Our favourite Cornish boat trips for wildlife watching
An idyllic activity for a summer’s day
With its rugged outcrops, sandy coves and crystal clear tides, Cornwall is a paradise for all sorts of beautiful marine life, much of which can be spotted from the water. Late summer or early autumn is the perfect time for a wildlife-themed boat trip in Cornwall, as the coastline quietens and the waterways clear.
If you’re looking for a memorable activity for your September or October staycation, browse through our favourite coastal locations to explore by boat. From larger than life jellyfish and curious grey seals to the occasional humpback whale, there’s plenty to be marvelled at from above the sparkling blue.
Keep an eye out for seals on the north coast during September’s pupping season
Not only is September an ideal time to visit Cornwall for its balmy temperatures and calmer seas, it also coincides with pupping season, which makes it perfect for seal sightings. Setting off from Padstow harbour, the Jubilee Queen runs daily seawatching tours, gliding past nearby Polzeath and out towards The Rumps – one of Cornwall’s most iconic seal-spotting locations.
Pass secluded beaches, historic shipwrecks and tiny fishing communities from your seat on the boat – you can even bring your four-legged friends along too. If you time your trip well and stick to the summer months, you could spot dolphin pods swimming alongside the boat, jellyfish glowing beneath the surface or grey seal pups sunbathing on the shore.
Nearest beach houses – The Hideaways in Harlyn Bay, a stone’s throw from Padstow.
Spot puffins on Lye Rock near Boscastle
If you’re hoping to spot puffins during your time in Cornwall, we recommend stepping aboard with a pair of binoculars in hand. While your chances of spotting the seabirds in Kernow may be slim, your best bet will be to head out towards Lye Rock near Boscastle. Situated on the north coast, the island was once home to the county’s largest colony of puffins, and still receives the occasional visit from birds migrating from Iceland.
Scenic tours operated by Boscastle Boat Trips will take you from the harbour and around the craggy coastline, where during breeding season, you may catch a glimpse of other seabirds like guillemots and razorbills, with plenty of opportunities to spot seals out on the rocks too.
Nearest beach house – The Retreat in Widemouth Bay, only a 25 minute drive along the coast.
Take it easy with a cruise down the Helford River
An idyllic way to settle into Cornish life, a boat trip down the Helford River will melt your worries away in no time. With trips departing daily from the quay at Budock Vean, Helford River Cruises offer a 90 minute boat ride down to Frenchman’s Creek and out to Falmouth Bay. Passing by Trebah Gardens and the beautiful hamlet of Durgan on the way, the cruise promises an idyllic scenic tour and the chance to see herons and kingfishers perched on the riverbank.
To really make the day your own, opt for the private champagne charter, a fantastic dog-friendly option complete with fizz and nibbles to enjoy on the water.
Glide around the Looe coastline in a glass bottom boat
Enjoy close encounters with all sorts of wildlife on a glass bottom boat tour around the South Cornwall coast. Setting off from Looe Harbour, a ‘Boatzer’ experience is the perfect opportunity to see the coastline like never before, as fish swim beneath your feet and cormorants dry their wings on the rocks nearby. Typically lasting 45 minutes and ideal for families, the guided tour out to Looe Island combines spectacular scenery and an abundance of marine life, with tours also running to the nearby fishing village of Polperro.
Those hoping for a longer seafaring adventure will love the five hour excursion along the coast to Fowey, with plenty of time ashore to stop for lunch and explore its quaint Cornish streets, before hopping back on the boat towards Looe harbour. Whichever tour you choose, be sure to add your name to the harbour’s departures list the day before setting off!
Sail west for the chance to catch a glimpse of Cornwall’s ocean giants
From minke and humpback whales to mysterious ocean sunfish, your best chance of seeing an ocean giant in Cornwall is along the west coast, where they swim into the county’s bays to feed in the late summer months. Set off from Penzance on a sailing catamaran with Marine Discovery, where you might spot common dolphins, harbour porpoises or barrel jellyfish bobbing around the coast between Mousehole and Marazion. Feel the splash of the waves as gannets dive next to the boat and keep an eye out for basking sharks between July and October, when you’re most likely to see the magnificent creatures moving through Cornish waters.
Whether you set out towards Land’s End for a family excursion or stop by St Michael’s Mount to savour magical coastal views, each Marine Discovery boat trip collects scientific data while it’s out on the water – combining a lovely day out with essential conservation work.
Nearest beach house – The Mouse House in Mousehole, perfectly placed for wildlife watching on the west coast.
From harbour-front homes to dog-friendly retreats, our beach houses provide the perfect setting for a Cornish staycation in the late summer sun. Click here to see availability.