjoy tea and scones at one of the quaint cafes before the tide comes back in.
3. Cycle the Camel Trail from Padstow to Bodmin
For a family-friendly bike ride, hit the Camel Trail. This scenic 18-mile trail follows a former railway line, so grades are gentle. Pedal past woods, rivers, and glimpses of the coastline. Stop at Wadebridge for snacks or to rent bikes and helmets if needed. The whole trail takes about 5 hours, but go as far as you like. Then reward yourself with a Cornish pasty in Padstow or Bodmin.
4. Climb Brown Willy
At 1,379 feet, Brown Willy is the highest point in Cornwall. While a challenging climb, the panoramic views from the summit make it worth the effort. The classic route up takes about 3 hours round trip.
Wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water. Watch for stone circles and remains of ancient settlements along the way. And soak in the sweeping moorland vistas from the top. Just watch your step on the rocky descent.
5. Surf on Newquay’s Fistral Beach
If you want to catch a wave, head to Newquay’s Fistral Beach. This renowned surfing spot offers waves for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Take a lesson to learn proper technique and safety.
Once you can pop up on your board, you’ll be hooked. And even if you just watch from shore, you’ll be awed by the surfers gracefully riding barrels and pipelines. The beach is lifeguard patrolled, with surf shops for rental gear.
6. Visit Tintagel
Steeped in Arthurian legends, the windswept ruins of Tintagel Castle occupy a dramatic headland overlooking the sea. Wander the castle grounds and climb down to Merlin’s Cave to envision life in this medieval stronghold.
Nearby, the village of Tintagel offers pasty shops, pubs, cafes, and coastal walks. Feel the power of this legendary landscape that still casts its spell today.
Cultural and Historical Sites in Cornwall
7. Watch a performance at the Minack Theatre
Perched on a clifftop overlooking the Atlantic, the Minack Theatre stages open-air productions through the summer. Watching a show at this unique venue, carved into the rocks with the sea as a backdrop, is an unforgettable experience.
Arrive early to picnic on the grounds and tour the visitors’ center. Then enjoy an amateur or professional production as seagulls swoop above the stage and waves crash below.
8. Visit the Royal Cornwall Show
For an authentic taste of country life, attend the annual Royal Cornwall Show. This lively 3-day event celebrates Cornwall’s agricultural heritage through livestock exhibitions, competitions, displays, and demonstrations.
See prize-winning animals from adorable alpacas to towering draft horses. Sample an array of tasty local food and drink. And enjoy live music and family entertainment across the sprawling grounds.
9. Attend the Newlyn Fish Market
No trip to Cornwall is complete without visiting the Newlyn Fish Market. Arriving before dawn lets you experience the action as fishermen unload their catch on the docks.
Later, watch the exciting fish auctions take place. Then stroll the bustling market stalls heaped with glistening seafood. Fresh oysters, crab, lobster – it’s a seafood lover’s paradise. Don’t miss this delicious slice of Cornish harbor life.
10. Visit the Isles of Scilly
Escape to the Isles of Scilly to step back in time. Located 28 miles off the Cornish coast, these tranquil islands feel worlds away. Walk unspoiled beaches, explore picturesque villages, and visit ancient sites like Iron Age ruins.
The temperate Gulf Stream climate enables subtropical plants like palms and aloes to thrive. Hop between the inhabited islands by ferry or even skybus to experience the Scillies’ laidback way of life.
11. Visit St Nectan’s Glen
See Cornwall’s lesser-known magical side at St Nectan’s Glen. Enter this mystical woodland valley through a kissing gate to discover 60-foot waterfalls, crystal clear pools, and centuries-old stone arches and bridges accented by mossy growth.
Follow trails past trickling streams and through ancient woodlands. Dip your toes in healing waters. Then enjoy delicious cream tea at the scenic onsite cafe.
12. Explore Tintagel Castle and Merlin’s Cave
Immerse yourself in Arthurian legends at Tintagel Castle situated on a dramatic headland above crashing waves. Walk among the ruins and envision life here in medieval times. Then descend a steep staircase to the dark, atmospheric Merlin’s Cave.
Situated directly under the castle, this cave is said to be the legendary wizard’s home. Let your imagination run wild picturing King Arthur and his knights of the round table inhabiting this windswept outpost.
Water Activities in Cornwall
13. Take the zip wire at Adrenalin Quarry near Liskeard
For an adrenaline rush, take the fast and furious zip wire ride at Adrenalin Quarry. Strapped into your harness, you’ll fly 600 meters over a spectacular flooded slate quarry. Reach speeds up to 60 mph as you zip over the brilliant blue waters, taking in incredible views. With transport to the top included, it’s an unforgettable 40 seconds of high-flying thrills.
14. Take the ferry from Truro to Falmouth
Enjoy a relaxed ride along Cornwall’s coast by hopping aboard the ferry from Truro to Falmouth. This 50-minute scenic cruise follows the River Fal, passing wooded creeks and sailboats bobbing at anchor. Upon arriving in Falmouth, stroll the charming streets and sample seafood by the harbor. For the return, try the rail connection between the port towns for inland views.
15. Catch a mackerel in Falmouth Bay
Get out on the water and try your hand at catching mackerel in Falmouth Bay. These speedy fish make exciting targets for new anglers. Book a trip with a knowledgeable local guide, or join a fishing excursion aboard a charter boat. As you reel one in, marvel at their shark-like torpedo shape and metallic blue-green stripes. Then grill up your catch over a beachside barbecue!
16. Attend an Eden Sessions gig
For a show unlike any other, score tickets to an Eden Sessions summer concert set against the breathtaking biomes of the Eden Project. Past headliners include Elton John, Lionel Richie, and Gary Barlow. Grab a pre-show bite from the food trucks and bars. Then dance the night away as musical acts perform on an outdoor stage nestled between the plant-filled domes.
17. Visit the Falmouth Oyster Festival
Time your Cornwall trip for the lively Falmouth Oyster Festival in October. Watch oyster-shucking contests and jam-packed boat races in the harbor. Sample just-shucked bivalves and other local seafood. Enjoy cookery demos, shanty singing, parades, and street performances. Or hop aboard a boat cruise to learn firsthand about oyster farming in Cornwall while feasting on the freshest catch.
18. Run into the sea at Sennen on Christmas Day
For an exhilarating holiday tradition, join the Christmas morning run into the sea at Sennen beach. Hundreds of brave, costumed swimmers plunge into the crisp winter waves for a quick dip. The brief chill is offset by the warmth of shared community spirit. Watch if you prefer, then join revellers thawing out with hot cider on the sand. Just don’t forget your towel!
Food and Drink Experiences in Cornwall
19. Eat at a celebrity chef’s Cornish restaurant
Treat yourself to a meal at one of Cornwall’s restaurants run by celebrity chefs. Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall boasts stunning waterfront views along with locally-sourced New British cuisine.
Nathan Outlaw’s spots Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen and Outlaw’s New Road serve exquisitely fresh seafood. And Paul Ainsworth’s Padstow restaurants offer inventive fare showcasing regional ingredients. It’s a tasty way to experience Cornwall’s thriving culinary scene.
20. Make your own Cornish pasties
Learn the art of Cornish pasty-making during a hands-on cooking class. Master rolling out the pastry dough before filling it with seasoned beef, potato, onion and rutabaga. Crimp and bake your personal pasties. Then sample your piping-hot creations alongside a traditional homemade cider. You’ll gain skills to wow family and friends with your own authentic pasties back home.
21. Eat an oyster at the Falmouth Oyster Festival
Don’t leave Cornwall without slurping down a fresh local oyster. For the ultimate experience, time your visit for Falmouth’s annual Oyster Festival in October. Stroll the bustling stalls sampling just-shucked bivalves by the seashore.
Chat with oyster farmers and learn how sustainably raising oysters benefits the marine environment. Then knock back a creamy oyster washed down with crisp cider.
22. Visit local breweries and cider producers
With its abundance of apples and grain, Cornwall has become a hub for craft brewers and cider makers. Tour a traditional cider mill to witness apple pressing and fermenting.
Or, stop by craft breweries like Harbour, Black Flag and Firebrand to sip ales and sample pub grub. Chat with brewmasters and discover Cornwall’s emerging beer culture. It’s a tasteful way to experience the area’s bounty.
23. Explore local food markets
For fresh-from-the-source flavors, explore Cornwall’s bountiful local food markets. Peruse fish carts glistening with the morning’s catch at Newlyn Harbour.
Browse farm stands piled high with just-picked produce at Loe Beach Flowers. And sample Cornish cheese, baked goods, preserves, and more at the regional farmers markets. It’s a delicious way to connect with local producers anddiscover the best of Cornish food.
24. Visit local cafes and restaurants
To fully immerse yourself in Cornwall’s thriving food scene, spend time dining at beloved local cafes and restaurants. Cozy harborfront spots like the Wheelhouse and Coast Path Cafe offer fresh seafood with a view.
Quaint tearooms like Yummy Scrummy delight with cream teas, scones, and light lunch fare. And eateries like the Naked Lunch surprise palates with creative, locally-sourced menus. Pull up a chair and savor the flavors of Cornwall.
Indoor Activities in Cornwall
25. Visit museums and galleries
Even on rainy days, there are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy across Cornwall. The region boasts an array of fascinating museums covering topics from shipwrecks to witchcraft.
Don’t miss the free-to-enter Royal Cornwall Museum with exhibits on local history and archaeology. Cornwall also has a thriving arts scene, with galleries showcasing works by local painters, potters and sculptors. Peruse their collections for the perfect memento.
26. Attend local theater productions
Experience Cornwall’s dramatic arts scene by taking in a local theater production. Provincetown boasts several vibrant theater companies staging compelling contemporary and classic works.
Head to the Provincetown Theater to see renowned summer shows and provocative winter readings. Or catch an avant garde production from the edgy Theater Company of Provincetown. It’s a moving way to spend an evening.
27. Go shopping in Cornwall Square
Cornwall’s indoor shopping options shine on rainy days. At the Cornwall Square mall, find all your favorite chains like Winners for fashion, Toys “R” Us for kids and SportChek for athletic apparel. Or pop into the downtown antique shops and boutiques to discover local handmade crafts, jewelry, art and more. End with a warm coffee at a cafe as you take a break from the showers.
28. Try escape rooms and interactive experiences
For an immersive indoor adventure unlike anywhere else, try one of Cornwall’s escape rooms or interactive experiences. At Rush Hour Escapes, race against the clock to crack elaborate puzzles and escape simulated environments. At Lost Villages VR, step into virtual worlds and test your combat skills. Or at Lost Episodes, role play as a detective solving spooky mysteries throughout a Victorian-style building. It’s family fun with a twist!
28. Visit the Cornwall Community Museum
Travel back in time at the Cornwall Community Museum located in a historic 19th century home. Their collection of over 10,000 artifacts illustrates everyday life in Cornwall through the decades. Costumed guides provide fascinating glimpses into Cornwall’s past. Special events like summer camp bring local history alive through activities and demonstrations for kids.
29. Explore the Royal Cornwall Museum
From steaming engines to Celtic culture, the Royal Cornwall Museum offers illuminating insights into the region. Kids love the hands-on exhibits letting them pump water, pan for gold, or design mineshafts.
Galleries display an Egyptian mummy, treasures recovered from shipwrecks, and works by local artists. Don’t miss the extensive collection related to inventor Richard Trevithick, known as “father of the steam engine.”
Conclusion – Things to Do in Cornwall Ontario
Cornwall delivers nonstop fun and discovery. This historic riverfront city provides:
- Outdoor activities like scenic drives, hiking trails, splash pads, and golf
- Cultural and historical sites ranging from a 19th century jail to guided village tours
- Water activities including whitewater rafting and kayaking on the St. Lawrence River
- Food experiences from farmers markets to cooking classes
- Indoor attractions like hands-on museums and escape rooms
With stunning natural scenery, family-friendly attractions, and a lively local culture, Cornwall offers an amazing diversity of things to do. From easy-going sightseeing to heart-pumping adventure, there are activities to thrill travelers of all interests and ages. Whether you’re looking for outdoor escapes, cultural immersion, water fun, or indoor stays, Cornwall has it all.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best outdoor activities in Cornwall?
Some top outdoor pursuits in Cornwall include:
- Driving the scenic Long Sault Parkway
- Hiking the nature trails at Gray’s Creek Conservation Area
- Splashing and swimming at the Cornwall Aquatic Centre
- Playing a round of golf at the Cornwall Golf Course
What cultural and historical sites should I visit?
Don’t miss these cultural and historical sites:
- The 19th century Historic SDG Jail
- Guided tours of the Lost Villages
- The iconic downtown clock tower
- The Cornwall Community Museum
Where can I find good food and drink in Cornwall?
Some tasty food and drink spots include:
- The farmers market for local produce and goods
- Restaurants along the waterfront
- Craft breweries like Rushing River Brewing
- Cider mills like Wheelhouse Cider
What is there to do indoors in Cornwall?
Indoor options for entertainment include:
- Museums like the Cornwall Community Museum
- Theater shows and cultural performances
- Shopping at Cornwall Square mall
- Escape rooms and interactive experiences
With its diversity of attractions and activities, Cornwall offers something for everyone year-round!