20 of the Best Beaches in Cornwall: surf, swim or relax!

Photo of Pedn Vounder Beach near Porthcurno Cornwall England UK Europe

If you’re looking for beaches in Cornwall, this post is here to help!

My family are Cornish, and I’ve visited more or less every beach in the region over my lifetime. This summer, I spent a month travelling around the region and visited many of my favourite Cornish beaches again.

And I’ve compiled them all in this blog post!

From the expansive sandy beaches of north Cornwall that are perfect for surfing to the enigmatic hidden coves around Land’s End, it’s fair to say that Cornwall does beautiful beaches well. 

Whether you’re after hidden gems or the most-loved beaches that are synonymous with the beauty of Cornwall, there’s something for everybody in this beaches in Cornwall list. 

And you can enjoy these Cornish beaches by hiking miles of coast path along rocky paths and epic cliff tops, stretching out on the golden sands, or trying your hand at surfing. 

20 best beaches in Cornwall

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove on the Lizard

Kynance Cove is a beautiful cove on the Lizard Peninsula.

With serpentine rock and turquoise water, this is one of the most photographed locations in Cornwall.

It does get busy – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth visiting! 

If you go to Kynance Cove, I would recommend visiting as early as possible in the day, as it can get very crowded.

It’s also important to check the tide times as parts of the beach can get cut off.

It’s also not really a swimming beach, as the water here can be hazardous. People who know what they’re doing might go out but I wouldn’t recommend it if you aren’t a strong swimmer and don’t know the area. 

You can read more about this in my Kynance Cove blog post.

Sennen Cove

Sennen Beach In Cornwall, England

Sitting near Land’s end in west Cornwall, Sennen Cove is a popular surfing beach.

Although it is somewhat isolated, it can be very busy in the summer months. However, the beach itself is big, and it’s always got a fun buzzing atmosphere.

There is a surf school at Sennen Beach, and the clifftops boast fantastic views over the blue waters of the beautiful Cornish coast. There is also a seasonal lifeguard cover. 

There are a few lovely places to stay in Sennen Beach, but it’s also a popular place for a day trip, especially because you can combine it with visiting Land’s End and Porthcurno. 

Fistral Beach

Fistral beach, Cornwall, South West England in summer.

Fistral Beach is located near Newquay on the north coast of Cornwall.

With expansive sands and waves that are great for surfing, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular beaches in the Duchy! 

The friendly beach is dotted with surf schools and has impressive sweeping views from the dunes.

Although it is immensely popular, it is the biggest beach in Newquay, so you’ll definitely find a patch of sand to spread out on while you’re here!

If you want to stay near Fistral Beach, the beautiful Headland Hotel looks out onto the sands. Read more about it here.

Praa Sands

On the coast path approaching Sydney Cove at Praa Sands Cornwall England UK Europe

Praa Sands is a small village close to Penzance, and Praa Sands Beach is incredibly picturesque.

With glorious white sand, tumbling blue waves and rolling fields just behind, it’s a charming place to enjoy the summer months in Cornwall. 

It’s also one of the best beaches for surfers in south Cornwall.

The English Channel’s waters aren’t quite as legendary for surfing as the Atlantic Ocean in the north, but Praa Sands has good waves, especially for beginners.

Porthcurno Beach

Porth Curno Beautiful beach in Cornwall, England

Porthcurno Beach is a beautiful tropical-feeling beach close to Land’s End.

With dramatic cliffs rising from the white sands, it’s somewhere that you won’t believe is in the UK!

Although Porthcurno Beach is isolated, it can get very busy. This is largely due to its proximity to Land’s End and the fact that the Minack Theatre is close by. 

It’s worth visiting the Minack while you’re here too – you can either explore when it’s empty or watch a play with an epic backdrop of blue waters and the stunning Cornish coast.

If you manage to go on a fine day, it’s one of the most beautiful experiences you can have in Cornwall. 

Summerleaze Beach

Line of beach huts above Summmerleaze beach at Sunset.

Summerleaze Beach is one of the most impressive beaches close to Bude.

With beautiful colourful beach huts and dramatic crashing waves, it’s a popular destination for sun soakers and surfers. 

You can chill out on the sand, go surfing or take a dip in the Bude Sea Pool, a naturally filled oceanside pool that is perfect for safe swimming. 

Gyllyngvase Beach

Holidaymakers enjoy Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth

Gyllyngvase Beach is a popular beach on the south coast of Cornwall.

It’s under 10 minutes walk from Falmouth and its many attractions, and is the largest in the area – meaning that you should always be able to find a space! 

It’s one of Cornwall’s seven blue flag beaches, meaning that the water quality and safety is excellent.

With clear water and soft sand, it’s a popular beach for watersports or just chilling out! 

Pedn Vounder Beach

Overlooking Pedn Vounder Beach from Treen Cliffs Cornwall England UK

Pedn Vounder Beach is widely regarded as one of the best sandy beaches in Cornwall.

It’s situated near to Porthcurno (where the Minack Theatre and Telegraph Museum are located!) and you can visit it while enjoying other attractions in the area, like Land’s End. 

Pedn Vounder is a remote beach; you will need to walk about 30 minutes from the nearest car park.

But it’s well worth the walk.

With towering cliffs and crystal clear waters, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall, but it’s relatively quiet compared to other similar spots.

If you want an adventure, head to Pedn Vounder! 

Nanjizal Beach

Nanjizal Beach Sunset Cornwall England UK

Located close to Land’s End, Nanjizal Beach is one of the most remote on this list of Cornish beaches.

It’s worth the trek though – with white sand and brilliantly blue water, it’s one of the prettiest beaches in the UK. 

You can reach Nanjizal Beach by hiking on the South West Coast Path from Porthcurno, Porthgwarra or Land’s End.

There isn’t any parking nearby.

But you’ll be rewarded when you arrive – it’s a stunning beach, and there are often no other people there.

We visited on a hot summer’s day in July, and had it all to ourselves!

Holywell Bay

Holywell Bay Beach, best beaches in Newquay

From the craggy cliffs at Holywell Bay, you’ll get to enjoy beautiful views over the cove and coastline.

This whole area is run by the National Trust, and although it’s not that far from Newquay, it’s not as frequently visited as many of the other beaches in the town. 

The best part of Holywell Bay is undoubtedly the sweeping vistas from the coastal path on either side, but it’s stunning at ground level as well.

Scenes from Poldark and Game of Thrones have been filmed here, so if you’re a fan of either TV show it’s definitely worth visiting!

There’s a pub and public toilets towards the back of the beach, and a caravan park set a little further back. 

It’s relatively accessible, as you can park at the car park to the back of the beach and then it is flat as you go toward the sea.

Porthminster Beach

View overlooking Porthminster Beach St Ives Cornwall England UK

Porthminster Beach is a lovely beach in St Ives.

It’s nestled in St Ives Bay, which means that the waters here are comparatively calm, so it’s perfect for swimming (but not so great for surfing!). 

Porthminster Beach is located right next to Carbis Bay beach, and there’s a lovely stretch of the South West Coast Path along these two beaches and up to Porthkidney Beach.

You can walk one way and take the scenic train back into St Ives. 

With palm trees and tropical-like waters and sands, Porthminster is reminiscent of destinations further south – but this is the warmest area of the UK! 

Porthmeor Beach

Panoramic view of Porthmeor beach in St Ives, Cornwall, England

Porthmeor Beach is the surfing beach of St Ives.

Sitting outside of the protected St Ives Bay, Porthmeor Beach is home to huge waves and is loved by novice and advanced surfers. 

There are plenty of surfing schools in St Ives, so you could contact one if you fancy a lesson. Alternatively, take your own board out!

The TATE St Ives is right by Porthmeor Beach and has a lovely terrace looking over the sea. 

Carbis Bay Beach

Carbis Bay Cornwall England near St Ives blue sea

This is my Cornish grandma’s favourite beach – she was born and bred down the road in Camborne, so she’s an authority when it comes to beaches in Cornwall! 

With a palm-lined shore, brilliant blue waters, and a huge expanse of golden sand, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere in the Caribbean. 

But this is very much in the UK – just the furthest south and warmest part of it! 

The beach is family-friendly with plenty of facilities, and it’s also only a short walk away from St Ives and all of its attractions. 

One of the best ways to take in Carbis bay beach is by using the branch line train from St Erth. This only takes ten minutes, but it spans from St Erth to St Ives, going past Carbis Bay on the way. 

Perranporth Beach

Perran Sands near Perranporth, North Cornwall

Perranporth Beach is in north Cornwall, not too far from Newquay.

A vast expanse of sand, it’s one of the longest beaches in the region, with dramatic cliffs offering panoramic views. 

Perranporth Beach is also famous for being the only beach in the UK that has a beach bar – i.e. a bar that’s actually on the beach! 

Perranporth is also a popular place for surf lessons and water sports. 

Widemouth Bay Beach

Widemouth Bay near Bude, Cornwall

Widemouth Bay Beach is part of the beautiful coastline around north Cornwall.

The beach has swathes of sand and dramatic crashing waves, with beautiful vistas from the clifftops above. It’s one of the most popular beaches near Bude for this reason!

This is a beautiful stretch of coastline – as you walk from Bude to Crackington Haven, you’ll see some epic views of the dramatic rocks and clifftops. 

It is also one of Cornwall’s seven blue flag beaches. This means that it has good water quality and safety.

You can get here easily by public transport – regular buses leave Bude for Widemouth Bay. 

Gwithian Beach

Gwithian Beach Cornwall

Gwithian is an impressive stretch of beach close to St Ives.

However, it is remarkably quieter than other beaches that are close to St Ives, with plenty of sand for everyone to enjoy!

From Gwithian Beach, you’ll be able to see Godrevy Lighthouse, and you can hike to the end to take in beautiful views of St Ives bay. 

You can also do a lovely walk from here to Portreath Beach, taking in some of the Duchy’s most remarkable coastline. 

Poldhu Cove

Poldhu Cove on the Lizard Peninsula

Poldhu Cove is a quieter version of Kynance Cove. It’s a long beach stretching back from the shore, nestled into the Lizard Peninsula’s famous coastline. 

It can still get relatively busy here, but it’s a good Lizard beach if you find Kynance Cove to be too rammed. Plus it’s beautiful in its own right! 

Readymoney Beach

Readymoney Beach in Fowey

Situated in the beautiful town of Fowey in southeast Cornwall, Readymoney Cove is one of the most charming Cornish beaches. 

While it can get quite busy in the summer months, its position, just a short walk from Fowey town centre, means that it’s not usually as packed as other beaches on the south coast. 

There are a few eateries by Readymoney Beach, and you can also climb up the South West Coast Path to St Catherine’s Castle, a small English Heritage property.

Back on the sands, you can take a dip in the water or just enjoy the beautiful nature! 

Towan Beach 

Iconic Towan Beach in Newquay

Towan Beach is close to the centre of Newquay and is one of the most impressive beaches in north Cornwall.

With an island connected to the mainland by a bridge, it’s really easy to get to from Newquay centre, and it’s usually heaving on a sunny day. 

It’s worth it, though. Whether you’re enjoying the view from above Towan Beach or gazing at the rocks far above, Towan Beach is atmospheric and beautiful!

Tintagel Beach

Merlin's Cave Tintagel

Sitting in the shadow of Tintagel Castle, this small beach takes in some of the best coastal scenery in all of Cornwall.

Hiking from the clifftops is perhaps more epic, but it’s worth descending to the beach as well.

You can catch a view of Tintagel Castle (without paying the expensive entrance fee) and, if the tide is out, explore Merlin’s Cave.

This is where Merlin supposedly set foot on Cornish soil. It’s a large cave with lots of rocks to clamber over.

Once you’ve visited, you can enjoy all of the other amazing Tintagel attractions!

Lantic Bay

The stunning Cornish beach and coast line of Lantic Bay near Polruan on a beautiful summer day, Cornwall, England, UK

Last but certainly not least, Lantic Bay is a gorgeous beach and somewhat of a hidden gem.

Sandwiched between cliffs, it is located between Fowey and Polperro on the south coast of Cornwall but is quite challenging to get to, with a steep descent down to the sand. 

Many tourists visit Lantic Bay by boat, but it still remains relatively untouched, and you might even get lucky and have the sands all to yourself. 

The water is pleasant for swimming, but be careful – there can be rips and there are no lifeguards. 

What is the nicest beach in Cornwall?

Nanjizal Beach near Land's End

There are so many amazing beaches in Cornwall, it’s hard to decide on just one of the best!

My Cornish grandma votes for Carbis Bay. My dad (who is also Cornish) says Pedn Vounder Beach.

I personally love Holywell Beach, Kynance Cove (when it’s not busy!), Widemouth Bay and Porthcurno. 

There are plenty of others that are absolutely gorgeous too – this is by no means an exhaustive list. 

Where is the clearest water in Cornwall? 

St Ives to Sennan, Cornwall

The beaches around Land’s End perhaps have the clearest water. So Sennen Cove, Porthcurno, Nanjizal and Pedn Vounder. 

Is north or south Cornwall better? 

Beach on the Bude coastline

They’re both worth visiting and beautiful in their own ways!

North Cornwall is much more popular when it comes to surfing, whereas south Cornwall’s beaches are calmer and better for wild swimming. 

I find the scenery to be less dramatic in the south (apart from on the Lizard) but that doesn’t mean it’s boring!

South Cornwall features lots of fun little towns like Falmouth, Fowey and Penzance and the beaches are just as charming. 

The beauty is that the peninsula of Cornwall is long and narrow, so you can drive from one side to the other relatively quickly. This means you can enjoy both north and south Cornwall on the same trip! 

Tips for visiting Cornish beaches

Whichever beach you’re visiting in Cornwall, here are some useful tips to enjoy your time and stay safe.

Be careful with swimming

Porthgwarra Beach near Land's End

Cornwall’s sea is incredible, but it can be ferocious. Only swim in areas that have been designated as safe – if there are red flags, don’t enter the water. You can read more about swimming flags here.

I would recommend only swimming at non-lifeguarded beaches if you are a strong swimmer and have a good idea about the risk of rips in the area.

Walk the coast path, but stay safe

South West Coast Path near Fowey

The Cornish coast path stretches 400 miles around the peninsula. It’s one of the most scenic hiking trails in the country, and it’s well worth undertaking.

You can hike on the coast path from any Cornish beach.

Whether you do a full-day hike or just go a short way before turning around is up to you. Whichever way you do it, you’ll likely be able to take in mesmerizing views over the dramatic scenery.

Just make sure that you’re careful when doing so.

Stick to the path itself and don’t go close to the cliff edges. They can be unstable – the path itself is safe (as long as the weather is good), but the cliff edges aren’t.

Arrive early in the morning

Tolcarne Beach in Newquay, Cornwall

Cornish beaches are incredible – and everyone knows it! A lot of the best beaches in Cornwall can get flooded with tourists, so it’s best to arrive early to explore, especially if you’re venturing to some of the more popular beaches.

The Cornish coast can be lovely in winter!

Frosty morning beside the River Lerryn in Cornwall, South West England

In the summer, Cornwall can be heaving.

However, it’s worth visiting Cornwall in the winter for a quieter, local atmosphere, cheaper prices and brisk clear days.

Of course, the weather isn’t always great – get caught in a Cornish storm and you’ll see what I mean!

However, there are lots of things to do in Cornwall in the rain, and when you do get a nice day, you can head out and see all of these beautiful Cornish beaches!

Don’t forget your suncream

The view across two coves from the Cornish Coastal Path, Cornwall

Trust me, I know from experience that you can burn in Cornwall. Don’t forget to pack suncream, and apply it liberally while you’re at the beach.

Cornwall definitely knows what it’s doing when it comes to beautiful golden beaches. Whether you’re in the north or the south, there’s a Cornish beach waiting for you! 

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