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18 Best Beaches in Cornwall For Families, Train Travellers And Beauty

Kynance Cove

 
With over 250 miles of coast, some say that Cornwall has one of the most varied and beautiful coastlines in the UK. I may be a little biassed as I live here, but I’m going to put it out there and extend this to the world! I’ve travelled a lot over the years and never have I come across such stunning coastal scenery in such a relatively small area. And with over 300 beaches in one county, it’s really no surprise that choosing the best beaches in Cornwall isn’t an easy task.

Firstly, everyone has a slightly different idea of what the best beach should be. I’m all about soft sand as I love to play games at the beach! For others, rich rock pools are a must. Some enjoy the hustle and bustle of the main tourist spots, whilst getting to the secret spots is top priority for those who prefer some quiet time. What constitutes an excellent beach for you may be the worst nightmare for someone else!

Secondly, some of the best beaches in Cornwall aren’t really that great if you catch them at the wrong time of year or on the wrong tide. Equally, a day on the most idyllic beach in the world can be rendered an endurance test if the wind is blowing sand into your face (and sandwiches) all day.

The best beaches in Cornwall

With all that in mind, I’ve taken my knowledge and experience of all the beaches in Cornwall that I’ve spent time at and collated this list of the best beaches in Cornwall. It includes information for specific needs, interests and preferences.

Best family beaches in Cornwall

The majority of summertime visitors to Cornwall are families. It’s the perfect beach holiday destination offering a plethora of amazing beaches that are kid-friendly and guaranteed to keep everyone happy… so long as the sun stays out! But the best family beaches in Cornwall are also the ones that have more on offer than just playing in the sand and swimming in the sea.

Easy and close access to parking, toilets and ice cream shops are all musts! And the best family beaches in Cornwall should also feature rock pools, soft sand and a stream or river to play in, or some other activity to try out should the sun not be as kind as it should be.

Fistral Beach

Located within walking distance of the bustling seaside town of Newquay, Fistral Beach is the perfect spot for families who don’t want to rely on a car to get to the beach. Though there are plenty of parking options nearby, driving in the peak of summer around Newquay can be somewhat trying!

The beach itself has a bit of everything, boasting excellent rock pools at low tide, soft sand and ideal waves for beginner surf lessons. Plus, there’s usually great waves for parents who’d like to paddle out back while the kiddies are in surf school. Win, win!

Best for:dogs, surfing, families, dogs,
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, shops, surf lessons and hire
Parking + access:short walk from paid beachfront car park
Features:sandy, rock pools, busy, walkable to Newquay
Best conditions:southerly or easterly wind, mid to low tide

 

Crantock Beach

Image by: S J Photography

Crantock Beach

On the other side of the Pentire peninsula from Fistral is the gorgeous and golden sanded Crantock Beach. There are far fewer facilities here than Fistral. However, the wow-factor goes up a notch for those looking for something a bit different.

One of the most appealing features is the Gannel Estuary which is ideal for paddle boarding at high tide. The gentle river also provides ideal bathing conditions for those who don’t much care to be bashed about by waves, although this option is also available!

There’s usually a couple of food vans on the beach during the summer and parking is right on the beach, if you get there early enough! Additionally, Crantock Beach is often more sheltered than other spots along the North coast as it’s tucked right into the estuary and backed by huge dunes.

Best for:paddle boarding, surfing, families, sand castles, dune jumping
Facilities:cafe, toilets, board and kayak hire
Parking + access:short walk from paid beachfront car park
Features:sandy, river estuary, dunes, busy in summer
Best conditions:southerly, easterly and northerly winds, all tides

Perranporth

Perranporth

A holiday in the Newquay area isn’t complete without a day trip to Perranporth Beach. It’s up there with the best beaches in Cornwall, and for good reason. It has a bit of everything, most of which is very well suited to family beach holidays!

Firstly, it boasts the only beach bar in the UK, though you’ll need to budget for that! Thankfully there are plenty of other great places to eat just a short walk from the beach that won’t break the bank quite so aggressively. There are also toilets and showers right on the seafront.

Low tide offers a wonderland of rock pools, tunnels, caves and arches to explore. Plus, a tidal pool provides a safer alternative to the wild ocean waves for swimmers. Sporty types can also enjoy the vast flat plains of sand at low tide for full-scale matches of whatever takes your fancy. And there’s even a river for toddlers and dam-builders, and huge dunes for leaping and exploring.

Just be warned, it can get VERY busy in the middle of summer.

Best for:exploring, sports, families, surfing, dogs, dune jumping
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, showers, shops, surf hire and lessons
Parking + access:short walk from paid beachfront car park
Features:sandy, rock pools, tunnels, caves, cliff walks, busy, dunes
Best conditions:easterly wind, mid to low tide

Trevaunance Cove

Image by: iWalk Conrwall

Trevaunance Cove

Continue southwest along the coast from Perranporth (via a simply stunning cliff walk, if travelling on foot) and you’ll get to Trevaunance Cove at St Agnes. At high tide the beach is a little limited on the space front. However, as the tide retreats you’ll be treated to a quaint family-friendly beach, complete with thriving rock pools, flanked by dramatic cliffs and visible remains of the rich mining heritage of the area.

There’s a great little takeaway cafe as well as public toilets right on the edge of the beach. Or wander a little further up towards St Agnes and you’ll find plenty more options for excellent quality food and drink.

This picturesque cove has much more of a fishing village feel about it than many of the other beaches in North Cornwall. And because it is northwest facing, the sea tends to be a little calmer than elsewhere. This also means that it loses the sun earlier in the day at which time you might be better off enjoying the sunset from the cliffs that overlook the beach.

Best for:families, paddle boarding, exploring, dogs (on a lead)
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, shops
Parking + access:short walk from paid car park (bring cash)
Features:sandy, rock pools, cliff walks, busy
Best conditions:easterly wind, mid tide to low tide

Godrevy Beach

Image by: S J Photography

Godrevy Beach

Those looking for a slightly quieter North coast beach after the hustle and bustle of the Newquay area should certainly take a trip to Godrevy. The access to the beach is a little less convenient, but it’s still only a hop, skip and a jump from car to sand.

This golden sanded beach offers a bit of everything including stunning views across St Ives Bay and of Godrevy Lighthouse. And for explorers and rock poolers out there, the rocks at the north end of the beach provide a giant playground at low tide. In fact, on the right tide when the rocks have had time to dry, you might even spot some rock climbers bouldering straight off the beach.

The sea can be very rough here, but in calmer conditions, swimming and even snorkelling round the rocks, can be glorious. Additionally, low tide opens the beach right up to provide access right down to Hayle. Oh, and at the right time of year you can take a stroll along the cliffs towards the lighthouse to spot seals hauling out on one of the quiet coves below the cliff. Just be sure to keep quiet so as not to disturb them.

Best for:families, rock pooling, exploring, sport, wildlife
Facilities:cafe, toilets
Parking + access:5 min walk from National Trust car park
Features:sandy, rock pools, cliff walks, stream, dunes
Best conditions:easterly wind, mid to low tide

Praa Sands

Image by: Sun Wave

Praa Sands

One of the best beaches for families on the South coast of Cornwall is Praa Sands. Firstly, the car park is right next to the beach which makes everything so much easier with kids and all their beach paraphernalia in tow! It also boasts gorgeous golden sand and gentle water which is great for swimming and paddle boarding.

Another great reason to love this simple beach is that it is south facing. So not only do you get a full day of sunshine, but it’s also well sheltered when the chilly northerly winds set in.

And finally, although it’s a very popular beach in this area, the long beach provides plenty of space to set up away from the crowds, so long as you’re willing to walk the distance to get there!

Best for:families, paddle boarding, swimming, surfing
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, surf lessons
Parking + access:easy walk from paid beachfront car parks
Features:sandy, gentle waves (mostly), sheltered
Best conditions:northerly wind, any tide

Maenporth Beach

Image by: Ellie Woodward

Maenporth

Another easy access beach which families will love is Maenporth Beach. Only a 10 minute drive from Falmouth, this cosy cove provides a sheltered spot for beach-lovers when the westerlies are in full force.

The east facing beach is perfect for families who like to set up early to catch the morning sun, which is also a good idea to bag a parking spot. The highly convenient car park backs right onto the beach but there are limited spaces.

Maenporth is a paddle boarders’ delight, offering a sheltered and very calm bay to get your sea legs, plus some stunning coast to explore for more experienced paddlers. It’s also very popular with sea swimmers.

The main downside to this beach is that there is no lifeguard service.

Best for:families, paddle boarders, swimmers
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets
Parking + access:short walk from paid beachfront car park
Features:sandy, calm, no lifeguard
Best conditions:westerly wind, mid to low tide

Treyarnon Bay

Image by: H D C Design

Treyarnon Bay

Families staying in the Padstow area of Cornwall are guaranteed a great day at Treyarnon Bay. Like Perranporth, it has just about everything you could wish for as family-friendly beaches go, including beachside parking, golden sand, a stream, lots of space and rock pools.

As the tide goes out, the gentle beach opens up into a sporting arena for beach cricketers, frisbee flingers and boules fanatics. And ice creams are within easy reach for refreshment breaks.

But one of the best things about Treyarnon Bay is the epic rock pool that kids of all ages can enjoy once the tide is low enough. The pool is big enough to swim laps in, deep enough to jump it and full of marine life for budding snorkelers to investigate.

Best for:families, dogs, rock pools, sport, surfing
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, shop
Parking + access:short walk from paid beachside car park
Features:sandy, rock pools, cliff walks
Best conditions:easterly wind, mid tide

Best beaches in Cornwall for train travellers

There was a time when the only way to get to Cornwall was on the train. There were branch lines that provided access to beaches like Perranporth, Bude and Marazion. Since the closure of many of the routes to Cornwall, tourists have relied almost solely on cars to get to and around the county, impacting hugely on the traffic and pollution levels.

Thankfully, raised awareness in sustainable tourism has turned some travellers back to the railways, easing pressure on the roads and adding a delightful layer of romance to their trips!

If this sounds like you, or perhaps you’d like to try holidaying by rail, then this list of the best beaches in Cornwall for train travellers will hopefully help shape your trip.

Gylly Beach

Image by: Gylly Beach

Gyllyngvase Beach

The east-facing beach of Gyllyngvase is the main beach in Falmouth. It’s also delightfully calm with turquoise blue water, when the weather plays ball! As such, it can become very busy with limited parking. However, its vicinity to Falmouth train station makes it an ideal place for train travellers to visit; it’s only an 8 minute walk to the beach from the station.

Another appeal for car-free visitors is the facilities. Beach showers are open year-round as are the beach cafes. You can also hire paddle boards and kayaks from the beach, should sitting on the slightly coarse sand lose its appeal. In fact, Gyllyngvase is an excellent spot to try out paddle boarding for the first time, thanks to the predominantly calm conditions.

Finally, much like Newquay, there are loads of accommodation options within easy reach of both the station and the beach.

Best for:train travellers, families, paddle boarding, swimming
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, showers, shops, kayak and SUP hire
Parking + access:roadside parking in the area
Features:sandy, calm, busy
Best conditions:easterly wind, mid tide

Great Western Beach, Newquay

A mere 4 minute walk gets you from Newquay train station right onto the soft sand of Great Western Beach. From here you can access Tolcarne and Towan Beaches at low tide, to explore rock pools and caves. Alternatively, hunker down below the huge cliffs at Great Western, ice cream in hand, to take it all in alongside the locals.

There’s limited space on the beach at high tide, however, you can always retreat to the beach bar or cafe to sample their delicious California-inspired menu. And of course there’s surfboard hire and lessons available if you’re after something a bit more up beat; it is home to Newquay’s original surfing beach, after all!

Best for:train travellers, surfing, families, dogs
Facilities:cafe and bar, toilets, surfboard hire and lessons
Parking + access:4 min walk from train station, limited parking
Features:sandy, rock pools, locals vibe
Best conditions:southerly or easterly wind, mid to low tide

Porthminster Beach, St Ives

When alighting from the train at St Ives station on a sunny day, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the stunning vista for something right out of the Mediterranean. The pristine white sands of Porthminster Beach benefit from calm conditions when other areas on the North coast feel the brunt of the wind and swell. As a result, the water is perfectly turquoise and highly appealing for sun lovers, swimmers and paddle boarders. The tropical plants and foliage that line the beach also help to complete the illusion, which is best enjoyed on a southerly or westerly wind.

A two minute walk from the station to the beach makes it an excellent day trip on the train as well as an end destination for a week of sun, sea, sand and art! St Ives town centre is only a 10 minute walk away from both the beach and the station and offers a rich art and cafe culture as well as more beaches to explore should the wind not be in your favour.

Best for:train travellers, families, paddle boarding, swimming
Facilities:cafe, toilets, paddle board and kayak hire
Parking + access:2 min walk from paid station car park
Features:sandy, rock pools at low tide
Best conditions:southerly westerly wind, all tides
 

East Looe Beach

The gently sloping sand of East Looe Beach is a very popular spot for families due to the calm and shallow water and close proximity to facilities. It’s also an excellent option as a day trip on the train from Plymouth, which is just over an hour away.

The beach is a 12 minute walk along the river from the train station which takes in the sights and smells of this bustling working fishing port. Once at the beach, you may have to battle for a spot on the sand; it gets very busy during the summer months! But there’s usually space on Banjo Pier for crabbing and strolling with ice creams. And if the crowds get too much then you can always seek out some wildlife with a trip out to Looe Island to get away from it all.

Best for:train travellers, families, swimming, paddle boarding
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, shops
Parking + access:limited beachfront car park
Features:sandy, rock pools, pier, promenade
Best conditions:northerly, southerly, westerly wind, mid to low tide

Most beautiful beaches in Cornwall

Choosing the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall is a real toughie, especially as people have such differing perceptions of beauty. Deserted and wild beaches with minimal human impact capture the hearts of many. And of course, you can’t go wrong with dramatic scenery and golden sands. But it’s those turquoise waters that are probably a common theme of appeal for most beach-goers. With that in mind, this list of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall should include something to wow everyone.

Pedn Vounder

Image by: Paul Sampson

Pedn Vounder

Let’s kick things off with a boom and head straight for probably THE most beautiful beach in Cornwall: Pedn Vounder. It’s pretty far away from the rest of Cornwall, is a bit of a tricky scramble down the rocks to access it, you can’t access it at all on certain tides, and once you get there you’ll be sharing it with nudists! So, it’s not for everyone. And families with small children and an array of beach paraphernalia can forget about it.

That said, get there at around mid tide as it’s going out and make sure it’s an offshore wind, and you’ll be delighted you made the effort.

This unique beach is surrounded by tall granite cliffs and offers excellent views of Logan’s Rock to the east. It also features sandbars and lagoons as the tide retreats, that are ideal for paddling, playing frisbee or bat and ball in, and swimming.

The water is as turquoise as it gets, thanks to the white sand and shallow depth. And because of the tall cliffs it can be a delightful sun trap for sun bathers. Additionally, you can access Pedn Vounder by paddle board from nearby Porthcurno.

Best for:scenery, naturists, adventurers, sun lovers, swimmers
Facilities:none
Parking + access:15-20 minute walk to parking at Treen with difficult scrambling down rocks
Features:sandy, sand bars, cliffs
Best conditions:northerly, westerly wind, mid to low tide

Kynance Cove

Image by: Kate Lowe

Kynance Cove

Another hard to reach beach (30 minute drive south of Helston) that is well worth the effort is Kynance Cove. This picture postcard collection of serpentine rocks, islands, caves and white sand is a not-to-miss spectacle if you are visiting the Lizard Peninsula or anywhere in South Cornwall, for that matter.

It’s a relatively steep 10 minute walk from the National Trust car park up on the cliffs. The path takes you down to the beach where you can enjoy a delicious lunch at the cafe alongside the stunning scenery. Much like Pedn Vounder, Kynance is best visited on a dropping tide as low tide opens up a whole world of exploration and wonder. There’s also some excellent snorkelling and swimming to be had, if you can endure the extra cold water!

A couple of things to be aware of on a visit to Kynance Cove:

  • It’s very easy to get cut off on small beaches and coves as the tide comes in, so keep an eye on it!
  • The beach is not lifeguarded and there are strong currents around the rocks, so swim with caution or not at all.
  • The limited parking spots fill up, it’s a 40 minute walk to the next nearest option.
Best for:scenery, exploring, families
Facilities:cafe, toilets
Parking + access:10 min walk from paid cliff top car park
Features:sandy, islands, cliff walks, caves, busy
Best conditions:northerly wind, mid to low tide

Prussia Cove

Image by: Liam Alford

Prussia Cove

Between Helston and Penzance on the South coast of Cornwall, there are some gorgeous coves and beaches to explore. One of the most beautiful beaches amongst these is Prussia Cove. It’s a tiny and secluded beach with a romantic feel about it thanks to the nearby tumbledown fishing cottages, gentle countryside and interesting rock formations that flank it. It also has a rich history of smuggling, some remains of which might be spotted by the discerning.

The small cove is a child’s delight when it comes to exploration which is best done at low tide. Otherwise, there is very limited space at the beach but plenty of other small coves to explore on foot along the coast path either side of the Prussia Cove.

Best for:scenery, families, exploring, swimming
Facilities:none
Parking + access:a 10 minute walk to a small privately owned car park
Features:sandy, rocks and rock pools, historical features
Best conditions:northerly, westerly wind, mid to low tide

Holywell

Image by: Lee Stephens

Holywell Beach

Holywell Beach is a relatively hidden gem of the North coast that is nestled a little off the beaten path between Newquay and Perranporth. It’s a stunning and classically Cornish beach that is backed by high sand dunes, flanked by steep cliffs, covered in golden sand and even has its own large rocks in the bay which give it a mysterious and piratey feel!

Low tide offers caves, rock pools and rocks to explore, as well as Holywell Cave at the north end of the beach. There’s a stream, which you’ll need to cross to get to the main beach, and some excellent dune-jumping terrain. Additionally, surfers and swimmers can enjoy lifeguarded water time during the summer months.

It’s a little bit of a walk from the car park, but well worth it if you’re setting up for the day, or you’re just out for a Sunday stroll. And explorers might even get a glimpse of a shipwreck at low tide.

Best for:scenery, families, dogs, surfing, dune jumping
Facilities:cafe / bars, toilets
Parking + access:a 10 minute walk to National Trust car park
Features:sandy, rock pools, cliff walks, caves, stream
Best conditions:easterly wind, any tide

Whipsiderry

Image by: Anita Scott

Whipsiderry Beach

Though only a stone’s throw from Newquay, Whipsiderry Beach is a glorious and varied cove that benefits greatly from its difficult access and lack of facilities. The beach lies at the base of high cliffs down which steep steps take you to the golden sand. Additionally, there is very little parking nearby. The result is a quiet and secluded delight that glows orange at sunset during the summer.

There’s very little beach to speak of at high tide, but if you can bag a bit of sand you’ll only be sharing it with only a handful of others. Stick around until low tide and you’ll be treated with caves galore, rock pools aplenty, a huge island rock and access all the way along the beach to Watergate Bay.

Best for:scenery, exploration, seclusion
Facilities:none
Parking + access:very limited parking at the top of the cliff
Features:sandy, rock pools, steep cliffs, caves
Best conditions:easterly, southerly, northerly wind, mid to low tide

Sennen Cove

Image by: Paul Sampson

Sennen Cove Beach

The mile long stretch of white sand at Sennen Cove Beach (also known as Whitesands Bay), is another blissful option on our list of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall. Its vicinity to parking and cafes also makes it a hit with families, as does the soft sand and shore rocks for playing and pootling.

When the wind is low and the sea calm, the waters of Sennen Cove will tempt even the most reluctant swimmers in for a refreshing dip. However, as Cornwall’s most westerly beach, it can get hit pretty hard by the Atlantic swell and weather systems. As such, it’s best visited in fair weather unless wave watching and windy walks are on the agenda. In which case, you won’t be disappointed; there’s some excellent walks to be had which take in the neighbouring Gwynver Beach and Land’s End as well as views of the Scilly Isles on a clear day.

Best for:families, surfing, swimming
Facilities:cafes and bars, toilets, surf school and board hire
Parking + access:a short walk from paid beachfront car park
Features:sandy, rocky shore, cliff walks
Best conditions:easterly or southerly wind, mid to low tide
 

Dogs running on beach

Best dog friendly beaches in Cornwall

As well as finding the best beaches in Cornwall for us humans, visiting with a furry friend means you’ll need to make sure they’re allowed to frollick in the sand too. There are loads of beaches that allow dogs through the winter months, but many of these have dog bans during the summer season. Thankfully, there are also a lot of beaches that welcome our puppy pals all year round.

Here’s a list of the best dog friendly beaches in Cornwall to consider visiting with your canine companion on your next trip to this coastal wonderland.

Harlyn Bay

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: stream paddling, exploring, coastal walks and running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Loe Bar Beach

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: running really fast on huge stretches of sand with few other dogs or people

Vault Beach

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: coastal walks, seclusion and running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Lantic Bay

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: seclusion, coastal walks and exploring

Penhale Sands (Perranporth)

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: sand dune exploring and running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Holywell Bay

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: sand dune exploring and running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Par Beach

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: easy access and running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Watergate Bay

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for:running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Porthkidney Beach

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: running really fast on huge stretches of sand with few other people or dogs

Porth Joke Beach

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: exploring, stream paddling and coastal walks

Constantine Bay

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: sand dune exploring and running really fast on huge stretches of sand

Mawgan Porth

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: stream paddling and running

Porthluney Cove

Restrictions: dogs welcome all year
Best for: stream paddling, easy access, coastal walks and running


Of course, there are SO many more beaches to explore in Cornwall. You only have to visit the Insta accounts of all our amazing image contributors to get a fuller picture. So may your visit to the best beaches in Cornwall be full of joy, wander, fun and of course respect for these amazing gifts of nature that line our shores.

About the author

author-joey

Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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