Enjoyed by people across the world, surfing is a great recreational activity or sport to take part in whether at home or on holiday abroad.
Luckily, Cornwall is here to help you experience some great waves!
Cornwall’s extensive coastline means it has a huge quantity of beaches — over 300, in fact. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to find great surf at all of them!
In this article, we’ll be breaking down 11 of the key Cornwall surfing beaches. We’ll be looking at:
- Places to surf in Cornwall
- Water conditions and facilities at each beach
- Transport options around the beaches
- What’s around in the nearby area once you’re all done catching waves
Let’s get into it!
Fistral Beach proclaims itself the home of British surfing. The claim is backed up by the story of Australian immigrants bringing with them (what are thought to be) the first fibreglass surfboards to Fistral.
It has consistently good surfing conditions, with waves between one and two metres tall being reasonably common.
You can also head out to the Cribbar, a reef further out in the ocean with bigger waves than the rest of the beach.
The beach is home to the International Surfing Centre, which contains a wide variety of food vendors and retail stores. There are also surfboard rentals offered at the beach, so you don’t have to bring your own.
And, if you’re a novice (or just want to brush up on your skills), the Fistral Beach Surf School offers lessons throughout the year.
Fistral is one of the best-known surfing spots in Cornwall and the UK in general. That means it can get a bit busy, especially during the summer month – so be prepared for the water and beach to get quite crowded!
What’s even better is that the rest of Newquay and its attractions are just a short walk away, and these include the Lighthouse Cinema, Newquay Zoo, and more.
Perranporth Beach stretches more than three kilometres along the northern coast of Cornwall, making it one of the larger expanses of coast around.
With its sandy beaches and dramatic rocky features, it’s great just for a quick walk even if the waves aren’t great for surfing on the day.
But when the surf’s up, Perranporth is a dream destination! Like Fistral, it’s a beach that can easily be a little crowded during peak surfing season. However, there’s so much space you’ll only really be competing with other surfers.
Beginner surfers can enjoy the beach break, while if you’re more experienced there’s an area just to the south which often has larger waves.
You should be careful though, as the beach is known for dangerous rips. Lifeguards patrol the beach regularly, so pay attention to their directions.
Toilets, food vendors, and a beach shop are all located near the car park, so you’ll be well covered for anything you might need.
The beach is also right next to Haven Perran Sands Holiday Park, so you can book some super close accommodation. If you’re thinking about going for a wander, try exploring the Cligga Head Tunnels by Perranporth Airfield.
Watergate Bay, located near Newquay on the North Coast of Cornwall, is an excellent surfing beach that plays host to the Boardmasters Surfing Championships each August.
This event also sees live music and camping opportunities descend on the beach, so it’s a great way to spend a long weekend getaway.
The beach is quite dangerous for swimmers due to the presence of strong rips, particularly when the water is low.
There is lifeguard supervision at the bay, but only during the months of April to October. During this time, they operate a designated surfing area for you to enjoy.
The bay has a consistent beach break for beginner swimmers, and waves are occasionally large enough to provide a barrel to surf in.
Cornwall Airport Newquay is right next door, and the centre of Newquay is only a short, two-kilometre drive away.
Gwithian Beach, also known by its full name of Gwithian Towans, is split into two parts along its nearly two kilometre length. With sand dunes galore, it’s great for people who want to experience what these are like!
The beach is easy-access with a long-stay car park very close by, so you won’t have to worry about parking.
Surf at Gwithian tends to be better at the beach’s northern end and is a great option for all ability levels. However, if you’re feeling like swimming you’ll need to be careful of rips, and should swim only at low tide.
When the beach is busy there’s a designated lifeguard-patrolled surfing zone, but this isn’t in force year-round.
You can hire surfing equipment from shops near the car park and, with a large national trust area to the north, there’s plenty to keep you occupied once you’re done surfing.
There’s also a motorhome campsite not far away, so it can be a great choice for people in caravans or camper vans on holiday.
Polzeath Beach is privately-owned, but is leased to the Cornwall County Council – meaning you can enjoy it without having to negotiate any kind of special permissions!
The surf at Polzeath is often quite calm, meaning it’s great for beginners and others with lower skill levels.
However, it’s not just limited to novice surfers as the waves can get a little rougher on occasion due to offshore banks near the beach. If things get a little to tasty you can always retreat into Polzeath village for a drink and bite to eat overlooking the waves.
There are toilets near the car park along with a wide range of food vendors nearby, as well as surf equipment available to hire just above the beach.
You’ll find a variety of holiday accommodations very close by, and Doyden Castle is just a short walk away to the north.
If you want to go walking while someone else in your group surfs, there is also a walk around Pentire Point, with one end accessible from the beach.
Porthmeor Beach, not to be confused with Porthmeor Cove, offers great surfing conditions. The clean surf and big swells make for an exhilarating surf experience!
You can also brush up on your surf skills with the surf school offered at the beach during summer, or go for a short wander to enjoy the rock pools.
Porthmeor Beach is well-served by food outlets, with both Porthmeor Café and West Beach restaurant quite close by. With great views, they’re an awesome place to relax after a surf or if you need to call one off due to bad conditions.
With its proximity to St. Ives, there are a multitude of attractions you can check out after your surf. You’ll find various inns and retail outlets here, so you won’t be disappointed if you’re after a shopping spree,!
The beach is also very close to St Ives Train station, so it’s great for those who need transport further south (for example, if you’re staying in Penzance).
Porthtowan Beach is another great Cornish surfing beach, but can get a bit too busy due to its excellent reputation!
It also has seasonal skill levels. Beginners tend to do better in summer months, while the winter months bring bigger waves and swells — perfect for more experienced surfers.
There are a few surf hire places nearby as well, plus a surf school, if you want to take a lesson or two.
The beach is cleaned regularly, so you won’t have to contend with debris or rubbish on your way to (or in) the water.
However, that doesn’t mean you can slack on the waste collection front! Make sure you’re not littering so that other beach users can continue to enjoy the environment.
Porthtowan Beach is close to Porthtowan proper, so there are a few shops and other amenities nearby.
There’s also a low-tide walk to Chapel Porth, but you’ll need to time this right to avoid getting caught out by the rising water.
Praa Sands is a little different to the rest of the beaches we’ve been looking at — rather than being located in north Cornwall, it’s on the southwest coast!
However, that doesn’t stop it from having some great surfing conditions. You can grab your gear from any of the nearby surf rental shops before jumping into the ocean to catch a wave.
The waters are suitable for beginners to experienced surfers alike. The waves have a heavy, barrel-like quality to them — especially at high tide — and break quite close to the beach.
Toilets include a disabled toilet (the key to which is kept in a nearby restaurant), so it’s great for those needing accessibility accommodations as well.
Plus, the café, restaurant, and beach shop nearby will keep you fed and comfortable – both before and after surfing.
There are various accommodation providers nearby for those who want to have a surfing-focused holiday, which are all under a kilometre from the beach.
Sennen Beach returns us towards the north of Cornwall, although more to the west.
Less than two kilometres from Land’s End, it’s great for those who are taking a trip out to the west coast of the UK.
The beach has multiple areas for surfers – some of which will suit beginners better – and others that are the realm of more experienced surfers. The northern end tends to have more swell due to the sand banks that are located offshore.
There are surf hire operators nearby, and a surfing school operates during the summer for those who want to take some extra lessons.
A walk to Land’s End could nicely round out an exercise-filled afternoon seeing as it’s so nearby, or you could take a trip to the north to visit Carn Euny, a preserved ancient village.
Summerleaze provides another great option for surfers in Cornwall and is located almost at the northern extreme of the county, where it meets Devon.
Located right by Bude, there are a variety of stores and accommodation providers nearby. This means you can enjoy the beach practically from your doorstep, should you decide to stay in the area!
However, surfers should beware of the concealed rocks in the water! These have been known to cause some issues.
However, other than the rocks the surf is great, and this is a reliable spot to head to.
Porthleven beach is a bit of an interesting area when it comes to surfing.
Although the beach on the whole isn’t a particularly good surf spot, the reef towards the harbour’s north side generates some truly impressive waves.
These are definitely not for beginners, however. Miss a movement and you could find yourself slammed into the nearby reef!
Swimming here isn’t recommended, so this one’s just for the hardcore surfers who are sure they can handle themselves. If in doubt, watch the waves for a bit first – and always exercise caution!
Porthleven itself provides a variety of nearby attractions, including a National Trust site at Penrose, as well as a variety of cafés, retail stores, and more.
However, none of these are directly next to the beach, so you’ll need to be prepared to go for a short walk (or drive) to and from the beach, as well as the wider town.
Grab a board an head for Cornwall’s top surf spots!
Cornwall provides a variety of excellent surfing beaches, most of which have great access to nearby facilities.
Your best bet if you want to do a beach tour is to head up to the north, as this is where most of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall are located.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get good surf further south!
Picking your visiting time well is also important as you’ll want to make sure that weather conditions are good and, if you’re inexperienced, that lifeguards are monitoring your beach of choice.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a little more information about where’s good to hit up in Cornwall. Now that you know, go catch a wave! Surf’s up!
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.