February half term is a sublime time for a family trip to the Cornish coast. The beaches and attractions are crowd-free, it’s easier to book a table at the best restaurants, and the cost of a beachside cottage is a snip of a price than in peak season. Here are ten things to do in Cornwall this February half term for all the family to enjoy.
February is the perfect month to freewheel along one of Cornwall’s most popular cycle routes, without having to slalom though lots of other cyclists. This (mostly) traffic-free route wends for 17 miles between Padstow and Bodmin Moor, taking in stunning estuary views and magical woodland. It’s mostly flat too, so it’s perfect for little legs and is a safe route for taking kids on their first cycling adventure. We love the easy section from Wadebridge to Padstow, stopping for fish and chips by the harbour. Or stretch your legs from Wadebridge to Bodmin and pause to quench your thirst at the historic Borough Arms near Bodmin.
You don’t have to get wet – or even dip a toe in the ocean – to come face-to-face with Cornwall’s marine life. Undercover at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, you can encounter the likes of sea cucumbers, spider crabs and sea turtles, in displays that take you from the craggy Cornish shores to exotic coral reefs. You can watch the giant octopus at feeding time and learn more about the sea creatures through informative talks, but the highlight is the underwater tunnel where you can eyeball stingrays, reef sharks and all sorts of colourful fish. Children, especially, love exploring the underwater world of the aquarium.
During winter the waves are more consistent and powerful, yet there are less surfers in the water – making it the perfect season to increase your wave count and work on your technique. Get lessons from KingSurf in Mawgan Porth, where the instructors promise to keep you as toasty during winter as they do during summer surf sessions. Using high-tech wetsuits, gloves, booties and hoods, you’ll barely even notice the cold air and water temperatures, so with expert tuition and no crowds to contend with, you’ll be riding waves like a pro in no time at all.
Over winter there are large numbers of grey seal pups found stranded on the Cornish coast, unable to make it back into the wild due to injury or malnourishment. The Sea Life Trust offers a sanctuary for rehabilitation, nursing the seal pups until they are ready to head back into the ocean. On a visit to this picturesque setting on the edge of the Helford, you can see rescued seals dipping and diving their way to recovery, learn all about grey seals and other species, and encounter lots of marine wildlife including sea lions, otters, penguins, crabs and starfish.
There’s nothing like a coastal walk to blow the cobwebs away and clap your eyes on Cornwall’s staggering scenery. From Padstow, why not cross the estuary to Rock on the Black Tor ferry and follow the Coast Path to Daymer Bay, returning over the grassy knoll of Brea Hill and the wonky-steepled St Enodoc Church where John Betjeman is buried. Or, from Padstow’s quayside head west along the coast to Gunver Head, keeping an eye out for hawks, buzzards and seals on route past Butter Hole and the collapsed sea cave of the Pepper Hole
Needing little introduction, the Eden Project is Cornwall’s megastar all-weather attraction. February half-term is the last chance to take a twirl around the ice rink, alongside a smorgasbord of other family-friendly exhibits and workshops including the Tunnel of Love and Doodletastic adventures with the team behind the popular Tom Gates book. Not forgetting the wonder of the Mediterranean and Rainforest biomes, activities and indoor exhibits in The Core, and seasonal dishes and finger-licking treats to keep you fueled up.
Boats, helicopters, pirates and sea life… experience maritime adventures with your feet firmly on dry land. At the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, you can take the helm of a model sailing boat, check out the underwater gallery and climb aboard a rescue helicopter. With interactive exhibitions as well as Science of the Sea shows, a Museum Trail and art workshops for families, it’s no wonder that this is one of our favourite south coast attractions for February half term. In the heart of Falmouth – home to the world’s third deepest harbour – there’s no better place to lap up the maritime heritage of Cornwall and beyond.
February is our favourite time to visit the beaches and galleries of St Ives, without the throngs of tourists that crowd the golden sands, cobbled streets and arty haunts throughout the warmer months. Arrive via a scenic train ride from St Erth, soaking up the eye-popping views that have lured so many artists to this fishing village. Beach hop via the harbour for a Cornish pasty or Moomaid ice cream (made from local cows), to Porthmeor beach and the Tate St Ives. Listen to the echo of the waves from the entrance of this world-class gallery, delve into exhibitions and family activities, and take a seat in the top-floor café to gaze out at the coastal scenery that inspired much of the art on display.
Get dizzy on the Giant’s Stride swing, find the heart of the cherry laurel maze, wend through the bamboo jungle and take shelter under giant Gunnera plants. Glendurgan is the perfect setting for a day out in a sheltered south coast garden, where you can tumble through sub-tropical foliage, picnic on the beach, skim stones in the Helford River and warm up with hot chocolate in the family-friendly café.
Take a walk on the wild side and step out onto the rolling winter moors to scale Cornwall’s two highest peaks – Rough Tor and Brown Willy. A circular route takes you to the top of Rough Tor where you can enjoy gob-smacking countryside and coastal views all the way along the ridge to Showery Tor, where you drop back down into the valley before tackling the ascent of Brown Willy – Cornwall’s highest peak at 420m. Other than hiking there are a whole host of outdoor activities to boost your wellbeing during your stay.
Harbour Holidays has an array of holiday cottages in and around Padstow that make the perfect base for a half-term break in Cornwall. Search our collection and head to crowd-free Cornwall this February.
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