Best Places To Spot Dolphins In Cornwall

James

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James

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Are you fascinated by dolphins and other similar marine wildlife? Then you should definitely take up the hobby of dolphin watching. 

Travelling in dolphin pods, these marine mammals are magnificent creatures. We have all heard stories and legends of dolphins guiding sailors through troubled waters. And if you are like us, these stories might have piqued your curiosity in them.

Thus, if you are interested in watching these animals in real life, then you need to head to Cornwall. The long coastline of this southwestern county makes it a favourable place for such an activity.

However, if you haven’t visited Cornwall before, you might not know where to go for spotting dolphins. Fret not, for this guide will help you out in this regard. So, if you are curious, then dive right in!

The Basics Of Dolphin Spotting In Cornwall

For those who have little to no idea about it, let us give you a quick crash course in dolphin spotting. Put simply – it is a type of wildlife-watching activity where you spot dolphins in their natural habitat, that is, the sea.

Thanks to Cornwall’s extensive coastline and rich biodiversity, it is quickly becoming a popular activity among both tourists and environmentalists alike. Besides, if you go dolphin spotting along the coast, you are bound to come across other types of marine wildlife, which makes it all the more interesting.

A. What Species Of Dolphins Can Be Observed In Cornwall?

Below are some of the most common dolphin species that you can come across in Cornwall.

  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Risso’s Dolphin
  • White-beaked Dolphin

You may also come across harbour porpoises and whales, both of which are marine mammals as well. In fact, they belong to the same order of classification as dolphins – the cetacea order. That’s why they are collectively known as cetaceans.

Aside from that, you may come across other types of animals, too, if you’re lucky. These include (but are not limited to) basking sharks, grey seals, tropical turtles and a wide range of marine fishes.

B. What’s The Best Time To Spot Dolphins In Cornwall?

Another important thing that you need to keep in mind for this activity is the time. Generally, dolphins and other marine animals can be spotted in Cornwall throughout the year. However, we have encountered many watchers who said they did not get to spot even a single dolphin. So, at the end of the day, it all comes down to how lucky you are.

Fortunately, there are certain times of the year when the chances of spotting a dolphin increase dramatically. These are usually during the summer months between April and October. Therefore, if you plan the trip accordingly, you may be able to get your money’s worth.

Similarly, we recommend spotting dolphins during a period of high tide. That’s because the water level increases during this time, bringing the dolphins closer to the shore. 

Best Places For Spotting Dolphins In Cornwall

1. Land’s End

One of the best locations to spot dolphins (or any other marine wildlife, for that matter) in Cornwall is Land’s End, which is the westernmost point of the county. This place is a well-known tourist spot since it offers excellent views of the Cornish coastline and the majestic Atlantic Ocean. However, many people do not realise that it is a great place to watch dolphins as well.

Believe us – the waters around Land’s End are teeming with life, which makes it the perfect spot for marine wildlife watching. You will be able to spot common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins pretty easily. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of porpoises, minke whales or the occasional basking shark swimming around the rocky coastline.

2. Gwennap Head

When you move a bit southward from Land’s End by following the south west coast path, you will come across Gwennap Head. It is a coastal headland that consists of rugged granite cliffs and an underwater cave. As such, it is a great location for dolphin watching in Cornwall.

You can observe different members of the dolphin family at Gwennap Head. Apart from dolphins, there are different types of whale species and sharks found here. Besides, the underwater caves host a wide variety of fish species. Because of this reason, Gwennap Head is a popular wildlife-watching spot among tourists and naturalists alike.

The small coastal village of Porthgwarra is located near Gwennap Head, and it acts as a rest stop for tourists and keen dolphin watchers. Similarly, the nearby coast guard building has been converted into a Coastwatch station for the safety and convenience of visitors.

3. Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove is a small coastal village that is situated a bit north of Land’s End. It is a popular tourist spot in Cornwall, and the waves at the nearby beach attract hundreds of surfers to this place every year.

However, it’s not just humans that ride the waves at Sennen Cove – you will find a variety of dolphins doing the same! That is why it is an excellent spot to see dolphins in Cornwall. And if you consider yourself to be a water sport enthusiast, then it gets even better. In that case, you will find everything you need to keep yourself engaged.

Different species of dolphins can be seen at Sennen Cove throughout the year. That said, the chances of seeing dolphins here are greater between the months of April and October. During these months, you may notice dolphins right from the car park. And when the tide is low, some of them may come very close to the beach to feed.

4. Lizard Point

Lizard Point is another geographically significant location known for dolphin sightings, just like Land’s End. It is the southernmost point of Mainland Britain, which is why it is an extremely popular tourist destination. People from all over come here to enjoy the sights the Lizard Peninsula offers.

In this regard, it is popular among wildlife watchers too, which is another similarity that it shares with Land’s End. As a matter of fact, it is home to one of the largest nature reserves in the region, which makes it even more appealing to such people. 

You will easily come across common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, which roam the coasts around Lizard Point. Moreover, you may encounter harbour porpoises and different species of whales, such as humpback whales and fin whales. 

The rocky cliffs of Lizard Point offer a great vantage point for watching these marine animals. On that note, it hosts the Lizard National Trust Watchpoint, which organises Seaquest Southwest public sea-watching events for visitors.

5. Mount’s Bay

Mount’s Bay is situated a little bit to the east of Penzance in south Cornwall. The water around this place is home to a large variety of marine life, including dolphins. In fact, this patch of the Cornish coastline plays a key role in maintaining the overall marine biodiversity of this region. That’s why, in 2016, it was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

There are several spots at Mount’s Bay from where you can watch wild dolphins and other marine life. The most popular one is Battery Rocks, which is located next to the iconic Jubilee Pool. Aside from that, there’s Long Rock Beach, which happens to be a popular surfing and tourist spot too.

In addition, there are several Wildlife Safe or WiSe-certified boat operators at Mount’s Bay. So, if you want to get up close and personal with the dolphins, you can opt for one of these boat trips.

6. St. Ives Bay

St. Ives Bay is on the north coast of Cornwall, and it has some of the best beaches in the county. Frankly speaking, we’d say that this whole region has exceptional natural beauty, which is why it is a frequent haunt of tourists and nature lovers. It is also popular among wildlife watchers, as it is home to different species of dolphins, whales, porpoises and other marine animals.

The coastal stretch along St. Ives Bay consists of beaches, rocky outcrops and cliffs. Furthermore, there’s an NCI (National Coastwatch Institution) station at St. Ives that can be used by dolphin spotters. These places offer great vantage points for watching these majestic mammals swimming around. And if you visit here during the warmer months, your chances of spotting dolphins will increase substantially.

7. Port Isaac

All the locations we have mentioned so far are present in West Cornwall. That’s because this part of the county is the most exposed to the sea and boasts abundant marine wildlife, making it an obvious choice for dolphin spotting.

However, Port Isaac is a bit different from the others because it is located on the eastern stretch of the Cornish coast. It is situated close to Padstow in north Cornwall, which is a major tourist destination in this region.

If you walk along the south west coast path, you will notice a variety of marine species, such as bottlenose and common dolphins. You may also spot whales and porpoises along the coastline if you are lucky. They will often cruise the waves, making them easy to spot.

8. Pendennis Point And Falmouth Bay

Both Pendennis Point and Falmouth Bay are situated in the harbour town of Falmouth on the south coast. They are in close proximity to each other, and they both provide great opportunities for dolphin spotting.

The water here is quite deep, which attracts different kinds of marine animals to this region. There are numerous viewing points along the coast where you can catch a glimpse of its rich aquatic biodiversity. You can easily spot species like common, bottlenose and white-beaked dolphins. Apart from that, you may observe whales, grey seals and sharks cruising the waters.

A local Seaquest Southwest group organises different sea-watching and dolphin-watching events here for visitors. It also keeps a record of the different marine life in these waters, which can be helpful for conservationists.

9. Other Prominent Locations For Spotting Dolphins In Cornwall

The ones we have discussed above are some of the most popular places for watching dolphins and other marine fauna. Apart from these, there are many other places in Cornwall where you can spot dolphins. For your convenience, we have listed these locations below.

  • Looe Island
  • Porthcurno
  • Helford river
  • Fal river
  • Godrevy point
  • Trevose head
  • Padstow
  • Penzance
  • Pentire Point
  • Mutton Cove

Boat Trips For Dolphin Spotting

So, those were all the major locations in Cornwall where you can go to watch dolphins. As you can see from this list, all of these are located on the coast. Thus, the potential for spotting these marine mammals at such places depends on several factors, such as the presence of a vantage point, weather and time of the year.

In many cases, the dolphins tend to inhabit the deeper waters a bit further from the coast. Naturally, you won’t be able to spot these dolphins, which can make the entire activity futile. This is why boat trips are a better way to spot dolphins along the Cornish coast.

The chances of spotting a dolphin go up considerably on a boat trip. This way, you will be able to observe not only the common and bottlenose dolphins but also the more elusive Risso’s dolphins.

There are numerous boat operators in Padstow, Newquay, Penzance and other coastal towns of Cornwall. Before you start, though, you have to ensure that the operator is certified by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to organise such trips. This helps to ensure that the animals and their natural habitats are not harmed in any way.

Conclusion

That brings us to the end of this guide about the best places to spot dolphins in Cornwall. So, if you are planning a trip to this county soon, you can use the information here to prepare your itinerary.

But before we wrap it up here, let us give you some tips for spotting dolphins. The most important tip would be to maintain a safe distance from the animals to avoid disrupting their natural behaviours. Also, avoid making noise when spotting, as that can spook them away.

Likewise, you should never dump waste in the water, as that can damage the natural environment of these animals. And as a general rule of thumb, you should refrain from feeding the animals while watching them.

About The Author


James

Reviewed by

James

James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.