• Dolphins
  • Egret
  • Fox

Where To See Wildlife In Cornwall

If you love spotting interesting wildlife, Cornwall is an excellent place to come on holiday. Our varied landscape and mild climate attracts all kinds of fascinating species, from year-round residents to more exotic creatures who are simply passing through. 

Here’s an introduction to what wildlife you might spot in Cornwall and the best places to look.

Take a Sea Safari

One of the best fun ways to spot wildlife in Cornwall is by boat. From the sea, you can look back towards the guillemots and puffins on the cliffs and get closer to the rocky offshore colonies of grey seals. You might even find that you’re joined by a dolphin or two…

Nemo is a glass-bottomed boat that sails from St Ives. You can take a sea safari as far as Land’s End, which gives you a unique view of life under the Atlantic as well as above it. Nemo boasts eight underwater panels and advanced underwater lighting for exceptional visibility. 

You can also catch the famous Dolly P from St Ives harbour and set off on a sea safari to Seal Island. This rocky outcrop is about 3.5 miles west of St Ives and is home to a large colony of Atlantic Grey Seals. Dolly P also does a trip in the other direction, towards Gwithian and another busy seal community. You’ll see plenty of other wildlife on your way, both in and over the water.

Further up the coast, Padstow Sealife Safaris offers marine wildlife spotting trips. Choose from one, two and three-hour safaris, as well as specific trips that search for seals and puffins. An afternoon on the water, especially on a nice clear day, is definitely a fun way to see Cornish creatures in their beautiful natural habitat.

Spot wildlife from the coast path

Dolphins, basking sharks, seals, even mighty orcas… Folks have spotted all sorts of wonderful wildlife from Cornwall’s coastal paths. From stonechats in the hedges to porpoises down below, a clifftop walk along the South West Coast Path will usually pay dividends for wildlife spotters.

Gannets, cormorants, shags, kittiwakes and other sea birds congregate on Cornwall’s cliffs and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the distinctive red legs and beak of the much-loved Cornish chough. Buzzards swoop overhead and you might catch one of their dramatic stand-offs (fly-offs?) with the local gulls.

Where are the best places to spot dolphins in Cornwall? Dolphins are seen pretty frequently at St Ives Bay, Mount’s Bay and Gwennap Head at Land’s End. They also love to steal the show at the Minack Theatre. There are far-reaching sea views around the Lizard, so that’s another good place to try.

We daren’t commit 100% to this, but… One of the best bets for spotting wildlife at the Cornish coast is in Godrevy near Hayle, where grey seals come ashore at low tide. Look down at the rocky shore from the cliff path and you’ll eventually see one of the boulders stretch and yawn. When your eyes tune in to the camouflaged seals, you’ll notice lots of them, all resting on the shore.

Nature Reserves in Cornwall

Stretching out into the Atlantic, Cornwall is a handy stop-off point for migratory birds; and West Cornwall’s two RSPB reserves are good places to catch migrating and pit-stopping birds. Try the reed beds at Marazion Marsh to see wetland birds, including little egrets and herons. If you’re here in the autumn, look upwards for spectacular murmurations of starlings over the marshes and sea.

Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve is on the most south-westerly estuary in the UK, so attracts a lot of migratory birds. Teals and widgeons winter here, while oystercatchers and egrets are year-round Hayle residents. Top tip: pick a table at Birdie’s Bistro in Lelant. The outdoor area and large picture windows are designed for comfortable bird watching (and their cakes are magnificent).

Cornwall Wildlife Trust looks after nature reserves across the county. Hidden spots like Baker’s Pit outside St Ives and Bissoe Woods near Truro are wonderful, tranquil spots to simply enjoy being in nature. Bartinney Nature Reserve way down west has sweeping ocean views as well as resident owls, linnets, snipe, adders and fritillaries. There are also grazing ponies and cattle at Bartinney for most of the year. 

Bodmin Beacon Nature Reserve is over 80 acres of woodland, grassland and farmland. It’s just a short walk from Bodmin town and is a lovely spot for an afternoon’s nature walk with the family. If you’re feeling more intrepid, head for the famous Moor, where you might be lucky and spot the resident otters, lizards, toads, grass snakes, bats, songbirds, Beasts…

A Walk in the Woods

Cornwall is actually more wooded than you might imagine, which gives you a whole new wildlife habitat to explore. If you’re on your Cornwall holidays with the kids, Tehidy Woods, with its tame(ish) squirrels and waterfowl is a safe bet: you’ll definitely have some sort of wildlife encounter! 

For a rather more subtle wildlife spotting trip, head for Pendarves Wood nature reserve near Camborne. There’s a lovely lakeside walk in this former estate, which attracts kingfishers and herons. There’s also evidence of otters and badgers in the reserve.

It’s back to Bodmin and the beautiful Cardinham Woods, managed by Forestry England. Look out for red deer, foxes, buzzards and kingfishers (and reward your spotting with a trip to the welcoming cafe).


Spot wildlife from the comfort of your Cornish holiday cottage

With coastal and countryside cottages in beautiful parts of Cornwall, you never know what you’ll spot from your own terrace or balcony. Will there be buzzards over the garden or a pod of dolphins swimming by? Owls in the outbuildings? Hedgehogs in the hedges? 

Take a look at the selection of stunning rural Cornwall holiday cottages at Cornish Escapes.

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