No holiday to Cornwall would be complete without numerous trips to the beach – after all, there is so much stunning coastline to discover.
What do you like to do by the sea? Are you a surfer or a stroller? Do you want to entertain your children or your dog (or both)? How about some rock pools to investigate?
Whichever seaside activities you enjoy partaking in, Cornwall has a selection of beaches to suit you. How could over 296 miles of beach (including over 150 miles of Heritage Coast) possibly not cater for all?
We’d need to write a book to cover all 400 plus Cornish beach and their attractions, but here are some condensed highlights of the stunning seafront.
Best Cornish beaches for surfers
A detailed guide to surfing in Cornwall is coming very soon, so we won’t go into too much detail in this article, but surfing is a major draw for visitors to the region and deserves another mention.
If you’re planning to take to the waves during your break, here’s where you should be headed. The difficulty rating of each beach is intended as a guide only – be sure to do your own research before diving in (so to speak…).
- Constantine (Advanced)
- Crantock (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Crooklets (Advanced)
- Fistral (Intermediate/Advanced)
- Gwithian (Intermediate)
- Harlyn (Intermediate/Advanced)
- Kynance Cove (Intermediate)
- Lusty Glaze (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Marazion (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Mawgan Porth (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Perranporth (All Levels)
- Polzeath (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Porthleven (Advanced)
- Porthmeor (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Porthtowan (Intermediate/Advanced)
- Praa Sands (Beginner)
- Sennen (Advanced)
- Watergate Bay (All Levels)
- Whitsand (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Widemouth (Intermediate)
Best dog-friendly Cornish beaches
As all dog-lovers know, our four-legged friends are as much a part of the family as their human counterparts. With that in mind, there’s no way we’re going to holiday somewhere our pooches aren’t welcome, particularly when caravanning.
If you also prefer to keep your dog included in the holiday plans, these Cornish beaches are for you.
- Boat Cove
- Constantine Bay
- Cot Valley
- Crantock Beach
- Daymer Bay Beach
- Dollar Cove
- Gillan Harbour
- Gwenver Beach
- Harlyn Bay Beach
- Holywell Bay Beach
- Little Fistral
- Mawgan Porth
- Mexico Towans Beach
- Northcott Mouth
- Penhale Sands
- Perransands Beach
- Polly Joke Beach
- Port Quin
- Porth Kidney Beach
- Porthcothan Bay
- Portheras Cove
- Prussia Cove
- Rock Beach
- Roskilly Beach
- Sandy Acres Beach
- Sandymouth Beach
- Southern section of Widemouth Bay
- Steps Beach
- Trebarwith Strand
- Treyarnon Bay
- Whitsand Bay
For those who prefer an interactive guide, The Cornish Coast have a very handy map featuring details of how welcome dogs are on each beach, which ones they are totally banned from, and what restrictions are applicable where.
Most photogenic Cornish beaches
Some of us like to keep Instagram, Facebook and Twitter up to date with everything we do, whether on holiday or otherwise, while others are more professional about their photography. Phone snaps, professionally set photos, or something in between, Cornwall has plenty of photo opportunities. In fact, your most difficult decision may be which stunning location to make your next subject (and which of your hundreds of photos to share on social media…).
Truth be told, this particular section could go on forever (or at least until we had listed every single one of Cornwall’s beaches). The region as a whole is incredibly picturesque, so you won’t struggle for photographic content wherever you decide to go.
Why not combine your trip to the beach with one to see some of Cornwall’s other sights? A guide to some of the more unusual ways to spend your time will be joining our collection very soon – keep an eye out for it!
Where to go rock-pooling in Cornwall
There’s something about a rock pool that seems very summer holiday-ish. Rock-pooling was a favourite holiday pastime of ours as children, and it’s sure to be something your children enjoy while basking in the Cornish sunshine. It doesn’t even matter if the rock pools aren’t particularly big, or if there’s no fish to be caught – simply exploring and paddling can be a very enjoyable afternoon’s adventure.
If you do want to go down the fishing route, there are several species you’re likely to find while in Cornwall.
Common Prawns – more squeamish rock-poolers may not be too keen on being able to see their internal organs through their translucent skin
Long Thin Pipefish. Did you know the males carry their young in a pouch?
Snake-locks Anemone – bright green with purple tips and proud owner of tentacles which can stun fish
Tombot Blennies, with their red eyes and tentacles
Velvet Swimming Crab, identifiable by bright red eyes, blue bands on their legs and dark hairs. Be warned – they can be vicious!
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here’s where you need to go to find them, along with some other rock pool dwellers.
All you need for a successful day rock pooling is a bucket, willingness to look under seaweed and rocks for the critters lurking below and a little bit of patience.
Best family beaches in Cornwall
While a day at the beach is excellent in itself, sometimes family days out mean a little more is needed. Cafes tend to be must, in our experience! Make sure your trip to the coast is as stress-free as possible by picking a truly family-friendly location.
Of course, the following list isn’t exhaustive, but you won’t go far wrong by choosing a beach that’s made our highlights.
Where to go swimming in Cornwall
Planning on taking a dip in the sea? It may seem like a fairly innocuous holiday pastime, but bear in mind that not all Cornish beaches allow swimming. This may be down to water sports, or it may be due to the water being unsafe.
While a particular spot may be incredibly picturesque, don’t put yourself in danger for the sake of a swim. Instead, stick with the beaches which have been declared suitable for swimming.
As with all of the categories, we’d love to hear from you if we’ve missed one of your personal favourites from the list – leave us a comment and share the joy!
- Kynance Cove – This particular area of Cornish coast line has made our lists for most of our sea-related categories, meaning you could kill a few birds with one stone. Snorkelling, diving and cave-exploring are some of the delights in store for visitors.
- Lansallos Coves – See if you can find the hidden quay a short distance along the coast line. Lansallos provides the setting for some smuggler-based legends.
- Nanzijel Beach – Secluded and never busy, Nanzijel is perfectly suited to peaceful swimming
- Pedn Vounder – Crystal clear water makes this a gorgeous spot for a swim, but you should be aware that it is generally accepted that this beach is clothing-optional. Watch out for the tide cutting off certain access routes
- Port Gaverne – A canyon for experienced swimmers to explore, a small beach for those less confident and some outstanding diving spots for the dare devils amongst us.
- Stanbury Mouth – Remote, low-tide sandy beach, perfect for swimming, relaxing and exploring the freshwater pools.
Even if you choose a beach which is known for its swimming suitability, don’t forget to pay attention to the lifeguards’ flags.
- Never swim where a red flag is displayed
- A red and yellow flag indicates a safe area, which is currently patrolled by lifeguards
- Black and white chequered flags fly at designated surfing zones
- Orange windsocks are a sign that there are significant offshore winds at a particular location. It’s generally best to avoid using inflatables in the sea where a windsock is present.
4 steps to beach safety
- Always check out the beach when you first arrive, to ensure no potential hazards are evident
- Take care while in the water, and be prepared to leave the sea should it become risky
- Beware of any nearby rocks, structures, piers and breakwaters. Before diving, you must be absolutely certain that no objects are lurking beneath the water’s surface
- Beware of dangerous currents
Hidden Cornish beaches for you to discover
Sometimes, the best fun lies off the beaten track. After all, why settle for the popular beaches with their heaving summer crowds? Get your explorer head on, open your mind and set off in search of your very own hidden gem.
This final section of our guide to Cornwall’s beaches contains a brief guide to some of the more secluded beaches and coves dotted around the region.
In the spirit of encouraging exploration, we’re not giving too much away…