Cornwall is blessed with some of the most spectacular coastal spots in the UK. With 700 kilometres of coastline wrapped around the county, it is riddled with hundreds of beaches, each with its own special character, and all linked together via a beautiful clifftop walking route. We’ve been exploring this fabulous coastline widely to pick out the best beaches in Cornwall for you to try this summer. Whatever type of beach you are looking for, whether it’s a surfing haven, hidden cove, dog-friendly space, family day out or anything in between, you will find it here.
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Best beaches in Cornwall
I am lucky enough to call Cornwall my family homeland. Although I have never lived there myself, it was where I went on holiday every summer as a child – much of which was spent on the beach!
My mother now lives in retirement in Penzance, and so I spend more time in Cornwall these days than ever before. On recent trips we have taken the opportunity to explore the coastline in more depth, and the beaches listed below are those we’ve picked out as our favourites.
At the moment we have mainly covered the gorgeous Penwith peninsula and the south coast across to Falmouth. On our next trip we plan to rediscover the areas around Newquay, Bude and the Roseland Heritage Coast, and will keep this post updated as we go!
Let’s get started with a classic…
1. Kynance Cove
📍 Lizard Peninsula · dogs not allowed in summer · National Trust car park · café and toilets
Located on the sweeping Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove is one of the southernmost beaches in the UK, and perhaps the most picturesque on this list. Little wonder, then, that it is one of the most photographed places in all of Cornwall.
Kynance Cove is a maze of idyllic white sand woven around rock stacks and caves. It is a delight to explore or just relax and enjoy the famous view. This is also a popular spot for surfers, but with no lifeguard service provided, experience is a must and caution is required.
Timing your visit to coincide with low tide is particularly important. Most of the sand at Kynance Cove is swallowed up by the drink at high tide, so make sure you check the tide times before you pack up and set off.
The walk down to the beach from the National Trust car park takes about 10 or 15 minutes. It’s a little steep going, so be prepared for a trudge back up afterwards! There are some slippy rocks and stones where the path emerges onto the beach, so be careful with your footing.
Bring change for parking – there is an app you can use to pay, but the signal is very unreliable around these parts!
Where to stay nearby: Housel Bay Hotel is a short drive around the coast, just past Lizard Point. This Victorian-era hotel stands strikingly above the coastal cliffs with glorious views out onto the sea.
2. Sennen Cove
📍 Near Land’s End · dogs not allowed in summer · car parks · restaurant, café, toilets and shops
Days out at Sennen Cove were always a source of excitement for me as a kid. The sea on this western tip of Cornwall is a mesmerising deep blue. At Sennen it washes up onto a vast crescent of white sand that stretches nearly a mile wide.
The Atlantic swell brings in some impressive waves when the conditions are right, making Sennen a hotspot for surfing. With a team of lifeguards on site, board hire available and a handful of surfing schools to choose from, it’s an ideal place to learn.
This is also a very popular beach for families, with great facilities close at hand. For walking enthusiasts, the trail that arcs south from Sennen and around towards Porthcurno and Penzance is one of the most stunning sections of the South West Coastal Path.
Sennen Cove gets busy in the summer months, and the harbour and beach car parks fill up quickly. A field car park a the top of the hill can accommodate plenty of overflow, but be ready for a steep walk down and back up again.
Where to stay nearby: The Land’s End Hotel is an iconic place to stay at Cornwall’s most westerly point. Just a mile down the coast from Sennen Cove, it overlooks the ocean from the top of the granite cliffs.
📍 Between Land’s End and Penzance · dogs not allowed in summer · car park · café and toilets
The slanting beach of Porthcurno is a spot like no other in Cornwall, with its unique soft and textured sand composed of finely crushed sea shells. This brings out striking hues of turquoise and green in the water, shifting according to the depth and sunlight.
Porthcurno is also famous for being the site of the Minack Theatre, carved into the side of the cliffs in a jaw-dropping setting. A steep and narrow stairway leads up to the theatre from the beach with fabulous views. Alternatively, you can take the road up and park.
There is a regular programme of shows at the theatre, and at other times you can pay £7.50 to enter the grounds, see the sights and take an audio tour.
Porthcurno is also home to the Museum of Global Communications, reflective of the location’s past as the world’s largest submarine telegraph station.
The drive down to the beach from the main coastal route is a steep, narrow and winding road, so take your time, especially if you’re new to Cornish roads!
Where to stay nearby: There aren’t too many hotels and guest houses directly around Porthcurno, but check out this incredible four-bedroom holiday home just around the headland.
For more of this kind of accommodation, see our compilation of luxury cottages and unique stays in Cornwall.
4. Pedn Vounder
📍 Next to Porthcurno · no lifeguards or facilities · dogs allowed, but getting them there is tricky!
Porthcurno’s neighbouring beach, Pedn Vounder, is concealed from view and takes some effort to reach. The effort is well rewarded, as this is truly one of the most breathtaking beaches in Cornwall. Its secluded position and tricky access mean it’s usually blissfully quiet.
At lowest tide you can walk around to Pedn Vounder from Porthcurno. The alternative is to walk across the coastal path and clamber down the trail to the sand.
The view approaching Pedn Vounder from the coastal path is like a postcard picture. The landmark of Logan Rock is the backdrop as turquoise waters lap up against its white sand.
Pedn Vounder is quite a bit flatter than Porthcurno once you’re on the beach, encircled by high cliffs. It’s also featured in our upcoming guide to Cornwall’s best secret beaches – look out for that soon!
Where to stay nearby: To combine Pedn Vounder with a walk along the coastal path, you could stay at the friendly Tregiffian Farm B&B, about four miles along the coast towards Penzance.
5. Marazion Beach
📍 Marazion / Penzance · dogs not allowed in summer · car parks · shops, cafés and pubs in town
Few landmarks in Cornwall are as recognisable as St Michael’s Mount. Protruding above the sea offshore from Marazion, it is only accessible by a causeway at low tide. But despite the location’s fame, Marazion Beach, a mile-long stretch of sand opposite the mount, is surprisingly quiet.
Marazion itself is an ancient settlement, claimed by some to be the oldest town in Britain. Its quirky shops and eateries are huddled around a main road that opens out onto the coastline, tracing the beach. There are plenty of car parks and amenities close at hand.
The beach is large and clean, with lots of open sand but also rock pools to discover around the harbour area. The view of the mount is what makes it so special – try coming at sunset for a unique moment.
Where to stay nearby: The Godolphin Hotel stands on the crest of the beach, facing directly right out onto St Michael’s Mount.
6. Praa Sands
📍 Between Penzance and Helston · dogs not allowed in summer · car park · café and toilets
A classic Cornish beach, Praa Sands has a little bit of everything. The spacious beach is lined by sand dunes, and flanked at either end by dramatic rocky headlands.
The water here is lovely for a swim, and the surf often just about right for beginners to give it a try. Meanwhile, it’s also perfect for family days out or romantic couple walks along the golden sand.
If you’re taking a coastal road trip, Praa Sands is an ideal stop-off point between St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard Peninsula.
Sandbar is a scenic spot to grab some food and drink with a great location overlooking the beach (and it’s dog-friendly too).
Where to stay nearby: The highly rated Elysian Fields B&B is a couple of miles away from Praa Sands, conveniently on the A394 coastal route.
7. Gwithian Towans
📍 Between Hayle and Godrevy · dogs not allowed in summer · car park · surf café, beach shop and toilets
Gwithian Towans has always been my personal favourite beach in Cornwall. I have amazing memories of afternoons playing cricket on the perfect flat sand, jumping into deep rock pools, exploring caves and hanging out at evening BBQs.
The deepest of the rock pools, known as ‘Sheep Dip’, is wedged between some large rocks. Farmers back in the day actually used to bring sheep here to wash them! This is also known to be the best spot along the beach for surfing.
Gwithian beach is so huge that it never feels crowded. Lifeguards cover the width of the beach from May to September, and so it’s a safe and fun spot for a swim.
The wind gets up high on this exposed section of the coast, so Gwithian also has great conditions for kiting or windsurfing.
Where to stay nearby: For a special coastal getaway or workation, From The Source is a gorgeous minimalist property a couple of miles’ walk along the coast from Gwithian.
8. Mexico Towans
📍 Between Hayle and Godrevy · dog-friendly all year · car park · café
Mexico Towans occupies the same stretch of sand as Gwithian, but it is worth mentioning in its own right, for one particular reason – it’s dog-friendly all year round! Few of Cornwall’s popular beaches can boast the same.
Lisa and I brought our dog Regan here last summer for our first little excursion away with him. This was the best dog-friendly beach we could find, with oodles of space for him to run around.
There is a car park close to the beach, and it’s a short but quite steep walk descending the dunes to reach the sand.
Where to stay nearby: Mexico Towans is close to the town of Hayle, where you can stay at the characterful Grade II listed Cornubia Inn.
9. Porthmeor Beach
📍 St Ives · dogs not allowed in summer · parking is tricky (Trenwith Car Park is the largest in town)
It would be remiss to compile a list of the best beaches in Cornwall without mentioning any in St Ives. There are a handful of beaches clustered around this artistic seaside town, and Porthmeor is one that stands out.
In our humble opinion this is the most scenic of St Ives’ beaches, facing onto the Atlantic coast. The Island juts out to the east with St Nicholas Chapel standing lonely on its crest, and to the west a short coastal trail leads out to Clodgy Point.
Porthmeor is one of Cornwall’s cleanest beaches, among a select few to hold the Blue Flag award. Its pristine sands are great for sunbathing, and the water safe for swimming and surfing.
Many of the highlights of St Ives are a short distance away. The Tate Gallery overlooks the beach, and many of the town’s independent galleries are also nearby.
Where to stay nearby: Tregony Guest House is a short distance up the hill overlooking the sea. For a budget option in town, Cohort Hostel is one of Cornwall’s coolest hostels, known for its social vibe. See our guide to the best places to stay in St Ives for more ideas.
10. Carbis Bay
📍 Near St Ives · dogs not allowed in summer · car park · shop, café and toilets
A few years back, when Lisa and I were doing some Cornwall coastal walks in preparation for our year-long travel career break, we came by Carbis Bay and stopped for some fish and chips on the golden beach. Such a simple moment, but the kind you always remember – it was just so lovely.
Carbis Bay has now shot to worldwide recognition after being chosen as the host for the G7 Summit in June 2021. When I visited a few weeks beforehand, security was super-tight to put it mildly!
The beach itself is nicely sheltered, and it is plenty quieter than neighbouring St Ives despite being a well known spot. The sea here is usually calm, so it’s a good option for bringing young children for a paddle.
A railway stop is located right next to the beach. If you park at St Erth and take the train ride in, you will be treated to one of the UK’s most scenic coastal rail journeys.
Where to stay nearby: Carbis Bay Hotel is one of venues hosting world leaders and dignitaries at the G7 Summit. Perched just above the beach, it is one of Cornwall’s most iconic hotels.
11. Porthkidney Sands
📍 Between St Ives and Lelant · dog-friendly all year · National Trust car park · café and toilets
Porthkidney Sands is one of those Cornish beaches that gets very little attention despite being vast and beautiful. Stretching from Hayle Estuary across to Hawk’s Point near Carbis Bay, it is often completely deserted.
Morning walks along this expanse of golden sand are a peaceful and restorative way to start the day. The South West Coastal Path weaves through the sand dunes behind Porthkidney Sands before climbing up higher onto the cliffside towards the west.
When the tide is out, you can walk along the beach instead and climb up a stairway on the west end of the beach for a fabulous view back across it. There’s a bench here too, which makes for a great little picnic spot! This pathway continues a short distance around to Carbis Bay.
Another thing we love about Porthkidney Sands is that it is dog friendly all year round. Like Mexico Towans, there is seemingly endless space on the sand for your furry friends to stretch their legs.
Where to stay nearby: The Badger Inn is a charming stone pub with rooms in Lelant, a few minutes’ walk away from Porthkidney Sands.
12. Gyllyngvase Beach
📍 Falmouth · dogs not allowed in summer · car parks and road parking nearby · beach café and toilets
As home to a specialist artistic university, Falmouth has grown in recent years as a lively, creative Cornish coastal town. The place has a real buzz about it, and its beaches feel friendly and communal.
Gyllyngvase is the best of the town’s beaches, occupying a crescent of white sand on the south-facing coast. The beach has great amenities and is popular for watersports, or just hanging out on warm zen summer evenings.
At the west end of the beach, a half-mile path leads around the seafront to the smaller Swanpool beach. You can carry on past here on the coastal route all the way around to Maenporth. If you take a little detour to Stack Point on the way, there’s a great view back across to Gyllyngvase Beach.
To plan more activities when you visit Gylly Beach, is it is known locally, check out our top things to do in Falmouth.
Where to stay nearby: Anacapri is contemporary guest house that looks out over Gyllyngvase Beach. For budget travellers and hostel-lovers, Falmouth Lodge Backpackers is also a stone’s throw away. See our guide to the best hotels in Falmouth for more options.
13. Fistral Beach
📍 Newquay · dogs allowed all year · 250-space car park · great facilities all-round
It would be remiss to discuss the best beaches in Cornwall without mentioning Newquay. Fistral Beach is one of two we feature here in Cornwall’s most popular holiday destination.
The surfing scene in Newquay is regarded as not only the best in the UK, but among the very top in the world. And Fistral Beach is one of the prime spots to hit the waves. If you’re an experienced surfer you can find world class swell here, and if you’re a beginner it’s a great place to try a taster surf lesson in Newquay.
The beach itself is a wide, west-facing stretch of beautiful golden sand, flanked by high cliffs and soft sand dunes. It’s a great spot to spend a lazy day on the sand, or in the height of summer watch surf competitions and live music.
Many holiday-goers in the town choose to stay close to this beach, and you can see why. It’s a gorgeous beach with all-round appeal, and on the doorstep of Newquay’s sites and attractions. Head here towards the end of the day for a stunning beach sunset.
Where to stay nearby: Headland Hotel is one of Cornwall’s most breathtaking Victorian hotels, overlooking Fistral Beach from the north side. For budget travellers, Newquay International Backpackers is a fantastic hostel just a short walk from the beach.
14. Porth Beach
📍 Newquay · dogs not allowed in summer · car parks and road parking nearby · beach café and toilets
Perched on the east side of Newquay, Porth Beach is a long and narrow beach that stretches out through an inlet out towards a pocket of blue sea.
A little quieter than the likes of Fistral Beach, Porth Beach is a place where you can enjoy games on the gently sloping sand, explore in the rock pools, or climb up onto either cliffsides for some scenic beachside walks and views.
The surf at Porth Beach is pretty good too. Sheltered on one side by a headland but open on the other, it has an exposed beach break that can produce some cracking waves.
This is our favourite beach in Newquay for walking. On the north side you can climb up and across the footbridge to Porth Island. Here, from Trevelgue Head, you can enjoy a stunning view back onto the beach and around the far side of the coastline. When tide is low, you can climb up a path to the headland on the south side of the beach for an alternative view across to Newquay Beach and beyond.
Where to stay nearby: Porth Beach Hotel is a gorgeously located hotel and guest house overlooking the beach with panoramic views of the bay.
15. Bedruthan Steps
📍 Between Newquay and Padstow · dogs allowed all year · no lifeguard cover · car park close by
Bedruthan Steps is not only a gorgeous beach but also one of Cornwall’s most breathtaking beauty spots. Characterised by the slate stacks that are scattered along the sand, you can see why many couples choose this as a wedding spot.
To reach the beach, you can stop at the nearby car park and walk a few minutes along the coastline, enjoying the views along the way. We like coming here with the dog as a little scenic detour when we’re driving down into the county.
When you reach the beach, you have to clamber down a series of steps to reach the golden sand, hence the name. Note that there is no lifeguard cover and there are often strong currents, so it’s not a good place to swim, and be careful of getting cut off by the tide. Even so, you can get plenty of enjoyment exploring the little caves, corners and rock pools dotted all over the beach.
In recent times, damage to the steps by rockfall have restricted access to the beach, so it’s best to check beforehand whether you will be able to access it. Even if not, it’s still worth stopping by here for the walk along to the top, and that mesmerising view overlooking the beach.
Where to stay nearby: Bedruthan Hotel and Spa is a stunning cliffside hotel in Mawgan Porth, about a half-hour walk along the coast from Bedruthan Steps, and a stone’s throw from other sandy beaches.
More beaches in Cornwall to try
There are some amazing beaches in Cornwall that we haven’t returned to in many years, and so they aren’t featured above. We’ll be hitting them up on our next few trips and exploring the surrounding areas for more secluded coves and hidden gems.
These are some of the best beaches in Cornwall by reputation that we’re planning to cover on our next visit:
- Mawgan Porth
- Holywell Bay
- Summerleaze Beach, Bude
- Pendower Beach
As always, we’ll keep this article updated with any new favourites!
Map of the best beaches in Cornwall
The locations of the beaches in Cornwall mentioned in this article are shown on the map below:
What are your favourite beaches in Cornwall? Let us know in the comments below.
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