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Cornwall’s best beaches

  • Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 28 April, 2024

From wide arcs of golden sand and curling surf to secret coves uncovered at low tide, Cornwall’s beaches are heaven-sent for surfing, rock pooling, and building sandcastles. The water is never warm but it’s clear and clean, and the sand can be golden or even white.

The downsides in summer are the crowds and the traffic, but with 476km of coastline, and hundreds of beaches to choose from, you can always escape.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Fistral Beach

  • Newquay, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Aerial Photograph of Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall, England

Experience

The most famous surf spot in Cornwall, this long sandy beach with reliable waves on the western edge of Newquay is home to the British Surfing Association and Fistral Surf School, and regularly hosts international competitions.

Good for age: 4+

Gyllyngvase Beach

  • Falmouth, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Overlooking the golden sand at Gyllyngvase Beach Falmouth Cornwall UK Europe

Experience

This wide, spacious, Blue Flag beach – walking distance from Falmouth – has gently sloping white sands that give way to some of Cornwall’s best rock pools at low tide, with great facilities and lifeguards in summer.

Good for age: 4+

Harlyn Bay

  • Padstow, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Harlyn Bay North Cornwall England UK near Padstow and Newquay and on the South West Coast Path in spring with blue sky and sea one of the most beautiful Cornish bays and beaches

Experience

Three miles west of Padstow, this lovely, long, dune-backed sweep of golden sand is one of Cornwall’s best family beaches and a good spot for novice surfers. It’s picturesque, safe, has lifeguards in summer and plenty of parking and facilities.

Good for age: 4+

Lusty Glaze Beach

  • Newquay, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Stunning blue sky above Lusty Glaze Beach Newquay Cornwall England UK Europe

Experience

This privately owned beach is all about entertainment. During summer evenings it plays host to music and social events while during the day you’ll find surf lessons, coasteering, jet skiing, abseiling, a 750ft-long zip wire and kids’ activities.

Good for age: 4+

Website >

Porthcurno Beach

  • Porthcurno, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Porthcurno Beach

Experience

Located just around the corner from Land’s End – but far enough from the tourist mayhem – this deep cove of white sand, tucked in among tall granite cliffs, is considered by many to be Cornwall’s most scenic beach.

Good for age: 4+

Porthmeor & Porthminster Beaches

  • St Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Porthmeor & Porthminster Beaches

Experience

St Ives’ web of narrow streets is framed by these two postcard-perfect Blue Flag beaches. Porthminster, nestling under the cliffs, is broad and great for families. Porthmeor is deeper, with great rockpooling for kids and surfer-friendly waves.

Good for age: 4+

Sennen Cove

  • Penzance, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

Aerial view of the beach at Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Experience

This glorious mile of golden sand arches around from the lovely fishing village of Sennen Cove, only a mile’s walk – but a world away – from touristy Land’s End. Board hire and surf lessons are available.

Good for age: 4+

Watergate Bay

  • Newquay, Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK)

On the coast path overlooking the golden sandy beach at Watergate Bay near Newquay Cornwall England UK Europe

Experience

This wide, two-mile arc of surf-sprayed sand is possibly the most fashionable, cosmopolitan beach in Cornwall, home to the Watergate Bay Hotel, Extreme Academy watersports school, and O’Neill Surf Academy. It’s a good all-rounder activity beach for all the family.

Good for age: 4+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 0+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The Visit Cornwall website has a listing of more than a hundred beaches, and helpful filters for special needs like dogs, disabled access and facilities.

In high season, be prepared to park some way from your chosen beach and walk down – the alternative is spending half an hour or more in an overheated traffic queue, only to find all the car park spaces are taken anyway.

Some beaches allow dogs year-round, but most ban them from May-September. Also see the Cornwall Beach Guide website for advice and practical information on the different beaches.

The RNLI provide a lifeguard service at the most popular beaches during the busiest months, however to be sure, take a look at their website before you go if that’s important to you. Some Cornwall beaches have huge tidal flats; be careful walking at low tide not to get cut off or be too far out when the tide comes in. There have been tragic accidents in the past.

Some beaches have surfing lessons, others rock pooling. Take a wetsuit – the water is cold, even in summer.

When to do it

Beaches are accessible all year round, though lifeguards on the more popular beaches are only present May to September.

You’re more likely to be able to sunbathe in summer, but you’ll have more space to breathe in the spring or autumn. Out of season the magnificence of the scenery – dunes, cliffs, picturesque fishing harbours – inspires, but some facilities, including beach restaurants, are closed in mid-winter.