Outdoors, Travel

Exploring Cornwall’s Coastline: 8 Beautiful Beaches to Visit

Bedruthan Steps Beach Cornwall

Cornwall has got a bit of a bad reputation for being a tourist hotspot in the UK. And there’s no denying that it is one. But with its pristine sandy beaches, rugged clifftops and wild moorlands, it’s easy to see why it lures so many people in each year. Myself included.

Every year for as long as I can remember, my family and I have packed our bags and loaded the car as much as physically possible with windbreaks, picnic blankets and an array of other summer-related items in the hope that the sun will show its face for our annual holiday to Cornwall.

With a coastline that stretches for almost 300 miles, Cornwall is the ideal UK seaside getaway destination in the UK, and it’s the one place we return to without fail each year.

When I was younger, a beach was simply a beach with the only real interest in how suitable it was for building a sandcastle but as I’ve grown up, I’ve come to love Cornwall for its beauty more and more with each yearly visit. No longer is it just a place that is home to sandy beaches, it’s somewhere so much more than that; while its North Coast is punctuated by towering cliffs and seas made famous by its surfing, the South Coast is home to picture-perfect harbour towns.

And so, the past few years have been spent exploring more of Cornwall’s stunning coastline. Whether you want to test your balance with an afternoon of surfing, you’d like to give crabbing a go or you just want a picturesque beach or coastline to explore, there really is a beach for everyone and plenty of things to do while you’re in Cornwall.

Trevaunance Cove in Cornwall

Trevaunance Cove

A thing of jaw-dropping beauty, Trevaunance Cove is a quaint little place but it is the main beach in St Agnes. It has an old harbour, a few cafes lining the seafront and a number of caves to explore, however it is very much still a working beach and you'll often see fishermen working from the cove.

That said, it is a lovely and quiet place to pass a morning or afternoon. Lined by steep cliffs, the beach is a mix of sand and shingle and although its rockpools make it popular for families, its sea makes it popular with local surfers. Which in turn makes it a great place to kick back and relax while you watch the pros show everyone on the beach how it is done.

Situated on the coastal path, Trevaunance Cove is also great when viewed from high atop the cliffs and you could easily pass a few hours wandering along the pathway.

Towan Beach in Newquay Cornwall

Towan Beach

The most central of Newquay's beaches, it lies at the bottom of a steep hill through the town centre. Sheltered by Towan Head, the beach often has small waves and its calm waters make for a great place for a spot of swimming or to learn to surf.

The beach's most iconic feature is, without a doubt, the island. Otherwise known properly as Jago's Island. Cut off from the rest of the beach when the tide is in, it is connected to the clifftop by a suspension bridge that dates back to 1902.

Back down on the beach, there are caves to explore, a tunnel by the harbour wall and a natural paddling pool at the foot of the Island.

Holywell Bay Beach in Cornwall
Stepping Pools in Holywell Cave Cornwall
Girl at Holywell Bay Beach in Cornwall

Holywell Bay

Holywell Bay was a new find for us this year, but it's a true gem and will definitely be one that we return to for many years to come.

Leave Newquay behind and drive to the West for around six miles, there you’ll find Holywell bay. Made famous for its features in Poldark, Holywell is also a popular destination for surfers, those seeking out the holy wells and among dog walkers.  

Easily recognised not only by the great dunes that make up its backdrop, some of which reach a hefty 60 feet high but also by its gull rocks that sit just off the shoreline to the left of the beach. Also known as Carter’s Rocks, the large slate rocks are around 500 metres off the beach of Holywell and, protruding out of the sea in the way that they do, they give the bay its distinctive appearance.

At low tide, you can walk along the beach to the right to find Holywell Cave. Located under the southern cliffs of Kelsey Head, you’ll have to look out carefully for them as they appear as little more than a slit in the cliffs. After a quick clamber over some of the rocks at the entrance to the cave, you’ll find the stunning stepped pools to your left. Tinted with reds, blues and purples, the pools are well worth seeking out but you’ll need to be careful of the tide as it would be easy to get caught out.

If you’re in the area in the evening, take yourself for a walk into the dunes or up onto the clifftop to watch the sunset across the sea. A sunset to rival those abroad, the oranges, reds and yellows light up the sea below it and shine through Carter’s Rocks, making it a spectacular sight.

As you’re walking along the beach, keep an eye out to sea for the shipwreck. A local mystery, it remains unknown how the SS Francia ended up so close to the shoreline when it is believed to have sunk four miles out to sea in 1917. At low tide, the mast of the sunken ship can just be seen above the waves and definitely adds to the unique feel that Holywell has to it.

Kynance Cove in Cornwall

Kynance Cove

One of the most photographed and painted locations in Cornwall, Kynance Cove is a must if you’re visiting Cornwall. Located on the west side of the Lizard Peninsula, the cove’s white sandy beach and turquoise waters are enough to rival even the most picturesque coastlines of far flung destinations.

A National Trust site, there is a steep walk down from the car park to the beach but it’s well worth the hike. If the tide is out, you'll find passageways, caves and rock pools to explore down on the beach.

Ideal for a spot of swimming, kayaking or paddleboarding, there are also numerous walks that can be enjoyed atop the cliffs, offering various breath-taking panoramic views of its glorious waters and coves.

Then, once you're feeling peckish, there is a café on the beach selling Cornish pasties, fresh sandwiches, homemade cakes and cream teas, which can be enjoyed whilst overlooking the calm seas.

Perranporth Beach Chapel Rock
Perranporth Beach in Cornwall UK

Perranporth

Perhaps one of Cornwall’s most famous beaches, Perranporth is raved about by many. And rightly so. Great for surfing, snorkelling, sailing, and bodyboarding, as well as simply relaxing, seeking out the many rock pools and for enjoying long walks along its golden sand, it’s one of those beaches that really does offer something for everyone.

With Chapel Rock protruding out from sea and St Piran's flag flying from the top of it, Perranporth is as easily recognisable as Holywell Bay Beach for its unique coastline. As the tide begins to go out you’ll find various caves and rockpools become accessible throughout the day but perhaps the most popular of the all of is Chapel Rock's natural swimming pool - filled at high tide and warmed by the sun, it's a popular location on the beach for families.

A number of cafes, bars and shops are located in the village just off the beach, and there are also toilets that are easily accessible from the top of the beach. Not to mention the infamous Watering Hole, a bar located on the beach itself, which hosts various events throughout the year and is ideal if you’re looking to grab yourself a quick drink or bite to eat with a view out across the sand.

Padstow Harbour in Cornwall

Padstow

If sand isn’t really you’re thing, head along the North Coast to Padstow. Located around five miles northwest of Wadebridge and just ten miles northeast of Newquay, Padstow was once a bustling fishing port in the Elizabethan era. Nowadays, it has retained part of its fishing history and the fishermen still supply the many fish restaurants that line the seafront.

Set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Padstow, like many of Cornwall’s coastal towns, is surrounded by glorious sandy beaches but you can easily spend an afternoon wandering along the colourful harbour or fishing for crabs from the inner harbour. A pastime that I’ve brought along from my childhood, it’s a cheap and relaxing way to pass an afternoon and many of the shops alongside the harbour sell bait and crabbing lines. Just make sure that you return the crabs safely back to the sea once you're ready to head home!

Known as a foodie destination, it would be rude not to round off your day with a meal in one of the five Rick Stein restaurants, or at the very least one of the many other incredible eateries that the town is home to.

Watergate Bay in Cornwall UK

Watergate Bay

Located three miles from Newquay, you’ll find Cornwall’s famous surfing beach – Watergate Bay. A large expanse of sandy, unbroken beaches and high cliffs, Watergate Bay is spectacular just to look at but if you’re looking for an active holiday, it’s definitely the place to go.

Home to the Extreme Academy, which offer lessons and hire in surfing, kite surfing, bodyboarding and paddleboarding, you’ll be stuck for choice on what to start with!

There are a number of cafes and restaurant lining the beach, including Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, for when you get a bit hungry towards the end of the day.

Watergate Bay also hosts a series of sporting events and festivals throughout the year so there’s plenty to keep you occupied both on and off the sand.

Visiting Bedruthan Steps Cornwall

Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps are located a few miles east of the famous Boardmasters beach, Watergate Bay. And, as with Kynance Cove, getting to the beach at Bedruthan Steps requires a certain level of fitness, a careful footstep and a bit of planning.
Look out to sea and you'll spot the very rocks that gave it its name, for legend has it that they were once used as stepping stones by a giant to get from one cove to the next.
Access to the golden sandy beach below is via a step of narrow steps cut into the cliff but in all honesty the draw here is really the view from the clifftop.
Spend your time wandering along the meandering pathways which will take you past a whole collection of picture-perfect coves and will have you feeling as though you've stepped into a story in which shipwrecks, smugglers and pirates are aplenty.

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8 beautiful beaches to explore in Cornwall UK
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