The Ultimate Guide to Beaches & Surfing in Cornwall

When you picture Cornwall, one of the first things that comes to mind is likely its unbeatable beaches. With pristine sands, azure waters and waves like nowhere else in the UK, many of the area’s beaches have a distinctly magical quality. No Cornwall holiday would be complete without experiencing some of the top spots along the coast for yourself.

Our ultimate beach guide breaks down the best places that make all your surfing, sunbathing and sandcastle-building adventures possible.

How Many Beaches are in Cornwall?

Cornwall’s coastline is around 1086 km long, making it the county with the longest coastline in the UK. This means it boasts a diverse range of views, beaches and geological features that rival everywhere else in the country.

Along this majestic coast, you’ll find over 400 beaches. Whether you want your seaside holiday to be full of golden sands, balmy waves, secluded suntraps or imposing cliff views, Cornwall has it all.

Two surfers on a Cornwall beach

What’s So Special About Cornwall’s Beaches?

The weather is often milder in Cornwall compared to elsewhere in the UK thanks to its proximity to the Gulf Stream. This unique position also contributes to the county’s subtropical climate, causing an array of plants to thrive, making for a lush coast.

Being the UK’s most southerly point also has its charms, allowing for a bit more sunshine and warmth than is typical – just what you want for a day at the beach!

Cornwall holds its beaches to an incredibly high standard, so you’ll be able to enjoy clean, clear waters that have the seal of approval from national awards like the coveted Blue Flag and Seaside Awards.

Blue Flag beaches in Cornwall

The Best Surfing Beaches in Cornwall

So you want to hit the waves and see whether the surf in Cornwall lives up to expectations? Here are some of the most popular surf spots.

Fistral Beach, Newquay

Newquay is the surf capital of the South West. The sandy beach is exposed to the Atlantic which guarantees swell and waves pretty much all year round. The consistency of the waves and abundance of surf schools make it a great place to catch your first wave (or your 1000th!).

A surfing school group on a Cornish beach

Crantock Beach, Near Newquay

Just a little along the coast from Fistral, you’ll find Crantock Beach, a picture-perfect surfing spot owned by the National Trust. It’s a sheltered river break with ground swell and wind swell, making for some enjoyable surf. It’s usually best at low tide and can be a slightly less crowded option than Fistral.

Perranporth Beach, Perranporth

You’ll get good, consistent swell here most days, and the two miles of sandy beach means there’s plenty of room for everyone. The end towards Penhale tends to get some of the best waves.

A sufer on a Cornish beach at sunset

Praa Sands Beach, Near Helston

Heading to the south coast now, we have Praa Sands. The exposed beach break here is known for its punchy and hollow waves, making it one of the most popular surfing spots in the south. The end towards Hendra is also particularly popular with bodyboarders.

Sennen Cove, Near Land’s End

Being along the most westerly and southerly part of Cornwall, the beaches at Sennen pick up some great swell. Again, it’s amazingly consistent here and there are some fantastic waves at low, mid and high tide. The exposed, crescent-shaped beach has an unbeatable vibe, and you’ll definitely want to pay a visit.

Sennen Cove beach

These are just a few beaches that offer great surfing, there are so many more to explore. To discover even more, check out our guide to the best surfing beaches in Cornwall for beginners.

The Best Family Beaches in Cornwall

If you’re after a great day out with the kids, you can’t go wrong with one of our favourite family-friendly beaches, each with nearby local amenities and lifeguard coverage.

Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth

This quintessentially Cornish beach is just a 10-minute walk from the main town and has a nearby easily accessible car park. The seaside Gylly Beach Café is ideally located, keeping you refreshed as you and the kids wile away the day splashing in the gentle waves and playing in the golden-white sand.

A father and child in the water at a Falmouth beach

Towan Beach, Newquay

Newquay has a few lovely beaches and Towan, situated by the harbour, is the most sheltered of the bunch. The gentle waves make it a nice little spot for younger swimmers and paddlers. The beach’s most iconic feature is ‘the Island’, a stack with a house perched atop! The beach here is in close proximity to the promenade, providing easy access to a range of amenities and the town’s centre.

Chapel Porth Beach, St Agnes

Here you can take in the iconic views of rugged cliffs, turquoise waters and old mining ruins for a truly Cornish experience. The beach is owned by the National Trust, meaning there is an easily accessible car park, cafe and toilet facility. The cafe is renowned for its hedgehog ice creams, which are sure to go down a treat with the whole family!

Chapel Porth beach and old mine

Porthtowan Beach, Porthtowan

The large sandy beach here is ideal for a range of seaside activities and sports. It’s nestled between rugged cliffs, creating the perfect spot away from everyday life. There are plenty of rock pools to explore, along with a children’s play park at the top of the beach to provide even more fun. Porthtowan is another popular surfing beach, so if you and the family want to try catching a wave or two, it’s the ideal place to do so.

Carbis Bay Beach, St Ives

The sheltered bay just along from St Ives enjoys calm, gentle waters, so it’s perfect for swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking. Nearby beach shops, cafes, toilets and easily accessible parking mean you can set up here for the whole day with no hassle, soaking up the sun and scenic views. For the adventurers among you, you could also take the South West Coast path to discover local history and experience the coast from a new angle.

To learn more about these beaches and other fantastic finds in our guide.

The best beaches for families to visit

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Cornwall

Most of Cornwall’s beaches are dog-friendly at certain points in the year, but some may have restrictions during the busier seasons. Despite seasonal bans, there are still plenty of amazing beaches that welcome your four-legged friends year-round. Here are some of the best beaches that all dogs all year:

  • Trebarwith Strand, near Tintagel
  • Summerleaze Beach, Bude
  • Constantine Bay, near Padstow
  • Watergate Bay, near Newquay
  • Holywell Bay, Holywell
  • Gorran Haven, near Mevagissey
  • Carne Beach, Roseland Peninsula
  • Pendower Beach, Roseland Peninsula
  • Porthoustock Beach, Porthoustock
  • Gwynver Beach, near Sennen Cove
Dog on a beach

The Most Beautiful Beaches in Cornwall

With so many uniquely beautiful hotspots, narrowing down Cornwall’s beaches to the absolute best of the best is a pretty tricky job. We’ve already mentioned a great many of Cornwall’s treasured beach locations, and really you could pick any of them to enjoy an unforgettable day at the beach.

If you’re after somewhere a little off the beaten track and want to escape the larger crowds for your own little slice of paradise, check out our guide to Cornwall’s best hidden and secret beaches. Highlights include:

  • Lantic Bay, Fowey
  • Rinsey Cove, Breage
  • Portheras Cove, Pendeen
  • Pedn Vounder Beach, St Levan
  • Nanjizal Beach, St Just
The best secret and hidden beaches in Cornwall

Cornish Beaches Near The Valley

Our dog friendly cottages in Cornwall are ideally situated between Truro, Falmouth and Redruth, meaning when you stay with us you have easy access to both the north and south coast, with endless beaches to explore. You’ll be able to visit many of the beaches we’ve mentioned already with just a 30-minute drive.

To explore some of the closest beaches near us here at The Valley, see our guide below.

The best beaches near Truro