Between the sand, sea air and salty surf, north Cornwall is an awesome natural playground for big and little kids. The sprawling sands at the Watergate Bay Hotel are long enough to host polo tournaments and music festivals – so you and your little ones might simply commandeer a new section of sand every day of your stay without tiring of the scene. Older kids can hire bikes or ride horses nearby, and the North Cornwall Route lays hours of coastal path-walking and picnics at your feet.
On your doorstep is Jamie’s Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall (+ 44 (0)1637 861000), which benefits from the same open-front, al fresco set-up as Watergate Bay's Beach Hut in summer and enjoys corking views. It’s all about executive chef Andy Appleton’s top-tier Italian cooking here (seven-course tasting menus, including the likes of St Austell mussels and clams with spicy ‘nduja cream, pappardelle with venison meatballs and gremolata), although the restaurant’s social enterprise deserves equal mention (working with a core team of local farmers and producers and turning unemployed youngsters into trained chefs). Fifteen Cornwall works just as well for brunch, family lunches, and cocktails with antipasti as it does for a with-bells-on romantic dinner – just decide whether you want to go down the babysitting or the baby-listening route (it’s not recommended in the evening for under-7s). It's down a steepish set of stairs and doesn’t permit buggies. Book ahead.
Ten minutes by car is the peaceful village of St Mawgan – and at its heart, at the bottom of the hill, is The Falcon Inn (+44 (0)1637 860225). This pretty, wisteria-covered pub has been pulling pints since the 16th century; visit for roast leg of lamb on a Sunday or just for a glass of wine and a Cornish pasty in the beer garden. There are highchairs, change mats and a kids’ menu - plus plenty of room to run around outside while Mr & Mrs Smith catch some rays.
Gaze down on the world’s largest indoor rainforest from a treetop platform at the Eden Project in St Austell (+44 (0)1726 811911), 30 minutes' drive away, then explore jungle and waterfalls, as well as contemporary architecture, immaculate garden displays and world-class sculpture. The young (or young at heart) can follow endless shortcuts and stepping-stone trails through the trees or come face-to-face with a Giant Bee under a gigantic golf ball-esque biome. There are highchairs in all eateries, microwaves for heating food, unisex baby-change facilities, and it’s buggy-friendly throughout. Break for some cake between biomes at the Eden Bakery, where an army of bakers in an open kitchen works all day to turn flour and yeast into artisan pain au chocolat or pizza (depending on the time of day).
Let off steam and settle a few scores with Mr Smith over a morning’s racing at St Eval Go-kart circuit between Newquay and Padstow. This all-ages, all-weather outdoor track (bring a change of clothes if it looks like rain) is the south-west’s largest. Attention Mrs Smiths: no flip-flops or sandals and hair must be tied back if you’re racing on the main track. Choose from a Thunderkart (age 16+), junior (12–15), cadet (7–11) or infants (3–6, who have their own mini Le Mans). There are lockers, cubicles and baby-change facilities.
If you fancy a day-trip, head to St Ives for pottering among studio-lined lanes and admiring art. Your reward for the 50-minute drive is a proper burger at the harbour-front Hub, 4 the Wharf (+44 (0)1736 799099). This laid-back diner concentrates on the basics – beer, burgers, hot dogs – then makes them the best they can be. That means aged Cornish rare-breed beef in your burger and oak-smoked free-range pork in your dog, both wrapped in an artisan baker’s bun. There are bambinoccinos, mini burgers or mac 'n' cheese for your Mini-Mes. And now the culture: Tate St Ives (+44 (0)1736 796226) hosts some 70,000 artworks, but for a coast-themed treasure hunt, play first-to-find Dalí’s Lobster Telephone. The gallery café flies the flag for premium local produce via its mackerel on toast and mezze plate offerings. Baby-changing, kids’ menus and highchairs are all in residence.