Are you looking for the best things to do in Polzeath? Check out my full guide!
Blue waves crash against the golden powdery sands of the beach at Polzeath, a small village at the mouth of the River Camel in north Cornwall.
With a population hovering just over 1,500, the village is tiny, but in the summer tourist season it comes to life with beginner and intermediate surfers looking to catch waves, and families relaxing on the expansive sands.
Collected around the beach, a selection of tourist-focused businesses – mainly eateries and watersports rental offices – offer amenities to guests.
I recently visited Polzeath around the summer solstice and enjoyed a couple of long days sitting by the beach, exploring the coastline and devouring some of the region’s best food.
It wasn’t my first time in Polzeath – my family are from Cornwall and I spent a whole summer living in the region.
So, I’ve got a full list of the best attractions and activities in Polzeath to help you plan your holiday there!
Take a look at my top options – along with tips on where to stay and what to do in the area – below!
Things to do in Polzeath
The best things to do in Polzeath include relaxing on Polzeath Beach or taking a surf lesson, hiring watersports equipment like SUP, eating local seafood, learning about Cornish waters at the Marine conservation centre or hiking on the dynamic South West Coast Path.
1. Chill out on Polzeath Beach
Polzeath Beach is a top destination for locals and tourists alike – in fact, it’s one of my favourite places in Cornwall to visit!
This sandy haven stretches a long way back from the sea to the village.
Washed by the gentle swells of the Atlantic Ocean, the beach boasts excellent facilities including car parks, beachside cafes and a nearby SPAR shop.
It’s the ideal place to kick back and relax, whether you want to sunbathe and read a good book, enjoy some beach games or explore the rockpools.
There’s generally plenty of space here, and it doesn’t get quite as busy as the beaches around Newquay, so it’s ideal for a beach day.
2. Go surfing
Sure, basking on the beach is great, but are you craving grabbing your own board and getting out onto the waves?
Polzeath Beach is one of the best beginner surfing destinations in Cornwall, with fairly consistent small to medium-sized waves.
As the beach is tucked into the mouth of the River Camel, it doesn’t have quite as large waves as places like Fistral Beach near Newquay, but this makes it ideal if you’re new to the sport!
Friendly surf schools offer expert instructions to help you catch your first wave in a safe and controlled environment.
Surf’s Up! is a Polzeath Surf School that offers lessons right on the beach.
3. Hire a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)
Explore the surrounding water around Polzeath by renting a stand-up paddleboard (SUP).
We visited the village on a choppier day, and I was curious to know whether paddleboarding was ever popular on the beach at Polzeath.
So I ventured into Ann’s Cottage – which offers SUP rental for £10 per hour or £40 for a whole day – and asked where the best SUP spots were.
“Here on a flatter day!” the shop assistant told me, laughing. “Generally if you get past the waves, it’s fine – although it’s good to go when the wind conditions will take you back to the beach”.
He continued to tell me that on rougher days, customers tend to rent SUPs and take them to nearby Daymer Bay, where the shallow waters are exceptionally enticing to paddleboarders.
We walked past Daymer Bay a couple of days later and I found myself wishing I had a SUP in tow to head out on this part of the Camel Estuary!
4. Seafood at the Cracking Crab
Whether you’ve surfed, SUPed or just worked up an appetite by basking in the sun (it’s hungry work!), head over to The Cracking Crab, a popular seafood restaurant in Polzeath.
With a dreamy location overlooking the beach, the restaurant offers fresh, locally sourced seafood.
From mussels and oysters to sumptuous crab dishes, every plate is a celebration of Cornish coastal cuisine.
We popped in here for a drink and found it difficult to pull ourselves away from the spectacular vista of Polzeath Beach leading up to Pentire Point in the background.
The seafood platters that were brought out to other tables smelt delicious – I personally don’t eat fish, so we didn’t dine there (there weren’t a huge amount of veggie options), but it’s a must-visit for anyone who wants to try some food straight from the sea!
5. Saunas by the Sea
Outdoor activities? Check. Great food? Check.
Now it’s time to relax and recharge with Saunas by the Sea!
Overlooking the beach and (for me) reminiscent of many saunas in Scandinavia, these pop-up establishments are an enjoyable way to relax after a long day of beach activities!
Saunas have a myriad of benefits; they’re excellent for relaxation, can boost your immune system and have skin benefits.
So step into Polzeath’s saunas by the sea, perhaps followed by a dunk in the sea itself!
6. Visit the Marine Conservation Centre
Polzeath’s Marine Conservation Centre is a small, but fascinating establishment that’ll help you to learn about Cornwall’s unique marine ecosystems, discover the array of wildlife that calls this coastline home and understand the importance of marine conservation.
Artwork made from beach waste, information about animals in the local area and passionate staff make the Marine Conservation Centre effortlessly engaging.
Plus, the Marine Conservation Centre can inspire you to make a difference through your holiday by learning more about protecting the ocean or even signing up for one of their beach cleans.
The Marine Conservation Centre also organises beachcombing excursions.
With every tide, the sea deposits treasures on the sands of Polzeath Beach – from shells and stones to fascinating sea creatures and occasional remnants of Cornish shipwrecks.
Beachcombing is a gentle, meditative pursuit that both adults and children enjoy, but it’s best to do it with a guide, so you know the best places to try it and better understand whatever treasures you find!
8. Rockpool Ramble
Another activity with the Marine Conservation Centre is a Rockpool Ramble.
The sandy beach of Polzeath leads out to rocky edges, with rock pools visible at low tide.
An array of marine life resides in these miniature seascapes.
From darting fishes and scuttling crabs to colourful anemones and clams, each rockpool is a microcosm of the British oceans.
Of course, you can explore the rockpools independently, but on a Rockpool Ramble, you’ll learn about each individual animal and its parts in the larger ecosystem.
Plus, your guide will know the best places to look for critters and will ensure that you stay safe while exploring!
9. Walk to Rock
Keen for a longer adventure?
Grab your hiking boots and embark on the walk from Polzeath to Rock.
This 4km riverside trail has jaw-dropping views virtually every step of the way.
The trail meanders around Brea Hill, past the calm waters of Daymer Bay, and finally journeys to the sandy expanse of Rock Beach.
If you set out on a sunny day, pack your swimming gear for a potential stop at Daymer Bay!
Rock’s famous for watersports opportunities and a variety of excellent restaurants, including Paul Ainsworth’s pub The Mariners.
From here, you can also take the ferry over to Padstow, home of many famous restaurants, Padstow Sea Life Safaris and the Lobster Hatchery. Check out other things to do in Padstow by clicking here.
If you don’t fancy walking on the return leg, the 96 bus connects the two villages.
10. Walk to Port Isaac
Fancy a challenge?
The hike from Polzeath to Port Isaac is a bit more challenging, stretching over 9 miles with a lot of up and down, but the vantage points from cliff tops will have you forgetting about sore feet and aching muscles!
Ultimately, you’ll descend into the picturesque fishing village of Port Isaac, famous for its narrow streets and charming fishing cottages and for being the filming location of Doc Martin.
11. Paddleboarding at Port Quin
Often thought to be one of the most quintessential places to paddleboard in Cornwall, Port Quin is a tiny hamlet around three miles from Port Isaac.
On either side, the elevated South West Coast Path plummets into a minuscule cove, with just a smattering of houses – there isn’t even a shop or pub here!
But what Port Quin does have is a popular paddleboarding hub.
Renting boards is quite pricey here – you’re looking at £30 for an hour – but it’s a beautifully calm place to paddle.
12. Paddleboard or Swim at Daymer Bay Beach
Daymer Bay can be a stop on the Polzeath to Rock walk, but its golden sand and glassy waters make it worth a mention on its own.
On a sunny day, the light sparkles off the water at Daymer Bay, which is renowned as a popular spot for wild swimming and stand-up paddleboarding.
In fact, the shop assistant at Ann’s Cottage mentioned that many tourists rent paddleboards from him and drive them to Daymer Bay, where the conditions are ideal for the sport!
If you don’t fancy taking to the water, Daymer Bay’s a quieter beach that’s ideal for a quick rest or picnic – you could even take a seat on the cliffs above (although don’t get too close to the edges and be careful with dogs) and enjoy the view!
13. Walk to Pentire Point and the Rumps
Don’t fancy walking the whole way to Port Isaac? (I don’t blame you, it’s not the easiest of walks!).
How about the hike from Polzeath to Pentire Point and The Rumps?
Pentire Head marks the start of the Camel Estuary, and The Rumps are rocky outcrops that fling out to sea.
You could walk along the South West Coast Path to the National Trust Pentireglaze car park, and then head back inland to Polzeath (4 miles in total).
14. Relax at St Moritz’s Cowshed Spa
Immerse yourself in a realm of tranquility at the Cowshed Spa in St. Moritz Hotel, a stone’s throw from Polzeath.
Lose yourself in the soothing deep tissue massage focusing on your back, neck, and shoulders, or experience the innovative Medik8 Bespoke Taster Facial.
Every package includes access to indoor leisure amenities and gives you a cosy robe, towel, and slippers, plus two deluxe travel-sized Cowshed Summer products to continue your self-care journey at home.
Wheelchair hire on Polzeath Beach
There are beach-friendly wheelchairs available for hire on Polzeath Beach.
These specially designed chairs with broad, chunky wheels can easily navigate the sandy terrain, allowing those with mobility challenges to enjoy the beachfront without any obstacles.
Contact the local tourist information centre for more details about this service.
Named from the Cornish words for “dry” and “pool”, Polzeath was originally a small fishing hamlet.
Evidence of Bronze Age settlements nearby highlights the area’s deep-rooted past.
Throughout the 19th century, the village began to expand as increasing people heard about its picturesque coastal beauty.
As transportation and road networks developed over time, Polzeath became increasingly accessible to visitors from far and wide, establishing its status as a desirable holiday destination.
Polzeath also holds a special place in literary history.
Celebrated poet laureate Sir John Betjeman was deeply enamoured with this Cornish coastal gem, often reflecting its landscapes and lifestyle in his works.
His final resting place can be found at the nearby church of St Enodoc.
From the 20th century onwards, Polzeath’s reputation as an outdoor enthusiast’s haven has only grown.
Its well-loved beach, with its consistent surf, sparked a thriving surf culture, and the village continues to attract a multitude of surfers, walkers and nature lovers each year.
Today, Polzeath offers a slice of Cornish coastal life that pays homage to its past while embracing the joys of the present.
Where to Stay in Polzeath: St Moritz Hotel
On my recent trip to Polzeath, I stayed at the iconic St Moritz Hotel.
Providing a luxurious base for stays in Polzeath, the hotel offers a selection of stylish, minimalist rooms, making it perfect for couples or groups.
However, there’s also a kid’s club and two family-friendly swimming pools!
The facilities are second to none, with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a modern gym, a plush spa and two restaurants serving high-quality cuisine.
Plus, the service was impeccable!
How to Get to Polzeath
Polzeath’s alluring and beautiful, but it’s a bit of a chore to reach – although I promise it’ll be worth it when you arrive!
We took the A30 into Cornwall, turning onto the A395 and A39 before venturing onto country roads, passing through Delabole and finally making it to the coastal town.
You could also stay on the A39 to Wadebridge, which means less time on narrow country roads, but Google Maps told me that the journey time would be longer!
There’s plenty of parking, including on-beach parking, at Polzeath.
North Cornwall’s many things – stunning, wild, fascinating – but well-connected by public transport, it isn’t.
.The nearest train station is Bodmin Parkway, about 15 miles away.
From there, you could catch a taxi or take two buses (the 11 to Wadebridge and 96 to Polzeath), but as buses in Cornwall are infrequent and often late, this could take you hours!
Once you’re in Polzeath, everywhere is within walking distance – although if you’re staying in St Moritz Hotel (which is up a hill!), you could make use of their shuttle services.
Where to Eat in Polzeath
There are a few excellent restaurants to dine at in Polzeath; here are two of my favourites!
The Cracking Crab is a local favourite, serving up fresh seafood straight from nearby waters.
The restaurant’s speciality, as you might guess, is crab, but there’s a whole host of other delicious seafood dishes to explore as well.
Stoned is a pizza van that pops up around Polzeath in the summertime, serving stone-baked pizzas with a variety of traditional and creative toppings.
Their pizzas are cooked on the spot and there’s a range of veggie and vegan options. I recently had the vegan truffle and garlic mushroom pizza, which was phenomenal!
Stoned also has vans in St Ives and Woolacombe and Croyde in Devon; their Polzeath establishment is new for 2023.
Visiting Polzeath FAQs
Is Polzeath Beach suitable for young children?
Absolutely. Polzeath Beach is very family-friendly. The beach’s shallow waters and lifeguard presence during the summer season make it safe for little ones. Plus, there’s plenty of space for sandcastle building!
Is Polzeath worth a visit?
Absolutely! Polzeath boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall, perfect for surfers and paddleboarders. The cliffs around Polzeath invite hikers, while there are all the facilities you’ll need for a beach day right by the sands.
Can you swim at Polzeath Beach?
You can, but on choppier days you might find the waves too rough – they’re more prime for surfing. However, nearby Daymer Bay is perfect for wild swimming.
How many people live in Polzeath?
Around 1,500 people live in Polzeath and New Polzeath, which is the entire area surrounding the village. Many of the properties in the village are holiday lettings, although there’s still a sizable population of permanent residents.
Is it easy to park in Polzeath?
Yes, Polzeath has a large car park close to the beach and another by the cliffs near the Cracking Crab. While there are plenty of spaces, it can get busy during the summer months, so aim to arrive early for a beach day during the peak season.
Can you take dogs on Polzeath Beach?
Dogs are welcome on Polzeath Beach in the winter months, but restrictions apply from Easter Day to 1st October. During this period, dogs are not allowed on the beach between 10 am and 6 pm.
Is Polzeath a good place for surfing?
Polzeath is an excellent place for beginner and intermediate surfing. Its consistent waves make it ideal for anyone looking for surf lessons, and several local surf schools offer lessons and equipment hire. But, if you’re looking for larger waves, you might want to head to Newquay!
Are you ready to visit Polzeath?
As a small village sitting at the end of the Camel Estuary, Polzeath may be small, but its prime beginner surfing conditions and natural beauty make it one that’s well worth adding to your “to-visit” list in Cornwall!