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The best beaches in CornwallThe best beaches in Cornwall

Cerulean waters on ivory sands, tempestuous tides crashing against sheer cliffs, and low tides unveiling secluded horseshoe coves. It's no wonder that West Country beaches join the Bahamas and Hawaii on lists of the best in the world. We've combed every inch of the county's 300-mile coastline — walking, paddling, sailing, swimming, surfing, skinny dipping, and picnicking — to bring you the ultimate guide to the best beaches in Cornwall.


For dog walkers: Watergate Bay

The best beaches in Cornwall: Watergate Bay

Surfers and dog walkers converge on two miles of golden sands framed by rugged cliffs at Watergate Bay. Here, embrace saltwater adventures by booking surf lessons and wellness sessions at Wavehunters, while those with little ones in tow should venture to the beach's north end to hunt for starfish and crabs in the rock pools. Journey southward beneath the vertiginous cliffs, and you’ll find yourself in your own world, where wild swimming in emerald pools is accompanied only by the soundtrack of wheeling gulls and the ocean's roar. Back in the huddle of seafront restaurants, dogs are welcomed into the mix at The Beach Hut, or take a seat on the sea wall at Zacry’s  for upscale dishes like grilled Newlyn hake followed by a butcher's block laden with Cornish and European cheeses. If you have a pooch, don’t miss our collection of dog-friendly escapes.

Where to stay: Moku or Talisman, just minutes up the coast in sought-after Mawgan Porth.


For wildlife: Porthcurno Beach

The best beaches in Cornwall: Porthcurno Beach

Dolphins, seals, basking sharks; Porthcurno is teeming with wildlife. Home to some of the clearest water in the land, spotting it cruising just offshore from the crushed-shell beach is a breeze. The scenery isn't the only source of drama: Ross Poldark and his cast filmed scenes from the BBC series here, and the Minack Theatre, perched above – which also has one of the best gardens in Cornwall – has seen unscripted dolphin appearances during Shakespeare performances. On a low spring tide, walk along the sands to neighbouring Pedn Vounder and immerse yourself in the secluded indigo lagoon that shimmers beneath the 80-ton Logan rock. If immersing yourself in nature is your thing, check out our collection of wilderness retreats.

Where to stay: Elowen, just a stroll from Porthcurno Beach and the Minack, or a little further afield in a cottage in Mousehole, one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.


For seclusion: Lantic Bay

The best beaches in Cornwall: Lantic Bay

If you’re keen to leave footprints on one of the many hidden beaches in Cornwall, pack supplies (Captain Hank's Crab & Snack Shack is a couple of miles away and dishes superb mussel skewers alongside sandwiches) and pick your way down the cliffs flanking the secluded pearly cove of Lantic Bay. With white sands shelving steeply into sheltered cobalt waters, strip off for a dip, or simply bask in views towards the green-capped cliffs of Pencarrow Head. Unless you commandeer a boat, it’s a 20-minute walk from the National Trust car park to this dreamy spot between Fowey and Polperro. Thankfully, this deters the crowds, even on the sunniest of days. If step count doesn’t dissuade you, continue along the South West Coast Path into maritime Fowey for a Cornish-Italian bite such as smoked chicken ravioli or squid-ink linguine at Appleton’s.

Where to stay: Just up the coast in Raffia, a grown-up's treehouse overlooking Polperro, or a little further east in Caribbean-esque beach house Amaia, which has private access to Plaidy Beach.


For television buffs: Holywell Bay

The best beaches in Cornwall: Holywell Bay

Flip just-caught mackerel onto the sizzling barbecue as the twin peaks of Gull Rock stand sentinel in the distance; frolic across the dunes, gathering wildflowers like Poldark's Demelza, or embark on a quest to discover the mystical holy well hidden in a cave at the foot of golden sands. Once a closely guarded secret among Cornwall's lesser-known shores – a realm where seabirds soared, solo surfers carved the waves, and pilgrims sought the healing powers of its sacred waters – Holywell Bay has since risen to stardom, gracing the screens of both Poldark and Game of Thrones. Fans now traverse the colossal dunes in droves to witness the crushed-shell sands and rocky outcrops caressed by the untamed Atlantic. Though the National Trust car park is rarely empty, with dog walkers, photographers, surfers, and families all vying for a spot, you can always find solitude amid the sandy bowls of the dunes. Holywell Beach Bar is the place to watch the sunset.

Where to stay: The Limit, hidden in the dunes of Holywell Bay, or romantic cabin Juneberry just two miles from the surf and brown sugar sands.


For wild swimming: Prussia Cove

The best beaches in Cornwall: Prussia Cove

A necklace of four secret coves in Cornwall, Prussia Cove sits to the east of Cudden Point on the rim of Mounts Bay. If you know, you know. If you don’t, it’s time for a little adventure to find these rocky little bays that are only accessible on foot. With so many nooks for wild swimming and boulders for basking on, you can see why this was the stomping ground of smuggler John Carter in the 18th century. Now, if you head along to the very edge of the main cove, Bessy’s, you can discover your own booty of anemones and star-cup corals hidden in the underwater canyon beneath a rocky outcrop.

Where to stay: Villa Boden, a luxury beach house with Scandinavian flair, just a short drive away in Porthleven.


For a picnic: Vault Beach

The best beaches in Cornwall: Vault Beach

If you manage to navigate the narrow, winding lanes of Mevagissey and Gorran Haven without sacrificing a wing mirror, bravo. However, even if you do lose one along the way, it's a small price to pay for the reward that awaits you at this sand and shingle bay, concealed in the protective embrace of Dodman Point. The serene waters and an expansive arc of sands beckon walkers traversing the South West Coast Path and entice paddle boarders from neighbouring beaches. Save for a handful of naturists who have claimed the northern reaches as their own, it remains hush-hush, rarely drawing the crowds. Just half a mile away, Gorran Haven has its own sandy shore, with plenty of amenities catering to families.

Where to stay: Infinity, occupying a prime cliff top position on the Roseland Peninsula, or whitewashed cottage The Spyglass, just a stone’s throw from the sea in Gorran Haven.


For a knees-up: Lusty Glaze

The best beaches in Cornwall: Lusty Glaze

Who would’ve thought there was a hidden cove in the bustling seaside resort of Newquay? On the very edge of town, at the foot of 133 cliff steps, awaits one of Cornwall's most serene beach retreats. Surrounded by cliffs, the clamour of Newquay seems a distant memory as you sip cocktails and feast on seasonal fare at the eponymous sea-view restaurant, which attracts dog walkers, digital nomads (who will also love our WFH collection), and a small number of well-informed visitors. On a few exclusive party nights, the cove undergoes a mesmerising transformation, as international headliners grace the stage, and hundreds of revellers dance barefoot until long after the sun goes down.

Where to stay: Head a little further inland to secret, Balearic-style stone home The Meadows.


For surfing: Fistral Beach

The best beaches in Cornwall: Fistral Beach

Welcome to "Kernow-fornia", where California’s surfing vibe meets British charm on the Cornish coastline. Dubbed the UK’s unofficial surfing capital, Fistral Beach is where many of Cornwall’s pro surfers cut their teeth, and the annual gathering spot for the world's elite wave riders. It’s also home to The Fish House and Rick Stein’s acclaimed beach restaurant, while the lovely Fistral Beach Bar invites locals and visitors to soak up the infectious Cali-meets-Aussie atmosphere. Seasoned surfer or total novice, you’ll no doubt find yourself swept up into the laidback vibes and soon be suiting up for a session with the local surf school. Next up, why not think about booking yourself a luxury surfing holiday?

Where to stay: Grade-II listed cottage, and former fudge-maker's house, The Hatch in Crantock


For families: St Ives Bay

The best beaches in Cornwall: St Ives Bay

Sweeping in a magnificent three-mile golden arc from the glistening Hayle estuary to the iconic Godrevy lighthouse immortalised by Virginia Woolf in To The Lighthouse (though the novel was set in The Hebrides), St Ives Bay is woven from the strands of Godrevy, Gwithian, Mexico Towans and Hayle Towans. Baptised by Atlantic waves, this wild bay is not only home to a seal colony, but has also earned its place on the list of 'The Most Beautiful Bays in the World'.  Take a stroll around the headland to glimpse the playful seals, ride the waves with Gwithian Surf Academy, get stuck into brisket nachos and carrot cake at Kabyn on the beach, or lose yourself in the labyrinth of wildflower-draped dunes. This easy-to-reach beach with plenty of amenities is ideal for bucket-and-spade days. Don’t miss our collection of child-friendly homes.

Where to stay: Architecture-led pool properties Senara and Lightkeepers, just outside of the small village and duneland of Gwithian.


For swimming: Carbis Bay

The best beaches in Cornwall: Carbis Bay

Crystal-clear waters, white sands, swaying palms. Every travel journalism trope in the book describes Carbis Bay. The glassy, Blue Flag-certified waters, sheltered from Atlantic swells, is probably the best beach in Cornwall for swimming. With ample amenities, easy car parking and inviting cafés to a well-equipped water sports centre offering kayak tours, sailing, SUP and even Hawaiian outrigger canoes, it’s an incredibly family-friendly beach. But it's not only about active pursuits here; head to the Ugly Butterfly for Michelin-starred from Adam Handling or book into the Una Spa for therapeutic “Lava Shells Massage” (if you’re looking for a relaxing break, we’ve got plenty of wellness getaways). You’re also just a stone's throw away from the town of St Ives, easily accessible by a coastal walk or a scenic railway journey.

Where to stay: Pink cob cottage Alba Beach House, with a balcony overhanging the sands of Porthmeor Beach, and less than ten minutes from Carbis Bay.


For a long walk: Duckpool Beach

The best beaches in Cornwall: Northcott Beach near Duckpool

The chic, surfy enclave of Bude is one of our favourite year-round beaches in Cornwall. But if you want to leave the crowds behind, head north towards the border of Devon, where a wilder, more desolate coastline awaits. At the base of the Coombe Valley lies the secluded treasure of Duckpool, where Jurassic ridges cascade onto a rocky shore, eventually giving way to pockets of soft sand. Come prepared, for there are no trappings, except for an ice-cream van on the sunniest days. Only the hardiest walkers dare to tackle the calf-busting coast path between Duckpool and Morwenstow, in search of the cliff-edge Hawker's Hut – a spot where an eccentric clergyman was said to write, meditate, and even, after a dram or two of whiskey, don a mermaid costume to catch the eye of passing sailors.

Where to stay: Colonial-style Northcott Beach House, which dramatically teeters on a cliff edge, or modern barn Oska set among patchwork fields close to Bude, near Widemouth Bay.


For rock pooling: Gwynver Beach

The best beaches in Cornwall: Gwyvner Beach

Many simply admire its beauty from the clifftops, deterred by the steep steps that lead down to the powdery sands below. But for those who brave the descent, the allure of the ocean proves irresistible. Be warned, though, for, Gwynver's waves are powerful beneath its surface and rip currents fierce, as it bears the full brunt of Atlantic swells. On wild days, seek shelter in the pools brimming with starfish, jellyfish, crabs, and anemones, or wait for the tide to recede and make your way to Sennen Cove, where you can hone your surfing skills under the tutelage of local pros. Refuel a sirloin-steak baguette washed down with a pint of Cornish pale ale at the Old Success Inn.

Where to stay: Nevada, on the banks of Drift Reservoir, just ten minutes from Gwynver.


For food: Porthcurnick Beach

The best beaches in Cornwall: Porthcurnick Beach

On the shores of the bucolic Roseland Peninsula, this secluded cove has risen to fame as the location of The Hidden Hut – which turned a closely guarded secret into a foodie sensation overnight, when it launched its legendary feast nights back in 2011. The beach itself is still a sublime spot for swimming and rock pooling, but many who make the coastal pilgrimage do so for the generous helpings of seafood cooked over giant fire pits beside the sea. For more on the best restaurants in Cornwall, take a look at our guide.

Where to stay: Nautilus, the epitome of a contemporary Cornish beach house, or contemporary sanctuary River House overlooking Mylor Harbour.


For local culture: Whitsand Bay

The best beaches in Cornwall: Whitsand Bay

A visit to Cornwall's “forgotten corner” beckons a low-tide meander along the dramatic Whitsand Bay, a five-mile stretch of sand and shingle unfurling from the base of Rame Head, marked by a crumbling 14th-century chapel. Scour the shoreline for shells and pause for a brew at the Eddystone Beach Café, beneath Tregonhawke Cliff, where you’ll find an eclectic collection of nautical paraphernalia, driftwood, artworks, and other ocean treasures. If the tides align in your favour, continue your journey to Portwrinkle's Finnygook Beach, where the ghost of smuggler Silas Finn is said to haunt the cliffs.

Where to stay: Modern masterpiece Serpentine in Portwrinkle, hot tub cabin Seaglass on Tregonhawke Cliff, or cedar-clad beach hut The Edge, with a bird’s eye view over Whitsand Bay.


For dramatic scenery: Kynance Cove

The best beaches in Cornwall: Kynance Cove

Kick off your shoes at the iconic Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula, often revered among the world's finest sandy beaches, and with good reason. From chalky-white flats rise shimmering serpentine rock formations, creating a scene awash with aquamarine hues. On a calm day, it’s hard not to be seduced by the turquoise pools; when storms rage, behold the scene from the clifftops, where Lord Alfred Tennyson loved to watch the “glorious grass-green monsters of waves”. As the tide floods in and cuts off the beach, take sanctuary in the National Trust Beach Café for just-baked scones with lashings of cream.

Where to stay: The most southerly self-catering home in the land, The Signal Station.


For adventure: Bossiney Cove

The best beaches in Cornwall: Bossiney Cove

The North Cornish coastline is steeped in fable, and it's not just the well-known destinations of Tintagel and Boscastle. Veer off the well-trodden path, traversing farmland and descending a narrow trail to the secret haven of Bossiney Cove, and witness the true magic unfold. At high tide, all you can do is ogle at the view of cliffs plunging into cobalt blue seas while savouring a Cornish ice cream from the vintage van in the car park. But as the tide recedes, the path reveals itself, inviting the curious to tread down to the emerging sands, dive into the deep blue, peer into hidden caves, and feel the cool spray from the cascading waterfall.

Where to stay: Romantic couples' getaway Aphrodite, or just east of Tintagel (and right on the golden sands of Trebarwith) at Gypsea Rocks.


Feeling inspired? Discover where to eat and drink in Cornwall, read about the prettiest villages in the county, or browse the full collection of luxury homes in Cornwall.

Properties featured in this article: Northcott Beach House, The Limit, Nautilus, River House, Aphrodite, Infinity, Gypsea Rocks, Serpentine, Raffia, The Edge, The Signal Station, Juneberry, The Meadows, Villa Boden, Alba Beach House, Nevada, The Hatch, Elowen, Oska, Seaglass, Amaia, Lightkeepers, The Spyglass, Senara, Moku, Talisman

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