My first experience of paddle boarding in Cornwall was a day trip on the Helford River with Gylly Adventures. We paddled for an hour, up stream and then beached up to cook freshly picked mussels on an open fire that we created. It was glorious. A proper Swallows and Amazons kind of adventure and it opened up a whole other side of Cornwall that was previously undiscovered for me.
I used to visit the North coast of Cornwall – with all its wild water and dramatic cliffs – every year with my family. I now live there and adore it. But it wasn’t until paddle boarding the secluded inlets, creeks and coves of the South coast that I realised just how much Cornwall has to offer to canoeists, kayakers and stand up paddle boarders.
Since my first trip on the Helford River, I’ve been doing as much paddling boarding in Cornwall as possible. There are so many places to explore and once you know how the tides and winds work, there’s almost always a good option on offer within relatively easy reach.
Best places to paddle board in Cornwall
I’ve not yet managed to explore all the places to go paddle boarding in Cornwall. That will take many years of fun! However, I’m working on it and will continue to update my findings in this article as and when I discover them.
That said, I have so far experienced most of the classic paddle boarding locations in Cornwall. Read on to see where your next paddle boarding adventure might take you.
01The Gannel River, Crantock
|Parking:||Paid beach carpark or free for National Trust members|
|Get in point:||Crantock Beach|
|Duration:||0.5 to 3 hours|
|Best conditions:||High tide, low wind|
|SUP Hire:||At Crantock Beach|
If you’re staying in the Newquay area then a paddle on The Gannel River is a must. The small river opens out into a safe estuary that meets the sea alongside the sandy shores of Crantock Beach. When the sun is shining, the sandy bottom creates delightfully turquoise water that contrasts wonderfully with the dark green of the trees that line the edge of the estuary. It’s gentle, picturesque and varied. But it’s also really accessible and easy to enjoy for a half hour pootle as well as a 3 hour there and back journey.
You can launch on the Newquay side. But it’s easier and a more spacious launch spot if you drive to Crantock Beach and go from there. You can also hire boards from there.
To get the very best out of paddle boarding on the Gannel, it’s best to launch about 1.5 hours before high tide on a spring tide. By doing this, you’ll paddle upstream with the incoming tide which will take you right up the river where it starts to meander and narrow and feels a little like paddling through a bamboo jungle! If you time it right then the tide will have turned just when the river gets a bit too narrow and shallow to continue.
Paddling back out towards the mouth of the estuary provides delightful views of the huge properties on the Pentire Peninsula and it is particularly spectacular at sunset. Plus, if all goes to plan, you’ll have the flow of the river as well as the outgoing tide on your side making paddling easy and relaxed.
02The Helford River
|Parking:||Paid parking at Bosveal Car Park (free to National Trust members). This is a 10 minute walk up the hill from the beach|
|Get in point:||Durgan Beach|
|Get out point:||Durgan Beach or Gweek|
|Duration:||0.5 to 6 hours|
|Best conditions:||Low wind with a launch after low tide if going all the way to Gweek|
|SUP Hire:||SUP In A Bag|
The Helford is a tidal river on the South coast of Cornwall that makes up the North shore of the Lizard peninsula. The river is lined with ancient oak woodlands that hang over the water, tickling it when the tide is high. And once you get away from the main areas, it’s one of the more remote places to go paddle boarding in Cornwall.
There are a few places to launch your paddle board on the Helford River. But I always get in at Durgan Beach. Firstly, this launch spot isn’t affected much by the tide as it’s near to the mouth of the estuary. Secondly, there’s loads to explore from there, both upstream and around the coast. And finally, Durgan is too gorgeous to miss!
For casual paddlers, there are lots of small bays close to Durgan to explore, including Grebe Beach and some great snorkelling, too. A short paddle upstream will take you to the bustling Helford Passage Beach where you can get refreshments. Alternatively, cross the estuary and enjoy waterside dining at the Shipwright Arms in Helford. Highly recommended!
If you’re after a more extended trip, then head upstream with an incoming tide and a few hours of paddling will take you right up to Gweek where you can get out if you arrange to leave a car there. Otherwise, time it right with the tides and you can paddle back down to Durgan with the outgoing tide, taking in Frenchman’s Creek and Port Navas on your way. This will give you a full day trip on the river so be sure to pack lots of water and food.
|Parking:||Paid parking right on the seafront|
|Get in point:||Perranporth Beach|
|Get out point:||Perranporth Beach or Trevaunance Cove|
|Duration:||1 to 4 hours|
|Best conditions:||No swell, no wind|
|SUP Hire:||Pirran Surf|
Perranporth isn’t renowned for calm waters that are suitable for paddle boarding. And for good reason; there’s almost always swell rolling in. It’s up there with the best surf beaches in Cornwall offering appropriate conditions for learners and experienced surfers alike.
However, during the summer months, there are a few rare occasions when the stars align and serve up low wind and flat swell resulting in paddle boarding perfection! There are few places I’ve been on this planet that offer such unique scenery as the cliffs to the southwest of the Perranporth. And viewing them from the water is even more spectacular. They’re colourful, dramatic, full of history and super varied with loads to explore.
An hour of gentle exploring will get you to Hanover Cover. Once there, you could easily spend another couple of hours exploring before heading back to Perranporth. Alternatively, keep paddling and you’ll eventually get to Trevaunance Cove at St Agnes. From there you can either get the bus back to Perranporth or have a picnic on the beach before returning by sea. The return trip takes around 4 hours (including lunch) for experienced paddlers.
|Parking:||Paid parking at the parish car park|
|Get in point:||Percuil Boatyard|
|Get out point:||Percuil Boatyard|
|Duration:||0.5 to 2 hours|
|Best conditions:||High tide, low wind|
|SUP Hire:||Paddle and Sail|
Tucked away on the secluded Roseland Peninsula is a gorgeous and sheltered creek that is ideal for beginner paddle boarders. The Percuil River is a small tributary of the Fal River and, like the Helford, is skirted with lush woodland and surrounded by rolling countryside.
Launching at the Percuil Boatyard provides a good springboard from which to explore the area. The proximity to a car park is very appealing and enables you to inflate your board there and carry it to the water.
You’ll ideally want to get on the water an hour or so before high tide, depending on how much exploring you want to do. If the tide is high then you can head upstream to ogle at some waterside mansions and enjoy the serenity of the gentle landscape, sharing it only with the rich birdlife.
Head downstream and you’ll find yourself scudding between moored sailing boats and yachts that line the shores of the quaint village of St Mawes. Ice creams and refreshments flow in abundance on the cobbled waterfront of this small fishing harbour. Its south-facing aspect also makes it a delightful place to haul out in the sun.
From St Mawes, more experienced paddlers can continue south into the mouth of the Fal estuary where small sandy coves near St Anthony Head offer idyllic picnic spots to while away the afternoon. Otherwise, stay in the shelter and safety of the Percuil estuary visiting St Anthony’s Church at Place, should you desire a bit of history and culture.
|Parking:||Free at Sunny Corner right next to the water, paid parking at Loe Beach and Mylor Churchtown|
|Get in point:||Sunny Corner, Mylor Churchtown or Loe Beach|
|Get out point:||Mylor Churchtown, Sunny Corner or Loe Beach|
|Duration:||0.5 to 7 hours|
|Best conditions:||High tide on upper Fal, low wind|
|SUP Hire:||Falmouth River Watersports in Mylor Churchtown|
If you’re keen to try paddle boarding on the Fal River then you have lots of options! From full river trips for experienced paddlers to short pootles around quaint inlets, there’s something for everyone.
The tides and wind can make or break a paddling trip on the Fal, so be sure to check the forecast. And note that the further up the river you go, the more the effects of the tide become apparent.
A really nice one-way trip (around 3 hours) is between Malpas and Mylor Churchtown. This avoids the busier area of the estuary near Falmouth and takes in some stunning scenery. It can also be done as a return trip, if you get the tides right.
On a high tide, launch at Sunny Corner near Malpas and paddle south amongst the herons, crossing the path of King Harry Ferry and passing Trelissick estate where the river opens up. Reverse the trip if the tides are low when you launch but be aware that Sunny Corner is VERY muddy if the tide isn’t right up. If you’ve got the times wrong or it’s a neap tide then you may need to get out at Malpas.
Loe Beach is another great place to launch, especially if you’re just out for a casual paddle. From here you can cross over the Fal to Tolcarne Creek, explore Pill Creek or aim for the beach at Trelissick to bag a glorious south-facing picnic spot.
|Parking:||Paid parking at Reppers Combe Car Park (make sure you have cahs!)|
|Get in point:||Trevaunance Beach|
|Get out point:||Trevaunance Beach|
|Duration:||0.5 to 2 hours|
|Best conditions:||High tide, low wind and low swell|
|SUP Hire:||Breakers Surf School|
If the journey from Perranporth to St Agnes is a touch on the challenging side then exploring Trevaunance Cove is a superb alternative. It provides a taste of the dramatic scenery of the St Agnes Heritage Coast without the experience needed to take on the open seas.
This area is also usually more sheltered than Perranporth, making it a good option if there’s a little bit of swell rolling in.
There are plenty of opportunities for rock jumping and snorkelling to the right of the cove at Trevellas Porth. If the conditions are good then you’ll more than likely be sharing the experience with other water-babies. It’s a prime spot for the locals so you’ll be in good company!
For a quieter and more tranquil paddle boarding experience, paddle 10 minutes out to the left of Trevaunance Cove to explore arches, tunnels and inlets set below the steep and majestic cliffs. If you lay back and float quietly you’ll probably be treated to some more unusual birdlife than the beaches and seaside towns attract. It’s a spectacular spot that’s very accessible, providing the wind is low and the swell is gentle.
|Parking:||Free parking on Quay Street, Lostwithiel|
|Get in point:||The bridge on Quay Street|
|Get out point:||Readymoney Cove|
|Best conditions:||High tide, northerly wind|
|SUP Hire:||River Joyz|
Another Cornish tidal estuary that is not to be missed by paddle boarders is the River Fowey. The route from the picturesque town of Lostwithiel to Readymoney Cove in Fowey is varied and scenic, and makes for an excellent one-way trip.
Get on the river as close to high tide as possible in Lostwithiel. There’s a good launch spot near the bridge on Quay Street which immediately puts you amongst the trees that line the meandering river. This upper section is narrow and windy but it soon opens out into grassland and then a wide estuary.
There’s a wide, straight section which can be a bit of a slog if the wind isn’t on your side. But stick to the edges for shelter and interest and you’ll soon find yourself pulling up for a well deserved pint in Golant.
Another couple of hours will take you along the delightful shores of the town of Fowey, dodging moored boats and waving at tourists sipping on sundowners in waterside bars.
A stop in Fowey is well worth it, if you have time, or you can finish here. Otherwise, continue to Readymoney Cove – where Cornish author, Daphne du Maurier once lived – to finish a very satisfying day of paddle boarding in Cornwall.
There are public transport options back to Lostwithiel from Fowey or you might opt to get a taxi from Readymoney Cove.
|Parking:||Paid parking at Maenporth Beach Car Park|
|Get in point:||Maenporth Beach|
|Get out point:||Maenporth Beach or Gyllyngvase Beach|
|Duration:||0.5 to 2 hours|
|Best conditions:||High tide, low wind|
|SUP Hire:||Gylly Adventures|
There are lots of excellent places to go paddle boarding in Cornwall for beginners, one of which is the cosy cove of Maenporth. The sheltered nature of the small bay makes it the perfect place to get your sea legs, and it’s rather pretty, too!
Though there’s nowhere to hire boards in Maenporth, you can hire boards from Gylly Adventures just up the road at Gyllyngvase Beach. This can actually play in your favour if you fancy an extended trip!
To get the best out of the cove, beginners should aim to get on the water before high tide. This allows for a greater window of paddling in the safety of the bay. As the tide goes out there’s less sheltered water within the bay.
For those looking to explore the area a bit, a half hour jaunt south out of the bay towards Rosemullion Head, offers unusual rock formations and colourful cliffs. There are multiple options to stop off if the tide is low enough and some good snorkelling to be had, too.
Alternatively, pack up your SUP with supplies and paddle north along the coast, past Swanpool to Gyllyngvase Beach. Here you can drop off your hire board and walk the 2.5 mile coast path back to the car at Maenporth.
So there you have it; 8 spectacular places to go paddle boarding in Cornwall. Whether you’re a local looking to branch out and explore new areas or if you’re visiting and want to get away from the crowds, paddle boarding is such a wonderful way of exploring our waterways and seeing things from a different perspective.
Plus, paddle board hire in Cornwall is very common and affordable so you don’t need to invest in your own board.
Wherever you choose to go paddle boarding in Cornwall, may you be safe, respectful and have fun!
Happy SUPPING, happy paddle boarders!