The best places to spot sea life in Cornwall and most recent sightings I 2024

Posted by Select Cornwall

on 05/04/2024

So you’re searching where to go wildlife watching in Cornwall?

Let’s delve into why Cornwall stands out as the perfect destination for spotting rare marine life in the UK. In this blog, we will reveal the best places in Cornwall to spot elusive wildlife and the most eco-friendly sea life tours to take, too. Not only is Cornwall a sea life haven with its 400+ beaches and 420+ miles of coastline, it is home to many rare and some once extinct birds, including kittiwakes, oystercatchers, shearwaters, gannets, razorbills and the famous chough.

From sightings of majestic basking sharks gliding through the azure waters, to grey seals bathing on secluded beaches, Cornwall offers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to witness these creatures in their natural habitat, due to the counties unique geography, diverse marine ecosystem, and temperate climate.

In the winter of 2023-2024, there were more than 30 whale sightings across Cornwall. Most recently, humpback whales were sighted off the coast of Porthleven. On 1st April, a humpback was saved in Mount’s Bay, Newlyn, after becoming entangled in fishing equipment off shore and this made national news stories. On 5th March, Jacob Rheams filmed a humpback breaching the Cornish waters and released incredible drone footage.

If you are a seasoned diver, an enthusiastic snorkeler, or simply a lover of marine animals, Cornwall promises an unforgettable experience filled with encounters with some of the ocean's most elusive inhabitants. Cornwall is a fantastic place to connect with nature and learn about ongoing conservation efforts protecting the fragile coastal ecosystems. 

Falmouth Bay

According to AK Wildlife Cruises (the very first accredited wildlife cruise operator in Cornwall) Falmouth Bay is “a top location for anyone interested in Dolphin or Sea Watching”, and almost daily they post videos on social media of dolphins riding along their ferries. Falmouth’s harbour makes a rich and diverse environment through out the year, due to its deep waters and nearby estuaries, providing a haven for sea life such as seals and dolphins.

Other previous sightings around Falmouth include humpback whales, minke whales, bottlenose dolphins, basking sharks, and even leather backed turtles and puffins.

Stay nearby at The Valley Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

The Penwith Heritage Coast is a must visit if you want a greater chance of spotting sea life in Cornwall. Cape Cornwall boasts magnificent views across the Atlantic, crystal clear waters and a rugged backdrop. Spotted off Cape Cornwall: Seals, dolphins, harbour porpoises, basking sharks, and even bluefin tuna, which after disappearing from Cornwall’s waters, are now being sighted again during the summer months. Humpback whales and minke whales have also been spotted here.

Stay in beautiful nearby Marazion

Helford River

The Helford River is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and the area is protected and recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along the Helford River you’ll notice an abundance of wildlife on land and water - from water birds such as the egret, to common dolphins and harbour porpoises at the river mouth. The shallow bays and sand banks offer a perfect home for oysters, crabs of all kinds and some lobsters.

Stay at The Valley luxury cottages and enjoy nearby Truro, too

Pendennis Point

Pendennis is really easy to reach, so perfect if heading for a family day out in the hope of some rare wildlife sightings. This is a stunning location to explore, close to Falmouth with Pendennis Castle as the backdrop. Enjoy panoramic views around Falmouth bay at Pendennis point. Many a rare seabird are spotted here, as well as diverse sea life, from cormorants, shags, razorbills and guillemots. Dolphins are frequently spotted, as well as seals and on the rare occasion- basking sharks!

Stay in the countryside in Redruth

The Lizard Peninsula

This is one of the most southerly and secluded spots of Cornwall, along with beautiful Penwith. Being out on the Lizard peninsula has the benefits of panoramic views of the ocean, obviously amazing if intending to go for a day out wildlife spotting. Spot some amazing wildlife on the Lizard, such as common dolphins, harbour porpoises, grey seals, huge bluefin tuna, sunfish, maybe even basking sharks and on very rare occasions- puffins!

This year the incredible starling murmuration’s in Poldhu cave have also been catching national attention in the press.

Stay in this idyllic cottage with spectacular sea views on the Lizard coast path 

Puffin Island

If you aren’t wishing to travel too far down south in Cornwall for some wildlife sightings, Puffin Island near Padstow is your best bet. Although not 'water based' sea life.. we definitely think they deserve a feature in this blog! Cornwall has two puffin breeding colonies, one based off Padstow. Puffins are most frequently sighted here around April to July whilst breeding. Puffins love a private location, safe far away from predators where their pufflings can be kept safe. As well as these rare cute creatures, there are also lots of sightings of seals, porpoises and dolphins and sea wildlife cruise trips running from Padstow harbour.

Stay in this luxury 4 bedroom house near Padstow

Land’s End

Land’s End offers astounding seascapes at the most westerly tip of mainland England, giving visitors a strong chance of spotting a variety of dolphins, basking sharks, seals and more. This is a legendary place for wildlife enthusiasts to visit, the peninsula forming around 270 million years ago.

Land’s End offers magnificent coastal scenery and in recent years, sightings of rare Orca’s have been reported here.

Stay in stunning St Ives in this luxury sea view cottage for 2, with private hot tub


This quintessential Cornish coastal village is famously known as the backdrop to the incredible Minack theatre, where in 2021 an orca sighting was reported! Boasting white sand, turquoise water beaches and dramatic granite cliffs, Porthcurno is the perfect place for a family picnic and day out walking the jaw dropping cliffs and wildlife spotting.

You are very likely to see seals swimming and playing in the waves, harbour porpoises, common dolphins and basking sharks have been spotted off shore too.

Stay in this large family and dog friendly house with views of St Michael’s Mount in Marazion 

Godrevy Point

Mutton Cove is a bit of a secret gem still here in Cornwall, so don't go shouting about it too much! This secret spot is hidden under the cliffs, not too far from Godrevy point and lighthouse, and is home to a large and special population of grey seals.

For most of the year the seals at Godrevy can be seen when the tide is low, sunbathing and rolling in the waves below the coast path. There is no access to the beach, which makes it perfect and secure for them- most likely why they have chosen to make here home.

Stay in this stunning renovated coach house in Hayle 

Importantly Do not disturb wildlife or sea life. It is important to report animals in danger and to keep a safe distance from all wildlife, for their safety and protection and your own.

Recommended tours:

1 AK Wildlife Cruises, Falmouth 

2 Orca Sea Safaris, Falmouth   

3 Marine Discovery, Penzance 

4 Padstow Sealife Safaris