With over 300 to pick from, Cornwall’s beaches are world-renowned for a reason. The 250 miles of coastline not only present sandy stretches to rival more exotic locales, but also boasts some of the widest variety to be found in the UK and beyond.
Craggy cliff lines spilling into the wave lashed Atlantic, white sands backed by wild dunes, picturesque coves flanked by historic harbours and fishing ports, and gorgeously sheltered estuaries and riverbanks: we have it all.
And the biggest beauty of Cornwall’s beaches? You never have to travel far to find one as the county is literally surrounded by them.
In no particular order, here’s our top 20...
Located just 1.5km from Land’s End, Sennen is the most westerly beach along Cornwall’s northern stretch of coastline, presenting a crescent sweep of sand that joins the village’s harbour to its neighbour, Gwenver Beach. Both are prime surf spots and home to the Smart Surf School: a family-run business replete with local knowledge and experience. With plenty of access points and facilities, including Ben Tunnicliffe’s acclaimed restaurant that gazes out at the ocean, Sennen is ideal for couples or singletons searching for somewhere stunning to escape, or families keen for activity-based fun.
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The sheltered south-facing cove is simply jaw dropping. Imposing granite cliffs give way to soft powder sands that extend the aquamarine waters, on a low tide, along Green Bay and Pednevounder. Jutting into the Atlantic to the eastern end is the rugged headland of Logan’s Rock, while to the west stands the famous cliff-carved open-air attraction that is, the Minack Theatre. Walk the uber scenic cliff path, visit the Museum of Global Communications, PK Porthcurno, or just sink into the picture-postcard views of this unbelievably sublime locale.
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With the iconic tidal island and castle of St Michael’s Mount within causeway-walking distance (tide permitting), Marazion presents the perfect beachside stop-off. Backing onto the village and its smattering of cafes, pubs and shops, whether you wish to enjoy the flat safety of the beach and its bay (kite and windsurfing, supping and kayaking are popular pastimes here), or explore its exquisite surrounds, Marazion is a spoilsome choice.
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Hidden between the better-known beaches of Perranuthnoe and Praa Sands, the former smugglers’ haunt of Prussia Cove spells pure escapism with its winding path down toward the cliff before a rock scramble onto the shingle beach below. Here you’ll be greeted by a gorgeous sheltered spot that – though small in size – rewards visitors with plenty of eye candy, from the wildflower hedgerows and rocky outcrops to old fishermen’s huts and, of course, the glistening ocean that beautifully hugs the shoreline.
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Praa Sands is a southern gem: golden sands protected by the granite headlines of Hoe Point and Rinsey Head fringed by low-lying cliffs and dunes, all of which – and more – can be explored by walking the coast path. There are plenty of on-shore facilities including a cafe, beach shop, pub and toilets, while the mile-long flat expanse provides the perfect territory for a family day by the seaside.
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If your idea of a beach day involves natural beauty of the otherworldly kind, then Kynance is a top choice. Located west of the country’s most southerly point of The Lizard, Kynance’s craggy rock formations and crystalline waters is the stuff of dreams. Tuck into a Cornish cream tea with to-die-for views at the cliffside cafe, immerse yourself into the cerulean sea, and just sit with those staggering views.
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Gwithian sits at the eastern end of Hayle’s three-mile stretch of golden sands, giving visitors plenty of room and choice to stake their own prized piece of beach. A walk further east will reward you with the awe-inspiring seal colony of Mutton Cove and Hell’s Mouth as you glance seaward to Virginia Woolf’s famous muse, Godrevy Lighthouse. In short, whichever way you turn you’ll find somewhere to surf, walk, swim or lounge amongst some soul-stirring scenery.
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St Ives’ surf hub is a special treat. Dine within stone hurling distance of the shore at Porthmeor Beach Cafe, visit the renowned Tate St Ives across the road (or any of the array of galleries scattered nearby throughout the town), hire a board and hit the waves, or sprawl yourself on the sands and treat your senses to sweet abandon.
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Lying under the railway line in a sheltered spot overlooking St Ives Bay, Porthminster is an oh-so pretty place for all types of visitor. The flat and calm conditions are ideal for families, while those seeking something more adrenaline charged can enjoy the likes of sea kayaking, supping or coasteering. Sample the local seafood at Porthminster Beach Cafe or grab a bite for an alfresco feast from the beach’s takeaway, bar and ice cream parlour.
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Nestled between the bustle of St Ives and the village of Lelant, Carbis Bay can be found at the bottom of a hill protected from the prevailing winds while offering spectacular panoramas as far as the eye can see. Get out on the water with Ocean Sports Centre, who offer guided eco tours, activities like SUP safaris and foiling, and various equipment hire (kayaks, Hawaiian canoes, paddleboards, wetsuits, deck chairs, windbreaks) alongside lessons, group adventures and a Kids Beach Club.
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Dubbed Cornwall’s surf capital, Fistral’s Atlantic rollers have spawned some champion wave riders while welcoming visitors keen to sample a slice of the surfer’s life. A buzz of summer activity including festivals like Boardmasters, Fistral is home to a heady mix of cafes, bars, shops and fine dining restaurants, but sprawling enough for the whole family to find space to enjoy an unforgettable day at one of Cornwall’s most celebrated beaches.
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For a wilder experience, Fistral’s neighbour of Crantock presents a more laidback vibe, with green pastures and fields of wildflowers spilling down toward the sands and its lazily winding river, The Gannel. Gaze out toward the dramatic offshore rocks of The Goose, and if it becomes too busy during the high season, escape off-the-beaten-track to nearby Polly Joke for the promise of greater quiet and seclusion.
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The privately owned (but publically open) beach presents a picturesque cove that’s perfect for play and relaxation. Try your hand at a variety of activities from resident outdoor adventure specialists, Cornwall Waverunner Safaris, who offer everything from jet ski tours and power boat trips to banana boat rides and surf lessons; while landlubbers can try tight rope walking or abseiling. Dine at the restaurant for a side of those spectacular seascapes or just take a seat on the sand and enjoy a spot of people watching – and those incredible views.
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High-rising sand dunes spill onto the beach of this especially enchanting bay just west of Newquay, providing the recent TV adaptation of Poldark with some of its favourite filming locations. Explore the Holywell cave at low tide, dive into the ocean, or sprawl yourself on the golden sands or grassy dunes for a sunset picnic as it dips behind the dramatic Gull Rocks out to sea.
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The gem in this particular coastal crown has to be Bude Sea Pool, which is proudly nestled under the rocks in the centre of this beautifully scenic beach. Another striking feature is the river, which flows on the western side into the ocean, giving Summerleaze a natural variety of watery spaces to pick from. If that’s not enough, there’s a host of nearby attractions including Bude Castle, Bude Pitch and Putt, Bude Canal and a recreation ground; while a sandy play area, shops, cafe and toilets are all conveniently located beachside.
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North of Newquay lies the sweeping sands of Watergate Bay, a surfer’s haven that glances back toward the town for an alluring away-from-it-all feeling. With striking cliffs situated either side, the rambling two-mile expanse merges wild beauty with top-notch facilities including a range of beachside cafes and restaurants. Then there’s the Extreme Academy, who will teach you the ropes in a range of exhilarating activities including supping, surfing, kite surfing, wave skiing, traction kiting, handplaning and body boarding.
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Located in a breath-taking position in the mouth of the River Camel, Daymer Bay redefines picture postcard with its gently sloping beach, breeze-buffering sandhills and turquoise waters. A sublime and safe spot for a swim, the gloriously unspoilt (and dog-friendly) surrounds make the ideal choice for anyone desiring a beach day of the most majestic kind. Take a walk to nearby St Enodoc Church for more spellbinding views of the area along with the chance to visit the gravesite of former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman.
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Boasting the UK’s only bar on the beach, The Watering Hole, Perranporth provides the perfect place for anyone wanting to hit – and stay on – the sands. Easily accessible and primed for beach life, whether you wish to picnic, drink or dine within pebble skimming distance of the shore, surf the waves, walk the South West Coastal Path (or the beach on a low tide up to Ligger Point), or simply recline and relax, this is the destination to be. A stream of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops should satisfy your needs and whims, while nearby must-sees include St Agnes and Holywell Bay, should you crave a day out elsewhere.
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Situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast between Padstow and Newquay, Mawgan Porth is a magnetic mix of rugged beauty, coolly laidback charm and adventure playground. If you tire of rock pooling and exploring the caves, Kingsurf Surf School will help you hone your wave riding skills with lessons for all levels in addition to special surf camps. Fill your bellies at the pub, cafe - or dodge the seagulls with takeaway fish and chips, or venture slightly further afield for the gastronomy of Scott & Babs at Retorrick Mill for rustic wood fired food cooked with culinary love and flair.
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The stunning trio of beaches (Crinnis, Shorthorn and Polgaver) can be found in all their glory near St Austell on the south coast’s Cornish Riviera, where visitors will be rendered speechless by two miles of curving sheltered sands. As well as ocean pursuits (look for Cornwall Waverunner Safaris), this is prime walking territory should the urge take you. And, of course, there’s a bounty of beautiful beach bars and restaurants including Edie’s Kitchen, Purple Octopus and Off Beat Bars.
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Where to find them:
Dreaming of a visit to Cornwall? Take a look at our holiday cottages >
For more inspiration, check out 10 of the prettiest villages in Cornwall
and 10 unbelievably beautiful places to visit in Cornwall.