Fowey is one of Cornwall’s prettiest port towns. It’s a place where thriving waterside life meets the Cornish countryside, perched on the Fowey Estuary and surrounded by a designated Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty. Whether you take a day trip to Fowey or stay for a while, there are many ways to stay entertained here. After enjoying a visit ourselves, we’ve compiled the best things to do in Fowey and nearby to make the most of your stay.
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Visiting Fowey: quick tips before you go
The first thing to know if you are new to Fowey is that it is actually pronounced “Foy”. This caught us out before we visited! Like many Cornish place names, you may come a cropper if you try to pronounce it the way it looks written down.
Getting to Fowey is quite straightforward by road, but if you’re coming from elsewhere in Cornwall, the drive time might be a bit longer than you expect. Driving from Penzance it took us the best part of two hours (although we did hit some rush hour traffic on the way).
Once you’re off the main A30 through-road, the countryside lanes that lead to Fowey can be tricky to navigate. So, it’s a good idea to allow some extra time for the journey, whichever direction you’re coming from.
When you’ve arrived in Fowey, you’ll need to park. During peak season the town can get congested, so try to arrive early to make sure you get a space. We parked in the Main Car Park, from where it’s a short walk downhill into town. It’s quite steep – if you want to avoid the climb, there is a regular Fowey Town Bus service that stops at the car park.
Even better, visit Cornwall in winter and you’ll find towns like Fowey are much quieter!
Things to do in Fowey: in the town
1. Follow in Daphne du Maurier’s footsteps
Did you know that the author Daphne du Maurier lived right here in Fowey? You will see the traces of her legacy everywhere you look around the town. See what you can spot!
For example, look out for the “Rook with a Book” sculpture on the seafront that was designed in tribute to her book The Birds, which was written in Fowey.
Daphne du Maurier wrote her first novel The Loving Spirit while living in her home Ferryside, which is just across the river in Bodinnick. If you take the Fowey to Bodinnick car ferry, you’ll see the whitewashed, Grade II listed building on the right just as you land. It’s still owned by her family today.
If you visit in May, you can experience the Fowey Festival of Art and Literature, which was originally called the ‘Du Maurier Festival’. It will give you a glimpse of how her footprint continues to inspire creativity here today.
2. Discover history at Fowey Museum
One place you can learn more about Daphne du Maurier’s time in Cornwall is at Fowey Museum. The collection includes books and items that have a connection with her.
And there is much more to explore in this charming single-room museum. Set in one of the town’s oldest buildings, with roots in the 1400s, the displays will walk you through centuries of the town’s history, interspersed with curious artefacts. Look out for a cape worn by the Italian general Garibaldi.
Entry to the museum is just £1, which is great value to explore its treasure trove of local history.
3. Explore the ruins of 16th-century St Catherine’s Castle
The ruins St Catherine’s Castle are one of the most striking features of the coastline around Fowey. Built in the 16th century by Henry VIII as a defensive fort, its structure has endured well, and its tower still stands prominently above the clifftops.
The castle was abandoned in the 19th century, and briefly brought back into service as a gun battery and observation point during World War II. In the decades since, it has been carefully restored, and is now managed by English Heritage.
Just a mile outside Fowey town centre, the castle is easy to reach by foot and a must-visit while you’re in town. It’s free to enter, too! See the English Heritage website for more information on visiting St Catherine’s Castle.
4. Hit the beach at Readymoney Cove
Seeking a beach close to Fowey? You don’t need to look very far. Readymoney Cove is a lovely little sheltered beach a stone’s throw away from the town.
The beach here is a gentle slope of golden sand that is kept immaculately clean. It is guarded on both sides by cliffs, with St Catherine’s Castle standing just above it on the south side.
Another of Daphne du Maurier’s former homes is perched overlooking the beach, and the comedian Dawn French also used to live just above the cove. You’ll soon see why it’s an inspiring location.
A beach shop and café is open in summer, but note that dogs aren’t allowed in July and August.
5. See the beautiful Fowey Parish Church
Fowey town centre can be a hive of activity, but a place you will always find peace is at Fowey Parish Church. It stands out prominently in the heart of town, so you won’t be able to miss it.
The church dates back to the 14th century and has been a focal point of town life for all that time. It still provides a place to escape the crowds for some reflection. And if like us you’re not religious, you’ll still be impressed by its splendour, and especially the stained glass windows.
6. Catch a glimpse of 13th-century Place House
When crossing the river to Fowey we couldn’t help but notice the large stately-home-esque mansion nestled just above the church. This is Place House, a 13th-century building that has been owned by the Treffry family since the Middle Ages.
The house is still owned by the family today, and it’s not open to visit. But the Grade I listed building is a dominant feature of the city’s landscape, so look out for it – there’s a great view from across the river in Polruan.
7. Peruse the town’s quirky independent shops
Did someone say shopping? Like many of the Cornish towns and villages we love, Fowey’s shopping scene has individuality and character. While there are a few regional chains, there isn’t a high-street feel to the place at all, and the quaint streets are mostly filled with small, independent shops where you can find local goods and produce.
If you want to take a little gift away for someone or a keepsake from your stay, then head to Fore Street, the town’s main thoroughfare. Along here and the surrounding lanes you’ll find stores selling unique gifts, crafts, jewellery, clothes and homeware.
So, if you’re a shopaholic, make sure you factor at least a couple of hours in to explore.
8. Admire local artwork in the town’s galleries
Daphne du Maurier’s writing is not the only creativity that has originated in Fowey. Like many Cornish seaside towns, Fowey has a thriving art scene.
Fowey River Gallery, set in a beautiful Georgian building at the far end of Fore Street facing out onto the estuary, is one of the best places to discover the work of local artists. The small gallery has a focus on promoting upcoming talent, and has a variety of exhibitions that are kept refreshed throughout the year, as well as a gift shop on its lower floor.
Closer to the centre of town, 9 South Street Gallery is a cosy gallery nestled just beneath the church. Also set in a historic building, it’s another place where you can discover original local art.
9. Have mechanical fun at the MAD Museum
Looking for some things to do in Fowey that are a bit more fun and engaging? Look no further than MAD Fowey, the mechanical art and design museum.
Spread across two floors, this place is a maze of curiosities, filled with quirky machines and inventions of all kinds. Children will love it, but it’s fun for all ages – as its slogan says, it’s for “kids from 3 to 93”.
10. Spend an afternoon at Fowey Aquarium
Another fun and educational experience in Fowey can be found at the town’s cosy aquarium. This is actually Cornwall’s oldest aquarium, and is packed with close-up insights into the area’s marine life.
All of the species you will see inside the aquarium are native to the Cornish coast. Look out for huge conger eels, as well lobsters, crabs, prawns, and a variety of fish. Kids will love it too.
11. Take the ferry to Polruan
The ancient village of Polruan faces Fowey just across the estuary. A ferry service runs every 15 minutes or so to take you across to this unspoilt old shipping dock. Make sure you look around to enjoy the river and coast views while you’re on the way across!
Polruan is built on a hill that slopes sharply up from the water. Take a short walk to the top, navigating between narrow streets and alleys, and you can enjoy a spectacular view back across to Fowey and the features of its surrounding coastline. Look out for St Saviour’s Ruin at the top of the hill, which dates back to the 8th century.
Around the village you will find a handful of shops, inns and cafés to drop in while exploring. As Fowey’s smaller, quieter sister, Polruan is a lovely place to spend a few leisurely hours.
Things to do in Fowey: food and drink
12. Dine with river views at Galleon Inn (and stay the night)
Looking for somewhere to eat in Fowey? With village inns and gastropubs scattered throughout the town, you won’t be short of options.
The Galleon Inn is a great option for quality local food, and it has a gorgeous location right on the riverfront. The menu has a wide choice of pub classics and stone-baked pizzas. You can’t go wrong ordering the fish and chips! We always lean towards ordering seafood when dining on the Cornish coast.
On sunny summer days, the outdoor seating on the riverside is a beautiful spot for lunch. Make sure you book a table in advance or arrive early, as it unsurprisingly very popular.
You can also stay at the Galleon Inn in B&B-style accommodation with en-suite. Try and get one of the two rooms overlooking the river if you can!
13. Have a pint of ale at Fowey’s oldest pub
You can’t miss the Ship Inn walking through the middle of Fowey. Every town in Cornwall seems to have a Ship Inn! This one has special significance, as it is Fowey’s oldest pub.
For more than 450 years the pub has been a hub of local life, and a watering hole for visiting travellers, fisherfolk and merchants from afar. It still has that feel of a welcoming village tavern with a roaring fire. Dogs are welcome as well.
Come in on Saturday nights to see live music by local artists and bands. There’s a great food menu for lunch and dinner, and if you stay at the Ship Inn you can also enjoy the full Cornish breakfast. It’s one of the best value places to stay in town.
14. Eat a proper Cornish pasty
We never visit Cornwall without eating a Cornish pasty at least once. It really is the most satisfying, soul-warming way to satiate your midday appetite.
You can’t beat a homemade pasty from a local bakery. Quay Bakery on Fore Street makes its pasties entirely on site, with simple shortcrust pastry and filling ingredients from local farms. Just delicious.
We also tried one from Cornish Bakery in the middle of town, a chain that has over 50 outlets. Their pasties are pretty good too! You’ll also find a range of other pastries and cakes, and there’s the option to dine in.
15. Buy deli produce at Kittows
Kittows of Fowey is a delicatessen and butcher situated in the heart of town. You’ll see its shopfront near the church gate stacked with colourful fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Step inside, and you’ll find an array of local produce, much of which is supplied by their fifth-generation family farm nearby. There are meats, cheeses, sauces, chutneys, fresh juices, and all sorts of bakery goods.
Kittows also makes its own gin from Cornish potatoes and botanicals, branded as Troy Town Gin. Everything in a bottle is made within five miles of the shop. Great for a little gift, or to enjoy yourself of course!
16. Try a gin tasting session
Oh, did we mention gin? Cornwall’s most famous producer, Tarquin’s, has a shop in the heart of Fowey. You won’t be able to miss the bright blue shopfront on Fore Street.
This is more than just a gin shop, too. It also has a tasting room where you can try Tarquin’s gins, which come in an impressive array of flavours and aromas. How does pink pepper gin sound, or rhubarb and raspberry? You can try it here.
Things to do near Fowey
Fowey is a launchpad for exploring the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which stretches for miles around the town. Here are a few ways you can make the most of the area on your trip.
17. Walk the coastal path on the Polperro Heritage Coast
The South West Coastal Path covers the entirety of Cornwall’s coast, and there is no purer way to witness the county’s beauty. Slowly but surely we’ve been exploring the entire route in a series of day hikes, and one of the best of these can be found right next to Fowey.
If you take the ferry over to Polruan and climb a little way up the hill, you can embark upon a glorious section of the coast that navigates hidden inlets, coves, beaches and rocky outcrops. This path stretches out onto the Polperro Heritage Coast, one of the county’s most stunning areas.
We did a circular walk from Polruan that meanders along this coastline and then loops back inland, joining the Fowey river before arriving back at the ferry crossing. It’s about ten kilometres in total and involves quite a bit of up and down.
With a few breaks it took us about four hours. It’s become one of our favourite walks in Cornwall, and definitely a great way to spend the morning before a satisfying pub lunch!
18. Descend to the secluded beach at Lantic Bay
One of the highlights of walking along the coastal path from Polruan is Lantic Bay, where you will find one of the most beautifully secluded beaches in Cornwall. If you walk the path from Polruan, you’ll get a stunning view of the beach for about a kilometre as you approach.
Not into hiking? Don’t worry, you don’t need to walk along the path to reach the beach. There’s a National Trust car park just inland from Lantic Bay. There’s still a bit of a walk down to the beach (15 minutes or so), which is then a steep climb when you come back up.
The beach is enclosed on either side by the bay, and when the tide is down it’s a beautifully pristine stretch of sand. It’s an especially nice beach to visit with dogs, as they are welcome all year round and you can let them off lead freely without any chance of them running off anywhere.
There aren’t any toilets or shops at the beach, so it’s best to go before you visit and stock up with any drinks and snacks you need.
19. Take a trip to the Eden Project
One of Cornwall’s top visitor attractions is less than a 20-minute drive away from Fowey. The Eden Project, opened in 2000, is the world’s largest greenhouse according the Guinness Book of Records. If you are planning a Cornwall road trip itinerary, it’s a must to include.
Built on the site of an old clay mine, the project has brought a living tropical ecosystem into a 13-hectare space underneath three huge dome-like structures called biomes.
Inside the complex you can witness an incredible array of wildlife, including thousands of plant species as well as birds and insects. It’s like a giant indoor rainforest, an environment you won’t find anywhere else within hundreds of miles.
The Eden Project isn’t cheap to visit, but if you’re staying in Fowey then it would be a shame to miss it when you’re so close to such a unique attraction. You can book tickets on the Eden Project website.
20. Drive across to Newquay for the day
Visiting Fowey is just a short venture into Cornwall. If you’re staying for a while, you can utilise the town as a base for exploring deeper into the county. See our tips for driving in Cornwall before you do!
Less than an hour’s drive will take you across to the north coast and the popular surfing town of Newquay. This makes for a great day out when it’s sunny, whether you want to hit the beach or just explore the town’s attractions. Our guide to the best things to do in Newquay will help you find some ideas.
Want to explore inland instead? Truro, Cornwall’s administrative centre and only city, is a similar drive distance away. It’s not as highly reputed as a tourist destination, but there’s lots to see and do, including Truro Cathedral, Cornwall’s tallest building. The town is also a launchpad for exploring nearby wonders such as the Roseland Heritage Coast.
Check out our article on the best things to do in Truro for some inspiration.
Where to stay in Fowey
Here are a few more ideas for different accommodation types:
- Cottage: Wide Eyes, featured on Plum Guide, which only lists outstanding, specially selected self-catered accommodated. It’s also featured in our collection of 15 luxury cottages in Cornwall.
- Apartment: The Salt Loft, stunningly decorated and close to the town centre, perfect for a couple’s getaway.
- Hotel: Fowey Harbour Hotel, in a stunning, scenic location overlooking the water.
- Guest House: Trethewey Guest House, homely, welcoming accommodation with breakfast on the Readymoney Cove side of town.
Have you visited Fowey on your travels? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.