Cornwall has some of the best beaches in the UK, but which are the best beaches in Cornwall? There are certainly some absolute beauties to choose from and here we share the list of our favourite Cornish beaches.
The perfect base for a couples’ retreat or solo holiday in the UK, here at Pengelly Retreat near Hayle and St Ives in West Cornwall we are blessed with our location nestled in the countryside between both north and south coasts. A short drive away from some of the best beaches in Cornwall, including some great dog-friendly beaches, you will be spoilt for choice for places to sandy your toes and immerse yourself in some of the clearest wates you’ve ever seen!
Beaches can get busy in the summer months, but visit out of the season and you’ll often have a stunning beach almost to yourself. In the busier times of year, our top tip is to get there fairly early in the morning (before 10am) to secure yourself a parking space and a good spot on the beach. Or visit in the later afternoon to early evening when many visitors will have packed up and gone home for the day but the long summer evenings mean the sun is still shining.
Gwithian & Godrevy Beaches, North Coast (15 minutes)
Gwithian and Godrevy are just 15 minutes’ drive from our luxury yurt and log cabin and we can honestly say they make up one of our favourite beaches in Cornwall. We’re not alone in that opinion as Gwithian was voted 2nd best beach in England by Countryfile readers. Holkham in Norfolk won first place, that’s also very lovely, but we’d choose Gwithian any day!
This is one of Cornwall premier surfing beaches and is a huge sweep of sand, rocks and rockpools stretching all the way from Godrevy lighthouse (favourite hangout of seals), along to Gwithian Towans (dunes) and towards Hayle, with St Ives across the bay. It’s huge, wild and beautiful and the sky, light and sea are constantly changing – a fabulous place to come in all seasons.
There’s a National Trust car park and really good cafe up at the Godrevy end of the beach. Plus a car park at Gwithian Towans which gives you access to the central section. In quieter seasons you can practically have this stunner of a beach to yourself but on a sunny day in high season, then get there early to secure a space in the car parks is our best advice! We love Godrevy for its wild walks across the sands (and scones and ice cream in the cafe,yum). Gwithian is our choice for rock pools and beach combing, there’s an absolutely brilliant rock pool called the Sheep Dip here at low tide.
Praa Sands, South Coast (15 minutes)
If you would like to head to Cornwall’s glorious south coast, then our nearest beach is the fabulous Praa Sands. This is a lovely long sweep of golden sands, perfect for sunning yourself, splashing in the sea or in the river and sand pools at low tide. It’s a really unspoilt spot as Praa itself is a small village and much of the cliffs are unbuilt on giving it a wild feel. And with so much room on the sands, you never feel like it’s too crowded even in summer. This is also a popular spot for surfing and you’ll often see surf schools out on the waves. Why not treat yourself to a lesson before heading back to your lakeside retreat to enjoy a sundowner on the deck?!
At Praa Sands, there are two car parks but make sure you keep within your ticket time as the car park attendants watch like hawks! There’s a nice beach cafe and shop just down the steps from the main car park, where you can enjoy a cream tea or glass of wine while looking out over the sea. The Sand Bar pub a little further along the beach shares the same great views.
Perranuthnoe, South Coast (20 minutes)
Staying on the south coast, further along from Praa towards Penzance you’ll find the charming little village of Perranuthnoe complete with picturesque church and the excellent Victoria Inn pub – definitely recommend this one for lunch. The beach here has a good stretch of sand and rockpools and is another of our favourites, but it’s best visited at low tide as much of the sand disappears as the tide comes in.
There’s a small beach cafe just up the steps from the beach and opposite the car park serving the usual ice creams, teas and cakes. And you’ll also find a couple of little galleries and an additional cafe further up the road.
Beaches on The Lizard Peninsular (20-40 minutes)
Yes, as you may have spotted, we have massively cheated here by including several beaches rather than one in our number 4 spot of Best Beaches. But the beaches on The Lizard Peninsular are just so lovely it seems rude only to include one of our favourites. The Lizard is the long piece of land that stretches out below Helston and down to the UK’s most southernly point and offers that perfect dose of wild to your lakeside lodge or luxury yurt holiday in Cornwall.
So working our way down from Helston, our first choice is Church Cove at Gunwalloe, about 20 minutes’ drive from Pengelly. This is a picturesque although quite small and stony beach, a wild spot. But we love it for its tiny St Winwaloe church romantically perched on the edge of the beach, looking like the sands might swallow it up at any moment. There’s a good pub on the road down to Church Cove too, the Halzephron, serving hearty meals and a tasty Sunday roast (booking advised).
About 25 minutes’ drive from Pengelly is Poldhu Cove – definitely one of the top things to do in the area. This is a lovely and unspoilt bay with a beach cafe that opens 364 days a year and serves killer hot chocolates. Great for beach combing, picking up shells and stones and building sand castles. There’s also a fab 45 minute walk along the cliffs from here to the gorgeous little Polurrian Cove, a real hidden gem, accessible on foot only. Continue up the cliff again and you’ll soon come to steps up to the Polurrian Hotel, where you can treat yourself to a Cornish cream tea with views over the sea.
Further south on the Lizard and about 40 minutes’ drive from Pengelly you’ll find Kynance Cove. This is a National Trust owned beach with large car park. It’s a popular one so it can be a pack out in the summer months but it’s undeniably beautiful. A walk of about 15 minutes along the cliffs brings you to a lovely white sand beach with dramatic black rocks and turquoise sea. It’s a bit of a scramble to get down onto the beach but that’s all part of the fun. There’s an excellent beach cafe here serving cakes, ice cream and cream teas.
Porthcurno Beach, South Coast (50 minutes)
This one is a bit further away at 50 minutes’ drive from Pengelly’s Cornish yurt and log cabin and closer to Land’s End, but it’s a beauty so it’s made it into our number 5 spot. Park up in the large car park here and you can walk down to the beach in about 5 minutes. It’s a real stunner with white sand and the bluest blue sea. A great place for spotting seals and dolphin pods if you are lucky. The sea is often really chilly here, as with all the south coast beaches, so pack your wetsuits! Steps lead up the clifftops to the famous Minack Theatre, an incredible place carved into the rocks. Even if you aren’t catching a show you can still visit the theatre (check the website for opening times) to admire the views and read about the story behind it. There’s a beach cafe by the car park but even better, bring a picnic and get yourself set up for lunch-with-a-view on the beach.