The bustling town of Looe is divided by the ever-changing river that separates quieter West Looe from the absorbing waterfront of East Looe, with its diversity of shops, restaurants and pubs, Banjo pier and sandy beach.
The pace and routine of life in Looe follows the ebb and flow of the tide and the movement of boats returning with their catch of fresh fish. Local boatman can ferry visitors to and from either quay, or alternatively, you can enjoy a pleasant cruise along the beautiful and rugged coastline, keeping an eye out for the schools of dolphins that can often be spotted in the bay.
A guided tour will draw you deeper into the labyrinth of ancient buildings, clustered together in the narrow streets and courtyards that make up the old town of East Looe. Visit the 16th century Old Guildhall museum with its interesting exhibits detailing the town's diverse history, or relax and just while away the hours on the wonderful sandy beach, separated from the river mouth by the Banjo Pier.
The South East Cornish coastline is dotted with lovely beaches, hidden coves, and pretty seaside villages to explore. You can also join the magnificent South West Coast Path to enjoy bracing cliff top walks with spectacular views.
For a different kind of day out, the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary is just outside Looe, providing vital refuge for primates in need, and a fascinating family activity whilst supporting a great cause.
A holiday cottage in lively Looe offers a convenient base for enjoying the diverse range of things to do in the seaside town and the surrounding South East Cornish coastline.
Owned by the East Loose Town Trust, the Looe Museum is managed by a small community of volunteers, and gives a delightful insight into the history and character of the area. It’s an opportunity to develop your knowledge of the town and locality whether you’re a first time visitor or frequent tourist. They frequently house new exhibitions and take part in local events, acting as a supportive part of the community. In 2016 they celebrated the 150th anniversary of the lifeboats in Looe for example, by loaning some of its objects to the RNLI for a dedicated exhibition. Admission is £2 for adults, £1 for children, and £4.50 for families.
Linking the bustling market town of Liskeard and the picturesque fishing port of Looe, the Looe Valley Railway Line takes you on a journey through an abundance of landscapes from heavily wooded valleys teaming with wildlife to glorious estuary views as the river meets the sea. See the river full of wading birds such as Litte egrets, Grey herons, Oystercatchers and Curlews, before stopping in Looe to explore the beaches, restaurants, shops and pubs. Take a peek at their online journey planner for prices and timetables. Dogs go free (up to two dogs per person).
On an island just off the coast of Looe, the aptly named Looe Island Nature Reserve is brimming with marine wildlife. The island provides a variety of habitats including woodland, maritime, grassland, sand, shingle and rocky reef, and is part of the Whitsand and Looe Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Trips run from Easter until around the end of September, although all visits are weather and tide dependent. The crossing via a passenger boat named Moonraker takes 20 minutes and you will then have about two hours to explore. The return boat fee is £7 per adult and £5 per child, and then there’s a landing fee of £4 per adult and £1 per child. You can then book guided walks online in advance, which are £25 including the boat and landing fee. What makes the island so beautiful is its ruggedness and as such there are not any cafes or refreshments available, and dogs are not permitted. However, there is a compost toilet should you need it.
Award-winning bistro serving the freshest local fish, shellfish, meat and farm produce with its seasonally changing menu. A wonderful place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or simply a coffee and a slice of cake. Al fresco dining available in the Mediterranean garden. Restaurant open seasonally.
The Courtyard, Fore St, Looe, Cornwall, PL13 1AE (T: 01503 264494)
Excellent food, good pint of Doom Bar, nice log fire. What more could you want?
Former quayside warehouse, reputed to be a former haunt for smugglers and sea faring men in the 16th century. Today the Old Sail Loft is one of the top restaurants in Looe, specialising in classic/modern cuisine serving delicious steaks and fresh local fish from the quay, overlooking the pretty harbour.
The Old Sail Loft, Quay St, Looe, Cornwall, PL13 1AP (T: 01503 262131)
Pretty, retro style café in the heart of east Looe serving all day breakfasts, soup, jackets, large daisy shaped scones in five different flavours, cornish pasties (including gluten free options) cakes and much more. Open six days a week all year round, and seven days a week bank holidays and school holidays. Welcomes kids, dogs and muddy boots.
Daisy's Café, Castle St, Looe PL13 1BA (T: 07988 803315)
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Daisy cafe does the BEST breakfast in Looe, very tasty & proper doorstep toast!
In East Looe, the beach sits directly in front of the old town, sheltered by the Banjo Pier and overlooked from the east by the hillside of Mount Ararat. A good family beach that has something for everyone, at low tide the sandy location is safe for swimming although it’s recommended you steer clear of the river mouth beyond the pier. The beach backs on to a seafront walkway which runs its length all the way to Second Beach to the east, where it tends to be less busy and it’s good for snorkeling. As it’s in the centre of the town there are lots of facilities and cafes nearby, but in the summer it’s a very popular spot and parking can be tricky, with traffic prohibited during these months, so be prepared for a bit of a walk.
Half a mile west of Looe, stretching along the coast, Hannafore Beach is a sandy, shingle bay with a rocky reef and views of St George’s Island. At low tide it’s brimming with rock pools, making it fun and games for the whole family to enjoy, and it’s a wonderful sun trap in summer months thanks to its south east facing position. Because of its location over the river, the beach never really becomes too busy, but equally there aren’t any facilities nearby. It’s popular with dog walkers as it’s amongst the few dog-friendly beaches in the area, and having explored you can extend your excursion to a stroll along the promenade or a potter around the coast path to the wonderfully scenic Talland Bay. There is roadside parking along the sea front above the beach, but it can be difficult to find a space. Alternatively, there is a large car park in West Looe, around 10 minutes away on foot.
A small and pleasant grey sand beach with rocks exposed at low tide, Plaidy Beach is simply a nice place to visit and take in the scenery. There aren’t any facilities, and there’s no parking nearby so it’s one to reach on foot. There’s a slipway to the beach, but you will have to access it by walking along the coast path, parking at Millendreath or Looe and it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s quite steep from both directions. Millendreath is closer and the walk should take around 20 minutes. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round, so it’s a charming place to take them for a walk while you’re in the area.
Millendreath Beach is a south facing beach at the foot of a wooded valley, in a sheltered cove with soft sand and lots of rock pools to explore at low tide. It’s connected to other nearby beaches by the South West Coast Path. Dogs aren’t allowed on this beach at any time of the year, and there is a reasonably sized car park a few minutes walk away. The beach is popular with families on holiday in Cornwall, and most of the surrounding area is occupied by a holiday park, so there are lot of facilities open to the public.
A small, quiet beach between Looe and Polperro, Talland Bay actually comprises two beaches, one of which has sand both at low and high tide and is good for swimming all the time, while the other is less sandy and is easiest to swim from at high tide. There is a ramp for launching boats from the main beach and there are lots of small coves and tidal pools to swim in as well, so it’s a delightful area to explore in the water. Parking is limited, but there is a small, free car park by the beach and paid parking at The Beach Café, all of which provide easy access to the sand. Thanks to the nearby café, visitors can also benefit from the accompanying facilities, on-site shop, and tuck into Roskillys Cornish Ice-Cream as well.