The old market town of St Austell is just a few miles from the coast and is one of Cornwall's biggest towns. It was for centuries an important mining town but it was a discovery in the mid 18th century that really put the town on the map.
William Cookworthy, a chemist from Devon, discovered massive deposits of kaolin (a form of decomposed granite), or china clay in the area. The mineral is used in not only the production of porcelain but a whole host of industries including paper, pharmecuticals and textiles. The extraction of china clay became the mainstay of local industry and accelerated the growth of the town from the eighteenth century onwards. One estimate puts the value of the industry at the time at around £15 billion in today's money.
The nearby Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum is an interesting insight into china clay production with interactive displays based in a 19th century clay works.
Another long running industry in the town is St Austell Brewery. Founded in 1851 by Walter Hicks it has grown to become easily the biggest brewery in Cornwall with a string of pubs. The brewery is open to the public for tours
If you are looking for a busy resort, try Carlyon Bay, although this is somewhat of a construction site at the time of writing due to 'The Beach' appartment development. Other popular nearby beaches include Duporth and Porthpean. If you prefer somewhere quieter and smaller, Polkerris is ideal for swimming.
Not far from this delightful cove are the two former homes of local author Daphne du Maurier. On Gribbin Head stands Menabilly, the Manderly of Rebecca, whilst closer to the Par-Fowey road is Kilmarth, the original House on the Strand. Neither of these properties is open to the public, although there are several coastal walks passing close by.