Close your eyes. Imagine yourself on your dream beach. Whatever you like to do, your own best beach is waiting for you in Cornwall.
A secluded cove for a weekend getaway? Miles of golden sand where the children can build castles, explore rock pools and paddle safely? Are you surfing waves crashing onto the seashore, or enjoying the ocean view as you walk a coastal path?
Cornwall boasts 400 miles of rugged seashore, with 158 miles designated as Heritage Coast and more than 300 beaches.
With 4 million visitors each year, and better transport links than ever, Cornwall is the number one holiday destination in the UK.
Driving past the sign on the A30 which reads Kernow A´gas Dynergh, it feels as if you’re in a different country, an experience shared by many visitors to Cornwall.
The road across the peninsula from Exeter to Penzance is like riding on the back of a sleeping silver, green dragon.
Cornwall is enchanting and you´re never far from a magical beach.
Wild, mysterious steeped in history and legend, many of the coves had networks of tunnels which were used by smugglers to bring in brandy, tobacco, and tea. Many remain unspoilt and are used daily by local fishermen landing their catch.
Visitors who come in search of tranquillity and to explore will not leave disappointed. Here are some of our own best beaches in Cornwall:
1. Readymoney Cove
Readymoney Cove lies below medieval Fowey on one side and is overlooked by the ruins of St Catherine’s Castle. Behind a pretty, secluded sandy beach with crystal green waters, there’s an old coach house which belonged to Daphne du Maurier, one of the greatest romantic novelists, author of Jamaica Inn.
2. Cadgwith Cove
Cadgwith Cove, further along the Lizard Peninsula you´ll come to a charming traditional Cornish fishing village where time seems to have stood still.
This sheltered cove lies at the end of a steep valley with whitewashed fishermen’s cottages huddled on the hillsides. It’s so pretty, and well worth a visit.
There are two small shingle beaches. The Fishing Beach is used by local fishermen, boats bringing shellfish and wet fish to shore. Walk down the steps to Swimming Beach for snorkelling and swimming. Deep sea diving is also popular here with some fascinating wrecks to explore off the coast.
3. Kynance Cove
Kynance Cove on the opposite side of the Lizard draws artists and painters to its beautiful white sandy beach, turquoise sea and rock stacks.
An incredibly romantic cove, you can imagine the whispering voices of the smugglers in times gone by. At low tide, you can look for mermaids and dragons in the caves, known curiously as the Parlour and the Drawing room and there’s an idyllic path from Kynance to Lizard Point making it a must for walkers.
Gwenver beach along the coastal path, lies at the tip of the peninsula near Land’s End in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.
There are breath-taking views from the cliffs and on a clear day you can see the Scilly Isles.
Gwenver is thought to be named after Guinevere, wife of the legendary Cornish King Arthur.
Located at the base of steep granite cliffs, the sandy beach is accessed by a hair-raising path. The atmosphere is incredibly peaceful.
Gwenver also provides some of the best surfing conditions in Cornwall.
Surfing and Water Sports
Famous for its world-class surfing beaches, surfing is a way of life in Cornwall, attracting visitors from all over the world.
You really can’t go down the street in Newquay without seeing a walking wetsuit with a board under his or her arm – and you haven’t had the full Cornish experience until you’ve ridden the waves, or at least tried to.
It’s exciting to watch too. There are many surf schools to choose from. In theory you can surf from any beach in Cornwall, but here are some of the best.
5. Fistral Beach
Fistral beach, Newquay is the best-known surfing beach in the UK. Home to the British Surfing Association, all the major surfing competitions take place here, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Steep sand dunes slope down to more than 2000 feet of glorious sandy beach.
Facing west onto the Atlantic, Fistral sees swells of up to 8 feet, guaranteeing an exhilarating experience for surfers, bodyboarders, and spectators who don’t like getting wet.
Perranporth, six miles down the coastal path from Newquay, this huge, sandy beach is rated among the best in the world.
The sand dunes, mighty waves and the sheer size of the beach make you feel as if you have it all to yourself.
The Atlantic sea breeze is exhilarating, perhaps a little boisterous in winter though. Quieter than Fistral, the best waves can be found towards the Penhale end and surfers describe Perranporth as one of the best surfing beaches on the Cornish coast.
Porthtowan’s beautiful, blue flag award winning beach has so much to delight visitors. You might glimpse dolphins, seals, or basking sharks.
You could go paragliding, snorkelling, or diving. You can surf, bodyboard or paddle.
Its exposure to the Atlantic Ocean makes Porthtowan a fabulous surfing beach, producing powerful hollow waves, though perhaps not for a beginner.
8. Sennen Beach
Sennen Beach is 1.5 miles from Land’s End, next stop New York!
The beautiful, crescent shaped beach at Sennen Cove is known as Whitesands Bay, and there’s over a mile of fine sand, facing the full force of the mighty Atlantic Ocean, making it a popular destination for surfers and dreamers who come to gaze in wonder at the spectacular views.
The beach is lifeguard protected, family friendly with rock pools to explore and a lifeboat station to visit.
Unforgettable Family Beaches
Speaking of family friendly;
9. Praa Sands
Praa Sands is a popular family holiday destination, situated half-way between Penzance and Helston.
The mile-long expanse of beach is sheltered by sand dunes and is perfect for beach games, collecting seashells, and splashing in the sea. There’s a history of smuggling too, so you might dig up some treasure.
10. Porthpean Beach
Porthpean Beach, further north along the coast you’ll come to possibly one of St Austell’s best beaches.
Steep cliffs shelter the small sandy beach, and the water is clear Mediterranean blue.
Porthpean is extremely popular with families, considered safe for swimming with a café and a shop on the beach.
The calm, clear water makes the beach ideal for activities such as snorkelling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and windsurfing. And perfect for relaxing.
A slipway to the sea gives Porthpean Sailing Club easy access, but no jet skiing please.
11. East Looe Beach
East Looe Beach. Continuing our journey north along the Cornish Riviera, East Looe Beach is made for childhood memories of a happy summer holiday.
At low tide there is a sloping expanse of pristine sand leading down to the sea, which is generally considered safe for swimming.
The beach lies directly in front of the pretty resort town, protected by the famous Banjo Pier where you can watch the waves crash against the harbour wall as the fishing boats come and go.
Why is it called Banjo Pier? Because it´s shaped like one!
12. Pentewan Sands
Pentewan Sands is a heavenly stretch of almost white sandy beach, located between St Austell and the picturesque fishing village of Mevagissey.
The beach is privately owned, looked after with lots of facilities, and best of all, open to the public.
A sheltered, family beach, St Pentewan is ideal for swimming and water sports. Dinghies and canoes can be hired from the Holiday Park, which also allows public access to its facilities.
Myths and legends
Tintagel, steeped in Arthurian legend, is an enchanting must for romantics.
Walk very carefully down the steps from Tintagel Castle to the tiny beach at mystical Tintagel Haven, also known as Merlin’s Cove.
North of the beach, there is a waterfall tumbling down into the valley and to the south lies Merlin’s Cave which comprises a 300ft tunnel under Tintagel Island and the castle.
This is an explorer’s beach which disappears at high tide and the atmosphere is incredible.
14. Lamorna Cove
Lamorna Cove is where a beautiful mermaid sits on a rock combing her hair, singing whilst she lures local fishermen to a watery grave. To see her foretells a storm, but if you hear her sing, there will be a shipwreck in exactly seven days time.
But don’t let her stop you from visiting this quiet, pretty, rocky beach. Lamorna Cove is 9 miles from Land’s End and is a popular film location.
15. Mother Ivey’s Bay
Mother Ivey’s Bay is named after the legendary Mother Ivy, a white witch who cursed a local family of pilchard farmers who had refused food to a starving family, throwing their surplus fish back into the sea. Mother Ivey was so angry that she cursed the farm bringing great misfortune.
The sheltered, soft, sandy beach lies behind Trevose Head in a stunning location. The beach is ideal for picnics and games in the sand, or romantic winter walks.
You can feel Mother Ivey’s magic in the air, and she’s watching, so don’t throw your leftovers into the sea.
Open your eyes. Which is your best beach? Come to Cornwall. Soon.