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10 of the Best Beaches to Surf in Cornwall

Surfers on Fistral Beach, Newquay. - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Janet Alexander-baldwin (view gallery)

Cornwall, in the South-West of England is a mecca for surfers with its fantastic windswept bays and sandy beaches that offer ideal conditions for the sport. Here we list, in no particular order, some of the best beaches to surf in Cornwall, England. If you'd like to add any information to this article, please do by visiting the Pictures of England forum, or leaving a comment below.

1. Fistral Beach, Newquay

Fistral beach - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Joe Venencia (view gallery)

What a rare blessing Newquay has in its mile upon mile of sheltered, golden beaches that offer a safe haven for sun-worshippers and surfers alike. For these are the delights that each year cause Newquay to be thronged with thousands of visitors from all over the British Isles and beyond.

Like so many other famous Cornish resorts, this little town can trace its roots back to the Bronze Age and this is evidenced by the number of barrows found in the area. Newquay was, for many centuries, a small fishing village known for a good catch of pilchards. The occupations of fishing and smuggling provided the main source of income for many families and to this day, old yarns and legends telling of the plunder of ships wreched on these shores, are swopped nightly in the pubs and inns of local coastal villages. One such story surrounds Huer's House which stands high on a cliff above the harbour. It is said that this house provided a look out point in the 18th and 19th-centuries when the seas were often awash with great shoals of pilchards. The lookout kept watch for the fish and guided the boats towards them by roaring instructions down a horn said to be 1 yard long! Legend tells too, of catches worth in excess of twenty thousand pounds and of fish enough to load a thousand carts. What stirring times these must have been.

During the 16th and the 19th-centuries Newquay prospered from the opening up of the Cornish mines. Newquay produced Lead, Silver and Copper and this brought a measure of stability to the town and it's people. The other great advent for Newquay was the building of the rail line in 1875. The line was built to carry goods back and forth to major towns and cities throughout the country but word soon spread of Newquay's vast sandy beaches and tourists of the Victorian era quickly found their way to what until now had remained a largely undiscovered area. There was an increase in building activity, splendid houses and beautiful hotels were built. Newquay, has never looked back, it is England's foremost surfing resort and as such drawers visitors from the world over, including international surfing champions. It also remains Cornwall's largest seaside town with no less than ten beautiful beaches of which the most sheltered is south facing Towan beach. In contrast, a walk through the west facing Fistral beach reveals sand dunes and a golf course.

Apart from the pleasurable activity of surfing, the summer sees increased activity in yachting and Gig racing. This commemorates a time when gigs powered by teams of oarsmen piloted vessels to the safety of the harbour. It is an enjoyable sport that has a derservedly increased following.

Trenance Gardens are a continual delight with a wealth of colourful flowers, interesting plants and shrubs. The gardens are situate to the rear of the town in a pleasant tree lined area.. Other attractions include indoor and outside swimming pools, an aquarium and a museum. Fishing trips can be arranged for all kinds of fish including shark and there are pleasure boat trips from which to enjoy the magnificent scenery of this fine coastal resort. To watch the great atlantic rollers from the headland above Newquay's picturesque old harbour is one of life's great joys, it is a never to be forgotten experience that will live long in your memory.

2. Gwithian Beach

Gwithian beach, Cornwall - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Tim Bateman (view gallery)

Gwithian has a beautiful white sandy beach with frothy Atlantic rollers which act as a magnet for surfers, for this is one of Cornwall's top surfing spots.

In medieval times this was a popular settlement area, more latterly mines were of importance, these have now gone or are preserved as museum pieces, the area is now largely dependant upon tourism for its livelihood.

The beach stretches for more than three miles, it runs from Porth Kidney Sands to Godrevy Point. The beach is backed mostly by dunes, above which runs the North Cornwall Coastal Path. It is a beautiful area with stunning coastal cliff scenery.

Gwithian village is quite picturesque, it has thatched cottages, a church adorned with graceful pinnacles and an inn. It offers a variety of accommodation including a near-by camp site which is particularly appealing to families.

St. Ives is within easy reach, so to are the attractions of the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, St.Michaels Mount, Land's End and the Lizard Peninsula.

3. Perranporth Beach

Perranporth, Cornwall - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Ian Gedge (view gallery)

Originally, hundreds of years ago, in the Middle Ages, this enchanting sea-side resort was an industrious tin and copper mining village. Now-a-days, it is a place of pure pleasure that in the summer welcomes thousands of visitors from all over.

Perranporth has a spectacular golden sandy beach which stretches for about 3 miles along the coast, and at times is approximately half a mile wide. It offers a safe haven for sun-worshippers and is a delight for little children who happily spend hours building castles in the sand. It is a popular place for surfing and yachting.

Nearby attractions include; World in miniture at Goonhavern, Wheal Coates and St.Agnes Wonderland.

4. Polzeath Beach

Late sun at Polzeath, Cornwall - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Dawn Walters (view gallery)

Westerly winds drift through the deep curve that is Hayle Bay to create ideal conditions for surfers. There is fine surfing from all along this stretch of coastal waters and excellent sun bathing on the warm, softly golden, sandy beach. The beach at Polzeath has a lifeguard on duty, and it remains one of the safest beaches for swimming in the region.

A receeding tide reveals an expanse of rocky pools on what is known as the Greenway which is but a short walk from Polzeath. There are commanding views from here across the Camel estuary to Stepper Point which has a tower built as a landmark for seafarers.

This is an area of pleasant coves, delightful bays and quaint villages. There are fine walks on the headland between Polzeath and New Polzeath where to the north are the banks and ditches of an Iron-Age fort.

Polzeath, is a surfers paradise and an beautiful area that can be enjoyed by everyone.

5. Porthmeor Beach

Porthmeor Beach & the Tate Modern. Taken in September 2004 - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Brian Salvin (view gallery)

6. Porthtowan Beach

September sunset, Porthtowan, Cornwall - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Linda Kemp (view gallery)

7. Praa Sands

Praa sands - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Dorothy Maat-davey (view gallery)

8. Sennen Cove

Beautiful beach at Sennen Cove, Cornwall - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Hilary Hoad (view gallery)

Sennen Cove lies at the foot of steeply rising slopes to which old whitewashed cottages cling haphazardly around the hillside. At the foot, the attractive harbour is surrounded by thatched cottages and houses, once home to fishermen and their families. The cove looks directly across Whitesand Bay, where the dynamic rollers make the bay a famous rendezvous for surfers.

Just a stone's throw from the battered granite cliffs of Land's End, this is an area of amazing coastal scenery that for centuries has captured the imagination of artists from all over Europe. The lovely golden sands attract sun-worshippers, swimmers and children who enjoy building sand castles and hunting amongst the rocks for shells and small crabs. The cove is the home of the Sennen Lifeboat and is still used by local fishermen.

The village has all the usual seaside village amenities, welcoming inns, shops catering for everyday needs and a gift gallery. Of particular merit is the village church dedicated to St. Sennen. It is believed to have been founded in the 6th-century but the church we see today is mostly from the 13th-century. A beautiful building, with many interesting original features, St. Sennen's is well worth a visit.

Sennen offers opportunities to enjoy lovely coastal walks where you can take advantage of glorious views whilst experiencing the surrounding flora and fauna. Birdwatching is popular, so too is horse riding. There are fishing trips from the harbour or for those who prefer there are boat trips round the enchanting little bays.

Places to visit include: The Minack Open Air Theatre, Romantic Lamorna Cove, Lands End, St.Michaels Mount and Tregwainton Garden NT.

9. Sandymouth, Bude

View over Sandymouth,Bude, Cornwall at Sunset - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Russell Blythe (view gallery)

Backed in parts by grassy downs, the wide sandy sweep of Bude Bay with creamy waves flowing in endless procession from the Atlantic make this a perfect summer place for surfers. Set on the spectacular Cornish Heritage Coast with numerous coves and sandy beaches, the area offers one of the finest surfing destinations in England. Widemouth Sand, beneath Pehalt Cliff is a much used spot and for those who do not have their own, just as on most of Bude Bay, there are surfboards for hire.

Here, the splendour of the coast meets the countryside, enfolding many picturesque places .Duckpool, lying to the north of Bude has a pretty stream flowing in from the lush greenery of the beautiful Coombe Valley. Interestingly, the stream is crossed by an ancient bridge with a stone telling us that King William IV made a contribution of £20 towards its construction. At Steeple Point, a sandy, shingle backed beach is guarded by towering cliffs. The woodlands of Coombe Valley offer sanctuary to birds and small mammals, nature trails take you through a wonderland of magnificent trees, shrubs and plant-life. Coombe is a delightful little hamlet where you can see a disused watermill from the 19th-century.


Visitors flock to Bude in droves for this is an area which offers so much variety that you will be quite spoilt for choice. Sandy Mouth has a rock scattered beach were a receding tide leaves interesting rock pools, it also has huge jagged pinnicles rising majestically like the ruins of some ancient castle. Away from the coast, the area has its share of history - the historic village of Stratton just a short distance from Bude, was a scene of battle in the turbulent days of the Civil War. Every May, the battle is re-enacted by members of the Sealed Knot. Whatever you choose to do, in Bude there is something of interest for every member of the family - there are friendly inns, restaurants, beach-side cafe's and visitor attractions to suit all tastes.

Places to visit include: the museum at Hartland Quay, the Nature Reserve at Mead, historic Stratton, enjoy a walk along the South West Coastal Path, or take a sea fishing trip.

10. Harlyn Bay, Near Padstow

A Glimpse of Harlyn - Image by PicturesOfEngland.com member Kernowphile (view gallery)

A Pictures of England article submitted by poe



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