Today, The Octopus reunites with Anna Pocock for a handpicked collection of idyllic anchorages in Cornwall! A seasoned seafarer in the Cornwall region, Anna presents us with an exceptional cruising guide to the finest stopovers along this coastline featuring landscapes that will undoubtedly stir your imagination…
The Cornish coastline is liberally studded with picturesque coves, sheltered bays and meandering rivers where you can drop your anchor and bask in the beautiful scenery that the West Country is famous for. When the sun shines, there’s nowhere better, but even if you’re subject to cooler weather or the occasional downpour, you’ll always receive a warm welcome ashore.
Anna & Jeremy Pocock
Exeat | Sun Odyssey 45.2 | @SailingExeat
Anna and Jeremy have embraced the post-pandemic freedom to work remotely, and – thanks to the wonders of modern technology – they spend the summer months living and working on their sailboat Exeat, exploring coastlines near and far.
Cornwall offers great sailing, ydillic anchorages and more!
As well as great sailing, Cornwall has plenty to offer foodies, with freshly caught fish and shellfish, locally farmed produce, excellent butchers and bakeries, and of course the famous Cornish pasty. Ashore, you’re never far from the South West Coast Path, the UK’s longest National Trail and a fantastic place to stretch your legs after a day’s sailing.
In short, Cornwall offers superb cruising for either a long weekend or as long as you can spare.
Idyllic anchorages in Cornwall
These are some of our favourite anchorages in Cornwall, starting from Plymouth (in Devon) and sailing south. There’s many, many more places we could mention (such as the bustling harbour towns of Fowey and Falmouth), but you won’t be disappointed with any of the below
📍Cawsand Bay anchorage
Just inside the Cornish border, round the headland from the busy port of Plymouth, are the twinned villages of Kingsand-Cawsand. These former fishing villages date back to the 17th century, when the natural bay of Cawsand was popular with smugglers. Now its sheltered position in south west to north-west winds make it a haven for sailors looking for a peaceful overnight out of a marina. Anchor in sandy Cawsand Bay, either near the tree-lined shoreline or out in the bay itself, which can be busy in school holidays but is otherwise usually fairly quiet.
You’ll find that by the evening, many day-trippers leave and the anchorage empties out. Ashore are a few shops, a good bakery that serves breakfasts at the weekends and takeaway artisan pizzas some evenings (check the website for dates), several popular pubs and shoreside restaurant The Bay. The crystal-clear water here is popular with swimmers, so keep a watchful eye when you take your tender to shore.
This tiny Cornish harbour has a narrow entrance bordered by dramatic jagged rocks, hence it is only possible to enter in fair conditions (ideally light northerlies, after a period of calm weather to reduce the likelihood of swell). Boats mooring here are advised to secure to two buoys, one fore and one aft, so you’ll need to be prepared with long bow and stern lines as you approach. This prevents swinging onto the nearby rocks, and helps reduce the effect of any swell. Passenger ferries transport holiday-makers from Polperro to the nearby towns of Looe and Fowey, and their frequent departures can cause some wake during the day, but overnight you’ll find it very peaceful.
For such a small village there are a surprising number of restaurants, bars and shops amongst the winding streets; The Blue Peter Inn is something of a Cornish institution, and serves several local brews. On the quay, you can buy fresh fish and shellfish such as scallops, as well as delicious ice cream, coffee and that fabulous combination of the two: affogato. There are spectacular views to be enjoyed from the coastal path on either side of the village.
📍Lantic Bay anchorage
Just round the headland from Fowey harbour, Lantic Bay is a sandy slice of paradise, sheltered by towering cliffs. At high tide, the white sand and shingle beach separates into two separate coves, Little Lantic and Great Lantic, with a few smaller coves located on the western stretch of beach. The steep and somewhat challenging descent to the beach by land ensures it’s not quite as populated as it might otherwise be – although the beautifully clear water still attracts plenty of hardy swimmers to make the trek down.
Arriving by boat is rather easier, and anchoring is free and straightforward in northerly conditions. In the height of summer, you’ll find small motor boats here for the day and even occasional jet-skiers but, by evening, it all settles down. Out of season (try May/June/September) it’s a heavenly spot.
The sheltered sandy cove of Polkerris is popular, and the beach can get crowded in summer, but there are several secluded areas you can reach by tender, after anchoring to the south-west of the pier. One great advantage of Polkerris is its accessibility to a train station should you need to collect or drop off crew: Par station is on the train line from London, and just a short taxi journey from the station to the beach.
Another attraction is restaurant Sam’s On The Beach in Polkerris’ former RNLI lifeboat station, with its winning combination of artisan wood-fired pizzas and fresh seafood caught daily by their own fishing boat. If you need to work up an appetite, walk along the coastal path to Gribben Head on the eastern extremity of St. Austell Bay, and take in the glorious views from the headland. This makes an excellent anchorage in NE-SE winds.
📍Gorran Haven anchorage
Two miles south of Mevagissey lies the ancient fishing harbour of Gorran Haven, where you can anchor beneath the cliffs, with good holding on the sandy seabed. We were the only boat here on our last trip to Cornwall, and found it a truly delightful place. There’s a small beach and a dinghy harbour, with a cordoned off area for swimmers (check the buoy arrangements when you go ashore in your tender).
The tiny village comprises The Mermaid Cafe, a general store with post office counter, and an excellent fish & chip shop The Haven, offering freshly cooked seafood take aways which you can pre-order, as well as dine-in options. The South West Coast Path is accessible nearby, and takes you up to the cliffs overlooking the bay for breathtaking views out to sea. Come here for a quiet, picturesque, out-of-the-way anchorage…and great fish and chips!
The pretty cove of Portscatho takes its name from the Cornish words for harbour (porth) and boats (skathow). There is good holding for anchoring and you can easily check the position of your anchor thanks to the crystal-clear water here. On a sunny day, this idyllic spot is like an advert for the Caribbean. Ashore there’s a twisting coastal path that takes you down to an adjacent deserted beach if, like us, you have a boat dog that needs a good run! One compelling reason to come here is the anchorage’s proximity to the not-so-hidden Hidden Hut, a popular beach cafe tucked behind Porthcurnick Beach.
Despite its informal setting, the comprehensive menu will take you pleasantly by surprise. During the day, the beach kitchen serves superb refreshments, snacks, pasties and lunches, while on selected summer evenings the chefs cook one seasonal dish which might be seafood paella, lobster and chips, beef brisket, or slow cooked lamb, which diners bring their own plates and cutlery to. These ‘feast nights’ must be booked in advance (and tickets sell out quickly!) so check availability first to avoid disappointment.
📍St Mawes anchorage
This impossibly pretty village on the Roseland peninsula looks like a Hollywood vision of a Cornish seaside town, with immaculately-painted pastel cottages, thatched roofs, and window boxes spilling over with flowers. There’s even a splendid, if bijou, castle built in the 1500s to guard the anchorage of Carrick Roads. More useful today are the plethora of local boutiques, galleries and pubs, which are often well frequented even in low season. For fresh fish, and crab sandwiches, try St Mawes Seafood on the quayside, or for a blow-the-budget treat head to the Tresanton Hotel restaurant.
You can pick up a buoy or anchor in the harbour, which is sheltered in north winds through to easterlies. Check overnight berthing rates here. Ferries to Falmouth operate throughout the day.
📍St Just-in-Roseland anchorage
Around the corner from St Mawes harbour is the peaceful oasis of St Just-in-Roseland. This slice of Cornwall is English countryside perfection, with elderflower blossoming in the verdant hedgerows, and a delightful tea room offering traditional Cornish cream teas (don’t forget to put the jam on before the cream if you want to eat your scone like the locals). On the banks of the creek lies the 13th century church of St-Just-in-Roseland, home to what the poet John Betjeman described as as “the most beautiful churchyard on earth”.
As well as its lovely waterside setting, the gardens here sport an incredible array of lush tropical plants not unlike Cornwall’s more famous green paradise, the Eden Project. Triffid-like plants tower over you as you walk along bamboo-lined pathways, while colourful prayer tags flutter in the trees. We always value our walks ashore after a day’s sail, and wandering through these peaceful gardens is a real treat. Plus you can then justify your cream tea at Miss V’s afterwards!
Anchor close to the shore in St Just Pool, which is well protected from easterlies and rarely that busy.
📍Helford River anchorage
Just south of Falmouth, the peaceful estuary of the Helford River is a breath of fresh air after the bustle and buzz of nearby Falmouth and St Mawes (both fantastic towns to visit, but popular and therefore busy). Sheltered from all but easterly winds, you can either take a visitors buoy on the river or choose to anchor. On the south bank, the Helford River Sailing Club has a useful dinghy pontoon, and is very welcoming to visiting yachtsmen, with showers, a great bar and pleasant balcony overlooking the river, as well as a restaurant open for evening meals on Fridays and Saturdays, and Sunday lunch.
The improbably picturesque village of Helford is a short stroll away, where you’ll find a small but well-stocked village shop and good waterside pub The Shipwright’s Arms. If you’re keen to explore, there’s several paths weaving through the river bank’s lush woodland, or hop on a paddleboard to discover the numerous creeks off the Helford – including Frenchman’s Creek, made famous by the writer Daphne Du Maurier.
📍Gillan Cove anchorage
Near the mouth of the Helford, this sheltered anchorage makes an ideal overnight if you need to make a quick getaway the following morning. From here, you can sail to the Scilly Isles in a day, after rounding Lizard Point, Britain’s most southerly point.
📍Mullion Cove anchorage
If you’re planning an early morning dash to the Scillies, or have just sailed from the Scillies to Cornwall and need somewhere sheltered for the night in easterly conditions, anchoring opposite Mullion Cove is a good solution. It’s just 43nm to/from Tresco, and there’s an inner harbour where you can take your tender to go ashore. There’s not a wealth of facilities here, but there is a small cafe and further afield is the Mullion Cove hotel and spa with the acclaimed Glenbervie Bistro.
Mullion Cove is on the west coast of the Lizard Peninsula, and you can anchor just outside the harbour where you’ll be sheltered by Mullion Island in the right conditions (N/NE). Facing into the full force of the Atlantic, this charming little cove can experience ferocious storms, so check the forecast here before anchoring.
📍St Michael's Mount anchorage
At the other end of Mount’s Bay’s, towards Penzance, is the island of St Michael’s Mount, where you can anchor in the shadow of an ancient castle. With echoes of its French counterpart in Normandy, Mont-Saint-Michel, the mount makes a splendid backdrop to a night at anchor, in light N/NE conditions. Drop your anchor to the West or NW of the island, (the small harbour dries to 2.1m). If you wish to visit the castle and its grounds, you will need to buy a ticket from the National Trust.
This was the last destination of what was an amazing cruise through idyllic anchorages in Cornwall! The Octopus would like to thank Anna and Jeremy Pocock for bringing their seafarer expertise to our blog and sharing it with the Navily community! If you wish to read more from them, take a look at their article on the Scilly Islands!
You can follow Anna’s adventure online, on their very own blog SailingExeat.com. If alike Anna, you are a Navily member wishing to share your sailing tips and experience, reach out to the Octopus at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Fair Winds Captain,