We love Newquay. What a fun town! It’s well known for being the adventure capital of Cornwall and one of Europe’s top surfing spots. We always enjoy our visits to this seaside town as it’s such an active place. Looking for things to do in Newquay on your trip? In this article I’ll share our personal recommendations on the best Newquay activities, sightseeing, nightlife and local food spots for a fun day out.
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Is Newquay worth visiting?
If you love adventure, water sports, activities with family and friends, great beaches, nightlife, and classic Cornish food and drink, then Newquay is absolutely worth visiting! It’s an active place where there’s always something going on.
Newquay is a popular town, so if you are looking for a quiet escape in Cornwall, it might not be the place for you. Or you could consider visiting outside of the summer season, when the beaches and town streets won’t be as busy. Check our guide to visiting Cornwall in winter for tips.
On our own trips to Cornwall, we usually prefer to visit Newquay for a day trip while staying somewhere else. This way we can enjoy all the fun and activity the town has to offer while still having a quieter base to return to.
Things to do in Newquay: activities
1. Learn to surf
Newquay is the undisputed surfing capital of the UK. The town is absolutely rife with beaches, and the waves can be spectacular thanks to the combination of western swells and natural protection from the surrounding bay.
World championship events have been held in Newquay, and surf festivals are a regular fixture in the summer. Surfing really is the heartbeat of the the town! And it’s not just for the pros – Newquay is also a great place for complete beginners to learn how to surf.
Local adventure company Cornish Wave is one of many that offers introduction surfing lessons in Newquay, completely geared towards beginners. Surfing equipment is provided, so you just need to bring your swimwear and towel.
2. Hit the beach!
Newquay has some of the best beaches in Cornwall. This is one of the main reasons so many people come here, and it’s why we love it too!
Each of the beaches around Newquay offers something different. Here’s a quick rundown of our favourites:
- Fistral Beach. This is the most famous beach in Newquay and is usually busy, but it’s also pretty big, so you can always find space. The north part of the beach is the biggest hotspot in town for surfing, with waves that can reach 40 feet high! We like Fistral Beach because it’s dog-friendly all year round and has great facilities.
- Porth Beach. Way over on the eastern side of town, this is a super long and narrow beach with great sand, sheltered by high headlands on both sides. It sits on a gently sloping inlet and there are lots of little rock pools to explore around the edges, so it’s great for families.
- Whipsiderry Beach. Not many people know about this little gem that is just to the east of Porth Beach. It’s a beautifully secluded spot with some interesting rock stacks and caves. You need to descend a steep stair to reach the sand, but if you don’t mind that it’s a lovely quiet spot to relax or explore, especially at low tide.
- Towan Beach. This is one of the most central beaches in Newquay, close to the harbour. It’s very well sheltered and has the least feisty waves of Newquay’s beaches, so it’s a good one if you’d just like a gentle swim. Dogs are allowed all year round, and the Blue Reef Aquarium is right next to the beach.
- Great Western Beach. Situated right next to Towan Beach, Great Western Beach is nestled under high cliffs and is the quietest of Newquay’s central beaches. The Surf Café is a really cool hangout place at the middle of the beach. As the name suggests, this is a good surfing beach, suitable for beginners. Dogs allowed all year too.
Just outside of Newquay you can find some great quieter beaches as well. To the west there is the huge Crantock Beach and the secluded Polly Joke.
Over to the east you will find the sweeping Watergate Bay, and if you continue a little further up the coast you can explore the stunning beauty spot of Bedruthan Steps.
3. Try some water sports
Surfing isn’t the only form of adventure activity you can try in Newquay. The town is a mecca for many different water sports in Cornwall. Fancy giving kayaking or paddle-boarding a try? Or maybe something more extreme, like coasteering?
Here are some great water sports experiences we recommend booking in Newquay:
- Sea kayaking tour. Learn your ropes at sea kayaking and venture out around Newquay’s coastline.
- Paddle-surfing lesson and tour. Explore some of Newquay’s secret coves on a stand-up paddle board.
- Coasteering adventure. This one is a massive adrenaline buzz! Climb Newquay’s rock formations and cliff-dive into the deep waters.
We book activities ourselves with GetYourGuide as it’s secure and reliable, most activities come with free cancellation, and they work with the best local tour operators.
4. Walk the ancient path to Trevelgue Head
Newquay’s coastline is the setting for some of our favourite walks in Cornwall. There are some fabulous short routes within the vicinity of the town.
Trevelgue Head is a real standout. This promontory, which runs along the east side of Porth Beach, was the site of an iron age settlement and fortress.
You can follow a little loop trail right out to the tip of the headland, where the ancient cliff fort once stood. At this spot you can soak in some fabulous views of Newquay in one direction and Watergate Bay in the other.
The walk takes less than an hour. Along the way you’ll step across a narrow footbridge that connects two sections of headland. We sometimes bring a picnic to enjoy with the view at the end.
5. Visit when festivals are in town
If you love a good festival, Newquay is the place to be in Cornwall. The town has the busiest summer events calendar of anywhere in the county. These are some of Newquay’s popular annual festivals:
- Boardmasters Surf & Music Festival. This is by far Cornwall’s biggest music festival. Headliners in the past have included Ed Sheeran, Snoop Dogg, Faithless, Calvin Harris and the Chemical Brothers. As the name suggests, there’s also a big surf element to the festival. It’s basically a massive beach party that takes place across five days.
- Newquay Harbour Festival. This is a new event in 2023, celebrating Newquay’s history and culture. Street food, cooking demonstrations, kids’ treasure hunts and live local music are all part of the entertainment, as well as some displays by the local lifeboat crew.
- Newquay Beer Festival. Craft beer has really exploded in Cornwall over the last couple of decades. This charity event has been running more than a decade now, and brings together more than 100 variations of local beers and ciders, and some live music as well.
6. Experience Newquay’s famous nightlife
Newquay is the only place in Cornwall that Lisa has visited more times than I have, and that’s because she went for a girls’ holiday when she was 18. The town has always been known for a party, and that hasn’t changed.
It’s one of the few Cornish towns where you have a choice of bars and clubs that stay open beyond midnight. The late night scene is focused around Fore Street and Beach Road, near Towan Beach. This is where you can find spots like Dead Famous, Whiskers and Walkabout.
This scene isn’t quite our pace these days, but we still enjoy Newquay’s nightlife as there are some great craft beer pubs. The Lost Brewing Co is a really cool one that has dozens of different beers to try.
7. Encounter tropical marine life at Blue Reef Aquarium
Overlooking Towan Beach at the heart of town, Blue Reef Aquarium has some of the most exotic marine life on display that you will find anywhere in the UK.
The aquarium’s centrepiece is a mega 250,000-litre tank containing a stunning coral reef. It’s a really impressive sight that you shouldn’t miss while you’re in town.
Black-tip reef sharks and a massive southern stingray are among the tropical specimens you can encounter. There’s also a loggerhead turtle called Omiros, who was rescued off the coast of Greece more than 15 years ago. He has his own custom-made carrier and daily health routine.
Other marine life you can meet at the aquarium’s 40 displays includes a piranha fish, giant octopus and Cuvier’s dwarf caiman.
8. Visit Newquay Zoo
We’re always careful about visiting zoos, and even more so about promoting them. Newquay Zoo is one we are happy to recommend. It is part of the Wild Planet Trust group of zoos that does some tremendous partnership work on conservation issues, such as halting species decline.
It’s quite a small zoo, located a little inland, about ten minutes’ walk up from Great Western Beach and the train station. The animals are very well cared for, with plenty of space and a well kept environment.
It’s a diverse array of mostly small creatures that you will meet at the zoo, with nothing larger than a zebra. The tropical house is a highlight, and you can also spot penguins, meerkats, sloths, and really cute resident red panda.
Things to do in Newquay: sightseeing and museums
9. Explore Trenance Heritage Cottages and Museum
Trenance Heritage Cottages are one of Newquay’s quirkier attractions. This Grade II listed trio of historic cottages date back to pre-railway times, and they are the only buildings of their kind remaining in Cornwall. They are set within gorgeous gardens with colourful, sculpted flowerbeds and a gurgling mill stream. It’s a charming picture of olde Cornwall.
The early 19th century cottages have been beautifully restored and are open to the public to visit for free (donations welcome). Inside it’s like walking through time, with the renovation paying tribute to different periods of history.
You can explore the small heritage museum and stop for a cream tea in the café. It’s a really pleasant way to spend an hour or two in the afternoon if you want a break from the beach.
10. Watch the sunrise at Newquay Harbour
Newquay Harbour is a like a tranquil little escape among a town of liveliness and activity. Set underneath high rising cliffs, and enclosed by two longs walls, it feels almost like a little village of its own, a world away from the busy streets and active beaches just a few footsteps away.
The harbour is nearly 800 years old and is still the heartbeat of Newquay’s fishing industry. It’s one of the biggest harbours in the south-west for shellfish, with boats coming and going each morning at the crack of dawn.
You can enjoy a postcard-perfect view of the harbour from the promenade overlooking it. We like to start days out in Newquay by coming to this spot at daybreak, when you can watch the sun rising beyond the harbour walls.
Later in the day, when the tide is down, the harbour has a lovely sandy beach. It’s the town’s smallest beach but it’s usually nice and quiet, and becomes a sun trap on nice days.
11. Walk up to the 14th-century Huer’s Hut
If you glance up towards the clifftops above Newquay Harbour, you might spot a lonely white hut with a big crooked chimney on the headland. This is Huer’s Hut, which was once a vital part of the town’s fishing practice.
The job of the huers was to observe the seas below while fishing boats went out. Once they spied a shoal of pilchards, they would cry out “hevva, hevva!” to alert the boats. A hut has stood on this spot since before even the harbour was built.
You can walk up to the hut via the coastal path and King Edward Crescent, which arcs around the headland. The views around the coastline are fabulous once you arrive, and you can climb a few short steps onto the hut for an even better look.
12. Look out for colourful street art
Like many of Cornwall’s seaside towns, Newquay has a creative side. While it is not as renowned as the likes of St Ives or Falmouth for traditional art, the town has an adventurous urban spirit that is more likely to reveal itself in hidden street murals than in high-brow galleries.
A local artist called Emily Donald has led a movement to bring the town’s walls to life. As you walk around Newquay’s back-streets and offbeat lanes, look out for colourful murals, which often appear in the unlikeliest of places.
Things to do in Newquay: food and drink
13. Try a local Cornish pasty at Morris Pasties
Most Cornish towns have an independent pasty shop. Morris Pasties in Newquay is a classic example, having been running for more than four decades. In our view, this is the best Cornish pasty in Newquay.
Our guide to Cornish food tells the history of Cornish pasties, which are rooted in local mining history. You will find them in shops all over the UK, but the best pasties are always the freshly made ones you can only buy in proper local Cornish bakeries.
Morris Pasties opens at 9am, so you could come early and try their breakfast pasty. It’s always a lunch thing for us, and I usually go for the classic steak pasty, which is made using meat from a local butcher. There are lots of other flavours to try as well.
14. Try Francine’s fish and chips
Fish and chips is another local classic you must try while in Newquay. The town has some of the best chippies in Cornwall.
If you don’t mind a bit of a walk off the beaten path, Francine’s is the pick of the bunch in our opinion. They serve delicious fresh fish in generous portions, so you’ll definitely get value for money.
Flounders is another great option that is a bit closer to the town centre, just up from Towan Beach. They do a great curry sauce! We always prefer our fish and chips from one of these brilliant local chippies rather than the pubs and restaurants, but the quality is great pretty much wherever you go in Newquay.
15. Dine at 12 Beach Road overlooking the sea
If you’re looking for a sit-down meal in Newquay, you won’t find a place with better views than 12 Beach Road. This gastropub-style restaurant is perched overlooking Towan Beach, with an outdoor patio and terrace area.
There’s an eclectic choice of burgers, tacos, sourdough pizzas, curries and fresh fish dishes on the menu. Come a bit earlier in the day and you can make it a brunch with cocktails.
16. Have great pub food with harbour views at the Red Lion
Have you noticed that we like places to eat with a view? The Red Lion is another that comes with a stunning vantage point. It sits overlooking the harbour, with an especially good view from the upstairs terrace. Get a seat by the window if you can.
The Red Lion serves traditional British pub food and is especially renowned for its steaks. Try the 21-day matured ribeye steak for a real treat.
17. Have a picnic at Newquay Orchard and community centre
We went on a mini-tour visiting coworking spaces in Cornwall, a journey that brought us to Newquay Orchard. This community space is set across a 7-acre site and is run entirely by volunteers.
In the grounds you can wander among the forest gardens, wild woods and mixed fruit orchards. The main building is towards the back of the complex, featuring a communal working space in a large, ventilated roof space, and a community café downstairs.
Food at the café is made with produce from the orchard’s market garden. When it’s nice outside you could take a picnic out to the community field, where you can sometimes catch live local music performances.
Take a look at the orchard’s website to see what’s coming up.
18. Spend a night at Headland Hotel
One of Newquay’s most striking buildings also happens to be a 5-star hotel, and one of the most spectacular locations to stay anywhere in Cornwall. Headland Hotel stands in an imposing red-brick Victorian building overlooking Fistral Beach from high on the cliffs, and can be seen for miles around the coastline.
Sunset views from the hotel’s sea view terrace can be incredible, with with headland facing out directly to the west. And if you’re an early riser, you can emerge straight onto the coastal path for a refreshing morning walk.
The hotel has its own surf school as well as a spa, golf course and three restaurants. You could stay here and get a flavour of Cornwall without even leaving the grounds.
Map of things to do in Newquay
You can see the locations of the Newquay activities we’ve highlighted in this article on the map below:
Do you have any more ideas on things to do in Newquay that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our guide to driving in Cornwall for tips on navigating the Cornish roads.
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