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Cornwall surf holiday: top ten surfing beaches in Cornwall, England


Cornwall is the county at the far south-west of England (and the UK). As the land tapers towards the west, growing narrower until it reaches Land's End, Cornwall is the last mainland stop before North America.

The climate in Cornwall (and Devon, the next county to the east) is much milder than most of the UK's.

The North Atlantic Drift, which keeps the whole country much milder than it would otherwise be, has a particularly strong effect here.

The landscape is often rugged, wind-swept, stark, and beautiful. The softer parts of Cornwall are mostly in the south, and the west and north more uncompromisingly granite.

Cornwall has a long and serious art tradition, with groups of painters such as the St. Ives School and Newlyn School achieving international fame.

Outline map of England (Wales and Scotland omitted) showing Cornwall marked in darker red

Outline map of England (Wales and Scotland omitted) showing Cornwall marked in darker red

Surfing in Cornwall

As the prevailing wind direction is westerly to south-westerly, and there is an awful lot of water south and west of Cornwall, there is good surfing to be had.

The average sea temperature is between 8 to 10 degrees C (45 to 50 F) in the winter, and 14 to 16 (57 to 61) degrees in the summer.

Cornwall's surfing infrastructure is reasonably well-developed, with facilities to buy and hire boards, wetsuits, etc, surfing schools, and lifeguards.

There is also a range of accommodation for different budgets.

I dare say there is fierce disagreement about the best 10 surfing beaches in Cornwall.

These are my favourites, in no particular order.

Fistral Beach, looking north.

Fistral Beach, looking north.

  • Falmouth beaches
    Within Falmouth and the immediate vicinity there are a number of beaches. Starting in the north these are Castle Beach, Tunnel Beach, Gyllyngvase (Gylly) Beach, Swanpool Beach and Maenporth Beach.

Fistral Beach, Newquay

Fistral Beach in Newquay is where surfing in the UK got going. Fistral Beach is actually in Newquay, and is divided into South Fistral, NorthFistral and Little Fistral, also known as Fistral Bay.

The origin of the name Fistral is completely unknown. It has absolutely no known links with any European language.

As a result of its reputation, and being the place where most of the surfing competitions take place, Fistral can be pretty crowded. Nevertheless, it’s still a really good surfing beach with extremely consistent waves.

As it faces mostly north, it’s sheltered enough that even in a strong south-westerly wind surfing is still possible.

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There are lots of surfing schools here, so it’s an easy place to learn if you haven’t surfed much before.

South Fistral

South Fistral Beach often has great waves and they usually break left. The Beach is best at mid to high tide, but you do have to watch rocks which are underwater at high tide on the right-hand side of the beach.

There are decent facilities at South Fistral, including a toilet block, a place to hire wet suits and boards, and a café kiosk selling drinks and snacks. This beach has a lifeguard.

North Fistral

North Fistral works at all tides if there is a good swell, but the best waves are at low tide. This is one of the most crowded places in the summer and is mostly to the right. You need to be a bit careful on the left of this beach at high tide as there can be a rip current.

There is a car park here, a huge café, places to buy and hire wet suits and surfing gear, surf shops, toilets, baby changing facilities, cold water showers and lifeguard facilities.

Little Fistral

Little Fistral is a small bay which can only be surfed at low tide as it is buried at high tide.

There are sand bars which move slightly and the break therefore varies. This is quite a tricky surfing area, and you need to be very careful when the tide is coming in or you can get stuck there.

The facilities are the same as with North Fistral.

Young surfers in Cornwall

Young surfers in Cornwall

Widemouth Bay, Bude

Widemouth Bay is near Bude on the north coast. It’s a really long beach, divided into two parts, and has some fantastic and reliable surfing.

It tends to be best between mid tide and high tide, but it is also possible a lot of the time to surf at low tide.

It does get quite busy here, and from spring to autumn the lifeguards tend to divide the beaches up into areas for proper surfers and areas for swimmers and body boarders.

There is lifeguard cover here, and good facilities including car parking, hiring and buying surf gear, cafes, and cold water showers.

This is one of our favourite beaches in Cornwall, because although it’s busy it’s really quite large.

Perranporth Beach, looking north

Perranporth Beach, looking north

Perranporth, Newquay

Perranporth Beach is not far from Newquay and has a really long expanse of sandy beach, slightly over 2 miles long.

At high tide it’s divided into two by the sea, but for the rest of tide it’s one long beach.

Perranporth can get quite busy in the summer but it is a large beach and there is a lot of room.

It’s fairly suitable for beginners unless there is a massive swell.

The northern end of the beach, known as Perran Sands, tends to be less crowded and we tend to go up there.

There are lifeguarding facilities but only on the southern half of the beach.

There are two large car parks, lifeguards in the summer season, and a beach bar, café, and surf shops where you can also hire stuff.

It’s a reliable beach and the surfing there is usually pretty good. The beach is fairly close to Newquay, not far to the south.

At low tide, the headland reflects the swell and generates a really good solid left.

Cornish beaches are often stunning, with a combination of rugged cliffs, fine sand, and clear water.

Cornish beaches are often stunning, with a combination of rugged cliffs, fine sand, and clear water.

Trebarwith Strand, Tintagel

Trebarwith Strand is in Tintagel.

It’s a place with good and consistent waves and surfers of lots of different abilities can have fun here at different stages of the tide. The waves are pretty consistent and there are some good rights.

There is a lot more space when the tide is lower; at high tide the beach can get a bit more crowded but at low tide it’s fantastic.

It’s pretty difficult to get to, the access by road is poor. But is really worth it, and the difficulties in getting there mean that it tends to be less crowded than other very good beaches in the area.

There are lifeguard facilities, a toilet block, a surf shop, and a pub nearby. Altogether this is a fantastic surfing beach, but good to go if you fancy a day out owing to the fact it’s a bit trickier to get there.

The scenery is absolutely amazing and it’s a really beautiful spot.

Beaches in Cornwall are fun for those too young to surf, as well!

Beaches in Cornwall are fun for those too young to surf, as well!

Crantock Beach, Newquay

Crantock Beach is a great one in the summer at the height of the surfing season, because although it’s close to Newquay it’s a lot less crowded than the Fistral beaches are.

It’s a consistent beach and suitable for surfers of all abilities.

It has a car park, but it’s fairly small compared with the size of the beach so it’s a good idea to get there early. If you don’t you may have to park quite a long way away and walk a fair distance.

This has the handy advantage of ensuring that the beach is a lot less busy than many of North Cornwall’s surfing beaches.

It has lifeguards in the high season, and a public toilet block. There are pubs in the village nearby, but otherwise there’s not a great deal in the way of facilities.

The beach itself has an absolutely gorgeous fine white sand and this really is a good one to choose.


Porthtowan Beach is absolutely beautiful. It’s surrounded by quite steep headlands with an impressive coastal walk. The sand is a dark gold colour, and fine and even.

This beach is better surfed at mid to high tide. At low tide the sea retreats quite a long way, and this does give a big expance of surf and means that it’s very un-crowded,  it does mean it’s a serious trek to the sea.

This beach is better for slightly more advanced surfers and good swimmers only.

At high tide there can be some quite strong rip currents and you need to be careful. It does have some seriously high quality surf.

In terms of facilities, there is a large car park, public toilet block and lifeguard facilities. That’s more or less it on the actual beach, but about a third of a mile away is the village with cafes, surf shops and pubs.

Sandymouth Beach, Bude

Sandymouth Beach is a long expanse of dark golden sand. It has a fantastic break at low to mid tide, but you have to be a lot more careful at high tide as there are a lot of submerged rocks.

Sandymouth is probably better suited to more experienced surfers at mid to high tide and there is great swell.

It’s pretty exposed to westerly winds and there can be some really big swells there.

With a big swell there can be quite a strong riptide, and you need to be aware of this.

It’s a fairly remote beach, about two-thirds of the way from Camelford to Wadebridge, and tends to be less crowded than other North Cornish surfing beaches.

There is a car park, toilet block and a beach shop and café. There are lifeguarding facilities in the summer season.

Surfers at Polzeath

Surfers at Polzeath


Polzeath Beach is opposite Padstow. It’s a fantastic surfing beach which has large and reliable waves.

It’s a fantastically beautiful place as well, with views across to Padstow of the Estuary, and cliffs surrounding the beach. It’s a sand and shingle mixed beach with some fantastic rock pools that are great for children and child-minded adults to explore.

It should be noted that the beach is very small at high tide, and Polzeath is therefore probably best mid to low tide.

The beach is probably also better suited to more experienced surfers because the varying nature of the break means you can get both lefts and rights in the middle of the beach and there can be quite a strong riptide. It’s a very reliable surf and can generate some really big waves.

There are two car parks, a toilet and shower block, cafes, and lifeguards in the summer season.

The beach itself is golden fairly fine sand mixed with shingle. The village nearby is pretty good for cafes, pubs and restaurants. There are also quite a lot of children’s activities in the village, so if you want to surf for a bit and then do some other stuff with the kids, this is a particularly good beach.

The wildlife is fantastic here you’ve got a good chance of seeing dolphins, seals and puffins.

Watergate Bay

Watergate Bay is 3½ miles north of Newquay, and tends to be less crowded than the Newquay beaches.

It’s a beach that’s suitable for all levels of ability.

The water is generally very clean, and the golden sand is fine and smooth.

There are lifeguard facilities in the summer, a good car park, café, surf beaches and a couple of surfing schools.

There are some riptides, but it’s still suitable for beginners. As the beach is quite exposed the surf can be a bit choppy and messy if the wind is on-shore.

In our experience the Bay is best at mid to high tide, but at high tide the right-hand side of the Bay does get some quite strong riptides on occasions.

At low tide there is a huge expanse of beach and even a lot of people still leaves the visitor room. Watergate Bay is 3 miles long.

If the swell is over 6 feet, the surf deteriorates and it’s not really worth visiting.

  • Sennen Beach Webcam
    Check out the surf at Sennen from the Chapel Idne Surf Shop situated right on the beach. Click refresh for latest images.

Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove is near Penwith. The village itself is quite small, but the Bay is large and exciting for surfers.

It’s a fantastic surfing beach, good in most tides but not the hour or so either side of high tide. The beach has good waves in most conditions.

Sennen Beach, with fine white sand, is vast in length, particularly at mid to low tide.

There are also some good walks along the coastal path either side of the cove.

Parking can be tricky near the beach although there is ample parking further away it’s not far to the beach but quite a trek back up the hill, especially if you’ve had an active day.

The beach itself can be quite windy. There can be quite a strong riptide but the break to the right is fantastic for surfing.


Gerard on January 10, 2015:

EVERYONE should set goals. I have wkeley, monthly, and long-term goals set. Wanna read about a goal of mine from last year?! It was a big one. Check it out!

Joyce on December 28, 2014:

That's really thikning at a high level

liswilliams from South Africa on March 14, 2012:

Definitely something to add to the wishlist, thanks, LondonGirl.

LondonGirl (author) from London on March 02, 2012:

I agree with your caveats - I'm still a fan of Polzeath, though.

surfgatinho on November 14, 2011:

Finally made my list. Despite what I wrote above Polzeath made it on there (with caveats)!

htodd from United States on March 19, 2011:

Great hub ,Thanks for sharing

SummerSurf on March 15, 2011:

Great hub! I was in Newquay last year and went to Fistral Beach. Lovely part of the country.

Rik Rodriguez from Hawaii on December 05, 2010:

Nice hub I love the way English people write sort of like they talk. Aloha

James Ceather on October 12, 2010:

Polzeath is an awesome place to catch some waves i go yearly. great post haven't heard of some of the beaches will have to go.

Fabrizio Van Marciano from England on August 20, 2010:

I live here, surf here, breath, eat and sleep cornwall. I love it thanks for sharing this.

pitztalferien on June 16, 2010:

I also like them. We went there a couple of times!

dell A on June 07, 2010:

I love the Cornwall beaches. This area is virtully unknown to most people from the States. Thanks for the great info.

johnmce from Brighton, UK on November 24, 2009:

Haven't been down there in years but had some great holidays when I was a kid. Best place in the UK for holidaying

gwennies pen on October 21, 2009:

great looking beaches, LondonGirl. Wouldn't mind checking them out someday!!! :) Very informative hub!

LondonGirl (author) from London on July 12, 2009:

Hi Elynjo - glad you found it useful, hope you have fun with your mates!

LondonGirl (author) from London on July 12, 2009:

Hi Surf - I agree, Porthleven rocks! I do quite like Polzeath, though, had some fun there (but never stayed in Chelsea-on-Sea...)

Elynjo from Sin City on July 09, 2009:

This is a very helpful hub. My friends from Spain will be here in ths US come August and by September I'll go with them touring UK and create exciting and happy memories.

surfgatinho on June 29, 2009:

I reckon, in no order:


Chapel Porth

Praa Sands






Watergate Bay


Of course the best spots aren't beaches - Porthleven and Miloock

I don't rate Polzeath at all. The beach slopes too much and there's no power - perfect if you're staying in Chelsea-by-Sea around the corner though!

LondonGirl (author) from London on June 04, 2009:

Sounds absolutely wonderful - we had lots of similar childhood holidays in Devon.

Wayne Tully from Hull City United Kingdom on June 04, 2009:

They lived in dreary Hull, same as me, but they used to rent the same house for two weeks each year, every summer and I remember the beach place so clearly, but not the name of it, there was a cafe up the top of the bay cliff along a long flight of stairs and a small river at the right hand side where I was to be found with a fishing net and a bucket of sea water catching tiny shrimp and tiddly fish....

And I also remember the attack of the sea gulls on the beach and my gran screaming her head off...the birds, the birds!!! absolutely covered in bird plop...did I laugh? I sure did!!

I miss my gran and grandad...good memories!!

Cheers for a great hubpage!!

LondonGirl (author) from London on June 03, 2009:

Sounds like a great childhood experience! Where in Cornwall did your grandparents live?

Wayne Tully from Hull City United Kingdom on June 03, 2009:

Cornwall is ace! I used to get shipped off to stay with my gran and grandad in the summer holidays and we used to go there every year, there's some great places to go on holiday in the UK, so why go abroad....I remember finding a huge jellyfish on the sands and it was as big as an alsation dog!! must have been a portugese man o war, twas massive!!!

LondonGirl (author) from London on May 27, 2009:

It's wonderful.

Traditional British seaside holidays have honourable traditions. They include wearing swimming costumes and a cardigan, and being yanked out of the sea by your Dad when your lips go blue.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 27, 2009:

LondonGirl, Cornwall looks beautiful, have always wanted to visit the area though think I'd stay onshore, the water sounds way to chilly for me. I'm used to ocean temps in the lower 70's F . The coastline looks so lovely and natural...

LondonGirl (author) from London on May 03, 2009:

Hawkesdream - I love Rock as well, it's a wonderful place.

Everyday, have you been to Cornwall? It's a magical place in many ways.

Bristol, I've not been to Praa, but Gwithian is fantastic, must agree with you there!

BristolBoy from Bristol on May 03, 2009:

This is a very interesting hub and I can't believe I didn't see it earlier. These are all truly very nice beaches. Two other surfing beaches that are worth adding to the list are Gwithian and Praa Sands although these really are in the far west of the county!

Becki Rizzuti from Indiana, USA on May 02, 2009:

I love the little tastes of "home" that I get from those in the UK, particularly those highlighting the Cornish beaches. Almost makes me cry it's so nostalgic for me. One day I think I'll visit.

Thanks, LG!

Al Hawkes from Cornwall on April 20, 2009:

Depends on why I am going, for peace and solitude - Cowry Cove, for sunbathing - Ready Money, FOR THE KIDS - Porth, and for the long stroll to clear the cobwebs - Rock.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 19, 2009:

Hawkesdream, I imagine I'm preaching to the converted with this hub, then! Which is your own fave beach?

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 19, 2009:

Hi Mystic - rellies in Cornwall, or in the UK? Either way, Cornwall is spectacular in more ways than just the beaches.

If you are from a hot country, shamelabboush , you might find England's beaches.... bracing. But great fun!

Al Hawkes from Cornwall on April 19, 2009:

I live in Cornwall, and believe me it is the best. I live equidistant from both coasts, so am spoilt for choice. The beaches are great whether winter or summer, the views are spectacular though at times are taken for granted.

shamelabboush on April 19, 2009:

Considering that my knowledge of England is relatively shallow, the beaches look so fun especially I adore going to the beach and lying on the sand and playing. So exciting.

mysticdave from Salt Lake City, Utah on April 18, 2009:

have not been to England yet, but my girlfriend keeps raving about it, and after reading your awesome articles, it makes me want to take her there even more, (and we both LOVE beaches) i am supposed to have relatives there somewhere, so i have to check it out soon:)

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 18, 2009:

Glad it brought back happy memories! St. Ives is gorgeous, couldn't agree more.

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 18, 2009:

Pat says - when my kids were about 11 and 15 we had a wonderful holiday in Cornwall. St Ives provided the perfect combination, as I had one who liked art and the other like surfing. Tricia has been to the Minnack theatre (I envy her!) - so we both have happy memories of Cornwall, Thanks for another good hub.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 18, 2009:

Hi Jeff, glad you enjoyed it. Cornwall's a very special part of the world.

Christa, you should! There's more to the place than the beaches, but they ain't a bad start...

Sheila from The Other Bangor on April 18, 2009:

I would love to see Cornwall -- not to surf, but to enjoy the scenery. Looks beautiful--

MandM on April 17, 2009:

Cornwall is very beautiful! I once traveled along the coast and I loved it.

Christa Dovel from The Rocky Mountains, North America on April 17, 2009:

Beautiful beaches. I'd love to visit someday.

Jeff on April 17, 2009:

I love the Cornwall beaches. This area is virtully unknown to most people from the States. Thanks for the great info.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 17, 2009:

JamaG, glad you enjoyed it. Cornwall's amazing in lots of ways, surfing's just one of many.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 17, 2009:

Hi KCC - I don't blame him (-: Cornwall only has little baby sharks, basking sharks, and only from time to time at that.

Tony, there are lots of great beaches for surfing here. The water is a bit chilly, but hey, that's what wetsuits are for! I ride a thruster.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 16, 2009:

I'm quite surprised there's surfing in Cornwall too.  Oh, wait!  I did read about it somewhere, but not being a surfer it didn't register.

Love these glimpses of the UK, LG!

tony0724 from san diego calif on April 16, 2009:

I had no Idea that they surfed In England ! That beach Is really nice lookin too . Hey Londongirl are you a longboarder or do you ride a thruster ? I ,ll bet that water Is cold . But again some beautiful beaches

KRC from Central Texas on April 16, 2009:

He agreed with your list.  He didn't forget Croyde was in Devon, he forgot the focus of your hub was Cornwall...LOL   He got lost in the surfing mode.   He was a big surfer for years.   Sharks scare him, so he won't be surfing here.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 16, 2009:

Sorry to spoil your day! Did your husband agree with my list?

He loses major marks for not remembering that Croyde's in Devon, I hope you looked smug.

We're going for a surfing trip this summer, looking forward to it already!

KRC from Central Texas on April 16, 2009:

Damn you LG! LOL.... you have me longing to go back!! My husband surfed many of those areas. I made him guess the top 10 before showing the list to him. He did try to throw in Croyde and luckily I remembered Croyde's not in Cornwall. I won some brownie points with that one. :) He thinks I didn't pay attention when I was there. I guess he thought I was just there to see him. LOL

What I wouldn't give for a cornish pasty at Padstow, Cornwall right now!

I'm dying to go to Minack Theatre! I had told my husband I wanted to go there the next time we're there.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 16, 2009:

Devon is similar - sort of "Cornwall light" although Devonians would kill me for saying that (-: It's softer, slightly less rugged, but still a beautiful county.

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on April 16, 2009:

LOL Cornwall looks amazing. I bet the sea air is wonderful. I'd love to see Devon too. I think I mentioned my maternal grandmother's people all came from Plymouth--would be fun to see where they all came from.

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 16, 2009:

No-one compains about the sea off Cornwall being too warm, I promise (-:

Cornwall is amazing, not just for beaches, but also for the Eden Project, towns, fantastic walking, so much to do.

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on April 16, 2009:

I am really loving touring England with you, LG. This is just delightful. I would love to visit Cornwall--not much of a surfer but the beaches look wonderful and the water temp is just how I like it-- hate swimming in warm ocean--ocean water should be bracing.Thanks for another winner:-)

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 16, 2009:

Hi bg, sounds like a great place to go! Are you a surfer?

LondonGirl (author) from London on April 16, 2009:

Hi Brian - glad you enjoyed it! We've had some pretty good holidays there ourselves.

bgpappa from Sacramento, California on April 16, 2009:

Great Hub, makes me miss my times going to college in a Beach Town. Great Job.

Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on April 16, 2009:

Had many a fine holiday in Cornwall with family, some nice reminders and photographs.

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