If you’re planning to visit Cornwall, the spectacular Cornish coastline is bound to be a highlight of your trip! The coastline has it all, from craggy cliffs and stunning golden sand beaches to festivals on the sand and quiet fishing villages.
There are so many ways to appreciate the Cornish coast, but have you considered doing it while in the water? With a variety of watersport options in Cornwall, you’ll never run out of something new to do.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover these Cornwall watersports:
- Standup Paddle Boarding
- Wild Swimming
Let’s dive into it!
Looking to catch some waves on your trip?
Cornwall is home to some stunning world-class surf breaks!
Getting Your Gear
While avid surfers might choose to bring their own kits, there are heaps of options available in Cornwall for any skill level.
If you’re looking for some guidance, surf lessons are available at a range of locations. For those starting out, group classes are a suitable option that will help you ease into the joys of surfing!
Some top-rated schools include Cornish Wave in Newquay and St Ives Surf School in St Ives.
If you’re after more advanced or ongoing lessons, check out Escape Surf School in Newquay— a specialist school taught by retired professional surfers!
Wanting to surf on your own? Board and wetsuit rentals are available at a range of locations along the coast.
Those visiting in the summer months, especially on the southern coast, may not need a wetsuit. However, locals recommend getting one from autumn onwards, especially in the northern regions.
If you’re looking to try something a little different, then ditch the board and try your hand at bodyboarding for a freeing thrill!
Cornwall’s lengthy coastline means there are so many incredible surfing beaches in the region. However, unless you’re really dedicated, you likely won’t be able to surf in all of them.
Picking which breaks to brave comes down to personal preference and the experience you’re after.
Newquay is the busiest and most popular surf spot in Cornwall—it’s certainly one of the biggest surfing destinations in England!
Featuring several different beaches, lots of school and equipment rental options, and a huge surfing culture, Newquay is an obvious choice for families and wave chasers alike!
Those looking for quieter breaks can try Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes, which is great for experienced surfers, or Sennen Beach for a family beach day with waves galore.
Redditors of Cornwall also recommend Crantock, Constantine, and Summerleaze as great surfing spots.
Standup Paddle Boarding
Standup paddle boarding (SUP) is such a fun way to explore the coastline and make your way to hidden coves, sandy little islands, and even float through hidden Cornish caves!
Getting Your Gear
Standup paddle boards can be rented at most major paddling boarding spots in the region. While a wetsuit isn’t always necessary, make sure to bring, buy, or rent appropriate water gear and sun protection.
For those who need a hand to help them get going, SUP lessons are available at a range of locations.
Some top-rated places for lessons include the Newquay Activity Centre, which offers a range of different packages including tours, a giant inflatable SUP, and snorkelling. Alternatively, Eskinzo Surf School in Porthtowan which offers lessons and estuary tours and WESUP in Falmouth is right on Gyllygvase beach!
While the majority of surf spots are along Cornwall’s western coast, paddleboarding isn’t dependent on breaks and is highly popular along the southern coast as well! for a closer look, read our guide to the 9 Most Epic SUP spots in Cornwall.
For beginners, check out the calm and crystal clear waters of St Michael’s Mount! This location lets you gain confidence on your board while checking out the gorgeous old castle situated on a Cornish island off the coast of Marazion.
Other great beginner locations include Newquay with its picturesque rivers and loads of available lessons, and Fowley River with its lush local wildlife and caves to explore.
If you’re steady on your feet and ready to get a bit wilder, check out Sennen Cove in south Cornwall for seal colonies and the rush of the ocean swell.
For something more adventurous and away from the crowds, you can try hunting for shipwrecks at the Lizard Peninsula.
Like paddle boarding, kayaking is also a great way to explore the secrets of the Cornish Coast aboard something with greater durability and power. Plus, you can also adventure inland to witness the beauty of the rivers and surrounding wilderness!
Getting Your Gear
There is a range of kayak rental options located around Cornwall. Some top-rated companies include Encounter Cornwall in Fowey and Cornwall Watersports in Pentewan.
Any guided tours will provide you with a kayak, paddle, and life jacket, but make sure to check when booking to see what other gear you may need to bring.
For ocean kayaking, check out the stunning coastline of Port Gaverne— home to wildlife and breathtaking cliff faces. From here, you can further kayak to Port Isaac, the filming location of the popular television show Doc Martin.
If you feel like going on a grand adventure, take a few days to tour the Isles of Scilly! Located off the coast near Penzance, the isles feature ancient castles and settlements, charming local towns, and abundant wildlife.
What better way to explore this world-class destination than by island hopping via sea kayak?
Want something a little more laidback? Ride the river instead at Falmouth and explore winding waterways surrounded by birds, deer, and other wildlife.
For literature lovers, paddle through the calm waters of the Fowey River—the same river that inspired the novel The Wind in the Willow.
Have a passion for kitesurfing or looking to try out a crazy new watersport? You’re in luck because Cornwall is a great place to ride the wind and waves!
Getting Your Gear
There are heaps of places offering lessons and equipment rental around Cornwall!
Check out The Hoxton Special or Ocean High in Marazion for expert teachers and safe high-quality equipment, or get the same treatment with private lessons from Venturi Watersports in Bude.
If you’re planning to go kiting in the winter, you should have a good wetsuit (or plan to get one). Otherwise, the combo of cold water and wind chill will likely put a freeze on your fun time very quickly.
Make sure to do your research before heading out on your own as some beaches have different permit and insurance requirements. If you’re new to kitesurfing, it’s a good idea to stick to a service first.
If you’re just starting out, check out Watergate bay! This open sunny beach has wide, shallow waters perfect for beginners, as well as deeper options if you’re a quick learner. Read more in our guide to the Top Kitesurf Spots in Cornwall.
Marazion and Longrock on the southern coast are also friendly to all skill levels with their smaller swells, stunning views, and relaxed restrictions.
For the experienced kiter, you won’t be short of thrills catching some air in Cornwall.
The Bluff off of St Ives is favoured by professional surfers. However, note that kiting in this area requires a permit and insurance, so make sure to prepare them before heading into the water.
Local legend and kite surfing champion Lee “Pasty” Harvey also recommends Porthleven, Gwithian, and Hawkers Cove as supreme shredding spots.
Looking to get your adrenaline pumping? Try coasteering in Cornwall!
Coasteering is Great Britain’s homegrown adventure sport that combines cliff jumping, abseiling, and climbing into a wild mash-up.
What’s the goal? You need to make your way along a section of coastline by whatever means necessary!
Centred in between land and sea, coasteering gives you an opportunity to see the sights from a rare vantage point. Just don’t be afraid to get wet!
Getting Your Gear
Coasteering requires lots of specialist equipment and shouldn’t be attempted without an experienced guide. Luckily, there are heaps of options in Cornwall for you to safely get your fix!
Newquay takes the cake for a variety of coasteering opportunities, and it even appears on Redbull’s list of top coasteering spots in the world! Read more in our complete guide to Coasteering in Cornwall.
Here, you can get up close and personal with local heritage sights and local wildlife, dive from cliffs, hop through tide pools, and swim in beautiful clear water.
Newquay Activity Centre even offers nighttime coasteering for the truly fearless, as well as bundled packages with SUP boarding, jet boating, snorkelling, and more.
There are also abundant coasteering opportunities all around the region. Check out whirlpools and cliff dives in St Austell Bay, or plunge into the waters of St Ives with Vertical Descents.
Keen on exploring the waters during your trip? Why don’t you try sailing?
Getting Your Gear
There are a few different ways to experience Cornwall by boat, depending on your preference and budget.
You could charter a boat for a taste of sailing luxury from key locations like St Ives and Falmouth. For shorter or more budget-friendly experiences, there are also other sailing options around Cornwall that you can try.
Falmouth is a classic spot to sail, and could even be a great starting point for your adventure.
You can cruise around the beautiful bay or head into The Carrick Roads, an estuary that branches into tributaries and streams surrounded by wildlife and quaint townships.
For a more tranquil and secluded vibe, try Polridmouth Cove along the Polperro Heritage Coast.
Another great spot is Talland Bay which is only a short sail from Looe and is home to great eats, churches, and a history of sailing (and smuggling!)
See what’s happening beneath the surface with exciting diving opportunities in Cornwall!
Getting Your Gear
If you’re a qualified diver, you can rent equipment from a range of official vendors in Cornwall. For the less experienced, there are many scuba experiences available and all equipment will typically be provided.
For your diving needs, check out Cornish Diving Centre and Viewpoint Diving. Apart from gear, they also offer guided dives so you can safely enjoy the beauty of the sea.
The Manacles in west Cornwall is a spectacular dive spot that features cuttlefish, jewel anemones, and loads of other marine life. For a taste of history, there are several shipwrecks that you can explore in the area.
Another scenic diving spot is the Runnel Stone, a majestic underwater spire encrusted with reefs and other marine creatures. Its peak is six metres below the surface, but its length runs 35 metres in depth.
Like in the Manacles, there are also many shipwrecks resting at the base of the stone— making for a diverse and fascinating dive.
Wild swimming combines the fun and exertion of a good swim with the meditative and holistic healing properties of immersing in nature.
This watersport revolves around the practice of finding a secluded or unique location to take a plunge and has been recently trending for its reported benefits on mental and physical health.
No matter if you’re searching for a spiritual cleanse, a shock to your body, or just to have fun in a beautiful swimming spot, Cornwall has got you covered!
Getting Your Gear
Your swimsuit is the only thing you need!
However, some gorgeous spots can be a bit of a trek, so you may want to bring a change of clothes, plenty of towels, and maybe even a nice picnic! Goggles or snorkelling supplies could elevate your experience as well.
If you’re inland, check out St Nectan’s Kieve, a magical woodland oasis located in north Cornwall. This spiritual site features a gorgeous waterfall plunging through stones and is the perfect spot for a wild swim with the fairies. For an in-depth look read our guide to Where to Wild Swim in Cornwall!
Another great location for wild swimming is the Respryn Bridge, a picturesque river idea for a family outing because of its combination of deep currents and a shore that’s safe for children to play on.
On the coast, there are also magical spots such as the secluded Pedn Vounder. In this cove, you’ll enjoy dazzling lagoons and stunning sand bars—the perfect place for some wild swimming.
For a more family-friendly option, Cornwall also has many tidal pools that less experienced swimmers can plunge into.
Thanks to the number of water activities Cornwall has to offer, it’s unsurprising why it’s a popular destination among enthusiasts.
Fortunately, the county’s gorgeous beaches are complemented by a wide variety of specialised shops which are more than happy to provide you with everything you need for an enjoyable time.
Whatever watersport you end up doing, one thing’s for sure: in Cornwall, you’re sure to have a blast!
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.