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Holywell Bay, Cornwall

The 12 best beaches in Cornwall

Cornwall is home to hundreds of stunning beaches, from wild coves to quiet, sandy bays, and we’ve attempted the tricky task of picking the best

By Becky Dickinson
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PLEASE NOTE: Overnight stays are currently not allowed. Facilities and businesses in the towns and villages we mention will be closed at the moment. Government advice is to avoid public transport so don’t travel by train. Please be mindful of the people who live locally. Check whether car parks are open before you set off and adhere to social distancing guidelines on your walks. UPDATED JUNE 2020. 

Looking for sea, sand and (finger and toes crossed) sun? Then look no further. Here’s the definitive list of the best beaches in Cornwall. The UK’s most south-westerly county (some locals prefer to call it a country) has always been synonymous with that quintessential English holiday. But it’s not all buckets and spades and pasties: Cornwall has 300 miles of coastline that includes some of the best beaches in the UK. There are sweeping swathes of pale sand, thrill-factor waves, secluded coves, dramatic cliffs, quaint fishing villages and hypnotic views. And when the sun shines it can feel more like the Bahamas than Blighty. Oh, and there are pasties, did we mention the pasties?

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Best beaches in Cornwall

Sandymouth, Cornwall
Sandymouth, Cornwall

Sandymouth

With uninterrupted golden sand, dramatic cliffs and waist-deep rock pools, Sandymouth feels miles from anywhere. It’s easily accessible, with a car park, café and toilets. In peak season the hoards tend to plonk themselves on the first bit of sand they get to. Keep walking until you find your own space. At high tide, sit on the rocks or hike the South West Coast Path. The views are extraordinary.

Bossiney Haven, Cornwall
Bossiney Haven, Cornwall

Bossiney Haven

Slap-bang between historic Tintagel and Boscastle, this hidden cove is easily missed. Tucked under towering cliffs, you’ll need sturdy footwear to tackle the steep steps down. 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.

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Constantine Bay, Cornwall
Constantine Bay, Cornwall

Constantine Bay

Jump from the dunes or grab your fishing net. Constantine Bay near Padstow is a children’s paradise, with its low grassy dunes, scattering of rock pools and soft wide beach. It’s also a top surf spot, though is 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 10 minutes along the coast path.

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Watergate Bay, Cornwall
Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay

It’s time to don your wetsuit and find your water sport. Three miles outside Newquay, Watergate Bay is an adrenalin-seeker’s playground. Think Alton Towers on sea. There’s surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and waveskiing. Sand lovers can rent a kite buggy or a land board. 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, Cornwall
Fistral Beach, Cornwall
Photograph: Obs70/Shutterstock.com

Fistral Beach

The iconic Fistral Beach is Britain’s answer to 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, Cornwall
Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Holywell Bay

Away from the bustle and trappings of Newquay, Holywell has masses of appeal without the masses. There isn’t 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.

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Gwithian Beach, Cornwall
Gwithian Beach, Cornwall

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, fascinating rockpools, 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 in the Sunset Surf Café - part surf school, part beach café. Go on, you know you want to.

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Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall

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 Telegraph Museum of telecommunications to visit, if that fits with your holiday vibe.

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Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Kynance Cove, Cornwall

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, Fowey, Cornwall
Readymoney Cove, Fowey, Cornwall

Readymoney Cove

Fowey rhymes with joy and what a joy this place is. It’s an ancient fishing port with quaint shops, colourful cafes 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 paddleboard out to the pontoon and soak up the postcard scenery.

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Hidden Hut
Hidden Hut
Ed Schofield

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 – chowders, dhal, paellas, seafood – and ridiculously popular Feast Nights. Bring your own booze and plates. Be quick though; tickets sell out faster than Glastonbury

Charlestown Beach
Charlestown Beach

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 & Heritage Centre. Oh, and don’t forget the beach.

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