With epic beaches and fantastic coastline views, it’s unsurprising that Newquay is one of the most visited places in Cornwall. There are so many epic things to do in Newquay (yes, more than surfing!), and in this post, we’ll detail a few of them – and show you why it is such a popular Cornish holiday destination!
How to get to Newquay
In terms of Cornish towns, Newquay is quite easy to reach. You can take a train from London Paddington to Newquay directly; it also links to Exeter and Plymouth. Coach links are also available to Newquay.
If you’re driving, take the M5 until the end (just after Exeter) and then follow the A30 to the A392 turn off. Read my how to get to Cornwall guide for more information.
15 Fun Things to do in Newquay
From surfing to eating, here are the best things to do in Newquay!
Take a surf lesson
This was always going to be top of a what to do in Newquay list. 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!
In Newquay, there are plenty of surfing schools that are great for beginners. Escape Surf School Newquay and Newquay Surfing School are both centrally located and have a range of lessons for everybody.
Of course, if you’re a pro, you can just take to the waves – but do be careful if you haven’t had experience in big waves before. However you try it, do give it a go – surfing is one of the best things to do in Cornwall.
Chill out at the harbour
Newquay Harbour is the centrepiece of town life. The Quay was applied for in the 15th century and appeared in the 17th century. Quay is another word for harbour, so it quite literally means ‘New Harbour’.
Pre-quay times, there was only a separate fishing village called Towan Blystra, which doesn’t roll of the tongue quite so easily!
Nowadays, Newquay Harbour is one of Cornwall’s best landmarks. There are two busy restaurants, as well as an RNLI station and a fleet of boats. Walking down to the harbour is one of the best things to do in Newquay in the evening.
Stroll along Fistral Beach
Fistral Beach is possibly the most famous beach in Newquay, located around a half hour walk from the town centre. It’s a famous surfing beach – definitely the best in the UK, and one of the best in the world – Fistral Beach Surf School offer lessons here.
Even if you don’t want to catch any waves, it’s an excellent choice for an evening stroll, or a day spent sunbathing!
Check out the rest of the beaches!
As you’d expect in any good Cornish beach town, there are plenty of beaches to admire in and around Newquay. Here are some of the best:
- 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 letted 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’!
- Watergate Bay Beach – this is a large expansive beach near Newquay, that is the end point for the popular Newquay to Watergate Bay walk (details below!).
- Porth Beach – another beautiful beach near to 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 – but it can get pretty busy!
Trenance Gardens and Leisure Park
Trenance Gardens is one of the best things to do in Newquay with kids. There are lots of parks, playgrounds, a miniature railway and crazy golf – so plenty to keep the children occupied! If you’re visiting without children, taking a stroll through the gardens is lovely as well.
Trerice is a large Elizabethan manor house and grounds, ran by the National Trust. As well as some beautiful gardens, the house has exhibits about what life was like in the Elizabethan times, so it’s a great place to visit in Newquay with teenagers or older kids, as well as anyone who is interested in history!
Walk some of the South West Coast path
Like every other beach town and village in Cornwall, Newquay is on the South West Coast Path. This 630 mile trail actually begins in Minehead in Somerset, stretches through North Devon, wraps around Cornwall and goes back into Devon before ending at Poole in Dorset!
It would take you 1-2 months to do the whole thing, but you can do part of the trail right here, in Newquay. Simply follow it either side – south towards Fistral Beach and around the headland, or north toward Watergate Bay!
The Newquay – Watergate Bay segment is 2.8 miles/ 4.5 km one way, and it takes around an hour. You’ll get to enjoy both beaches and epic cliff views, making it one of the most popular hikes near Newquay!
Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre
The Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre is one of the most unique things to do in Newquay, and a great rainy day activity in Cornwall (just pack your brolly because some of it is outside). It’s a museum all about planes and the aviation industry, with jets from the 1940s – 1980s, as well as a simulator and 1500 model aircrafts.
The Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre is located right by Newquay’s working airport. It costs £10.50 for adults to visit, £6.00 for children, and £26.00 for a family.
The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden is one of the best things to do in Newquay if you want to find some inner zen. Decorated in the traditional style of zen Japanese gardens, it’s a picturesque slice of Asia in Cornwall, and is the perfect place for a short excursion from the town.
It costs £5.00 for adult entry to the garden, and £2.50 for kids. It is open from 1st March to 31st October.
Jet Ski or Boat Rides with Cornish Waverunner Safaris
To get another look at the coastline, take an excursion with Cornish Waverunner Safaris. You could either do 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 – you just gotta try a Cornish pasty.
These were traditionally made for miners working in Cornish tin mines. They are traditionally composed of onions, carrots, and meat, and wrapped in pastry. They have a ‘crust’ that the miners would hold onto.
There are a few debated reasons why the crust was so big. The most popular opinion is because, as you can imagine, your hands get a bit dirty when you work in the mines, and saves eating with your hands! It is also thought that some miners left the crusts in the mines as an offering to the Cornish pixies, to hopefully keep them safe while they were working.
My dad’s side of the family is Cornish, and his grandad came from a long line of Cornish miners, and I’ve heard both stories from them.
Cornish pasties used to be much larger (my Cornish gran still makes 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!
Enjoy a Cornish cream tea
Another delectable Cornish staple is the cream tea. This is served across Devonshire and Cornwall, but with one major difference. If you are 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).
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.
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!
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 2 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. I’ll let the photos do the talking…
When I visited, I walked down some very steep steps to the beach below and explored one of the caves. However, at the moment, the steps are inaccessible. If you’ve visited recently and found them open again, do let me know!
Go for a night out
Newquay is undoubtedly the nightlife capital of Cornwall, and especially in 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 for bars and offers a range of music, and Tom Thumb is the place to go if you want some chilled out cocktails.
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!