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Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Which Seaside Destination is Better?

Cornwall vs Bournemouth coastline
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When it comes to choosing the best seaside destination in the United Kingdom, there are a few standout locations that spring to mind. The south and southwest coastlines of England are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Yes, that’s correct, the UK is blessed with a knockout coastline that gives top European hotspots a run for their money. So let’s talk about Cornwall vs Bournemouth…

Both of these seaside destinations are national treasures for the UK. The two regions have a similar landscape, are perfect for families, and are famous British vacation spots. However, despite their similarities, there are plenty of differences to consider when deciding which to visit.

It’s not an easy question to answer, and everyone will have their personal preference. Both Cornwall and Bournemouth are worth visiting. So let’s see how they compare. Dust off your sunglasses and grab that tanning lotion, we’re going to the seaside!

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Getting there

Bournemouth beach at high season
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Accessing the Great British coast can be a challenge at times. Throw in the height of summer holiday traffic and you’ve got yourself traffic jams filtering right down to the sandy beaches. No matter where you are coming from in the country, reaching either Cornwall or Bournemouth can be difficult.

Cornwall

Cornwall can be accessed via road, train, or plane. Great Western Railway and CrossCountry offer services from Bristol, Bath, the midlands, and the North of England. High-speed trains run from London Paddington to Penzance which includes a sleeper service for those who want to experience a different side of train travel.

Access by road is the most popular choice to travel to Cornwall, as you then have your vehicle to continue exploring the beautiful Cornish coves. It takes around 5 hours to drive to the heart of Cornwall from London. After reaching Exeter you’ll be on mostly dual-carriageways. With a commonly high volume of traffic poring down south it’s best to expect long delays.

The airport is based in Newquay and shares routes around the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Spain. Flying to Cornwall offers an alternative to those who would rather save time on the road or train. However, you will then need to rent a car or rely on the laid-back public transport options feeding the Cornish region.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth is easily accessible with its south coast location. It will take just over 2 hours to drive from central London with decent quality roads most of the way. However, you must factor in delays on the road as you approach this popular resort.

Train services operate daily and take around 2 hours from London Waterloo (and other destinations across the country). Once in Bournemouth center, the public transport system is fantastic and great for getting around the area. Bournemouth’s airport is also super convenient with a wide range of long-haul and short-haul routes.

Winner: Bournemouth

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Beaches

St Ives beach in Cornwall vs Bournemouth beaches
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Sandy beaches and secluded coves. Yes, this is the UK we’re talking about. And no, it’s not always raining!

Cornwall

The Cornish coastline is a national treasure for the UK. Every corner you look to has a beautiful beach with spectacular views spanning across the horizon. In fact, some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches are found in Cornwall.

On the west coast, the sea is powerful and offers world-class waves for surfing. To the south and on the east coast you’ll discover tranquil coves with zero footprints on the sand. Make sure you check out some of Cornwall’s best beaches:

  • St Ives
  • Bude
  • Perranporth
  • Sennen Cove
  • Mawgan Porth

Cornwall’s beaches are the main focus of tourism. The Cornish sea and harbors are also some of the most important for Britain’s fishing industry.

Bournemouth

The Dorset beaches are picturesque. When the sun is shining, the waters turn emerald and slowly lap the golden sands of the beaches. In fact, recent surveys suggest that Bournemouth’s beach is better than most Meditteranean destinations.

In winter months, the swell occasionally passes through Bournemouth, making the large local surf community happy for a couple of days out of the year.

The pier is the most popular area of Bournemouth. However, there are other beaches near Bournemouth center if you want to escape the common crowds:

  • Hengistbury Head Beach.
  • Alum Chine Beach.
  • Southbourne Beach.
  • Mudeford Sandbank Beach

Weymouth is also only a 20-minute train ride away and offers a spectacular bay that is perfect for swimming and paddleboarding.

Winner: Cornwall (due to the sheer variety)

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Nightlife

Bournemouth nightlife is vibrant and lively
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If you’re looking for a party, then you’re in luck. Both Cornwall and Bournemouth offer a vibrant nightlife that is popular for a stag do or hen party. That being said, you can find some more classy cocktail bars with sea views if that’s more your cup of tea.

Cornwall

Newquay is dubbed the party place of Cornwall with several pubs and clubs to visit late into the night. However, move further afield and you’ll discover some quirky and unique haunts that light up the Cornish night.

  • Cribbs Caribbean Café & Bar in Falmouth – specialties include mojitos and the house cocktail called La Soufrière, containing a fiery kick and named after a volcano on St. Vincent.
  • The Chintz Symposium in Falmouth – unique charm with a wine list that changes weekly, still serving local Cornish ciders.
  • The Watering Hole in Perranporth – literally on the sands of the beach, perfect for a sunset session with regular live music.
  • The Beach in Bude – fantastic deck terrace overlooking Bude’s popular beach, be sure to try their Cornish mule concoction.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth doesn’t stop after the sun goes down. This lively seaside town has a diverse and energetic nightlife with something on for everyone.

There are several nightclubs all within walking distance of each other. Fancy more of a chilled vibe? Why not head to one of the many beachfront cocktail bars and soak up the views of the ocean.

The best thing about Bournemouth’s nightlife scene is how close everything is. So whether you’re planning a bar crawl or simply just want a change of scene, you can either stumble your way down the road or grab a taxi.

Winner: Bournemouth (although we still love what’s available in Cornwall)

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Things to do

Newquay beach filled with people playing games
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You won’t get bored at either destination. Both Cornwall and Bournemouth are stacked with fun things to do to keep everyone entertained. But which comes out on top?

Cornwall

Cornwall is home to some of Britain’s most fantastic spaces of nature. You have breathtaking coastal paths to hike and explore, each revealing another beautiful cove and traditional Cornish fishing village. Then there is Fistral Beach, an ideal place to learn how to surf or enjoy a paddle with a bodyboard. Newquay also has a zoo and the Eden Project is not too far away.

Want a bit more culture? Head south to Penzance to take in Cornwall’s art scene and maybe watch a play at the Minack Theatre overlooking the sea. While you’re down here be sure to go all the way to Land’s End and grab a photo of this famous landmark!

Bournemouth

Besides the big-sandy-family-friendly beach, Bournemouth has plenty on offer to keep you entertained. In the town center, you’ll find great shopping and beautiful gardens to walk through. There’s also a crazy golf course and fun fair located close to the seafront of Bournemouth beach.

For culture, you’ve got a number of art galleries and museums open to the public. Not forgetting the oceanarium on the promenade and Monkey World (a primate rescue center) just down the road, ideal for families with younger children. And if you’ve still got some more energy in the tank, the Newforest is right on Bournemouth’s doorstep, a perfect place to get lost and find wild ponies roaming.

Winner: Cornwall (but it was close!)

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Food

pastries
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Food, glorious food! A major factor to consider when planning a vacation that shouldn’t be overlooked. Both Cornwall and Bournemouth are blessed with many incredible restaurants serving up the local catch of the day along with traditional British dishes.

Cornwall

The Cornish truly stand out when it comes to food. There is a strong connection with the ocean which is shown through the delicious fresh seafood you can find. Top tip: check out one of Rick Stein’s restaurants in Padstow or grab a fresh fish off the counter.

Then you’ve got the legendary Cornish pasty, cream tea (jam first followed by a spoonful of clotted cream on top), and Cornish Yarg cheese. You’ll find local and indulgent ice cream across the region, perfect for a hot summer’s day treat.

Bournemouth

Similar to Cornwall, Bournemouth is favored by its relationship with the sea. Fish and chips or cockles on the beach are a must, just watch out for the seagulls! Other specialties include creamy Dorset ice creams and scrumptious local cheeses.

Bournemouth is also filled with a fantastic gastro-scene with some of the country’s top restaurants. Mexican, Italian, Caribbean, or Thai – you’ll be able to find a piece of everywhere here.

Winner: Cornwall (although, Bournemouth has a fantastic choice!)

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: Hotels

tea on hotel table
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Vacationing in the UK isn’t the cheapest when it comes to accommodation. Sometimes you can find deals on chain hotels, however, there may be some independent hotels or campsites that are also within your price range. Make sure you do your research and find what’s best for you.

Cornwall is one of the most expensive places to holiday in the UK. Thousands flock to St Ives each year and come away with a significantly smaller wallet in the process. The average price for a hotel room in this coastal town is £124 per night, while other towns like Falmouth average around £80 a night.

Whereas, on the other hand, Bournemouth is far cheaper with an average price of around £50 per night for accommodation. When looking where to stay in Bournemouth, you’ll see that there is a far bigger range to choose from.

Air BnB is popular in both places and you may be able to find something more unique and private if that’s what you prefer. Maybe just take a seat before looking at the rates to save you falling over!

Winner: Bournemouth

Cornwall vs Bournemouth: the conclusion

Cornwall vs Bournemouth conclusion
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So which is our winner overall? Both Cornwall and Bournemouth offer incredible experiences and are fantastic holiday destinations. It’s no wonder why they are the UK’s national treasures.

There are heaps of similarities and plenty of unique points to differentiate the two destinations. However, if we had to pick one, it would have to be Cornwall. The variety of beaches and rugged coastline, along with delicious local delicacies, make it truly stand out from the crowd.

However, if you’re a traveler on a slightly smaller budget, or have less time for your vacation, there’s no better place than Bournemouth for a holiday.