Cornwall is known for its magnificent landscapes, rich history, and idyllic villages, but if you’re a thrill-seeker looking for an adventure, don’t let the tranquillity of the region fool you.
Why? Because there’s simply no shortage of adrenaline activities in the county!
From swimming with sharks in the Atlantic and zooming down Britain’s fastest zip wire to catching waves at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we’ve gathered the best outdoor adventure activities in Cornwall that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping!
In this guide, we’ll be covering:
- Our top outdoor activities in Cornwall
- Specific experiences offered by local providers
- The best places to take part in these Cornish adventures.
Let’s get to it!
Cornwall’s subtropical weather and coastal location in the southwest of Britain means that it has some of the best surfing beaches in the country. It’s no wonder that Cornwall is the first place in Britain that beginner surfers tend to visit!
Whether you’re new to surfing or want to brush up on your skills, we recommend that you first take a lesson at any local surf school found at most surfing beaches.
These schools have the gear you can hire and qualified and knowledgeable instructors to teach you surfing basics. You’ll be catching waves and getting up on your board in no time!
If you’re experienced and don’t want to take surf lessons, that’s okay too. Surf schools will have all the gear available to rent, so pull on a wetsuit, grab a board, and get ready to catch some sweet waves!
As for surf beaches, head to Newquay for some well-known locales such as Fistral Beach.
This scenic coastline is also home to the Fistral Beach Surf School which offers private and group lessons for kids, beginners, and more experienced surfers.
Other great surf beaches include (p.s. read our guide to Cornwall’s Best Surf Beaches here):
- Mawgan Porth
- Watergate Bay
- Gwynver Beach
- Constantine Bay Beach
- Godrevy Beach
- Crantock Beach
- Perranporth Beach
- Sennen Cove
If you’re an experienced surfer, you may want to head to Fistral Beach’s Cribbar Reef and try to catch the “cribbar”. Also known as the “widow maker”, this is Cornwall’s famous big surf wave!
The Cribbar isn’t without its dangers, so be very careful and only paddle into the water if you know what you’re doing.
If you’re not sure where to go, most beaches have webcams available that you can check for a live visual feed of the surf before heading there.
Whichever beach you choose, just remember to be aware of the weather, water conditions, and the difficulty of the surf so you can ride safely and catch the best waves possible!
Cornwall is known for its dramatic coastal landscapes. So what better way to explore its rocky coastline than going coasteering?
Coasteering is a way to explore the coast in a guided group where you’ll be scrambling over rocks, swimming wildly in the turquoise waters of the Atlantic, exploring gullies, traversing rock faces, and cliff jumping into the ocean.
It may sound a bit tough, but rest assured you’ll be guided by experienced coasteering guides who will tailor the routes to your ability and the environmental conditions. As long as you can swim, you should be able to go on this adventure.
Age limits vary depending on the company you’re going coasteering with, but most companies have a minimum age of eight or nine, with adult supervision required for children under 13 or 14.
As you explore the rugged Cornish coast, you won’t just be taking pictures of the dramatic breathtaking scenery—you’ll also be directly interacting with it!
If you’re lucky, you may even stumble across Cornish wildlife like seabirds and the occasional seal.
Based in Dinham Farm, Wadebridge in north Cornwall, Cornish Coasteering is a reputable coasteering company that will take you on an adventure around Port Quin or the more exposed Port Gaverne (depending on the weather and water conditions).
With Cornish Coasteering, you’ll have two experienced and qualified guides with you on your expedition who know the route like the back of their hand – ensuring that you have fun in the safest way possible.
If you’re headed further down south, Kernow Coasteering in Penzance does coasteering trips in the southwest of Cornwall.
With Kernow Coasteering, expert guides will take you to explore the coast of St Ives, Penzance, the enchanting Isles of Scilly, or Land’s End for the more experienced coasters.
Whichever company you go with, you’ll have all the equipment you need for the adventure! Don a helmet, put on a wetsuit, slip on a buoyancy aid, and get ready to explore the Cornish coast from a whole new point of view.
Read for the adventure? Read our guide to Coasteering in Cornwall.
If you’re looking for a more land-based outdoor adventure without too much adrenaline, try Segwaying!
Using self-balancing gyroscope technology, Segways are easy to use and great for people of most ages and abilities. Simply lean forward or backward to move in that direction, while the Segway stays perfectly balanced!
For your ultimate Segway experience, look into joining Cornwall Segway in Newquay. They’re located at Hendra Holiday Park and Atlantic Reach Holiday Resort and run 75-minute Segway tours.
On these tours, an experienced instructor will teach you how to control the Segway so that you feel confident and comfortable driving the vehicle.
Your instructor will then take you to zip around various terrains and paths, and you’ll even get to play games and complete challenges such as racing with the rest of your group.
For children aged six and up, there’s also a 45-minute Segway Minis experience with Segways made specifically for kids!
Meaning “iron path” in Italian, via ferrata is not for the faint of heart.
The climbing route has its origins in World War One, when the Italian army fighting up in the Dolomites installed permanent climbing fixtures to help their forces.
Nowadays, via ferratas are a great way to get up to high altitudes and develop your climbing skills, and they can be found all over the world — including in Cornwall.
Located in Penryn, Via Ferrata Cornwall is a climbing route built into a historic granite quarry and is a fantastic way to get your heart pumping as you traverse across metal steps and a rope course built into the rock face.
If you’re unsure about climbing and heights, rest easy knowing that the climbing difficulty can vary depending on which route you choose.
The adrenaline-fuelled Adventure Zone is the easier route to take and is made for ages eight and up.
Taking around 1–1.5 hours to complete, you’ll begin on the ground before navigating up the granite rock face and reaching a 70-metre-long high-wire bridge.
The more challenging Full Classic takes around 2–3 hours and is suitable for ages 10 and up. This route continues from the high-wire bridge and takes you up to over 20 metres above water before ending with a zipline that zooms you back to the ground.
If you’re a climbing enthusiast, you can try to challenge yourself further by using the natural rock holds instead of the metal grips!
Located in another flooded quarry in Menheniot in the Southeast of Cornwall, Adrenalin Quarry is a must-do if you’re a thrill seeker.
Combining a waterpark, gravity park, and racetrack, this activity has everything a daredevil could ever wish for.
The Aquapark, an inflatable obstacle course that floats in the quarry, is open to everyone over the age of six. You’ll get to have a splash around as you climb and bounce all over its giant trampolines, monkey bars, and slides — just try not to wipe out!
If you’d rather stay dry, try the rides and get your heart racing as you jump from 50 metres above ground and fly across the quarry on the 490-metre zip wire.
Let out your most primal scream as you’re flung on the giant swing or go-kart racing against your friends and family at the 800-metre-long racetrack. It’s open no matter the weather, so get zooming and see who’s the fastest!
For those over 12, you can even try your hand at axe throwing. An instructor is present to teach you how to throw, and once you get the hang of it you can compete with your friends to see who has the best aim!
There’s no end to the fun at Adrenalin Quarry, and it’s the perfect place to go if you’re visiting Cornwall as a family or a group of friends.
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
If you want to try a water sport that’s a bit different from surfing, give stand-up paddleboarding a try!
This activity guarantees a fun splash on the beach, and once you feel confident on the board it’s a great way to explore Cornwall’s beautiful coastline.
If you haven’t tried stand-up paddleboarding before – it’s trickier than it looks. We definitely recommend that you first take a lesson at a local surf school—like Fistral Beach Surf School—to learn basic paddleboarding techniques.
Popular spots to go stand-up paddle boarding include:
- St Agnes (with many caves to explore)
- Marazion (which has the stunning St Michael’s Mount in the background)
- Polkerris Beach (a sheltered cove with calm waters).
Or if you’d like to combine your lessons with a bit of exploring, you can also join a stand-up paddleboarding tour!
Cornish Rock Tors in Port Gaverne offers stand-up paddleboard lessons that will teach you how to paddle and navigate the water before taking you around the cove. If you want to keep exploring afterward, you can also try more guided trips around the area.
Keen to paddleboard? Read our guide to Standup Paddleboarding Spots in Cornwall.
Swimming and Snorkelling with Sharks
Cornwall’s subtropical waters invite a whole variety of sea creatures to frequent the coastline, including various types of shark.
Join a snorkelling trip to safely and responsibly get up close and personal with these incredible creatures!
These experiences will take you out on a boat where you might also pass by other sea creatures like dolphins, seals, or whales before jumping into the water for your shark encounter.
Blue Shark Snorkel offers one of these experiences with its Blue Shark Snorkel Trips, where you’ll depart from Penzance and spend your day in the ocean.
Your shark encounter will be accompanied by a qualified snorkel guide at all times, who will ensure both your and the animals’ safety.
You can even choose to go on a Blue Shark Snorkel and Research Trip with the Marine Research and Conservation Foundation (MARECO)!
These trips will not only allow you to spend time with these amazing animals but give you the opportunity to observe an onboard shark ecologist and conservationist while they collect blue shark data for research.
It’s bound to be a fascinating experience for anyone interested in marine biology and conservation!
Blue Shark Snorkel is an accredited WISE scheme operator, so you can be confident that the company is responsible and ensures that every wildlife encounter is safe and respectful.
Zip Wire at the Eden Project
Located near St Austell in St Blazey, the Eden Project is a collection of biome gardens that house thousands of species of plants.
While the plants themselves are beautiful to look at, Eden Project also offers thrill-seekers a chance to experience the view from a different angle—high up on a zip wire!
It takes just 45 seconds to whizz through the air, but the adrenaline rush will make your Eden Project experience breathtaking in a very literal way!
As you fly down in the Superman pose, you’ll get a bird’s eye view over the Eden Project’s futuristic-looking biodomes.
If that’s not enough excitement for you, the operator Hangloose also offers an aerial trekking course and a giant swing, as well as some climbing walls — perfect if you’re still chasing that rush!
With all the wonderful beaches and rocky coastline in Cornwall, we have to mention one more exciting water sport: jet skiing!
Jet skiing is more than just some fun on the beach; it’s also another electrifying way to explore Cornwall’s dramatic coastline.
You’ll get to see the incredible rugged cliffs from below and maybe even catch a glimpse of marine life such as seals and dolphins!
Cornwall Waverunner Safaris allows you to explore the north Cornish coastline on a jet ski as it runs tours from Carlyon Bay in St Austell and Lusty Glaze in Newquay.
On your tour, you’ll get ample jet ski training from your guide, who will then take you around Cornwall’s breathtaking coastal landscape. You’ll be able to either ride alone or share the jet ski with another person.
Children as young as eight can join in on the fun (although they must be at least 12 to drive), making this a perfect activity if you’re looking for something adventurous for the whole family!
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there’s no shortage of outdoor, adrenaline-pumping activities in Cornwall!
Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to fly down exciting zip wires or the outdoorsy sort wanting to explore the stunning coastline, there are all sorts of outdoor pursuits to set you off on your Cornish adventure!
Introducing Eliot, the Editor here and Cornwall local with a wanderlust spirit and an insatiable appetite for adventure. With a passion for the great outdoors, he can often be found catching waves on his surfboard, scaling peaks on a hiking trail, or discovering hidden gems in his exploration of Cornwall.