Cornwall is an ideal spot for the summer holidays in the UK. With its miles of golden sands, steep cliffs, and sweeping moorland, Cornwall is a great place to visit during the summer months. A major reason it is a top destination is due to some of the biggest waves crashing against the north coast. If you’re looking for the best surfing beaches in Cornwall, you’ve come to the right spot!
General Information about Cornwall
Cornwall, or Kernow, is the westernmost county in England and bears the full force of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic swells reach the coast and results in amazing surfing.
The county also generally has a milder climate than the rest of the UK. The stable weather and temperature throughout the year, means surfing is possible in both the summer months and the winter months. Although the north coast of Cornwall is known for surfing, whereas the south coast of Cornwall isn’t as popular, it still has great opportunities for hiking and other activities!
12 Best Surfing Beaches in Cornwall
Located in Newquay, Fistral beach is the main beach associated with Cornwall. It is perfect for the experienced surfer, due to its location and west-facing orientation. Atlantic swells break at the Cribbar reef, causing waves up to 30 feet high. It is used for many surf competitions and events due to its reputation as being one of the best places for surfing in Cornwall.
Once a site for smuggling due to the numerous caves and inlets, Widemouth Bay is now mainly used for swimming and surfing. It lies at the northern point of an area of outstanding natural beauty stretching as far south as Pentire point.
Just north of Newquay lies watergate bay. The well-known summer festival, Boardmasters, is located on the cliffs above, making this beach extremely popular during the festival. Due to its 2 miles of golden sands, Watergate Bay is also popular for sand art, especially during low tide. This gives the beach a unique look compared to many others.
The best time to surf is mid to high tide, due to wind patterns. It is also good for those staying in Newquay who don’t want the crowds of Fistral beach.
Sennen Cove is more protected from the wind than other beaches and has great waves. These can be quite tricky to surf but when conditions are calmer, most people can enjoy surfing easily. There is even a surfboard hire on the beach, meaning anyone can surf without needing to bring their own surfboard.
Polzeath beach is very popular amongst surfers and tourists meaning it’s often crowded. This also means that it is very well catered for surfing, as there are plenty of surf shops and board hires and even some of the best surf schools. The waves here are much calmer than in some other places, making it a very easy and chill place to surf. This is one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall for beginners.
Gwithian beach is very popular with surfers and windsurfers all throughout the year, making it a good spot for the winter months. There is also a surf shop on the beach, making it easy for anyone to surf. The beach is also part of the Towans, a 5km stretch of sand known for its natural beauty and wildlife.
Porthtowan beach is known for its surf resort and club. It is also a blue flag beach, meaning that it meets the high-quality criteria of the blue flag certification. The beach stretches back very far and has plenty of large waves crashing onto the sand from the Atlantic. It is also next to an area of outstanding natural beauty, providing great walks and hiking.
Praa Sands Beach
This long white sandy beach has very difficult surfing making it a great option for advanced surfers. To get to this difficult area, however, you may have to go further out to sea, as it is very shallow near the shore. The beach is also patrolled by lifeguards in the summer, making it very safe.
Mawgan Porth is on the South West Coast Path. This means that the area attracts many tourists in the high season. The beach itself is backed by sand dunes and surrounded by cliffs, keeping it partially sheltered from the wind. You can also attend surf lessons here, which is great for those keen on starting surfing.
Situated on the coast of the Trevose headland, Constantine Bay is known for its great waves. The best waves are seen during mid to high tide due to the right conditions caused by the presence of a reef. The area is also known for hiking, as the area is considered very beautiful.
Located in St Ives, Porthmeor beach is a Blue Flag Beach like Porthtowan. It’s a high quality beach which is why it made my list of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall. Its position on the other side of St Ives to the bay means that Porthmeor beach benefits from a big swell more than the bay does. Its location in the town also means it is right next to many surf schools and rentals.
Harlyn Bay is one of the best beaches for catering to many different levels of surfers. The beach is one of the safest beaches in Cornwall but is also known for its large waves and swell on the eastern side. This makes it great for groups with varying skills at surfing. There is even a surf school in the area, making it a great spot for people starting to surf.
How to Reach Cornwall
There are many options for travelling to Cornwall, but the best is by car. If your starting location is London or east England, drive west via the M4, then exit onto the M5 at Bristol. After reaching Exeter, change to the A30 to take you deep into Cornwall.
From the north of England, you can drive south on the M1 then the M42, or the M6 depending on location. At Birmingham, you can then change to the M5, then change to the A30.
You can get trains with CrossCountry operating trains from most of the main cities in Scotland, northern England, and the Midlands. There are many train routes direct from London Paddington to Cornwall, so it is best to change here if you start in the southeast of England. The Great Western Railway is a great option for these routes.
National Express is a good option on a budget if coach travel doesn’t bother you. There are many coaches available to Cornwall all over the country. The best surfing beaches in Cornwall can then be accessed by local buses.
Surfing Rules and Good Practice
Snaking is when someone paddles inside of someone else to get wave priority. This can be very annoying for someone, as they may have been waiting longer. This is very impolite and can ruin the fun for everyone.
Don’t get in the way
If someone is riding a wave towards you, it may seem easy to paddle to the side to get out of their way. This can cause you to paddle into their line, and even into them. To avoid this, always paddle towards the whitewater, as it should be behind the surfer, and avoid any collisions. It is also important to remember not to abandon your board, as this creates more area for the surfer to dodge.
Don’t drop in
Dropping in is when someone starts surfing a wave that someone else is riding. This is similar to snaking but even more extreme and can have worse effects. Doing this could cause collisions and injury or could damage the boards. It is impolite and prevents the first surfer from continuing to ride the wave if they are too close. This practice is more commonly seen with intermediate surfers and above.
When surfing with many other people, it is important to communicate. When you are about to catch a wave, it is best to shout ‘yep’ to let people know you are about to ride it. Similarly, if people are in your way, it is best to say ‘left’ or ‘right’ to avoid any problems.
Forecast and Rules for Safe Surfing
With all the fun surfing can bring, it can be quite dangerous but there are many ways to reduce risks.
Wear a wetsuit
It is very important to wear a wetsuit whilst surfing in Cornwall. Although it can get warm in the summer, the water is still very cold, and on top of this, a wetsuit also provides minor protection from injury.
Wear the leash
It is also very important to wear the leash attached to the surfboard at all times, to avoid losing it in the waves.
It is very important that you surf with a friend, especially if there are big waves. At the very least you should also let people know when you are going surfing, and when you are coming back.
Swim in the designated area
There should be red and yellow, or black and white chequered flags on the more popular beaches. It is very important to surf between these flags in order to avoid rip currents and other dangers.
Check the weather and tides
Always check the local wind, swell and tide forecast. Some beaches may seem calm at first, but conditions can change quickly, and put people in danger.
Time to Surf
So what are you waiting for? The surf is calling! Let me know which beach is your favourite and follow along for more travel tips guides each week. If you want to get in touch or follow my travels around the world, while working as a digital nomad, check out my Instagram and TikTok!
See you soon!