In Britain we love the sea. We lie near it, paddle in it, swim in it, stare at it, and surf on it. Come the first few days of warm weather, we make a bee line for our nearest stretch of coast. If you’re in Cornwall you’ll never have to travel far. At its thinnest point, from the centre, it’s roughly a 15-minute drive coast to coast. Cornwall is pure seaside and packed with the finest beaches in the UK. There’s 300 to choose from.
Seeing as we’re on the North Coast, we’ll start there. North Cornwall is a rugged, dramatic place open to the deep swells of the Atlantic Ocean. Its untamed beauty has made it a place of pilgrimage for artists and its wild aspect popular with surfers. But which beaches? Here are our top picks for the best beaches in North Cornwall.
Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
This beach characterises the boho, one foot inside, one on the beach vibe that’s synonymous with Cornwall. Here, artist’s studios flank the sand and gentle waters lap. It’s the type of place people practice yoga and sit huddled around acoustic guitars; a place for congregating and dreaming. Further down the way, back from the beach, is the Tate St Ives—solidifying Porthmeor’s lure as a place for creatives and those looking for a slice of imaginative culture.
Across the bay to St Ives is one of Cornwall’s most popular spots for living the camper life, Gwithian. This huge slip of sand is not only beautiful, but reliable for surfers and windsurfers alike. It’s also great for families, with much wildlife to spot including seals and colonies of guillemots, razorbills, and cormorants. At low tide look out for the biodiverse rockpools and mysterious caves.
This is an award-winning, Blue Flag beach, revered by surfers, families, poets, and anyone who steps foot on its pure silken sand. This classic Cornish beach has great facilities, and consistent swells. Although, it’s slow breaks make it perfect for novices as well experienced surfers. The village of Polzeath is pleasant too with cafés and eateries—an ideal place to take shelter from prevailing storms or when high tide swallows the beach.
Polzeath is not only a favourite with humans, but also dolphins and seals. People have reported seeing them ride waves. If that’s not a seal of approval, we don’t know what is.
Like Polzeath, Perranporth is a must for surfers and families, however, it has something else going for it. Space. Perranporth is a massive beach, which makes it extremely popular in summer, but even so, there’s plenty of room.
It’s one of the best beaches to feel the ocean wind in your hair and the spine-tingling coastal seclusion of Cornwall, as you gaze out into the blue expanse.
Miles of golden sand, cafés, bars, surfing—it’s quintessential Cornwall.
Home of UK Surfing – Fistral Beach
Amongst surfing circles, Fistral has long been Cornwall’s premier beach and is home to the British Surfing Association. What makes it so special is its exposed position, perfect for catching swells that roll in from way out in the Atlantic. The wave consistency and size are unmatched anywhere else in Cornwall.
It’s also a fun place to be. It’s hosts the biggest surf competitions in the country, Boardmasters Festival, and is close to the buzz of Newquay. It’s not the ultimate destination for families, but for couples looking for a bit of adventure and a party its spot on.