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Holywell Bay, Cornwall

The 12 best beaches in Cornwall

This beautiful UK region is home to hundreds of wild coves, quiet bays and sweeping swathes of sand. Here are the very best beaches in Cornwall

Written by
Becky Dickinson
Sammy Jones

Looking for sea, sand and – fingers and toes crossed – sun? There’s no need to get on a plane to find it. Look no further than the UK’s most south-westerly county (some locals prefer to call it a country): Cornwall. 

This beautiful region has long been synonymous with the quintessential English holiday, and has 300 miles of coastline including many of the most stunning beaches in the UK. There are sweeping swathes of sand, thrill-factor waves, secluded coves, dramatic cliffs, quaint fishing villages and romantic views. When the sun shines, it can even feel more like the Bahamas than Blighty. Oh, and there are pasties, did we mention the pasties? Here’s our definitive guide to the best beaches in Cornwall.

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Best beaches in Cornwall

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Sandymouth

With uninterrupted golden sand, dramatic cliffs and waist-deep rock pools, Sandymouth feels properly cut off from ‘real life’. It’s easily accessible, with a car park, café and toilets. In peak season, visitors tend to plonk themselves on the first bit of sand they get to – keep walking and you’ll find plenty of space. At high tide, sit on the rocks or hike the South West Coast Path. The views are extraordinary.

Bossiney Haven

2. Bossiney Haven

Slap-bang in the middle of historic Tintagel and Boscastle, this hidden cove is easily missed. It’s tucked under towering cliffs, so wear sturdy footwear to tackle the steep steps down. With your mission accomplished, you can revel in the tranquillity: there’s pristine sand, clear water and a tumbling waterfall. Look out for Elephant Rock – a rock that looks like an elephant drinking. At high tide the inlet disappears, but at low tide it opens into an expanse of sand that joins up with neighbouring Benoath Cove.

Constantine Bay

3. Constantine Bay

Constantine Bay, near Padstow, is a children’s paradise, with low grassy dunes, a scattering of rock pools and a beautiful wide beach. It’s also a top surfing spot, though that’s best left to the pros due to strong rip currents. There are toilets, a small car park, toilets and lifeguard cover in the summer. If it’s busy, park at Treyarnon Bay and walk for ten minutes along the coast path.

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Watergate Bay

4. Watergate Bay

It’s time to don your wetsuit and get into water sports. Three miles outside Newquay, Watergate Bay is an adrenaline-seeker’s playground. Think Alton Towers on sea. There’s surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and waveskiing on offer. Sand lovers can rent a kite buggy or a landboard. Sign up at the The Extreme Academy. Afterwards, refuel at The Beach Hut for funky food and exceptional sunsets.

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Fistral Beach
Photograph: Obs70/

5. Fistral Beach

The iconic Fistral Beach is Britain’s answer to Australia's surfing paradise, Bondi (minus the temperatures – you’re going to want to keep that wetsuit on!). The waves are among the most consistent in Europe, with big swells and some cracking barrels. It’s the setting for various surfing competitions, plus Boardmasters Festival in August. Surfing aside – although with so many surf schools it would be rude not to try – it’s a popular family beach too, with parking, toilets, showers and cafés galore. Treat yourself to some Rick Stein fish and chips.

Holywell Bay

6. Holywell Bay

Away from the bustle and trappings of Newquay, Holywell has masses of appeal – without the hordes of visitors. You won’t spot a hotel in sight. The glorious mile-long beach is backed by a network of sand dunes (if you haven’t tried sandboarding, now is the moment). To the left are rock pools and shallow streams, perfect for paddling and playing. With toilets, lifeguards and cafés, this one’s a no-brainer for families, too.

Gwithian Beach

7. Gwithian Beach

Boundless and breathtakingly beautiful, Gwithian rivals anything you could find in the Med. It’s also remarkably uncrowded given its credentials – miles of clean golden sand, jaw-dropping views, pristine water, plus fascinating rock pools, seals and surf. It’s beach perfection near pretty St Ives, with bags of room for people to spread out. Tear yourself away for cheesy chips at the Sunset Surf Café – part surf school, part beach café. Go on, you know you want to.

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Porthcurno Beach

8. Porthcurno Beach

Culture meets coast in this oasis of natural beauty with clear turquoise water and soft white sand, just along the coast from Penzance. The renowned open-air Minack Theatre is carved into the cliffs above, for Shakespeare with a view. Performances often sell out but are rarely rained off. There’s also the Museum of Global Communications to visit, if that fits with your holiday vibe.

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Kynance Cove

9. Kynance Cove

One of Cornwall’s most Instagrammed locations, Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula feels almost magical. Pyramids of rare serpentine rock (ask a geography teacher) rise from the water like marbled red and green ancient beasts. A stunning sight, set off by the pale sand and turquoise sea. Inevitably, it gets packed in summer (cheers, social media) so get there early, or wait until September. Whenever you visit, ordering a crab sandwich or a cream tea (jam first, FYI) at the café is highly recommended.

Readymoney Cove

10. Readymoney Cove

Fowey rhymes with joy and what a joy this place is. It’s an ancient fishing port with quaint shops, colourful cafés and myriad opportunities to scoff pasties and ice creams – including the rather excellently named Game of Cones. Hire a boat on the estuary, or walk to Readymoney Cove – a nugget of sand, flanked by woodland, just ten minutes from the centre. Swim or paddle-board out to the pontoon and soak up the postcard scenery.

Porthcurnick Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Porthcurnick Beach

You’ll find sublime views, a sheltered beach and possibly the world’s most sought-after beach café – aka The Hidden Hut – at Porthcurnick. This isolated seaside shack punches way above its culinary weight, with locally sourced, outdoor cooked dishes including chowders, dhal, paella and seafood, plus ridiculously popular Feast Nights. Bring your own booze and plates. Be quick though; tickets sell out faster than Glastonbury

Charlestown Beach

12. Charlestown Beach

Star spotters step this way. The Georgian port of Charlestown (even the name sounds theatrical) has more credits than Aidan Turner. Besides Poldark, it’s also appeared in Doctor Who, Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland and Mansfield Park. Mooch around the Grade II-listed harbour, check out the Poldark Exhibition and mosey on down to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum. Oh, and don’t forget the beach.

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