The biggest ever survey of travel journalists has recently been conducted, which interviewed over 100 of the UK’s most influential travel writers, including the likes of Simon Calder and Ben Fogle. Beaches in Cornwall were voted as the best in the UK, with Watergate Bay and Porthcurno Beach coming out as the favourites in Cornwall. With more than 150 beaches over 300 miles of coastline, there’s many to choose from, so here is a selection of our personal favourites in West Cornwall to help you plan your holiday itinerary:
Surfers head to Sennen Beach for the great waves and the surf culture embedded there, but there are many more reasons to visit. In winter the sea winds that whip around Lands End invigorate you and make you feel alive as you stroll along the sandy beach, and you can always warm through at one of the cafés nearby. In summer, Sennen Beach has all the facilities you would expect of a beach in Cornwall, with RNLI lifeguard cover for the whole of the high season. Read about surfing in sennen on our blog.
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Situated to the east of Sennen Cove, it takes a bit more effort to reach Gwenver Beach as the walk down the steps to the sand from the car park takes 10-15 minutes and is steep at times. This does result in a more secluded experience, however take care outside the lifeguarded season, as there can be strong currents and rips that present danger to bathers and surfers.
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St Ives Beaches – Porthmeor, Porthminster, Porthgwidden, Harbour Beach
Because St Ives is blessed with so many, we can’t mention one without the rest! All have soft yellow sand and clear waters. Porthmeor and Porthminster are lifeguarded for the whole of the high season, with extended cover provided on Porthmeor, the surfing beach in front of the Tate Gallery. Porthminster has calm waters ideal for families and small children, whereas surfers and those seeking rock pools should head to Porthmeor. Porthmeor and Porthminster both have excellent restaurants and cafés directly on the beach, and whereas Porthminster Café may boast awards, Porthmeor Café boasts outside booths with heaters and blankets and a view of the surf. Parking in St Ives can be a challenge, but all beaches are accessible from the large car park by the Leisure Centre, with shuttle buses making light work of the trip down the hill into town. Porthgwidden nestles between Porthmeor and the Harbour, with a more relaxed feel and a highly regarded café. Harbour Beach has the benefit of being closest to the shops and takeaways of St Ives, and the bustle of the fishing boats, day trip boats and self-drive motorboats for hire make it an ideal place to watch the world go by. In spring and autumn it pays to monitor the direction of the wind before you choose your beach – there is always a sheltered spot to be found somewhere! Dog access is limited in high season, but there are smaller beaches nearby where dogs are permitted. Read more about the best beaches in St Ives.
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Carbis Bay Beach
The facilities at Carbis Bay Beach are improving year on year. The usually calm seas make it an ideal place for families, and a local watersports company, Ocean Sports offers kayaks and stand up paddle boards for hire in the summer. The Carbis Bay Hotel has recently improved facilities by opening a decking with evening entertainment and a takeaway food outlet directly on the beach itself. Something for everyone here!
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Porthkidney beach is a beautiful expanse of sandy beach between Carbis Bay and the Hayle Estuary. The main advantage to this beach is that dogs are welcome throughout the year, and although there are no toilet or café facilities even in high season, RNLI lifeguards are in attendance.
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Hayle Beach is a long expanse of beautiful sand. It is lifeguarded in high season from huts spaced out along the whole stretch, but other facilities can depend on where you choose to set up camp for the day. Surf can be good, although the tide does race in along the shallow beach so keep an eye on tide timetables and high tide if you have walked down from the coastal path. The towans are the dunes that back most of the beach; ideal for exploring and they hide the holiday parks that nestle there.
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Next to Hayle Towans, Gwithian leads up to Godrevy Lighthouse, made famous by Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse. Conditions and facilities are similar to Hayle, although there is more car parking provision, with a large car park at Gwithian and a National Trust car park the other side of the Red River at Godrevy Point. The towans here are extensive, with plenty to explore throughout the year and a myriad of pathways up and down the dunes on which to walk your dog. Foraging here is popular, and for those looking for something a bit different, visitors can book foraging experiences with local expert Rachel Lambert. Check out our blog on Wild Food Walks in Cornwall for more info. A great place for surfing with RNLI lifeguards in high season, but again, be careful – the tide can race in and some parts of the beach disappear completely at high tide. Read more about Gwithian on our blog about the best surf spots in Cornwall.
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Portreath can produce some impressive surf, and the local Surf Life Saving Club has a large presence on the beach. The car park is large but can be expensive for long stays, although the facilities near the beach and in the town are good. The beach can have some stones and pebbles in certain areas and seaweed too, but the beach is lifeguarded and the waves provide great conditions for bodyboarding and surfing. Portreath has the added bonus of a harbour at the eastern end of the beach, separated from the sand by a wall that can produce a wave sought after by experienced surfers.
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Porthtowan Beach is known for its great surf, with a tide that reveals a large expanse of sand at its lowest point. At low tide a treasure is revealed – a bathing pool on the east side of the beach that provides a safe immersion point for smaller children. There is a large car park and facilities (including the beautifully situated Blue Bar) very near the sand, with RNLI lifeguards during high season.
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Voted as the best beach in West Cornwall, Porthcurno Beach on the south coast is a real gem – expanses of soft yellow sand that open out towards the sea. There is a large car park on the same level as the beach, with only a few steps down to the beach itself, but this does result in a crowded beach in high season. The awe-inspiring Minack Theatre is just up the hill, making it possible to combine a day on the beach with a show in the evening! Keep your eye on the sea though – Porthcurno is often the best place to see basking sharks and dolphins when the ocean warms up. RNLI lifeguards are on patrol in high season and the beach boasts all facilities during the summer months.
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Marazion Beach has areas of shingle and pebble but at low tide there are huge expanses of sand to play on. Marazion is fast becoming a huge watersport beach, with kitesurfers and stunt surfers flocking to the beach to take advantage of the windy conditions that can prevail here. The beach itself is dominated by the mystic St Michael’s Mount, and there is plenty to do for all members of the family. Dogs are allowed to the east of the beach throughout the year, although they are restricted from the rest of the beach in high season. It is a great beach for driftwood and shell collectors, and has a large car park, a children’s playground throughout the year and RNLI lifeguards and café facilities in high season. Before your trip to Marazion be sure to read at our blog post on Things to do at Marazion Beach.
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Praa Sands is the next large beach as you travel easterly from Marazion. It has extensive car park facilities in high season, RNLI lifeguards, a café and toilet facilities. In August it also hosts a well-attended raft race with a party feel! The beach, even at high tide, has plenty of space for all, although access to the dunes is restricted to limit erosion.
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Perranuthnoe is a large sandy beach at low tide, although at certain times of the year at high tide the beach is almost entirely smooth rocks. Dogs are restricted at certain times of the year, and although it is a popular beach there is no lifeguard cover provided. The surf is more suitable for beginners here, and there are rock pools and a stream to interest younger families. This is also a popular beach for sea fishing with easy access for all from the car park via a slipway. The cliffs that back the beach have suffered from erosion and evidence can be seen of the effect that historical tin mining has had on the environment here.
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Where to find them:
If you fancy reading about more of West Cornwall’s beautiful beaches, read our blog on Hidden Coves in West Cornwall >
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