20 best things to do in Charlestown, Cornwall in 2024 (2024)

Check out the best things to do in Charlestown with my helpful guide!

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a harbour with history at every step and a film set, this is one of the most popular tourist towns in Cornwall!

It’s certainly one of the most unique places to visit in Cornwall, and while it’s only small, it’s well worth spending a day here while exploring the region – or, if you want to stay on a movie set, you could of course base here!

This post features the best things to do in Charlestown, including the Shipwreck Treasure Museum, exploring the best Poldark filming locations and the village’s most historic sites.

Plus, you’ll find out where to stay, nearby attractions and other visiting tips.

Table of Contents

Things to do in Charlestown

The best things to do in Charlestown include:

  • the Shipwreck Treasure Museum
  • the UNESCO harbour
  • filming locations for Poldark and other movies and TV shows
  • boat trips
  • nearby beach towns
  • South West Coast Path hikes

1. Shipwreck Treasure Museum

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A stand-out amongst Charlestown’s best attractions, the Shipwreck Treasure Museum is a great place to visit if you’re interested in maritime history.

Explore the history of shipwrecks and the treasures that have been found on boats in this immersive exhibition!

With displays on everything from the Titanic to local boats, there’s so much fascinating history to learn about here.

It’s also one of the best dog-friendly attractions in Cornwall – although it’s indoors, your four-legged friends are welcome and there are even doggie water bowls!

2. Cornish moonshine shop

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If you’re after a Cornish souvenir to take home with you, why not try some Cornish moonshine?

Here, you’ll find a range of spirits from the Cornish moonshine brand, including 50% proof Devil’s water and other spirits of varying flavours.

All have Cornish moonshine branding!

This drink is available for purchase from the shop by the Shipwreck Treasure Museum.

3. Charlestown Harbour

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A fascinating place to walk around, Charlestown Harbour is a tourist attraction in its own right.

It encompasses a plethora of historical sites, from tall ships to props used on film sets!

Charlestown started life as a fishing village called Porth Meur (which means excellent beach in Cornish!). It only consisted of a few cottages, and, like many other spots in Cornwall, it made money from the pilchard trade.

Back in 1791, Charles Rashleigh saw Charlestown’s potential and transformed it into a bustling trade port, exporting Cornish copper to the rest of the world.

It grew in the 19th century to become a bustling trade port used to export china clay, which was a rapidly expanding industry within Cornwall.

However, Charlestown’s days as a busy port were numbered.

As the number of ships grew, the port of Charlestown became too small, with boats favouring Par and Fowey.

Square Sail purchased Charlestown harbour in 1994 and used it for the sailing ships.

It’s now a popular filming location for Poldark and other TV shows and movies.

One of the main appeals of Charlestown is that it hasn’t changed since its 18th-century beginnings. This makes it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cornwall to this day!

Part of the harbour spills down to the sea, which is a lovely area to admire where you can take in the ocean views.

4. Look out for the tall ships

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As you explore Charlestown Harbour, look out for its traditional tall ships!

These tall sailing ships were used initially for mined goods, but later on for transporting people.

Nowadays, they’re used for film sets!

I recommend walking down to the lower part of the harbour and seeing the boats close up – try to guess which ones have been used in which movies!

5. Take a walking tour

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If you want to explore Charlestown a little more, you can do a walking tour around the old village and harbour!

Local Lyndon Allen runs this walking tour to show tourists a different side of the town while going through its whole history – from Polmear to Poldark!

We took this tour on our last trip to Charlestown, and it offered a fascinating look at the town’s unique history and significance to Cornwall and the rest of the UK.

Click here for more information.

6. Laze on Charlestown Beach

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Charlestown has a shingle beach stretching out from the harbour.

The stretch of sand isn’t amongst my favourite beaches in Cornwall, but it’s accessible from the harbour, spanning between cliffs, which makes it the perfect spot to relax!

Like other beaches in South Cornwall, Charlestown was a hotbed for smuggling in the 18th century. This was due to huge taxes being put on everyday goods, including simple salt – which ended up being the most smuggled item!

There’s a cave on Charlestown Beach and nowadays, people think that it was used for smuggling – similar to Willy Wilcox’s cave in Polperro.

Some tunnels journey from the beach to the harbour, which could have been used as smuggling tunnels!

7. Look out for doves!

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As you walk around Charlestown harbour, make sure that you look out for doves!

The doves were used in the film Mansfield Park and left on location.

They have now been adopted by the town, and you’ll notice them flying around as you explore.

8. Go shopping!

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There are a few places to shop in Charlestown, many of which are at home in these hip shipping containers.

I love Surfbox, which sells a range of seaside-inspired clothes and accessories.

9. Art galleries

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Art and Cornwall go hand in hand, and Charlestown is no exception.

If you’re an art fan, there are a few galleries to check out in the town!

Charlestown Gallery is perhaps the most famous, with ample paintings and pottery – you can also buy art to take home!

You can also head to the Craft Kiln which nods to Charlestown’s historic China exporting heritage.

Browse the shelves, which are packed full of pottery and other wares, and even purchase one to take home with you!

10. Quay Road

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Quay Road is an iconic Charlestown street with beautiful colourful houses, many of which are Grade II listed.

It’s a scenic pastel street to walk down, and possibly one of the most instagrammable places in Cornwall!

11. Hike to Mevagissey on the South West Coast Path

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Ready for a coastal adventure? The Charlestown to Mevagissey walk is a seven-mile, moderate hike through stunning Cornish scenery.

A small part of part of the South West Coast Path, the longest national trail in the UK, this route stretches from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset and is one of the most famous and beautiful walking trails in Europe.

Starting in Charlestown, you’ll traverse up the cliffs before dropping down in the charming village of Porthpean; stop here at Porthpean Beach if you fancy, or continue hiking on the rugged cliffs until you reach Pentewan.

There’s another beach at Pentewan; you can relax here or keep going until you reach the fishing village of Mevagissey!

On the way back the number 24 bus connects Mevagissey with Charlestown.

12. Hike to Par or Fowey

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In the other direction, you can hike to Par or the beautiful Medieval town of Fowey.

The Charlestown to Par walk is fairly short (around four miles) and pretty flat. There’s some nice coastal scenery, along with some woodland, but some of it is also along the road.

It’s mainly dog-friendly (they’ll need to be on a lead for the road part) and should only take an hour and a half, so it’s an excellent hike if you don’t want to take too much time out of your day!

If you fancy a longer walk, the Charlestown to Fowey walk incorporates the Gribbin Head Headland and provides much more dramatic scenery (with a fair few more ups and downs!). It’s around 7 miles in total, which would make your whole day of walking 11 miles long.

The 25 bus connects Fowey back to Charlestown.

13. Relax on Porthpean Beach

Of course, you don’t need to hike to Porthpean to enjoy its beach!

Porthpean Beach is just a four-minute drive from Charlestown Harbour (or you could walk the inland route, which would take you around half an hour.

Porthpean boasts lovely white sand, with sheltered crystal-clear waters.

There’s no lifeguard service, but there is a toilet and a small snack bar by the beach.

14. See the best Poldark filming locations

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A town where you can sense history at every step would be the ideal place to film a Cornish period drama, right?

That’s what the producers of Poldark thought when they used it for many of its scenes.

Charlestown was used as the setting for Truro, Falmouth, and the Isles of Scilly at various points throughout the series.

Here’s a quick run-down of all the best sites:

  • Charlestown Harbour Docks: this area was used for various scenes throughout the franchise, both when it was depicting ‘Truro’ and ‘Falmouth’. It was also used for the elopement scene of Verity Poldark and Captain Andrew Blamey.
  • The Tall Ships: they were used for various seafaring scenes
  • Charlestown Beach: used as St Mary’s on ‘the Isles of Scilly’; here, Ross met Mark Daniel who was in exile.

You’ll notice loads of different filming locations as you walk around!

15. Explore the village

Most visitors to Charlestown stick to the harbour, but it’s worth walking up to see the quaint village.

Take a walk up Charlestown Road and see the historic houses.

St Paul’s Church is a good place to aim for, with an abundance of historic gravestones!

Places to visit near Charlestown

If you’re staying in Charlestown you might be wondering what there is to do in the local area.

You could easily do two or three day trips by seeing all of the following attractions; it would be the perfect weekend in Cornwall!

16. St Austell Brewery

If you’re into beer, this is the place to go!

St Austell is Charlestown’s nearest town, and the brewery is a great spot to learn all about its favourite tipple.

St Austell beer is famous all over the country. The brewery is one of the oldest in Cornwall, and it owns pubs across South West England.

A brewery tour includes a talk about the brewing process, details about the interesting history of St Austell beers, and of course, lots of samples!

The visitor’s centre is open daily apart from Sunday – more information here.

If you’re staying in Charlestown, the St Austell brewing experience is a must-do, as you can get the 24 bus or even walk (about half an hour) to the brewery, meaning that you can enjoy all of the samples!

17. Lost Gardens of Heligan

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan are situated near Mevagissey and are also located on the 24 bus route from Charlestown.

These are among the most popular places to visit in Cornwall because of their uniqueness and mystery!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan were part of the Tremayne estate of Heligan(fun fact: one of the Tremaynes who grew up on this estate married Charles Rashleigh, the architect of Charlestown!).

I’ve also traced my family history back to the Tremaynes, so may have a loose family link to one of the previous owners of the estate!

The gardens became overgrown and ‘lost‘ at the outbreak of WW1, only to be ‘discovered in the 1990s.

Nowadays, they are beautiful gardens, a fine example of Cornish horticulture and a wonderful place to go for a stroll.

18. Mevagissey

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Mevagissey is another popular seaside town, accessible by bus from Charlestown.

Like many other Cornwall seaside towns, Mevagissey found its fortune from the fishing trade – in Mevagissey’s case, the pilchard trade. It’s still a working fishing port, and you’ll see lots of boats going out all over the town.

There’s also a free aquarium and a toy train exhibition in town, as well as lots of shops and restaurants.

See all of my favourite things to do in Mevagissey by clicking here.

19. Fowey

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Fowey is a beautiful ancient port town and one of my favourites in Cornwall.

There’s so much to do here, from walking the historic streets of the Medieval fishing village to walking up to St Catherine’s Castle, which Henry VIII built as one of Cornwall’s coastal fortresses.

It’s also worth taking a boat trip up the River Fowey and seeing Daphne Du Maurier’s old house. You can learn more about her and the history of Fowey in the Fowey Museum!

If the weather’s warm, Fowey’s an excellent place for water sports – it’s one of the top destinations for paddleboarding in Cornwall.

Fowey also has a fantastic dining scene, with lots of restaurants, including Pintxo, a Spanish tapas bar, Bufala pizza restaurant, and the seafood restaurant Havener’s.

See all of the best things to do in Fowey here.

20. The Eden Project

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The Eden Project is one of the most popular attractions in the whole of Cornwall!

Situated in two giant china clay pits, The Eden Project consists of two huge biomes which each house a particular climate.

One has tropical plants and flowers from a rainforest (it’s the world’s largest captive rainforest) and one replicates a Mediterranean climate.

So here, you can quite literally walk through the jungle in Cornwall!

However, it’s also important to learn about these different climates and how our actions here can affect them.

It’s a great place to visit with kids, but also fun for adults!

Things to do in Charlestown in the rain

Most of Charlestown’s attractions are open and exposed. But, there are a few things to do in Charlestown in the rain, including:

  • the Shipwreck Treasure Museum
  • have a pint at the Rashleigh Arms
  • the nearby Eden Project (probably my favourite rainy day activity in Cornwall)
  • the nearby St Austell Town Museum which is inside the St Austell Market House
  • St Austell Brewery

Check out my article about the best things to do in Cornwall in the rain for more ideas!

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What is in Charlestown for kids?

Charlestown is an excellent destination for families with kids.

The historic harbour is a popular attraction, and kids will love exploring the tall ships and learning about the village’s maritime history.

Just outside of Charlestown, you’ll find plenty of places for family days out like the Eden Project and Wheal Martyn.

Are you ready to visit Charlestown, Cornwall’s historic harbour?

Rich history, stunning architecture and a buzzing modern scene combine to make Charlestown the thriving tourist town it is!

Get a real sense of discovery as you explore the harbour and learn about its complex history, and laze on the golden sands of nearby beaches when you’re done.

It’s an all-round destination, ideal for any type of traveller to Cornwall.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my Cornwall posts for more information about visiting this part of the UK, and drop me a message on Instagram if you have any questions!

20 best things to do in Charlestown, Cornwall in 2024 (2024)
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