St Austell is a town in Cornwall, England. Its main attraction is the Eden Project, a huge outdoor and indoor collection of plants from around the world. The town is also a centre of the Cornish china-clay industry.
1 Cornwall Newquay Airport (NQY IATA) has flights from London (Gatwick & Stanstead), Dublin, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff. It's about 30 mins away by car, reckon £25 for a taxi. Its two disadvantages are i) most flights are summer only; ii) public transport is tricky as first you have to get the bus into Newquay (last bus around 18:30), then rely on an infrequent bus or branch-line train for St Austell.
[Exeter Airport] (EXT IATA) is further but may be a simpler option. It has more flights year-round, the airport bus runs until 22:00 (10PM), and mainline trains run hourly from Exeter to St Austell en route to Penzance.
St Austell station stands on the Great Western main line from London Paddington to Penzance. Direct trains from London Paddington run every couple of hours, taking 5 hours via Reading, Exeter and Plymouth; other connections are available via Exeter. Trains continue west to Penzance hourly, taking one hour. One Cross-Country train per day is a direct service from Penzance to Sheffield, York, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
An overnight sleeper train, The Night Riviera, runs between London Paddington and Penzance, stopping at St Austell. It runs Sunday to Friday from Paddington around 23:30, reaching St Austell before 07:00 (on Sun before 08:00 Mon). The return train leaves Penzance around 21:30 (Su-F) picking up at St Austell an hour later, to reach Paddington at 05:00; you can stay aboard until 07:00. Book via Great Western (www.gwr.com), with airline seats, or single or double sleeper cabins available.
Other nearby destinations along the main line, served by hourly trains between Penzance and Plymouth, are St Erth (for St Ives), Truro, Par (for Newquay), and Bodmin. See National Rail for times and fares; advance booking is usually much cheaper. A Ride Cornwall Ranger is good value for local travel. It allows unlimited off-peak travel within Cornwall, and between Cornwall and Plymouth, by all trains and most buses. "Off-peak" means M-F after 09:00, and all day Sat Sun & holidays. An adult day-ticket is £13, children and concessions around £10.
National Express coaches run from St Austell via Truro to Penzance (3 per day, two hours). NX404 runs overnight from London Victoria (8 hrs) via Heathrow Airport, Bath, Bristol Airport, Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth. NX315 runs daily along the south coast from Eastbourne via Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastbourne, Exeter and Plymouth.
For local buses to Penzance, change at Truro. The bus & coach station is right outside the railway station, postcode PL25 4LA.
St Austell is a 5 hour drive from London via M4, M5, A30 and finally A391. It's a long way and at some point you'll need to refuel. Don't be paying motorway prices, there's supermarket petrol at (amongst others) M5 jcn 28 (Cullompton Tesco) and A30 Bodmin (Asda, Launceston Rd).
For Penzance, continue west on A390 through Truro. For Newquay, go west on A3058. For Liskeard and Plymouth, go east on A390 then A38.
The town itself is walkable, but all the main attractions are some miles out, too far to traipse with children. See Eden Project listing for buses there.
St Austell Private Hire, ☎ . Taxi is a reasonable option for a family group.
- 1 The Eden Project, Bodelva PL24 2SG (3 miles north of St Austell), ☎ . Daily (except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day) 09:30-18:00 (last entry 16:30). Spectacular rehabilitation of an old china-clay pit. Full of plant life, the star attractions being the two "biomes": one tropical rain-forest habitat, one Mediterranean, housed in vast transparent hex-domes, like Xanadu in galactic bubble-wrap. Impressive if a tad eco-preachy, plus lots of merchandising and theme-park stuff (eg "Hangloose", a long zip-wire ride over the site), which it's easy to swerve. They hope to build a third biome, for desert life, when finances allow.
By car, approach via A391 Bodmin-St Austell Rd: a new road leads in with the closest available car-park signed. (Parks L to E are almost a mile out, D & C are closer, use free shuttle bus. B is a short walk, A is disabled only.) First Kernow Bus 101 runs hourly from St Austell (30 mins), a taxi from there costs about £7, and these drop off / pick-up at Park A. By bike you can short-cut along Luxulyan Rd from St Austell, or Prideaux Rd from St Blazey, to avoid lumping up the moor only to turn back down again. There's also a YHA on site, see "sleep". Adults £27.50, students £22.50, children 5–16 £14, under 5s free, family (2 adults and 2 children) £71; 10% off if purchased online at least a day in advance; 15% off if you arrive by bus, cycle or on foot.
- 2 Wheal Martyn, Carthew PL26 8XG (on B3274, 2 miles N of St Austell), ☎ . Daily 10:00-17:00. China clay mining museum, with various exhibits of the extraction process. Adult £9.75, ages 5-16 £5.50, under 5 free; family 2+2 £28, 2+4 £34.
- 1 Kidzworld, Par Moor Rd PL25 3RP (2 miles east of town off A390). Tu-Su 10:00-19:00; individual rides / attractions have own hours. Mostly aimed at younger children. With adjacent retail park. Children £12.50, adults £6, cheaper online.
- Cornish Market World (Stadium Retail Park, Par Market), Stadium Retail Park, Par Moor Rd PL25 3RP (Next to Kidzworld), ☎ . W, Sa & Su 09:00-17:00. Browse and shop at Cornish Market World, while the children play at Kidzworld. Charlie's offers fun for young adults and the Kids' Academy is an Ofsted-approved nursery, pre-school and holiday club.
Eating places are mostly central, around the bus station, with Chinese, Indian and fish & chips. There's a few more down Charlestown Rd by the harbour.
Lots of hotels and guest-houses in St Austell, mostly along A390 on the south side of town, with another cluster near the railway station, and a strip down Charlestown Rd by the harbour.
- 1 Penhale Caravan & Camping Park, Penhale Farm, Fowey PL23 1JU (3 miles east of St Austell on B3082 to Fowey), ☎ . Campsite, static caravans and tourer stands overlooking the sea.
- 2 YHA Eden Project, Bodelva PL29 2SG (Access & transport as for Eden Project), ☎ . Check-in: 17:00-22:00, check-out: until 10:00. Has en suite bedrooms made from recycled shipping containers and kitted out with bathrooms, bedding and TVs (towels can be rented for £2). There's a campsite a short walk away where you can pitch your own tent or hire a bell tent in the summer months. Reception tent has self-catering kitchen, WiFi. Continental breakfast £5; pizza £7.50, or nachos available in the evening. Single £30, double £40, triple or quad £50 (£3 discount for YHA members).
- Explore the nearby coast at Charlestown, Mevagissey, Par and Fowey.
- St Columb Major is a small town in the hills, and Bodmin has an interesting castle.
- Plymouth is an unlovely place, but your nearest option for city amenities.
- Escape to the Isles of Scilly, which can be seen on a day-trip from Penzance.