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Best swimming beaches in Cornwall

Jutting out into the Great Atlantic on the far western end of England and surrounded by 250 glorious miles of coastline, Cornwall is a swimmer’s dream. Secluded coves, sweeping arcs of golden sands, sheltered harbour beaches and gently sloping shelves greet the water to present an oh-so pretty variety of spots to take the plunge.

Looking across Gyllyngvase Beach where people are swimming in the sea

From the wild and unspoilt terrain of West Cornwall to the surfing hotspots and jagged cliff-lines of North Cornwall and the gently curved stretches of the lulling south coast, there’s a vast assortment of swimming beaches to pick from.

You might want somewhere to take the family (and dog) for a swim, indulge in a spot of body surfing, float in the shallows, sign up to a swimming event, or embark upon a guided swimming tour of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall. However you envision your time aquatic, there’s a huge assortment of beaches from which to immerse your body into the cool crystalline waters that Cornwall is famed for.

Here’s a selection of our favourite swimming beaches for starters...

Porthminster Beach, St Ives

People sitting on the beach and swimming at Porthminster in St Ives

Lifeguards: Seasonal (May - September)
Dog-friendly: Seasonal restrictions (15 May - 30 September, 10am-6pm)
Facilities: Toilets, cafés, parking
Accessibility: Easy, pushchair/wheelchair access via slope (and sand chair for hire)

A regular recipient of the coveted Blue Flag Award, Porthminster is nestled in a beautifully sheltered spot between neighbouring Carbis Bay and St Ives Harbour, which it joins with on a spring low tide. The flat, easy-access terrain makes it a firm family favourite amongst the many beaches in St Ives, plus there’s lifeguard cover and facilities aplenty. Conditions are usually calm, so take a dip and admire the panoramic views of St Ives Bay over to Hayle Towans, or experienced swimmers may want to venture out to either point toward the town or Carbis Bay – just be aware of hire boats, watercrafts etc.

Readymoney Cove, Fowey

Lots of people enjoying the beach at Readymoney Cove in Fowey

Lifeguards: No
Dog-friendly: Seasonal restrictions (1 July - 31 August, 10am-6pm)
Facilities: Toilets, car park, café/shop (summer only)
Accessibility: Easy access from car park

The small sandy stretch sits between St Catherine’s Castle and Fowey, offering jaw-dropping vistas and a sheltered location for sunbathing and sea-dipping. There’s a bathing platform moored in the bay should you fancy swimming out to it (but don’t venture into the estuary), and remember that the beach will disappear with the tide. From here, take a walk along the gorgeous riverside up the esplanade to Fowey, or head west along the coast path through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to Polridmouth Cove (dog friendly year-round).

Holywell Bay

Looking out over the golden sands of Holywell Bay with Gull Rocks in the background

Lifeguards: Seasonal (May - September)
Dog-friendly: Year-round
Facilities: National Trust car park, (accessible) toilet
Accessibility: Uneven path to beach

One of Poldark’s most popular TV filming locations, Holywell is a striking venue to enjoy a swim. Towering sand dunes, imposing twin sea rocks, and an open, mile-long stretch of uninterrupted sand make this an inspired swimming location (though do be aware of the conditions). There’s also a cave with a holy well (accessible at low tide), golf course overlooking the ocean, rock pools and small stream; while in the village, you’ll find shops, cafés and pubs. Strike out onto the South West Coast Path for some fabulous walking trails or pay a visit to Holywell Bay School of Surf to hit the waves.

Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth

The sweeping white sands at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth

Lifeguards: Seasonal (May - September)
Dog-friendly: Seasonal restrictions
Facilities: Café, bakery, toilets, watersports hire
Accessibility: Level access, disabled toilets, sand chair available from Gyllyngvase Beach café

Conveniently situated near Falmouth town centre, the wide, Blue Flag awarded beach is an ideal venue for all types of swimming, whether you prefer wetsuit-clad laps or brief dips. Flat and gently sloping with calm and clear waters, Gyllyngvase is beautifully sheltered and safe, and boasts gorgeous views to boot! You might also want to kayak and SUP with Gylly Adventures, who are located on the beach. Walk the coast path to discover more beaches in and near Falmouth, explore the nearby town and its world-famous harbour, or simply savour a beach day before wandering back to your holiday cottage.

Gorran Haven, St Austell

The pretty harbour beach at Gorran Haven near St Austell

Lifeguards: No
Dog-friendly: Year-round
Facilities: Toilets, car park, village amenities
Accessibility: Easy access via slope

Sitting in front of the coastal village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the eastern edge of the Roseland Peninsula, Gorran Haven is flanked by the stone pier of the small harbour and the rising headland of nearby Dodman Point (well worth a walk along the South West Coast Path if you’re so inclined). Mostly flat and sheltered for swimming (though there’s no lifeguard cover), you can while away the hours on the sands, dipping in the ocean and admiring the valley’s pretty fisherman’s cottages and boats gliding by. Gorran Haven is a stunning place to stay, and is tantalisingly close to a bounty of other seaside highlights in South Cornwall.

Hayle Towans

A child running through the waves at Hayle Towans with Godrevy Lighthouse in the background

Lifeguards: Seasonal (May - September)
Dog-friendly: Seasonal restrictions (1 July - 31 August, 10am-6pm)
Facilities: Pub, cafés
Accessibility: A winding path from the road/car park, followed by a pushchair/wheelchair accessible slope onto the sand

Hayle Towans stakes an especially sweet spot on this three-mile stretch of renowned golden sands at the estuary end of the beach, but any part of this stunning section of coastline provides prime swimming territory (depending on the conditions). Situated at the most easterly end, the swell generally gets bigger the more north/westerly you venture (Gwithian and Godrevy are the main surf beaches), so Hayle Towans (and neighbouring Porthkidney across the river in Lelant) are your safest bet. 

Further up the coast, Mexico Towans, Beachview, Upton Towans, Peter’s Point and Gwithian complete the sweep of beaches of St Ives Bay that arcs from The Island to Godrevy Head and its world-famous, artists’-muse lighthouse. Eat, drink and refresh at The Bluff Inn or the sea-gazing Cove café, or head round the corner toward North Quay for Lula, which sits right on the river. Walk further along into Hayle town for more dining and shopping. With oodles of dune-backed sands and ocean to plunge into – along with soul-stirring bay-views, the South West Coast Path and various amenities en route – Hayle and its surrounding beaches are true swimming paradise. 

Daymer Bay, Rock

The sweeping sands of Daymer Bay from Padstow

Lifeguards: No
Dog-friendly: Year-round
Facilities: Car park, toilets
Accessibility: Steps from car park to the beach

Sitting in the mouth of the scenic Camel Estuary near Wadebridge, Daymer Bay presents a secluded feel and sheltered spot framed by sandhills that makes swimming here a more peaceful option. Stop-off at nearby St Enodoc Church, take a trip to nearby Polzeath, walk the low tide to the trendy haunt of Rock (which provides the most beautiful base for your holiday)  - or further on foot to Padstow for culinary delights and a mini pilgrimage via the Saint’s Way route, which runs from Padstow (visit our live webcam) to Fowey.

Marazion Beach

The golden sands at Marazion Beach with St Michael's Mount in the background

Lifeguards: Seasonal (July - September)
Dog-friendly: Seasonal restrictions (1 July - 31 August, 10am-6pm)
Facilities: Car parks, pubs, shops, cafés 
Accessibility: Concrete slopes from car park

Located at the eastern end of the crescent-shaped curve of Mount’s Bay overlooking St Michael’s Mount, Marazion Beach completes this iconic stretch of beaches in Penzance (visit our live webcam). The beach is especially popular with families owing to a mixture of flat and gently sloping sands that lend themselves perfectly to swimming. Stroll into the market town for lunch or a spot of shopping, walk the causeway or jump on a boat to explore the world-famed island and castle, or walk/cycle the recently upgraded Mount’s Bay coast path to Penzance, where you’ll also be treated to a trail of artworks as part of the Gwelen Project.

Bude Sea Pool, Summerleaze Beach

People enjoying the lovely Bude Sea Pool at Summerleaze Beach in Bude

Lifeguards: Seasonal (May - September)
Dog-friendly: Year-round
Facilities: Toilets, café, shops, parking
Accessibility: Level access from the car park (with disabled toilets). A sand chair is available to hire from the Summerleaze Beach Office

Ok, yes, this is a tide pool, but it’s on a beach and the pool itself is great for a spot of swimming all year round. Tucked away at the base of the beautiful Summerleaze Beach in Bude, Bude Sea Pool is a lovely, semi-natural place to enjoy some aquatic activities. A hefty three lengths long (if we’re going off standard swimming pool measurements), you can easily get your laps in here, without waves interrupting your flow. It’s also a great one for the kids as there are no currents to worry about. This isn’t to say the pool stays the same day-by-day. Oh no, the tides like to keep things interesting and you can easily find yourself swimming with some fish for company. Bude’s coastal location makes it a firm favourite with beachgoers and walkers alike, with the town providing many options to refill after a day enjoying the scenic surrounds.


A lifeguard watching over Fistral Beach in Newquay

Always swim to your ability and experience, and monitor everyone in your group. The safest place to swim is between the red and yellow flags, which are patrolled by lifeguards. If in doubt (or if you want to venture further afield), make sure to notify or ask them for their advice. Please heed all advice from lifeguards and locals. If you’re on a beach without lifeguards, always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back – and be aware of the ever-changing sea and weather conditions. If you’re in doubt, stay well within your depth or do not enter the water.

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Our extensive range of holiday cottages and coastal cottages in Cornwall provide you with the perfect base for exploring the best swimming beaches our stunning coast has to offer.

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