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Last updated: 16 April, 2023

When rugged coastline meets a wide, flat shoreline, you’re bound to get rockpools at low tide – and Cornwall has them in spades. Replenished by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, Cornwall’s rockpools are particularly rich in sea life.

Scouting and clambering over exposed rocks or in secret coves, seeking crabs, anenomes, starfish, blennies and other fascinating creatures left behind by the tide, is terrific fun, educational, and a good healthy outdoor activity. Best of all, these mini wildlife hotspots will keep kids – and big kids – occupied for hours.

Look out for Montagu’s blenny a small fish that has evolved to live in rock pools and has the ability to change colour to match its background, like a chameleon.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 1-3 hours

Getting there & doing it

Popular north coast spots include Treyamon Bay, Crackington Haven, Port Isaac, Port Quin and the more secluded Lundy Bay. On the south coast, try Castle, Swanpool, Maenporth or Gyllanvase Beaches around Falmouth, Towan Beach or the stretch under St Mawes Castle. Helford Passage near the Ferryboat Inn is another good spot. For further listings see the Visit Cornwall website.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust occasionally runs free guided rock-pooling tours and snorkelling safaris aimed at kids. Check the events section on their website. If you’re going it alone, consider buying this six-page, full colour and handily splash-proof Rockpool Guide, published by John Walters.

You don’t need nets; gentle hands are just as good and don’t damage the creatures or seaweed. Tides race in fast, so keep an eye on its progress and don’t go too far from the shore. Children should always be accompanied by an adult.

Rockpool etiquette

Be sure to replace overturned rocks, and try to put the little critters back where you find them. Only take empty shells away with you, and preferably nothing at all; empty shells are homes-in-waiting for some creatures.

When to do it

Rockpooling is only possible when the tide is out, so it’s a limited window of opportunity and you need to time it right. Check tide times before you go.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Fowey Hall Hotel

Fowey, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Lovely country house family hotel, located in the beautiful town of Fowey, with five acres of landscaped gardens and woodlands. Close to the Eden Project.

Official star rating:

Hotel Tresanton

St Mawes, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Elegant, waterfront family hotel offering quiet sophistication in the yacht-filled harbour town of St Mawes.  A Cornish, if not world, classic.

Official star rating:

Polurrian on the Lizard

Helston, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Cliff-top boutique hotel on the isolated Lizard, on the South West Coast Path and close to glorious beaches – great for families.

Official star rating:

St Moritz Hotel

Trebetherick, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Lovely art deco-inspired boutique in a cracking location between the boating haven of Rock and the surfing hotspot of Polzeath. Great for families.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

A region of craggy cliffs, sheltered creeks, glorious sandy beaches and quintessential villages – rich in local life, pagan legend and delicious, locally-made food and drink.

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