Steeped in history, this magical part of Cornwall will transport you to a carefree world.
The river has long been an important marine highway serving local mines, farms and quarries as well as the local fishing industry. There's nothing quite like travelling through its seven secret creeks - with its most famous being Frenchman's Creek after featuring in Daphne du Maurier's romantic novel.
The lovely fishing village of Helford on the south bank of the river is linked to the northerly Helford Passage by a passenger ferry which has existed since the Middle Ages. Then, it was a vital link for the communities providing transport for local produce to the markets in Falmouth. These days travel is slightly more conventional and the ferry is purely a passenger ferry (although bicycles, dogs and pushchairs are welcome.) Catch the ferry to take you across the water between two superb pubs - the thatched Shipwrights Arms in Helford Village and the famous Ferryboat Inn on the waterfront of the Helford Passage. Both offer wonderful lunches and a tipple before (or after!) your trip. Running from 9.30am to 9.30pm in the summer months and until 5.30pm for the rest of the year, the ferry is £4 for a single or £6 return for adults and £2 / £3 for children. If you're looking for a private tour, later crossing or self-drive motorboats, please call Helford River Boats on 01326 250770 who'll will be able to make your trip bespoke and memorable. They also offer paddle boards, kayaks and rowing boats so you can make your own adventure. TOP TIP: Cruise a little further up the river to Tremayne Quay, built for a visit by Queen Victoria in the 1840s which she then declined to make, allegedly because of the Cornish rain!
Around the Helford River you can stroll the day away on walks that link up with sub-tropical gardens, a sprinkling of waterside pubs, quirky galleries, unspoilt scenery and the iconic Frenchman’s Creek. Just click here to read three gorgeous walks from our friends at Fal River. Our favourite is a short 1.5 mile saunter, starting at The Ferryboat Inn and finishing at Frenchman’s Creek, ticking off Glendrugan and Trebah Gardens on the way. Helford Passage with its safe sandy beach is a wonderful base for walkers, sailors or stop-off for visitors to Trebah (1/2 mile), Glendurgan (3/4 mile) and the numerous coastal walks around Mawnan Smith, Durgan and the estuary.
Oysters have been grown and fattened in the Helford River for centuries, taking advantage of the fresh water running into the creeks and the rich natural sources of plankton from the Gulf Stream. The Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm - an ancient private fishery based in Port Navas - is just a short boat ride up-river from The Ferryboat Inn. The Wright Brothers now cultivate and harvest over 5 million native and pacific oysters each year, making the Duchy Oyster Farm one of the largest in the UK.
Or choose The Shipwrights Arms in Helford Village if you're on the hunt for quirky charm. Open every day from 11am - 11pm, generations of locals and visitors alike have trouped through its doors searching for great company, great food and great beer. With a fresh and seasonal menu that changes every day, head here for steaks, fresh Helford fish, Vicky's home-made bread and Roskilly’s ice creams.
We love visiting The Ferryboat Inn - dating back 300 years, it is surrounded by wooded banks and sloping fields. Sink into a chair by the open fire if it's a chilly day, or gaze out across the river on their beachside terrace during long sunny days and warm evenings. On the menu, expect seafood specialities alongside home-made pub classics. With crabs and lobsters caught from local day boats and oysters harvested at the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm, you can't get much fresher.
A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY
The Helford Village Regatta is held every year in August at The Shipwrights Arms - a kind of water-based sports day for all ages. The whole day is lots of fun, raises money for charity and finishes with fantastic fireworks in the evening.