Are you looking for fun things to do in Newquay, Cornwall? This post is for you!
Ask people to name a town in Cornwall, and many people’s first answer will be: “Newquay”.
The endless beaches of Newquay are lapped with bright blue water – some of which boast the UK’s best surf breaks – and inland, there are plenty of attractions for all ages.
Newquay’s a town with many sides. On one side, it’s home to Cornwall’s best nightlife and is a popular trip with young adults (I visited on my first ever trip without my parents when I was 18).
On the other, there’s a huge amount of family-friendly attractions in and around the town centre, and while you might want to avoid the town centre at night if you’re travelling with kids, there’s a huge concentration of holiday parks and family-friendly hotels in the local area.
Take my word for it! I visited Newquay numerous times as a kid, with my friends on my first trip without my parents, again a few times with my family (some of who live in the area) as an adult and I’ve gone back a few times since my partner and I have been living in Devon (the next county over from Cornwall).
Each time, I’ve found something to enjoy in Newquay.
I went from enjoying Newquay’s kid-friendly attractions to drinking until dawn in its many bars, to enjoying its hikes and dining scene as an adult.
And I’m going to go into all of the best things to do in Newquay, for any demographic, in this post!
So here’s my full Newquay travel guide!
Best things to do in Newquay
The best things to do in Newquay include hitting the waves with one of the town’s best surf schools, lazing on its beautiful beaches, visiting family-friendly attractions like the zoo or Trenance gardens, seeing north coast highlights like the nearby Bedruthan Steps or kicking back in a pub or bar – Newquay has some of Cornwall’s best!
Take a surf lesson
Let’s be real… surfing was always going to be the top of a what to do in Newquay list.
Surfing is one of the best things to do in Cornwall – Newquay is one of the best towns to try the sport.
Surfing is what Newquay thrives on.
Its wild Atlantic waves are as impressive as those that you would find in California or Australia – although the waters are a bit colder!
The town is home to plenty of surfing schools that are great for beginners; most surfing lessons take place on Fistral Beach which is a short journey from the town.
In fact, The Cribbar, the UK’s biggest surf break, is at the north of Fistral Beach.
Of course, if you’re a pro, you can just take to the waves (surfboard rental is available on Fistral) – but do be careful if you haven’t had experience in big waves before – those
Chill out at the harbour
Whether you’ve spent the morning catching waves or visiting Newquay’s other attractions, head to the harbour to chill out and enjoy the picturesque Cornish scenes.
Newquay Harbour is the historic centre of the town.
Newquay’s townspeople first applied for a quay in the 15th century and built it in the 17th century.
Quay is another word for harbour, so the name of the town literally means ‘New Harbour’.
(Pre-quay times, the town was a fishing village called Towan Blystra, which doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily!)
Nowadays, Newquay Harbour is one of Cornwall’s best landmarks.
You could spend a while taking in the views or strolling around, climbing onto the harbour walls or taking the uphill path to catch a view of the harbour.
Alternatively, grab some food at The Boathouse, a wonderful on-sand street food market.
We visited The Boathouse a couple of years ago and demolished some delicious Asian noodle soup and tacos – the great thing about The Boathouse is you can order food from different stalls and try a bit of everything.
Stroll along Fistral Beach
Fistral Beach is possibly the most famous beach in Newquay (and quite possibly the best beach in all of Cornwall!).
Reach it by walking to Newquay harbour and cutting across the headland or venturing over the cliffs on the South West Coast Path, past Huer’s Hut and Little Fistral Beach.
The second is definitely the more scenic option.
It’ll take you around an hour in total – but you’ll catch a view of Little Fistral Beach and The Cribbar from the top of the cliffs.
A world-famous surf spot, Fistral Beach encompasses huge breaks and white foamy waves.
The large expanse of sand is a spectacle for anyone, surfer or non-surfer.
The South West Coast Path passes through the back of the dunes above the beach.
Either walk through these, taking in beachy views or simply spend some time relaxing on the sands.
The Headland Hotel overlooks Fistral Beach, and there are other refreshment opportunities at the town end, including Rick Stein’s fish and chip restaurant.
Check out the rest of the beaches!
Newquay’s seaside offerings don’t stop at Fistral. From the town’s best sands to quieter spots outside of the main tourist hub, there are plenty more Newquay beaches to chill out on! Don’t miss the following:
- Towan Beach: this is where ‘the island’ is located – a large outcrop that is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was once the home of Sir Oliver Lodge, but nowadays is let out as a holiday home.
- Lusty Glaze Beach: this is a privately owned, smaller beach, that is open to the public for free. It’s a popular spot for watersports, and has earned the prestigious title of ‘Beach of the Year’! We sadly couldn’t go onto the beach this summer, as it was closed for a private wedding, but I’ve visited before and can attest that it’s definitely one of the best beaches in the area!
- Watergate Bay Beach: this is a large expansive beach near Newquay, which is the endpoint for the popular Newquay to Watergate Bay walk (details below!).
- Porth Beach: another beautiful beach near Newquay town. There is plenty of space here, and ‘The Mermaid Inn’ is close by which makes a great spot for lunch.
- Tolcarne Beach: this beach is another great option near Newquay, but there are a lot of steps up and down to it! At low tide, it connects to Towan Beach.
- Great Western Beach: located right by Newquay Station, this beach is in an incredibly convenient location.
Trenance Gardens and Leisure Park
Searching for things to do in Newquay with kids?
Head to Trenance Gardens to discover endless parks, playgrounds, a miniature railway, and crazy golf.
If you’re visiting without children, taking a stroll through the gardens is lovely as well.
Experience the grandeur of an Elizabethan manor house and grounds at Trerice.
You’ll immerse yourself in the authentic ambience of Tudor times as you explore the sympathetically furnished house, transporting you back to the 1570s when it was built by the Arundell family, but nowadays lovingly preserved by the National Trust.
Despite its intimate size, Trerice doesn’t usually see hoardes of tourists.
We visited one September and revelled in its tranquillity, although there are friendly and knowledgeable volunteers dotted around the property who are eager to share its rich history.
It’s not a huge National Trust property, but when we visited in September it was quiet and the volunteers were friendly and gave us lots of information about the house.
Once you’ve explored the house, don’t miss the delightful gardens, boasting a traditional Tudor knot garden and a flourishing vegetable garden, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Just a short 10-minute drive from Newquay, Trerice transports you to another world!
You can visit for free if you’re a National Trust member – read my full review of membership by clicking here!
Walk some of the South West Coast path
Unleash your inner explorer on the epic South West Coast Path!
Stretching a colossal 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, this trail weaves its way through the picturesque Cornish coastline, including vibrant Newquay.
While tackling the entire route could take 1-2 months, you can embark on a section right here in Newquay!
Choose your adventure: head south towards Fistral Beach and the captivating headland, or venture north, leading you to the stunning Watergate Bay.
The Newquay-Watergate Bay segment spans 2.8 miles/4.5 km, taking approximately an hour to complete.
Prepare to be awestruck by breathtaking cliff views and a plethora of beaches; if it’s a sunny day, you could stop off at each beach for a quick dip in the sea or picnic on the sands!
The hike to Fistral Beach takes around an hour, but you could journey further to Holywell Bay or Perranporth (around 9 miles and 3-4 hours).
Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre
One of the most unique things to do in Newquay, the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre is one of the most unique things to do in Newquay,
It’s a great rainy day activity in Cornwall – just pack your brolly because some of it is outside.
The Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre is a museum that explores planes and the aviation industry, boasting jets from the 1940s–1980s, a simulator and 1500 model aircraft.
The Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre is located right by Newquay’s working airport – so you can get a real sense of the past and present from the industry as you visit!
The Japanese Garden
Looking for some inner zen? Head to the Japanese Garden.
Decorated in the traditional style of relaxing Japanese gardens, it’s a picturesque slice of Asia in Cornwall.
You’ll learn about Japanese principles for calming the mind and body as you walk through the flora; and if you want to pick up a plant to take home, you can even purchase bonsai!
Jet Ski or Boat Rides with Cornish Waverunner Safaris
Fancy seeing the coastline from a whole new perspective?
You can do just that on an excursion with Cornish Waverunner Safaris.
Opt for a jet ski taster session or safari or tour around on a power boat.
Either way, you’ll get to see some epic Cornish sights from the sea!
Try a Cornish pasty
While you’re in Newquay – or anywhere in Cornwall – trying a Cornish pasty is all but essential.
Pasties have existed for centuries, but they were popularised for workers in Cornish tin mines.
Traditionally composed of onions, carrots, and meat, and wrapped in pastry, they’re known for their ‘crust’ that the miners would hold onto
This enabled them to not touch their food with dirty hands and they also left the crusts in the mines as offerings to Cornish piskies, with the hope that the piskies would keep them safe!
My dad’s side of the family is Cornish, and his grandad came from a long line of Cornish miners; so pasties were pretty much what my family grew up on!
Cornish pasties used to be much larger (my Cornish gran used to make ones that are as big as my head), but nowadays, shops sell them in an easy-to-consume, pocket-sized version.
If you don’t eat meat, don’t worry – there are plenty of veggie and vegan options available now.
I’ve tried some delicious vegan pasties all over Cornwall, and in hipster Newquay, you’ll certainly find some interesting concoctions!
Head to Jamies Pasty Shop for some of the best in town.
Enjoy a Cornish cream tea
Another delectable Cornish staple is the cream tea.
Cornish cream tea is essentially clotted cream, jam, and freshly baked scones, along with a cuppa.
You can get this Cornish classic all over Newquay – try The Headland Hotel for a sophisticated afternoon treat, or The Cloud Cafe for a vegan cream tea.
One note: Cream tea is served across Devonshire and Cornwall but with one major difference.
If you’re eating cream tea in Cornwall, put the jam on first.
You’ll be in trouble if you don’t. (If you eat it in Devon, put the cream on first. I didn’t make up the rules).
If you want to check out some of the other things that you should never do in Cornwall, take a look at my YouTube video below!
Newquay High Street
Newquay High Street has plenty of hipster, surf-style shops, lots of them independent. It’s a great place to pick up some souvenirs from your trip to Cornwall!
Shops worth mentioning include:
- Married to the Sea: a lovely surf-style boutique store.
- The Wave Project: this is a store with a difference; as well as selling clothes and accessories for men, women, and children, they also raise money to offer what they call ‘surf therapy’ – surf lessons to help people with mental health problems. It’s a fantastic concept, and well worth supporting!
- Roo’s Beach: this is a super fashionable store selling trendy clothes and accessories, and with its own attached coffee shop!
Visit Newquay Zoo
If you’re looking for things to do in Newquay with kids, Newquay Zoo may be the answer.
Spanning over 13 acres, this expansive zoo is home to over 130 species and an impressive collection of over 1,000 animals from across the globe.
Prepare to encounter a fascinating array of creatures, including Asian short-clawed otters, gray slender lorises, red pandas, meerkats, and even African lions!
Beyond being a captivating experience, Newquay Zoo is an educational gem.
Each display has detailed information about the creature, making it the perfect place to learn about its habitats, behaviours, and the importance of conservation efforts.
Explore diverse habitats and immerse yourself in the wonders of the animal kingdom at Newquay Zoo.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, knowledge, or simply a memorable day out, this zoo delivers it all!
Be wowed at Bedruthan Steps
Bedruthan Steps is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall; and one of my favourite spots in the county. It’s about 7 miles from the town; a two hour walk up the coastal path or a 20 minute drive.
The ‘steps’ are rocky outcrops, jutting out from the coastline, and on a sunny day, it literally looks like the Med.
The first time I visited, I walked down some very steep steps to the beach below and explored one of the caves. However, when I returned in the summer, the steps were inaccessible.
If you’ve visited recently and found them open again, do let me know!
Visit the Blue Reef Aquarium
Dive into a world of wonder as you encounter over 40 mesmerizing creatures at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium.
Here, you’ll see graceful turtles, awe-inspiring sharks, enchanting seahorses and a kaleidoscope of fish from around the globe.
But the real showstopper? An incredible underwater tunnel that allows you to stroll through while gazing up in anticipation, spotting magnificent marine life like majestic sharks and captivating pufferfish!
Beyond its jaw-dropping displays, the Blue Reef Aquarium is a treasure trove of knowledge.
Explore the waters of North Cornwall and immerse yourself in the secrets of the world’s oceans, along with useful lessons about how we can protect the globe’s seas from the UK.
Pirate Quest Adventure Golf
Embark on an epic adventure at Pirate Quest Adventure Golf, the ultimate indoor mini-golf course that offers hours of entertainment for all the family – or it’s great fun for couples and adult groups too!
At this one-of-a-kind golf course, you’ll be swept back 300 years in time, when fearsome pirates ruled the seas around Newquay.
Immerse yourself in a captivating atmosphere as you navigate through themed sections like the historic Towan Blystra Docks and the infamous Blackbeard’s Tavern.
You’ll hear tales of the notorious smugglers who once prowled these shores and uncover the legends of legendary figures like King Arthur, said to have been born at mystical Tintagel.
Pirate Quest Adventure Golf isn’t just about sinking putts—it’s an immersive journey through time and folklore.
So gather your crew, grab a putter, and get ready for a swashbuckling golfing experience like no other!
Newquay Museum and Heritage Centre
You’ll uncover the captivating history of Newquay at the exhilarating Newquay Heritage Archive and Museum.
Nestled in the heart of the town, this iconic building holds a trove of intriguing tales waiting to be discovered.
Immerse yourself in the world of local minerals, where the geological wonders of the region come to life.
Dive deep into the town’s vibrant fishing industry and unravel its rich maritime heritage.
You’ll also be enthralled by exhibits dedicated to renowned locals like the legendary poet laureate, John Betjeman, who once called Newquay home.
Find the Huer’s Hut
Perched atop the rugged cliffs of Newquay, Huer’s Hut stands as a historic gem, offering a glimpse into the town’s intriguing past.
Dating back to the 14th century, Huer’s Hut was once the lookout point for the town’s “huers,” whose role was to spot shoals of pilchards and alert the fishermen to their presence.
Positioned strategically, this iconic hut allowed the huers to survey the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
Today, Huer’s Hut stands as a beloved landmark, commanding panoramic views of Newquay Bay and the surging waves below.
It’s situated on the South West Coast Path – if you walk to Fistral Beach, you’ll bypass it.
Kick back on Perranporth Beach
An expansive three miles of beach (it’s one of the best dog-friendly beaches in Cornwall), Perranporth is a coastal gem that’s ideal for hiking, surfing or just kicking back and relaxing!
Sand dunes sit behind the beach; at low tide, you can walk along the entire beach and at high tide you can enjoy the path spanning the dunes and cliffs.
When you reach the main Perranporth beach, kick back and relax with a drink on the UK’s only beach bar (that’s actually on the beach!).
If you’re traversing Newquay’s best surf spots, Perranporth Beach provides, with a variety of different breaks – Perranporth Surf School operates right on the sands.
Head to Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm
An idyllic destination in the heart of the Cornish countryside, Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm is a 15 minute drive from Newquay and is the ultimate place to to immerse yourself in the world of exceptional ciders.
You’ll uncover the secrets of cider making as you embark on a guided tour of this working farm, where you’ll learn about pressing, fermentation and labelling.
Of course, there are plenty of chances to go cider-tasting – and if you fancy more cider, there’s an on-site bar too!
We actually did a gin-tasting tour and learned about how the farm creates gin out of apples.
While there’s a big focus on alcohol at Healey’s, it’s suitable to visit with kids too, with tractor tours and some lovely farm animals to visit!
Embark out on a sealife safari
Embark on an unforgettable adventure with Newquay Sea Safaris, where the thrill of the Cornwall coast comes alive!
Head out and witness mesmerizing marine life, such as leaping dolphins, sunbathing seals and maybe even basking sharks!
For fishing enthusiasts, angling trips are also available.
Cast your line into the turquoise waters and reel in a variety of fresh Cornish fish!
Go for a night out
Newquay is undoubtedly the nightlife capital of Cornwall, and especially in the high season, the town is rammed with party travellers.
- Bertie’s Club is possibly the most ‘party holiday’ of the lot, with themed nights and drinks promotions
- Sailor’s Nightclub is also popular with tourists, with a nautical theme
- The Koola Bar is spread over three floors of bars and offers a range of music
- Tom Thumb is the place to go if you want some chilled-out cocktails
Where to stay in Newquay
I’ve written a full blog post about places to stay in Newquay, but here are some of my favourite options:
Ideal for backpackers and surfers, Smarties Surf Lodge boasts dorms, double and triple rooms, along with a communal area.
As the name suggests, this is the place to go if you want a surfing holiday – the lodge can arrange surf trips and lessons!
With wonderful views over Towan Beach, Lazy Waves Boutique B&B has individually decorated en-suite rooms with comfortable bedding and TVs. Plus, you can enjoy breakfast here every morning!
One of the best luxury hotels in South West England, Headland Hotel and Spa sits overlooking Fistral Beach and is home to eight different styles of rooms, along with indoor pools and a full spa. There are also excellent restaurant facilities with gorgeous coastal views!
Best restaurants in Newquay
Here are some of the best and most unique places to eat in Newquay!
Boathouse is my favourite place to eat in Newquay. It’s a complex right on Newquay Harbour Beach, and serves delicious food from tacos to ramen!
Perfect if you’re with a group who want to eat different things, you can simply order the dishes with a QR code and the wait staff will bring it out.
The only issue here is not knowing what to pick – I ended up having tacos for a starter and ramen for main last time I went, as I couldn’t decide!
Rick Stein’s Fish and Chips are famous in Cornwall; most people generally visit the Padstow branch, but there’s also one at Fistral Beach.
While these fish and chips are quite pricey, they are very delicious.
For more affordable fish and chips in Newquay, I also like Flounders.
Lewinnick Lodge is a boutique restaurant serving starters like harissa roasted cauliflower, mains such as moules and frites and mains like steaks or burgers (with veggie burgers!).
Boasting tremendous views over the crashing Atlantic Ocean, this is definitely one of the most scenic places to eat in Newquay!
Below are a few suggested itineraries to follow if you’re visiting Newquay!
One day in Newquay
If you only have one day in Newquay, you have to spend it beach-hopping!
Start at Fistral Beach, maybe doing a surf lesson if you desire.
Grab some Rick Stein’s fish and chips for lunch, then head to Towan Beach (either by walking on the South West Coast Path or travelling through town by foot, bus or car), checking out the island, and Lusty Glaze Beach.
This is also the time that you could venture into town and see some of Newquay’s best shops.
If you’re not beached-out, you could walk to Watergate Bay on the coastal path. If you are, drive to Bedruthan Steps the ideal place to end your day in Newquay!
I’d then recommend heading back to town and dining at The Boathouse, a fabulous street food market on the beach.
Two days in Newquay
Do day one as above.
Then, spend the next day either walking to Perranporth, another beautiful seaside town not too far from Newquay. This is a great coastal path walk that’s fairly suitable for all abilities.
If you don’t want to hike, you could drive or catch a bus to Perranporth, and see some nearby attractions like Trerice and Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm.
One week in Newquay
If you have one week in Newquay, spend the first two days as detailed above.
You could definitely spend another full day chilling out on one of Newquay’s best beaches – just pick your favourite!
Spend another day seeing the other highlights of the city, like Trenance, the Japanese Garden and the Cornwall Aviation Centre.
Newquay is in an excellent position for some great day trips to surrounding Cornish towns and villages. So you could also visit the following places while in town:
- Padstow: A town that’s known for gastronomy, with a beautiful harbour, the Tarquin’s Gin Distillery and excellent boat trips to see seals and other marine life.
- Bodmin: An underrated Cornish hidden gem, Bodmin is home to interesting museums, a jail and the foreboding Bodmin Moor. Don’t forget to pop into Jamaica Inn while you’re driving around!
- St Agnes: A mining heritage site, St Agnes has some beautiful coastline views and is just on the other side of Perranporth.
- Fowey: Although Fowey is on the south coast of Cornwall, it’s only a 45 minute drive from Newquay! Explore the gorgeous Medieval town or see nearby attractions like the Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan.
- Truro: Newquay’s not far from Truro, which is the only city in Cornwall and is home to Truro Cathedral and the Royal Cornwall Museum.
- Falmouth: Falmouth is always a good idea! It’s home to Pendennis Castle, the Cornish Maritime Museum and some stunning beaches.
Visiting Newquay FAQs
Is Newquay nice?
Newquay is a prime holiday destination in Cornwall, and it’s very nice! Here, you’ll find some of the best beaches in the country, with ample surfing opportunities, and a bustling town centre with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars.
Is Newquay rough?
Newquay does have a vibrant nightlife scene, and occasionally this can lead to drunken violence. However, if you aren’t walking around on the streets at 3 am, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice this!
What is the best time to visit Newquay?
The warmest months in Newquay are July and August. But this isn’t necessarily the best time to visit; masses of tourists descend on the town in peak summer, so it can be incredibly busy and expensive!
I like visiting Newquay in May and September. The weather is usually decent, but the crowds are much more manageable and prices are better.
If you want something really unusual, you can always visit in the winter for dramatic storms (and virtually no other tourists!). The Headland Hotel even does storm-watching experiences!
Which is better Newquay or St Ives?
Neither is really better than the other; they’re both just different.
Probably the two most popular tourist destinations in Cornwall, St Ives is smaller and has more of a “fishing village” feel (although it is actually a town).
Newquay is larger, has more attractions and better nightlife.
It’s probably better for both families (due to the many attractions) and younger travellers (due to the nightlife!).
Both have amazing beaches!
Personally, I prefer St Ives, but I don’t have kids, don’t visit Cornwall in the peak summer season (July and August are no-go times for me!) and I’m more into nice meals out than clubs.
What will you do in Newquay?
As you can see, there are so many things to do in Newquay.
The beautiful beaches and roaring nightlife certainly make the town famous, but it’s also worth sticking around to enjoy the historic houses and beautiful gardens in the area, as well as the aviation museum!
Whether you’re on a road trip around Cornwall or visiting Newquay for a week’s holiday, you’ll find so much to do in this area.
Take a look at my Cornwall posts for more information about visiting this beautiful part of the country!