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Charlestown Harbour

charlestown harbour

The Historic Charm of Charlestown Harbour – Cornwall’s Georgian Port

Cornwall boasts many picturesque ports and harbours but few feel as steeped in history as stunning Charlestown Harbour. This purpose-built Georgian era Grade II-listed harbour provides a glimpse into Cornwall’s vibrant maritime past. Wander the unspoilt quayside, discover tall ships up close and indulge in tempting seafood as you experience traditional port life firsthand.

Our guide has everything you need to plan an authentic family day out in Charlestown’s timeless harbour community.

ship at harbour in charlestown

Getting to Charlestown Harbour

Charlestown harbour sits roughly midway between St Austell and Fowey along Cornwall’s southern coastline. Use satnav with postcode PL25 3NJ.

By Car – From the A390, turn south onto the B3273 signposted to Charlestown. Several pay and display public car parks are located around the lower harbour area.

By Bus – The 343/387 Fowey circular routes run by First (Kernow) Buses stop on Charlestown Road, a 5 minute walk downhill to the harbour.

By Ferry – A passenger ferry service links Charlestown with Fowey on the opposite side of St Austell Bay during summer.

Charlestown Harbour Opening Times

As a functioning port, part of Charlestown’s charm comes from never quite knowing what vessels might be spotted tied up on any given day. It’s possible to pop down to wander the harbour at leisure or have a drink overlooking the water at any time.

However if you specifically want to look round ships and historic areas bookable via the Shipwreck Centre, opening times are:

April–September: Daily 10am–5pm

October–March: Weekends & school holidays only 10:30am–4pm

Entry Prices

General harbour access is free. But the Shipwreck Treasure Museum charges:

Adults £6.95 | Kids £4.95 (Ages 5-15) | Family ticket £23 (2 adults + 3 kids)

Top Things To See and Do

History oozes from every corner in Charlestown. Get a real taste of bygone Cornwall at the unspoilt Grade II-listed harbour evidencing 250 years of coastal trade.

Step Back in Time on a Guided Harbour Tour – On an informative 45 minute harbour tour, you’ll venture inside usually off-limit quayside warehouses, sail lofts and old net shacks to envision their past bustling lives. Expert guides vividly detail how every building operated during Charlestown’s 18th and 19th century heyday whilst highlighting original features still in situ.

Charlestown even featured in the hit BBC series Poldark! Can you recognise Georgian locations that doubled as Truro and Falmouth in the show as you explore?

Climb Aboard Majestic Tall Ships – No family visit is complete without admiring Charlestown’s magnificent fleet of tall ships. Clamber across decks once packed with trade goods bound for the far corners of Empire during the port’s export peak. Crews are passionate about bringing nautical heritage engagingly alive for kids as they explain aspects of sailing historic vessels.

Ships often host interactive experiences like dockside talks, sailor schools or even sleepovers allowing families to fully immerse themselves into maritime adventures!


Shipwrecked in History: Exploring the Treasures of Charlestown’s Shipwreck Centre

The Shipwreck Centre isn’t just a museum; it’s a portal to a thrilling past, where tales of seafaring adventures, tragic losses, and incredible salvage operations collide.

Stepping inside the Shipwreck Centre feels like entering a time capsule. Exhibits weave together captivating narratives through salvaged artifacts, interactive displays, and captivating multimedia presentations. Witness the weathered timbers of shipwrecks like the ‘Minerva’, a Spanish galleon that met its fate on these shores in 1595, laden with gold and silver coins.

Dive deeper into the lives of courageous wreckers, the local heroes who braved treacherous seas and weather to rescue stranded crews and salvage precious cargo. Their daring exploits, often shrouded in danger and suspense, come alive through detailed accounts and interactive displays.

But the Shipwreck Centre isn’t just about the past. It’s a testament to the enduring human spirit and the enduring allure of the sea. Explore modern-day maritime challenges like pollution and marine conservation, and discover ongoing efforts to protect our precious coastline.


For families, the Shipwreck Centre is a treasure trove of interactive fun. Kids can dress up as pirates, steer a virtual ship through treacherous waters, and even uncover hidden secrets in a treasure hunt. Learning about history has never been so engaging!

So, whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or simply curious about the secrets of the sea, the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre has something for everyone. Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss:

  • The Tunnel of Lights: Immerse yourself in a mesmerizing journey through shipwrecks and maritime history,projected onto the vaulted ceiling of a historic tunnel.
  • The Shackleton Exhibition: Discover the incredible story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his daring Antarctic expedition aboard the Endurance.
  • The Shipwrecks Gallery: Explore salvaged artifacts from over 150 shipwrecks, each with its own unique story to tell.
  • Interactive Displays: Get hands-on with maritime history through touchscreens, puzzles, and games.
  • Family Activities: Keep the little ones entertained with dress-up, treasure hunts, and interactive exhibits.

A visit to the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre is more than just a museum experience; it’s a journey into the heart of Cornwall’s maritime heritage. So, set sail for adventure and let the Shipwreck Centre guide you through a world of captivating stories, hidden treasures, and the enduring spirit of the sea.

Tip: Be sure to check the Shipwreck Centre’s website for opening hours, admission fees, and special events. They also offer guided tours and educational programs for groups.

Discover Charlestown Regatta

Time your visit right to experience the exciting annual Charlestown Regatta celebrating the harbour’s sailing roots in style! For one week in July, these historic waters come alive in a flurry of races, rowing contests, marine parades and open-air sea shanties.

On shore, soak up the festival atmosphere browsing artisan market stalls showcasing Cornish talents while kids happily make pirate hats and fish print t-shirts at busy craft workshops. Expect lots of smiles and cheers all round!

charlestown regatta

Charlestown Harbour restaurants

Tuck into just-landed catches cooked to order at one of Charlestown’s tempting choice of harbourside eateries. The offshore waters found off Charlestown positively teem with fish resulting in an abundance of fine local seafood menus at very reasonable prices.

  • The Rum Sailor: This pub is a popular spot for seafood and has a great view of the harbor. They have a wide selection of beers and ciders on tap, as well as a menu of pub classics like fish and chips and steak pie. Mains are around £15-£20.
  • The Boathouse Charlestown: This light and airy restaurant has a spacious beer garden and a menu of updated British grub. They also have a good selection of seafood dishes. Mains are around £15-£25.
  • Short & Strong Cafe & Deli: This cafe is a great place to grab a coffee and a pastry, or a light lunch. They also have a selection of sandwiches and salads. Mains are around £5-£10.
  • Charlies Coffee House: This coffee house is a great place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. They also have a selection of cakes and pastries. Mains are around £3-£5.
  • Springtide, Charlestown: This modern restaurant has a menu of seasonal dishes with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. They also have a good selection of wines and cocktails. Mains are around £20-£30.
  • Rashleigh Arms: This unfussy inn has a warm atmosphere and a restaurant/lounge with a beer garden. They offer a menu of hearty pub food, with a focus on local seafood. Mains are around £10-£15.

Crab sandwiches, generous fish and chips, authentic Thai curries and indulgent ice cream sundaes – you’ll be spoilt for choice as you refuel between adventures!

Many restaurants directly overlook the water too so you can watch the boats bobbing as you feast. Just leave space for some authentic Cornish cream tea or pasties later!

What was filmed at Charlestown Harbour?

From swashbuckling pirates to period dramas, Charlestown has played host to a diverse range of stories, capturing the imagination of audiences worldwide.


The most prominent connection of Charlestown to the world of entertainment undoubtedly lies with the BBC drama Poldark. Both the original 1970s series and the acclaimed 2015 revival used Charlestown to portray the bustling port of Truro. The cobbled streets, harbour buildings, and even some pubs and shops seamlessly transformed into 18th-century Cornwall, immersing viewers in the world of Ross Poldark and his turbulent life.

But Charlestown’s cinematic journey extends far beyond period dramas. In 2010, Tim Burton’s whimsical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland used the harbour for the scene where Alice sets sail on a fantastical journey. The quirky charm of the town perfectly complemented the film’s fantastical atmosphere.

For those seeking a taste of historical adventure, Charlestown has also played host to The Eagle Has Landed (1976), a gripping thriller about a Nazi plot to kidnap Winston Churchill. The harbor transformed into wartime St. Malo, France, adding authenticity to the tense narrative.

And who can forget the high seas adventures? Treasure Island (2007) and Treasure Island Kids: The Battle of Treasure Island (2006) both utilized Charlestown’s idyllic setting to bring Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic pirate tale to life. The harbour morphed into the bustling port of Bristol, sending shivers down viewers’ spines with visions of buccaneers and buried gold.

Beyond these blockbusters, Charlestown Harbour has graced the screens in countless other productions. Dr. Who, Taboo, The Personal History of David Copperfield, and even the BAFTA-award-winning series BAIT have all found charm in its rugged beauty and timeless character.

So, next time you visit Charlestown Harbour, walk in the footsteps of fictional heroes and heroines. Imagine Poldark striding down the street, hear the ghostly echoes of pirates in the harbour breeze, and let the magic of the silver screen captivate your imagination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there parking in Charlestown? Parking can be limited, especially in peak season, but there is a large car park in the centre of the town near the harbour and there is street parking if available. Consider public transportation or park at the Park and Ride in St Austell.

Is Charlestown Harbour wheelchair-friendly? The main streets and harbour area are largely accessible, though there are some cobbled inclines and uneven paths. Some cafes and restaurants may have limited accessibility, so check beforehand.

Are there accessible toilets available? Yes, there are accessible toilets in the public car park and some cafes and restaurants.

What is the best time of year to visit Charlestown? Spring and autumn offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds, while summer is bustling and ideal for beach activities.

harbour at charlestown in cornwall

Nearby Family Attractions

Pair a morning immersing yourself in Charlestown’s history with visits to nearby family-friendly attractions:

  • The Eden Project – Just a 30 minute drive from Charlestown, this popular eco attraction consists of huge biomes housing impressive global plant life displays from tropical regions worldwide.
  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan – Originally built in the 18th century, these restored gardens contain rare exotic plants. Features include the Giant’s Head, Mud Maid sculpture, jungle area and wildlife pond.
  • Mevagissey – This charming traditional fishing port has narrow streets lined with galleries, shops and cafés leading down to a tiny colourful harbour, téas rooms and seafood restaurants.
  • Pentewan Beach – A family friendly Blue Flag awarded beach for swimming and surfing, conveniently accessed from Charlestown Harbour. It has soft golden sands, rock pools to explore and a nature reserve behind.
  • Polkerris Beach – Another family-friendly Blue Flag beach near Charlestown, Polkerris is a sheltered south-facing cove surrounded by rolling countryside with good facilities.
  • St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre – Go on a guided tour of this working brewery, founded in 1851, to explore the brewing process and history before sampling their craft beers in a traditional pub.

With unspoilt Georgian architecture, majestic tall ships and peeks into Cornish coastal culture, a day spent around Charlestown harbour proves an accessible yet authentically educational history lesson kids will adore.

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