When you think of a typical Cornish holiday, St Austell might not be the first to feature. But this historic town is well worth a wander and offers fantastic access to some of the best beaches in the whole county. It’s also conveniently located on the train line and just off the A390.
The China Clay industry changed St Austell in many ways, not least the way it looks. You can see the clay 'tip pits', sometimes referred to as The Cornish Alps, across the landscape. If you’d like to learn more about this industry, check out the nearby Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum. You’ll get the chance to explore working waterwheels, modern mining and a train. It’s also set in a gorgeous country park complete with a nature trail if you’d like let off some steam afterwards.
Just two miles out of St Austell you’ll find the world renowned Eden Project. It’s a fantastic rainy day option - where better to hide out from the mizzle than a tropical biome? As well as the famous biomes you can explore The Core where you’ll learn about everything from ecosystems to evolution. The cafe is also consistently delicious and well worth a visit.
If you’d like to learn more about the clay industry, head off on scenic clay trail walk. You’ll walk along quiet country lanes and up steep hills, but the views afforded are glorious.
It’s less than two miles to get to Charlestown where you can hop along the South West Coast Path. Head south towards Pentewan or keep going and finish in Mevagissey. To the north you’ll pass Carlyon Bay and on to explore the beautiful Polperro Heritage Coast. Five miles along you’ll come to Polkerris – stop off at Sam’s On The Beach for some top quality sustenance with a side of views.
Being one of the largest towns in Cornwall, St Austell has a big and ‘proper’ town centre with a huge (by Cornwall’s standard!) selection of shops to choose from. There are plenty of big name brands to choose from and should you forget anything from home you’ll likely be able to pick up a replacement here.
White River Place is the town’s latest addition; it’s a modern indoor and outdoor shopping centre that should keep shopaholics happy. There is even a cinema for those who aren’t fans of shopping.
A short drive away you’ll also find Cornish Market World. It’s the largest indoor market in the South West and has been going since 1991. Shop with over 60 independent traders who have stalls covering stationary, china, second-hand furniture, clothes and shoes, pet goods and…well, you get the idea. Everything, basically. Young kids will also enjoy the adjoining Kidzworld centre, which is perfect for a rainy day. It boasts mini-golf, arcade games and full size dodgems, among other fun attractions.
Food and Drink
Here you’ll find a great variety of pubs, bistros and cafes. You can also pick up food to take away with you, like fresh fruit and veg, or butchers' pasties.
For a burger on the beach you won’t forget, head to the nearby sands of Pentewan and eat at Hubbox. For those after something with more of a kick – book a table at the Nepalese Gurkha restaurant in town; the food is always great and they cater well to vegetarians too.
If you’ve got a passion for ale head to St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre. You’ll learn the secrets behind their award-winning ales and find out more about the 160 year old brewing process. While you’re there, pop into Hick’s Bar for a proper pub meal and a pint of your favourite. If you like familiar foods, there are a couple of chains here too such as Prezzo and Costa.
The gorgeous Georgian village of Charlestown is just a mile or so away. Visit and see where Poldark is filmed and be sure to check out the Shipwreck Centre too. Alternatively, the picture perfect fishing village of Mevagissey is just a little further along the coast.
Pinetum Park is located on the outskirts of the town and boasts a wonderful garden full of exotic plants courtesy of a microclimate. The garden centre cafe is well worth a stop for lunch too.