Cornwall's best beaches & bays for all interests

Samantha Priestley

Samantha Priestley

There are many reasons to visit Cornwall; pasties, culture, history and hiking among them. But the biggest pull for many who venture to the southwestern tip of England is the beaches.

White horses in Holywell Bay
White horses in Holywell Bay © Adam Gibbard - courtesy of Visit Cornwall

The beaches here are some of the best in the UK, so picking the best within Cornwall is a tough job. Secluded coves, long soft sandy swells, rocky cliffs and pebbly shorelines all make up the variety of beaches, which is one of the things that makes Cornwall so appealing.

So, whether you're travelling with your family, a surfboard or just want to swim, here are the best beaches in Cornwall for you.

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Best for families

Porthcurno Beach

This stunning sandy beach is often referred to as 'The Caribbean of Cornwall', and it's easy to see why. The water is clear turquoise blue and the beach looks like it's straight out of paradise. You'd be forgiven for thinking you weren't in the UK at all.

Caribbean-like Porthcurno Beach
Caribbean-like Porthcurno Beach © Puffin11k - Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the reasons it's so great for families, apart from the soft sand for playing on and the shallow waters for paddling in, is that there are lifeguards on duty all summer with designated safe swimming zones.

The high cliffs that surround the beach also act as a natural shelter from the strong summer sun and any wind while a stream higher up the beach from the tide creates a natural paddling pool for little ones.

Trevone Beach

Trevone is a scenic village with something for all ages, and the family-friendly theme continues at its heart, Trevone Beach. Here, there are lots of natural pools great for young children to do a spot of rock pooling.

It's a safe swimming beach and there's a tidal pool where you can take little ones for a dip. The beach is right in front of the village so all the facilities you need are on hand.

Best for swimming

Carbis Bay

One of the most photographed beaches in Cornwall, Carbis Bay is a stunning stretch of soft sand and clear blue waters. It's often a surprise, given its beauty, that it doesn't get more crowded, but there's a reason for that.

The wide-open expanse of Carbis Bay
The wide-open expanse of Carbis Bay - photo courtesy of Visit Cornwall

Families do like it here, but you won't see many surfers or water sports lovers on this beach because the water is so calm it's not the right conditions for most water activities. This makes it the perfect beach for swimming, as it's calm, clear and relatively quiet.

Trevaunance Cove

A present from nature to sea swimmers, Trevaunance Cove is the beach by St Agnes, a thriving village. It's a part sand part shingle beach so, although families do like it here, it doesn't attract them in the same numbers as the soft sand beaches elsewhere.

Lifeguards operate here from May to September, so you have the assurance of knowing you're safe out in the water. Dogs are also allowed on this beach, so you might have some company out in the sea.

Best for surfing

Fistral Beach

It might be an obvious one, but Newquay isn't known as the home of British surfing for nothing and Fistral Beach is the jewel in the surfing crowd's crown.

If you're a beginner, there's a surf school right on the beach and you'll see people of all ages taking lessons year-round.

Surf hotspot Fistral Beach
Surf hotspot Fistral Beach © Ian Woolcock -

If you're an experienced surfer this is absolutely the place for you. The highest wave ever recorded reached 30-foot and you'll see pros mastering the waves here all year round.

Widemouth Bay

As the name suggests, this beach at Bude is wide and reminiscent of an open mouth. It doesn't get as busy as Newquay, but it's still a popular spot for surfing and it has a surf school and gear hire.

It's an exposed beach, with a long sandy shoreline, its position open to the elements ensures it whips up a mean surf all year round.

Experienced surfers should head upland to Camel Rock Reef for excellent more advanced conditions, while beginners can take advantage of the sloping sand backs at Widemouth Bay.

Best for kayaking

Swanpool Beach

The Falmouth coast is especially calm and the water is often like a lake. Coupled with the stony, shingly beaches that make families go elsewhere, it's a great place for kayaking.

Swanpool Beach is the smaller of Falmouth's beaches, and though it's popular, it never gets as busy as nearby Gyllyngvase Beach.

There's a small hut where you can hire kayaks and where you'll get a demo if you need one. Once out on the water, prepare to paddle past some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. Little coves lean into the land and you can stop off on the quiet shingle inlets for a breather and to enjoy the views.

The Lizard Peninsula

If you're an experienced kayaker with your own kayak, The Lizard Peninsula, the most southerly part of Cornwall, has many great locations where you can launch from. If you're not so confident, you'll find guided kayaking tours and kayak hire here also.

Kayaking on the St Agnes Heritage Coast
Kayaking on the St Agnes Heritage Coast - photo courtesy of Visit Cornwall

If you're not an experienced kayaker it's better to stick with a guide in this part of Cornwall, as some areas between Mullion Cove and Kynance Cove can be tricky.

The waters are beautifully clear, but they can be choppy and difficult to navigate. Your hard work is rewarded in the form of hidden caves and small quiet bays where you can rest and take in the splendour.

Weather in Cornwall

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

The above guide shows the weather in Newquay. Find out more about conditions across the county in our complete guide to the weather in Cornwall.

Ready to discover Conrwall's beaches? Don't miss the latest offers from holiday parks that dot the Cornish coast.

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Samantha Priestley

Samantha Priestley

Samantha Priestley is a travel and lifestyle writer from Sheffield, South Yorkshire. A lover of historic buildings, quirky hotels, woodland walks and literary trails, Samantha writes for publications such as The Independent, Lonely Planet and Wanderlust. She's also an award-winning author having written numerous plays, short stories and novels.

Article updated on Wednesday 24th January 2024 in: Beach Summer UK

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