The stretch of coastline between St. Ives and Port Isaac doesn't have the charm of Cornwall's eastern coast. The fastest way to get to Port Isaac is to take the A30 northeast. However the B3301, hugging close to the Atlantic Ocean, is the more scenic route.
Heading north along the B3301, your first stop will be the estuary town of Hayle, once known for its tin and copper mines, but now a beach resort with miles of sand fronting the often wind-tossed Atlantic. Going north from here, the first attraction is St. Agnes Beacon (it's signposted). This is the most panoramic belvedere along this wild stretch of north Cornish coastline. At a height of 191m (627 ft.), you can see all the way from Trevose Head in the northeast to St. Michael's Mount in the southwest -- that is, if the weather's clear. It's often rainy and cloudy.
The first town of any importance is Newquay, a resort with sandy beaches at the foot of the cliffs, opening onto a sheltered bay. Taking its name from a "new" quay built in 1439, it attracts everyone from young surfers to elderly ladies who check into B&Bs along the harbor for long stays. Newquay is a rather commercial town, lacking the charm of St. Ives or Port Isaac, but its beaches attract families in summer. At night, pubs fill up with surfers ready to party.
If you'd like to stay over in Newquay, we recommend the Hotel Bristol, Narrowcliff (tel. 800/528-1234 in the U.S., or 01637/875181; fax 01637/879347; www.hotelbristol.co.uk). This redbrick hotel overlooking the beach has 74 well-furnished rooms that cost £130 to £200 for doubles, including English breakfast. This friendly and inviting place is popular with families. Facilities include an indoor swimming pool, sauna, and solarium; American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.
Back on the road again, the next important stop is Padstow. This town has a long and ancient history. It reached its heyday in the 19th century when it was an important port. Unfortunately, ships became too big to pass the sandbar (called "the Doom Bar") at the estuary mouth. Walk along its quay-lined harbor and explore its narrow streets. At the end of the quay stands St. Petroc's Church and Prideaux Place, a Tudor house with 18th-century battlements.
Try to arrive in Padstow in time for lunch because a restaurant -- simply called the Seafood Restaurant, at Riverside (tel. 01841/532700; www.rickstein.com) -- offers the best cuisine along this stretch of coastline. Here, Rick Stein selects the best "fruits of the sea," which he crafts into French-influenced dishes such as Monkfish Goan Curry and Dover sole with stir-fried garlic, sorrel, and asparagus. Stein also rents 14 rooms above the restaurant, bistro, and coffee shop for £135 to £235 double per night including breakfast; two have private balconies opening onto harbor views. The bar is open all day; lunch is served from noon to 2pm and dinner is served from 7 to 10pm. Main courses £17 to £47. MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
An Escape to Brigadoon -- One of the loveliest spots in the west of England is St. Just in Roseland, a tiny hamlet of stone cottage terraces and a church dating from the 1200s. Locals call it their Garden of Eden because of its subtropical foliage, including rhododendrons and magnolias. There are even palm trees -- in England, no less.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.