Helford Passage, about a mile from the village of Mawnan Smith, lies on the edge of the Helford River, with a lovely sandy beach, and direct access onto the South West Coast Path. There’s also a fantastic beachside pub, the Ferry Boat Inn, which specialises in local seafood dishes and a range of Cornish ales. It holds regular music nights, quizzes and other events during the year, including the Helford Passage Regatta in early August.
You could hire a rowing boat or kayak for the day at the Helford Passage kiosk, or book some paddle boarding lessons. If you’d rather stay on dry land, stretch out on the beach and soak up the beautiful views, or browse the Shop @ the Beach for locally made jewellery, quirky gifts, and the essential beach-side buckets and spades.
From the beach, you can catch the foot ferry across to Helford Village and head to the Shipwrights Arms to enjoy a homemade pasty and glass of cold Cornish cider. If you fancy something a little more energetic, wander along the riverbank and explore Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. The ferry runs into the evening during the high season so there’s no rush back – take your time, relax and enjoy.
Trebah and Glendurgan gardens are just a few minutes away from Helford Passage, and are stunning at any time of the year. Within ten minutes you’ll reach the lively harbour town of Falmouth, where you'll find the National Maritime Museum and Pendennis Castle, plus various pubs, restaurants and shops.
With water sports, fishing trips, golf, cycling, horse-riding, fish and chips, coastal walks, art galleries and stunning beaches nearby, a holiday on the Helford River has something for everyone.
Spend an afternoon exploring the stunning natural beauty of the Helford River with a boat tour helmed by an experience skipper. This memorable trip aboard The Hannah Molly – a traditional Cornish boat with room for 12 people – begins from Budock Vean. From here, you’ll travel along Port Navas Creek, past Helford Passage and Trebah Gardens, before crossing to Helford village and its surrounding creeks and inlets, including Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek.
Helford River Cruises, Budock Vean Hotel, Mawan Smirh TR11 5LG (T: 07941 027732)
Explore the Helford River from a sit-on kayak, paddling past sailing boats and ancient oak trees to Frenchman’s Creek – the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s famous romantic novel. This two-hour kayak tour is a great activity for the whole family, offering a unique way to explore the area whilst keeping active. No experience is necessary as Koru’s experienced guides will teach you kayaking techniques and safety information. Buoyancy aids are provided, and wetsuits are available to hire.
Koru Kayaking (T: 01872 552255)
Based in a kiosk on Helford Passage beach, Helford River Boats runs the passenger ferry which runs between Helford Passage and Helford village, home to a fantastic riverside pub, The Shipwrights Arms. They also offer a fleet of self-drive motor boats, rowing boats, Sit-On kayaks and paddleboards which you can hire and explore the stunning Helford River estuary at your own pace. Visit Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, Port Navas Oyster Farm or the hidden coves and quiet beaches. No previous boating experience is necessary as Helford River Boats provide full instructions, as well as safety equipment and a map of the river. They can also provide a water taxi service, which must be booked in advance.
Helford River Boats, The Kiosk, Helford Passage, Nr Falmouth TR11 5LB (T: 01326 250770)
The subtropical valleys of Trebah Gardens offer a fantastic day out for the whole family. Four miles of footpath lead through canopies of exotic trees, plants and flowers which cascade down to a private, secluded beach on the Helford River. Here, you can take in the views, relax on the beach and enjoy a famous Roskilly’s Cornish ice cream from the Boathouse Cafe. There are adventure playgrounds and children’s trails to keep the youngest members of the family entertained, and dogs (on leads) are welcome in the gardens and on the beach all year round. As well as a visitor centre and shop, there’s a fantastic café, Trebah Kitchen, which serves locally sourced, seasonal food. Trebah is also home to an amphitheatre where you can catch music, dance, theatre and comedy performances.
Trebah Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR11 5JZ (T: 01326 252200)
Run by the National Trust, Glendurgan Gardens span over three valleys, filled with sub-tropical plants, exotic flowers and bright blooms. The peaceful gardens lead down to the unspoilt beachside hamlet of Durgan. Here you can take a rest and enjoy the stunning views of the Helford River, treat yourself to an ice cream, build sandcastles and watch the wildlife on the water. Glendurgan Garden offer a great day out for the entire family thanks to its impressive maze and Giant’s Stride rope swing, shop and teahouse, which serves traditional Cornish cream teas, light lunches and Children’s meals.
Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR115JZ (T: 01326 252020)
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Dating back 300 years, The Ferry Boat Inn sits on the edge of the beach at Helford Passage. Thanks to its waterside position, you can look out over one of the most beautiful views in Cornwall whilst enjoying a drink or delicious meal. The Ferry Boat serves a tasty menu of homemade pub classics, alongside fresh, locally caught seafood dishes. Outside, there’s a large terrace with plenty of seating, perfect for long sunny days and warm, summer’s evenings, and come winter there’s a cosy open fire. Children and dogs very welcome.
The Ferry Boat Inn, Helford Passage, Falmouth, TR11 5LB (T: 01326 250625)
Lovely food with wonderful views of the Helford River.
The Ferryboat was excellent delicious food and a great atmosphere. Staff helpful and friendly and obviously a view to die for.
A fantastic spot to eat, drink and relax, watching the boats go by whilst the kids go crabbing. This lovely old waterside pub, with views to die for, has a friendly atmosphere and serves tasty, wholesome food and great local beers all in an idyllic setting. Arrive by ferry from Helford Passage which brings you almost to the door, tie your boat or kayak to the pub’s pontoon or park in the car park at the top of the village and walk.
The Shipwrights Arms, Helford Village, Helston TR12 6JX (T: 01326 231235)
Great pub with great beer. Outside views brilliant.
A thatched traditional inn in the heart of Mawnan Smith just minutes from the South West Coast Path and a pretty stroll through the woods to Maenporth Beach. Here you can sample local ales and ciders in the raftered bar along with enjoyable food from light lunches to a evening menu packed full of fresh local Cornish produce. A great spot to stop off when walking or visiting nearby Glendurgan or Trebah Garden. Children and dogs welcome.
The Red Lion, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 250026)
We ate in The Red Lion and found the food to be well cooked and a decent portion. Service was prompt and well worth a visit.
A friendly café in the heart of Mawnan Smith where you can buy freshly baked bread and pastries, and tuck into homemade cakes, breakfasts and light lunches, as well as obligatory traditional Cornish cream teas!
Cornish Maid, The Square, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 251202)
This pretty sand and pebble beach dotted with boats pulled up on the sand, and backed by whitewashed cottages, is one of our favourites. Kids can play, splash in the water or explore the rockpools exposed at low tide, or the more adventurous can hire a kayak, paddleboard or small boat to explore the estuary. Sit back in the 300 year old Ferry Boat Inn for lunch and a cool drink before perhaps taking the ferry across the water to Helford Village (operating in summer months only). Alternatively there are wonderful walks in both directions with fabulous views where you can spot a wealth of birdlife and sometimes seals. Back at the beach along with the pub there is a car park and toilets, ice cream kiosk and beach shop. Swimming is safe here but bathers should be aware of boats launching and general river traffic. Dogs allowed all year round.
Owned by the National Trust, the scattering of cottages that make up the tiny village of Durgan form a pretty backdrop to this sand and shingle beach. With stunning views in both directions over the Helford River, Durgan has strong boating links and there is a slipway running down to the beach and moorings offshore. This south facing beach is a peaceful place to relax on the sand and watch the boats go by while children play in the rockpools. If you forget your bucket, spade or net you can borrow one from the National Trust Fish Cellar building which also sells teas, coffee and ice creams during the summer months. Like many of the beaches along the Helford, Durgan Beach is almost entirely covered during the highest tides so keep an eye on the tide times. There is no parking in Durgan itself, however, there is a carpark on the main road and signposted path to the village and beach. Dogs welcome all year round.
A quiet and secluded shingle beach on the Helford River in between the villages of Durgan and Mawnan. Access is via a short woodland walk from Durgan and then a steep path down to the beach, which means it’s rarely crowded and ideal if you prefer peace and quiet to cafes and facilities, of which there are none. The water is safe for swimming here and there are rocky outcrops to explore and jump off. It’s worth bearing in mind though that while there is a large beach at low water, with the highest tides it’s completely covered. Dogs welcome all year round.
This is a real gem but quite tricky to access, so it’s not for everyone. Almost hidden on the southern banks of the Helford River, this idyllic sand and shingle cove is surrounded by thick woodland and is a fantastic spot to swim or sunbathe, often without another soul in sight. To get there either cut through the gardens of the Bosahan estate (summer months only, admission charges apply), bring a small boat or walk about a mile along the coast path from Helford Village. No amenities due to its location, dogs allowed all year round.
A pretty sheltered cove in a secluded setting surrounded by low cliffs and woodland, Bream Cove consists of a sand and shingle beach dipping down to clear water with excellent swimming and snorkelling. At low water rock pools are exposed which children will love to explore and it’s possible to scramble over the rocks to the sandy beach next door at Gatamala Cove. There are no facilities here and no car park, but there are parking spaces on the nearby road between Maenporth and Rosemullion Head close to the Meuden Hotel, with access to the beach via footpath. Dogs welcome all year.