North Cornwall is famous for its mind-blowing beaches.
The coastline is teaming with dozens and dozens of golden beaches, secret coves, and harbour towns.
It’s an iconic part of the Cornish landscape that attracts visitors from around the world.
You’ll find the rich and famous hiding out around Rock and Padstow, families laughing and joking around Bude, and surfer’s hanging out along Perranporth and Hayle.
If you’re a beach lover, then there will be your perfect destination waiting along the miles and miles of golden sand and turquoise blue waters.
Each one boasts its own unique characteristics for an epic day out. So let’s jump in and take a look at the very best beaches in North Cornwall.
Sandymouth bay is an absolute stunner mixing an expanse of soft sand, pebble coves, and twisted cliffs. This National Trust is just a 15 minute drive from Bude, as is not to be missed if you’re nearby.
Stay in a local cornish cottage, book a hotel room, or pick a holiday park just metres from the sand. You can even take the spectacular walk from Bude to Sandymouth bay at low tide and return along the cliffside South West path. Lifeguards are present on the beach during the summer months from May until September. So swim and surf in the designated areas to keep safe from the currents.
If arriving by car, you can walk down the narrow path and steps towards the freedom of the sea. Although, access is not suitable for wheelchair users. For refreshment, a cafe is open along with surf hire during the summer. It’s a perfect beach for a long dog walk and an escape from the modern world (phone signal is limited!). Plus make sure to check the tide times as the sand all but disappears during high tide.
Fistral beach is particularly well known in the surf world, as is one of the jewels of Newquay. It’s situated on the west side of town, but is easily walkable from the centre in 10 minutes or less. Plus a large car park and a selection of restaurants, bars, and surf shops give you everything you need for the day.
It’s a large beach with plenty of sand to enjoy no matter the tide level. Technically, it is split into two sections Fistral North and Fistral South. You might hear the surfers refer to the areas like this, but it is one long beach that is easily walkable end-to-end in a few minutes. If you’ve got a surf or body board, then this is a sure bet for reliable barreling waves!
This is a super popular beach which is lifeguarded all year round. Dogs are allowed all year round, but it is a good idea to use a lead during peak summer. Disability access tends to be easier with a tarmac car park right on the beachfront and a ramp down to the sand. Plus the restaurants have easy access a few yards from car park.
As you head further West down the coastline, you’ll quickly hit the 3 miles of golden sand at Perranporth! This is a beach of epic proportions with sand, sea, and waves as far as you can see. Adding to this, you can hike up the sand dunes into the coastal cliff path.
When the tide is high, the beach is a little more limited as you are cut off from the extended Perran Sands beach. But you can still go between the two via the coastal path. Restaurants and bars sit directly on the beach with the Wateringhole ready with coffee, beer, and snacks, while Alcatraz and Summerhouse are stunning locations to watch the burning orange sunset.
As with most North Coast beaches, this is a surfing mecca as you watch wetsuits and surfboards make the pilgrimage to the water’s edge. (It’s a long walk at low tide!) When the tide is out, you will start to appreciate the full scale of this beach and you can begin to explore Chapel Rock and its tidal swimming pool.
You’ll not be short of a happy dog here all year round, although the must be kept on leads during peak summer. Adding to this, a tarmac car park is right on the beachfront and you can rent an adapted beach wheelchair from Perranporth Garden Charities to whizz across the sand if needed.
Gwithian might just be my absolute favourite beach in Cornwall as you start to get further West towards Hayle and St. Ives, the latter of which gets sucked up into the sunset late in the day.
Why is it so awesome? Well it’s just got everything from stunning scenery to barreling waves. In addition, its length runs for miles and miles, meaning there’s always a quiet spot to be found. There’s a pub and cafe towards the East end with extended parking areas. Adding to this, the Hungry Horsebox coffee truck parks up on the beach every day for a banging coffee and sweet treat.
Gwithian Towans car park, near Sunset Surf cafe and board rental, overlooks the turquoise blue water. From here you can walk down the gravel path to the beach or turn left and head off into the dunes until you stumble upon the sandy shoreline.
As for doggos, access is restricted between the 1st July and 31st August during the middle of the day (10am – 6pm). Wheelchair access is tricky with only gravel, pebble, and sandy paths giving access from the various car parks.
Summerleaze is the main beach in Bude. It always stays fondly in my mind after a day of beach cricket, swimming, and Cornish pasties to refuel in the sun (and a cheeky local ale…)
Like many places in North Cornwall, it changes dramatically as the tide goes in and out. At high tide, the size is a little limited, but it quickly opens up for long periods of water retreats. A popular attraction here is the sheltered sea pool which is the place to start your dip into the (slightly chill) British sea. You won’t believe me when I explain it gets warm in the summer, will you? But it does!
Families love it here as the hub of Bude with every watersports adventure you can imagine from surfing, to kayaking, to sea fishing, to standup paddleboarding. Or you can rent a beach hut and deck chair and water the world go past. As it sits in the centre of the town it’s popular with all age visitors and disability access is easy with a number of concrete pathways, you can book a beach sand wheelchair from Summerleaze Beach Office too! The beach is lifeguarded during the summer and other busy school holidays. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on leads during summer.
Chapel Porth Beach
Chapel Porth is one of the lesser known coves along the Cornwall north coast, between Porthtowan and St Agnesa. Ssshhh, don’t tell everyone else about it, I might not be the favourite of some locals for letting this one out of the bag.
It’s a particular sanctuary for surfers who enjoy the epic closeouts and quieter waters. The beach itself is on the smaller side, especially when the tide is in you might not have so much space to set up camp. Be patient and time the water so it is retreating to unlock larger expanses of sand, caves, and rock pools to explore.
As you drive down the canyon to the cove, you’ll arrive right at the water’s edge to a small National Trust car park. You’ll feel like you’ve found a sneaky slice of heaven. There’s a cafe on site to grab a coffee or hot chocolate, a must have to warm up on the fresher days.
The area sits below the ruins of the spectacular Wheal Coates. One of the most spectacular, don’t miss it for the ultimate Instagram shot. To get the best views, head up the coastal cliff path towards the east (that’s right if you’re looking out to sea.) It’s a short up hill hike and you’ll arrive in few minutes.
Lifeguards patrol the beach in the summer between May and September, but you’re on you’re own the rest of the time, although other staff are on hand at the cafe and car park. It’s not brilliant for disabled access with a stoney perimeter to the beach, but you can still park up and enjoy views from the car park. Doggos are welcome on the beach outside of the daytime in July and August (10am to 6pm).
Just a 10 minute drive west (or 1 hour walk) from Padstow lies Harlyn Bay. An in-person visit is the only way to appreciate how incredibly beautiful this beach is. Although, she can get busy in the summer holidays… But that says it’s worth a visit, right?
Even still, there’s ample space in the car park and across the far-reaching sand. It’s a popular hangout for all beach addicts from surfers to sunbathers to hole diggers. You can hide in the sand dunes and play in rock pools for hours on the beach without getting bored. Clear blue water runs along the gorgeous mellow sand so you can paddle around and swim in the sun.
It’s an easy one to find, you can’t miss it as you arrive at the village of Harlyn. There’s not a huge amount in the village but there’s a cafe in the car park called The Beach Box Cafe. They cook up seriously tasty toasties along with sweet treats and hot drinks. You might even be lucky enough to sip on their cocktails in the late afternoon. Sunset drinks anyone? Adding to this, surf rental is on-site in the summer months if you fancy falling off a few waves.
Lifeguards attend the beach during the summer May until September, during weekends, and October half-term. Dogs are allowed year round with plenty of space to stretch their legs. Wheelchair access is tricky with a gravel/sand or grass hillside car park. Although, you can still access the cafe in the car park and take in the beach views.
What a beach. You’ll struggle to believe beaches like this exist in England until you set eyes upon it. The sand, the sea, and the bordering cliffs are absolutely beautiful, you’ll never want to leave. If it doesn’t tempt you to move your life to Cornwall, you’ll be visiting again for years to come.
Watergate Bay marks the first in the line of iconic Newquay beaches, just a couple of minute drive over the hill from town. The beach is edged by a busy little village filled with independent cafes, restaurants, hotels, and apartments. It makes for a killer place to stay outside of the chaos of Newquay.
The beach itself sprawls for miles, so there’s always plenty of space no matter the season. There’s plenty to keep everyone entertained with watersports rental, and beach shops ready with buckets, and spades. Fly kites, splash in rock pools, or walk for miles. In fact, you can enjoy the coastal walk from Porth to Watergate, and further east to Mawgan Porth.
You’re just as likely to find a surfer hanging out in a campervan as those looking for a luxury retreat at the spectacular Watergate Bay Hotel which over looks the beach, along with Restaurant Emily Scott serving up local seafood. Plus a there’s choice of refreshments for a quick coffee, lemonade, long lunch, or afternoon cocktails.
A couple of car parks make access down to the beach a breeze. A concrete path slowly descends to the sand making wheelchair access simple, and ‘sand chairs’ are available from Watergate Hotel thanks to Cornwall Mobility.
Lifeguards monitor the beach during the summer (May until September, weekends until Ocotber half-term where it’s manned all week. It’s a completely dog-friendly beach, welcome all year round with no restrictions.
Polzeath beaches pumps out seriously chill surfer vibes, always a cracking atmosphere! The beach is at the heart of the small village and attracts watersports lovers all year round. It can take a while to get to on the country roads sitting between Padstow and Port Isaac. Nevertheless, it’s well worth a visit or a place to stay for a week in the plentiful holiday rentals and guest houses.
At low tide, the beach is huge at ½ a mile in every direction. So you can explore the expansive sand flats. Beware, the tide can come into the bay rather fast and at high tide, the sand reduces to a smaller patch in front of the village. The water is safer than some areas of Cornwall, with gently sloping sand shelves. Sneak round the corner to Little Polzeath for a quieter swimming spot to.
It’s a popular beach break for surfers. If you’re ready to get salty, then grab board rental from a local surf shop or school.
There’s a wide range of places to grab a drink and a bite to eat in the small village of Polzeath. TJs surf cafe, The Waterfront, and Surfside all look out over the beach for a place to kick back and relax.
A selection of car parks means you should be able to find a space at most times. The flat landscape and beach mean you can easily access the beach, there are ‘sand chairs’ from Wavehunters Surf School too.
Lifeguard watch runs during April and October weekends, every day – May until September and October half term.
Dogs are not allowed on the beach 10am – 6pm in the Summer (May – September), but they’re welcome outside of this restriction.
Great Western Beach
Great Western, is as the name suggests. Great! It’s named after the train service but is the original surfing beach in town. Don’t let that take away from its awesomeness. It’s situated in the heart of Newquay and is filled with happy faces of families and surfers.
As you walk the road down to the beach, I suggest you stop to take in the view at the clifftop benches. Let the cooling breeze and sound of waves wash over you. Grab a pic while you’re there too. The view over this cornish harbour is a real spectacle, you might even spot a Buzzard gliding in the wind.
Continue the walk down to the sand, to be met with complete freedom, especially when the tide is out. Mind you, there’s still tons of sand at higher tides. Kick off your shoes, and enjoy the space. Even though it’s in the middle of Newquay it generally feels quieter than other popular spots.
On the beach front, is the Great Western Beach complex which is ready and welcoming with ice creams, coffee, small plates of food, and local beer. Plus watersports rental and surf lessons. It’s got them laidback surfer vibes we love!
Lifeguards are stationed on the beach from May until September. The tarmac road down past the Great Western Hotel makes it possible for wheelchair access, although it’s a steep road! Brakes on the way down and plenty of power needed on the way up. Doggos come on down, you’re welcome all year guys.
I call this one ‘Hollywellgood’ Bay. It’s well good! It always sticks in the mind with its towering sand dunes which you walk through to the sweeping golden sands. For lazy beachgoers, the few minutes walk from the National Trust car park puts people off, but all the more for us to enjoy!
The grass-tufted sand dunes overlook the gigantic beach. The wide-open bay attracts surfers searching out Atlantic swells but kids love it hear too. Throw up a kite, grab the bat and ball, or find a quiet spot to read a book. Keep exploring the streams and the cliff line which is home to epic caves. The latter of which open up at low tide for a real experience in the Holywell and St. Cuthberts cave.
It’s a bit more remote than the other beaches around Newquay with only a small surf school on the beach. The village is set back behind the sand dunes where you can find toilets, a cafe, bar, and pub, along with holiday homes and guest houses.
Interesting, this is one for you Poldark lovers out there. Gull Rock, sitting offshore, is the backdrop used in series 3 beach scenes.
Lifeguarding is only run during the summer, May to September. Take care in the water as the swell can build here. Disability access is tricky due to the distance from the car park and large sand dunes. Dogs welcome on your adventures all year round.
North Cornwall Beaches FAQ
Mother Iveys Bay
St George’s Cove
Both have epic beaches. North Cornwall offers huge sandy beaches for surfing, family days, out, and a beautiful sunset, often with restaurants, watersports hire, and other amenities. The South coast can feel like a quieter retreat for sunrise walks, historic castles, sailing, and quieter waters for paddle boarding or fishing.
All around the Cornish coastline are stunning beaches, over 300! You’ll be spoiled for choice of sweeping golden sand and surf on the north coast, tranquil coves on the south, and adventure towards Land’s End on the west.
The temperature is similar across the county. You can often drive coast to coast in less than an hour and the climate is stable. In the mornings, you’ll get a better sunrise on the south coast, while warmth from the sunset stays for longer on the north coast.
The Newquay beaches tend to be the most visited due to their location near the large town which has excellent transport links and an airport.
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.