If there’s one thing that comes to mind when you think about Cornwall, it has to be the beaches. The county has long since been famous for its beautiful and varied coastline, and combined with its food, attractions and climate, it’s not difficult to see why it’s a top tourist destination for people from all over the UK and beyond.

What is difficult, however, is selecting the best beaches in Cornwall when there are over 250 miles of coastline boasting an abundance of brilliant beaches that provide something for everyone; families, couples, surfers, hikers, those looking to relax, those looking for adventure, and everything in between. From summer holiday beaches with a Mediterranean feel to wild and wonderful coastal spots, to charming Cornish seaside towns with their own little slice of the seaside, a whole host of the UK’s very best beaches are right here in Cornwall. Here are some of our favourites.

Fistral Beach in North Cornwall

Fistral Beach

North Cornwall

The most popular beach in Newquay, a famous part of the British surfing scene and home of the annual Boardmasters Festival, Fistral beach is a long, sandy and west facing beach that makes a perfect destination for families as well as surfers. There’s plenty of space for those who want to sunbathe, explore, play games or get out into the water, and an abundance of facilities at the northern end, including cafes, toilets, a surf centre with equipment hire, and beach shop. It’s also on the South West Coast Path, so for those who enjoy a hike, a walk in either direction will reward you with great views of Newquay, the beach and the surrounding area.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs allowed all year round at Fistral Beach

Location – will.worldwide.cape / TR7 1HY

Kynance Cove

The Lizard Peninsula

You’ll likely recognise the rocky coastline and turquoise waters of Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula; it’s one of the most photographed (and even one of the most painted!) coves in Cornwall, and featured in an episode of BBC drama series Poldark. Being so popular and also relatively small, it can be extremely busy, making it difficult to get a car parking spot in summer – so if you prefer to avoid the crowds then visiting out of season may be preferable. Even so, it’s a truly spectacular spot with stunning views of the surrounding scenery and well known rock formations. The National Trust car park (with toilets) is around a fifteen to twenty minute walk away and there is a beach cafe just above the beach.

Type of beach – Sand and rocks

Car park: No beach car park, but a large National Trust car park around 15 to 20 minutes walk away (depending on your fitness)

Dog friendly: Dog-friendly out of peak season – seasonal dog ban in force 1st July – 31st August (10am – 6pm)

Location – clinic.records.conclude / TR12 7PJ

Kynance Cove, The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall
Porthcurno Beach in West Cornwall

Porthcurno Beach

West Cornwall

The soft sands of Porthcurno beach are actually tiny grains of seashell that have been ground down by the ocean over millions of years, creating an idyllic white beach nestled within an impressive and picturesque cove where powerful, towering waves crash against a rugged granite cliff backdrop. It’s possible to go into the water here, and given the stunning shade of azure it’s certainly very appealing, but do so with care – there is a lifeguard on duty from mid May until the end of September. For young children and those who prefer to stay on the sand, there is a stream running down the beach and into the sea which often forms a pool which is ideal for paddling.

The nearby Minack Theatre, a popular open-air venue, is built into the granite rocks overlooking the beach, and is a lovely place to visit when you’re in the area.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, large car park above the beach

Dog friendly: Dog-friendly out of peak season – seasonal dog ban in force 1st July – 31st August (10am – 6pm)

Location – fancy.utter.history / TR19 6JX

Constantine Bay 

North Cornwall

This wide sandy beach was recommended by the Marine Conservation Society Good Beach Guide, and it’s easy to see why; it’s clean, beautiful and spacious, with clear water and perfect golden sand peppered with shells. The accompanying village of Constantine is situated in an area of North Cornwall that is popular for holidays, given that there are plenty of holiday cottages in Padstow (a town and port three miles away) and the surrounding bays that make it a great location to stay in. The beach itself has rock pools to explore, lifeguard cover from May to September, and a handful of useful facilities in the toilets and surf shop close by.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, one small car park at Constantine Bay. In summer, there is sometimes an additional field car park open too – otherwise more parking can be found at Treyarnon Bay

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs allowed all year round at Constantine Bay

Location – equivocal.movies.logged / PL28 8JJ

Constantine Bay in North Cornwall
Lantic Bay in South East Cornwall

Lantic Bay

South East Cornwall

Between Fowey and Polperro sits the National Trust beach at Lantic Bay, a sheltered and quiet cove within which a true hidden gem of a beach is concealed. While it can be difficult to find and access (a steep path leads onto the beach and takes around 20 minutes to walk from the car park), Lantic Bay beach is worth the climb, we promise. White sands, turquoise water and lush green cliffs give a feel that is almost Mediterranean, and while there are no facilities, this only adds to the quiet paradise. It’s a good swimming spot, however rip currents in this area can pose a risk and there is no lifeguard cover, so is best done with caution.

Type of beach: Mostly sandy, with some pebbles and shingles in different areas of the beach

Car park: Yes, there is a National Trust car park however it is around 20 minutes walk away via a steep path

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on Lantic Bay Beach all year round

Location – couches.stubborn.headrest / PL23 1NP

Porthcurnick Beach

Mid Cornwall

For a natural and unspoiled beach in a stunning location, Porthcurnick beach on the spectacular Roseland Peninsula is well worth a visit. An isolated and wide sandy beach with rock pools to explore, the beach is privately owned but open to the public. There are toilets and a shop open over the summer months, and several great walks nearby where you can enjoy the surrounding area – it’s also close to Portscatho, which can be reached by walking along the coastal footpath. 

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: No, however there is some on road parking close to the beach. The nearest car park can be found in Portscatho

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on Porthcurnick beach all year round (however please note that there are no dog bins)

Location: meanings.glossed.bluffs / TR2 5EW

Porthcurnick Beach in Mid Cornwall
Porthminster Beach in West Cornwall

Porthminster Beach

West Cornwall

The welcoming sight of Blue Flag-awarded Porthminster beach is one of the first things you will see if you arrive to St Ives by train or bus. It’s right next to St Ives train station, and screams ‘summer holiday’ with the glittering water of the bay, gently swaying palm trees and sloping hillside at the back. Porthminster is an excellent family beach which offers good, safe swimming, as well as brilliant food from the beach cafe. There’s a mini golf course behind the beach and from the golden sands the views over to Godrevy Lighthouse, inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’ are wonderful.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes/no. Nearest place to park if no

Dog friendly: Seasonal dog ban in place; no dog allowed on Porthminster Beach from mid-May to end of September

Location – roaming.registers.solicitor / TR26 2EB

Watergate Bay

North Cornwall

There’s lots going on at Watergate Bay beach, but it retains a laid back and welcoming feel. Just three miles away from Newquay, this huge sweep of sand at the foot of steep cliffs is a popular destination for many reasons; there are plentiful beach food options, toilets, a beach shop and summer lifeguards, and it’s fully accessible to wheelchair users. Its location in a large, open bay makes it well liked by surfers and surf schools, as well as providing plenty of space for everyone and great views out across the turquoise waters.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, two car parks near the middle of the beach

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed all year round on Watergate Bay Beach

Location – spits.marshes.rules / TR8 4AA

Watergate Bay in North Cornwall
Charlestown Beach in Mid Cornwall

Charlestown Beach

Mid Cornwall

For a coastal trip that’s less tropical feeling but has traditional Cornish charm in abundance, try a visit to Charlestown, one mile from St Austell. You may have seen this famous harbour on screen, as it’s been used as a film setting for many TV shows and films, and for good reason – the historic village seafront and working port are full of character. The sloping shingle beach at Charlestown may be without miles of golden sand, but it does have idyllic views, clear water to swim in, and a quiet and relaxed feel. The beach is divided in two by the harbour (the east side is the larger one), and there are small caves in the cliffs behind.

Type of beach: Pebble/shingle

Car park: Yes, there is a car park near the harbour

Dog friendly: No; all year dog ban in place on Charlestown beach

Location – wonderful.churn.boosted / PL25 3NJ

Sennen Cove Beach

West Cornwall

Close to Lands End, the most westerly point in mainland Britain, and nine miles from Penzance, is the beautiful Sennen Cove beach, a gorgeous crescent of fine sand. It’s not hard to see why this picturesque spot is also known as Whitesands Bay. A small stream cuts through the middle of the beach as it makes its way to the sea, and the village of Sennen with its rows of historic cottages provides the perfect backdrop. There are nearby restaurants and cafes, toilets are close at hand and there’s lifeguard cover, so there are plenty of facilities to make your visit comfortable while retaining a characterful feel. Add a walk from Sennen Cove to Lands End on the coast path to top off your day out!

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, a car park on the beach plus an overflow car park at the top of the hil

Dog friendly: Seasonal dog ban in place – dogs are allowed on Sennen Cove beach between October and mid-May

Location – plump.slab.method / TR19 7DG

Sennen Cove Beach in West Cornwall
Holywell Bay in North Cornwall

Holywell Bay

North Cornwall

The beach at Holywell Bay is obscured by sand dunes as you approach, but walk over these and you’ll be greeted by a large, open and sandy beach that’s made even better by its rural backdrop. It has a family-friendly feel, with rock pools and shallow streams for children to paddle in, but is great for surfers and swimmers of all ages too – as well as four-legged friends, being a dog friendly beach. Look out for the twin rocks just off the coast, called Gull Rocks or Carter’s Rocks, which make for beautiful views out to sea.

There’s a cafe and toilet, plus lifeguards in summer, and for anything else you need you’ll find shops and pubs in Holywell Bay village close by. 

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, a National trust car park a five minute walk away

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on Holywell Bay Beach all year round

Location – dove.sushi.compiler / TR8 5DD

Gwithian Beach

West Cornwall

With an abundance of golden sand, fantastic rock pools and plenty of shelter from the wind, Gwithian Beach, also known as Gwithian Towans, is a great beach option if you’re exploring West Cornwall. It’s popular with surfers, windsurfers and kite surfers, but is wonderful for families too, and offers wonderful views to Godrevy Point and Godrevy Lighthouse. The area is a breeding ground for seabirds like cormorants and guillemots, and it’s not uncommon to spot common seals in the shallows. Overlooking the beach is the Sunset Surf Cafe, which is open all year round.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, large car park plus two smaller ones a short walk away across the dunes between the road and the beach

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on Gwithian beach all year round

Location – grudging.welcome.answers / TR27 5BT

Gwithian Beach in West Cornwall
Readymoney Cove in Mid Cornwall

Readymoney Cove

Mid Cornwall

On the southern outskirts of the harbour town of Fowey is the small and sheltered beach at Readymoney Cove. This charming beach has lovely views of nearby castle ruins and to Polruan Hill which sits across the Fowey Estuary from the shoreline. It makes a great day out, with a variety of things to do nearby; Fowey itself is well worth a visit, and you can also climb up to St Catherine’s Castle from the beach for a vista over the Fowey Estuary. Time on the beach itself can be accompanied by a swim in the cove (although you cannot swim in the estuary). Literature fans should look out for a coach house above the cove, which was home to Daphne Du Maurier during the second world war. 

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, beach car park around 10 minutes walk away although given the size of the beach itself this is not an extensive car park

Dog friendly: Seasonal dog ban in place (dogs not allowed during the day in the months of July and August)

Location – loafer.pushover.fizzy / PL23 1JD

Summerleaze Beach

North Cornwall

This open, clean and safe beach is very popular, but it’s also very large, so rarely feels crowded (except perhaps at high tide with peak visitor numbers). Situated within walking distance of Bude town centre, Summerleaze beach is a great all rounder with something for every visitor and an abundance of facilities – it’s not hard to see why it’s a Blue Flag beach that has also won a 2021 Seaside Award. 

An outdoor swimming pool, Bude Tidal Pool, makes this a particularly family friendly beach in Cornwall, since it allows you to take a dip in the salt water without entering the sea itself, which is popular for surfers due to its powerful waves. There are plenty of other watersports and outdoor activities to take part in here too, including kayaking and sea fishing. Otherwise, you can relax on the beach and even hire a beach hut as a base for your day out. Summerleaze beach is also one of the most accessible in Cornwall; there’s level access, a disabled toilet and also a sand chair available for hire.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, large beach car park plus additional parking in Bude

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs allowed all year round, although during the daytime they must be on a lead from 15th May – 30th September

Location – avoiding.backpacks.briefer / EX23 8HN

Summerleaze Beach at dusk in North Cornwall
Whipsiderry Beach in North Cornwall

Whipsiderry Beach

North Cornwall

Two miles from Newquay but with a much wilder feel is Whipsiderry beach, a Sunday Times Europe’s Best Beaches top 20 winner. It’s often quiet, owing to access being fairly difficult; steep steps against the cliff face are the only way down to the beach, and the nearest car park and toilets are at Porth, a 20 minute walk away. There is a bus route along the North Coast Road that will get you there, or it can be reached by walking from Newquay along the coastal path. While there are no facilities, there is firm golden sand, plenty of caves to explore, and the beach itself is sheltered. Visit at low tide to take advantage of the rock pools and caves that are exposed, which also opens up the option to walk to nearby Watergate Bay – along this stretch of the shoreline you’ll also find Cathedral Cavern, a large cave with a pool of water and several tunnels within it.

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: No, however there is parking a short walk away at Porth Beach

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs allowed all year round

Location: swanky.spoke.startles / TR7 3LX

Crantock Beach

North Cornwall

Situated between the Pentire and West Pentire headlands in North Cornwall, the lands around Crantock beach are important for the local wildlife and seabirds due to the variety of habitats they host, from towering cliffs at the southern end of the beach to the grasslands behind the beach which form an area called Rushy Green. The beach itself is a vast expanse of golden sand that tends to be fairly quiet, which combined with the rolling sand dunes make it a peaceful spot to explore. It’s also home to Piper’s Hole cave, within which you can see carvings that date back over a century. From April to October there is a kiosk and beach shop, and there’s also lifeguard cover over the summer months. 

Type of beach: Sandy

Car park: Yes, car park in Crantock village (there’s one National Trust car park and a car park at the Bowjie Inn that can also be used)

Dog friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on Crantock beach all year round

Location: basically.strides.fairway / TR8 5RN

Crantock Beach in North Cornwall

If we have inspired you to visit this beautiful area of the UK and you are looking for a holiday cottage in Cornwall, we are sure we can help.