Have you ever wondered where you can find the best surf beaches in Cornwall?
If you keep reading, you will find all you need to know about the best surfing in Cornwall and learn more about this amazing county with:
- over 300 beaches
- over 650 km (430 miles) long coastline
- great waves
- beautiful coastal walks
- unique food
All of this makes it a great area for surfing – for beginners, intermediate and advanced surfers, and the Cornwall surf spots are not without reason the most popular in the UK!
Cornwall is found at the south-west of England and the north coast runs up to the Bristol Channel and the south coast along the English Channel.
The north beaches are the most famous, but that does not make the south beaches less interesting.
At a glance, some of the best surf beaches in Cornwall are:
- Fistral Beach
- Towan Beach
- Praa Sands
- Porthmeor, St. Ives
- Mawgan Porth…
Read on to learn more about each one of these in detail!
The links on this page may be affiliate links, from which I earn a small commission if you click on them, at no extra cost to you. I hope you find the information useful. Thank you.
Maybe you’re more into stand up paddling than surfing, or maybe both? Then maybe you will find this article on paddle boarding for beginners interesting.
Or how about paddle boarding in Dorset?
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10 Best Surf Spots Cornwall
Newquay (on the north coast of Cornwall) is known as the surf capital of the county and is said to have the best surf beaches in Cornwall.
The sandy beach of Fistral is more than a kilometer long and faces west with swells from the Atlantic, giving great waves for all surfing levels.
North of the beach is “Little Fistral” which is mostly recommended for intermediate and advanced surfers.
The Fistral area is very popular and tends to be crowded in the summer, but it is popular for a good reason as it fits surfers of all levels and probably has the best surfing spots in Cornwall.
Fistral Beach also hosts the annual Boardmasters in August and other competitions and festivals, such as the Newquay Beer Festival or Cornwall Street Food Festival. If you´re looking for a party in the summer, you will most likely find one in Newquay.
Towan is also located in Newquay but faces north and that gives smaller waves and less onshore wind than the area around Fistral.
It makes it one of the best surf beaches in Cornwall for novices.
Polzeath beach is located on the north coast of Cornwall and is relatively sheltered from big waves, making it a great area for beginners.
When the tide comes in, the beach is almost covered.
In 2022 Polzeath was awarded Blue Flag status. To get that status, a beach must live up to a number of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria.
Sennen is a beautiful village with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. It is popular among both locals and tourists due to the sandy beach, Atlantic swells, and surf spots for both beginners and advanced surfers.
Sennen Beach is less than 2 miles from Land’s End, the westernmost point of England.
The south beach is recommended for beginners as the waves have less power and the beach is sheltered in bigger swells.
Sennen beach has clear blue water and is known to be surfable all year round. It is definitely worth a visit!
Porthtowan beach is also on the north coast, faces west, and produces powerful waves. At low tide, Porthtowan has a long sandy beach, which makes it a very family-friendly beach.
Strong rips make it primarily useful for intermediate and experienced surfers.
Porthtowan was awarded Blue Flag status in 2022.
West-facing Bude is where Cornwall begins and the area has many beautiful sandy beaches.
At Summerleaze beach the Bude open-air sea pool has been cut into the rock and can be recommended if you need a break from surfing or if the sea gets too rough.
Summerleaze beach is suitable for all surfers, as there are waves for all levels. Near the mouth of the harbor, you can find a little shelter from the bigger swells in windy weather.
A tip; if the waves are quiet in Summerleaze, head south to Widemouth Bay.
Widemouth Bay beach in the south of Bude is popular among families, bodyboarders, and beginners as the swells break more gently on this beach.
In this area, you will find several surf schools, for example, OA Surf Club or Raven Surf School.
6. Praa Sands
This beach is located on the south coast of Cornwall and is probably the most famous of the southern beaches. When the wind is northerly, many people from the north coast head here for good surfing.
Praa Sands has some heavy rights and some solid waves and is worth a visit.
Being one of the best beaches on the south coast, it can get busy on this beautiful sandy beach in the summer, but it’s a big beach, so there’s space enough for all.
7. Porthmeor, St. Ives
This beautiful sandy beach with clear turquoise water attracts many visitors; surfers, bodyboarders, families, and locals.
The beach faces northwest and is a bit more sheltered than other beaches on the north coast, making it a good option in the winter months.
When the wind is right, this beach comes alive with advanced surfers. The waves are very powerful and together with the reef, this makes it very difficult for beginners.
East of the harbor is a heavy right that breaks into a deep channel.
With a view of the Godrevy Lighthouse, this beautiful beach attracts all surf levels. It has consistent waves and long lefts and rights.
The Gwithian beach up to Godrevy gets the powerful swell from the Atlantic and it rarely goes flat, so surfers come all year round.
The waves break slowly on Gwithian beach making it one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall for beginners.
10. Mawgan Porth
Mawgan Porth means harbor in Cornish and it is a lovely village located in a beautiful valley with cliffs and grassy dunes. It is only a short drive from busy Newquay (6-7 km).
The beach is sheltered by high cliffs, has several rock pools, and is popular in the summer.
The ideal weather for this beach is wind from the east, and the beach can be surfed all year.
Secret Surf Spots
With a coastline over 650 km (430 miles) long, it is impossible to decide what are the best places to surf Cornwall. There are many secret surf spots in Cornwall, for example, Nanjizal Cove just south of Land’s End or Rinsey Cove, close to Praa Sands. None of these two have road access, but the walk is worth it.
More options for secret surf spots in Cornwall can be found here.
Please be aware, that these secret surf spots are less visited and don’t have lifeguards on duty.
Learn To Surf
There are many good surfing beaches in Cornwall and some are better than others if you want to learn how to surf. Many of the beaches facing west have very powerful waves, which might not be exactly what you need as a beginner.
The best surfing beaches in Cornwall for beginners often also have surf schools. Some of the best ones are:
- St. Ives Surf School at the Porthmeor beach offers not only surf lessons for all levels, but also lessons in stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), sea kayaking tours, and lots more. You can also hire wetsuits and all kinds of boards.
- Surf’s up! Surf School at Polzeath beach was founded in 1995 and offers surf lessons for all skill levels. Wetsuits and boards can be hired here, prices go from ￡5 (6.60USD) per hour. All instructors are qualified through Surfing England/International Surf Association and trained beach lifeguards.
- Global Boarders in Gwithian offers beginner and improver lessons of 2 hours. The price per lesson is ￡45 (60USD). Here you can also rent wetsuits, surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, and even e-bikes. They also have a surf school and a hire center at Praa Sands.
- Cornish Wave is located in Newquay, where you will find the best surf spots in Cornwall. They offer private surf lessons, group surf lessons, family surf lessons, and much more. Wetsuits and surfboards can be rented here, prices are from ￡8(10.50 USD) for a half-day.
Best Time To Go
The surfing beaches of Cornwall can be visited and surfed all year. The best time to go to the best surf beaches in Cornwall will very much depend on your skill level.
If you´re a beginner, spring, summer, and autumn are good seasons to go.
In the winter the swells might be too powerful and the current may be very strong, and it is best to leave it to the advanced surfers.
However, if you´re a beginner and you still want to go in the winter months (December, January, and February) choose Polzeath (north coast) where the beach is sheltered, or Praa Sands (south coast).
Please note that the lifeguards usually only are on duty until September or October, so please check before you head off.
Many surfers prefer autumn (September, October, and November). September and October because the water temperature is still quite warm and all the crowds from the holidays are gone. That way you don’t have to share the best beaches to surf in Cornwall with big crowds.
Places To Stay
While touring the best surf beaches in Cornwall during the day, you might need a place to sleep at night.
Depending on your budget, there are a few options you can choose from.
- Beachstays in Praa Sands rent out apartments for 2-6 people and 4 of their locations are very close to the beach and have a sea view over the Atlantic.
- Shore Surf Lodge has rooms for 2-4 people and is within walking distance of Newquay and only a 5-minute walk from Towan Beach. It’s only a 10-minute walk to Fistral beach, so that means that you will be within walking distance to some of the best places to surf Cornwall.
- The Sail Lofts in St. Ives offer luxury apartments for 2-7 people and the apartments are located very close to the Porthmeor, and some have sea views.
The Best Surf Gear
The weather in Cornwall is usually warmer than in the rest of the UK, but for surfing a wetsuit is highly recommended. In the summer, when the water is warm you can do with a wetsuit in thickness 3/2 or 2 mm. And when it gets colder, go for a 4/3 and up.
Read more about wetsuits here to find the perfect one for you.
Don’t forget gloves and neoprene socks.
Things To Do In Cornwall Besides Surfing
There are plenty of things to do if you are not in the mood for surfing. If water is your favourite element, it could be kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), or maybe Coasteering, where you discover the cliffs of Cornwall as you swim, jump off cliffs and discover caves.
If you prefer a day on land, the following could be interesting for you:
- Eden Project – here you can walk through the humid tropics, fly on a zip wire, visit the colourful outdoor gardens, and a lot more.
- Land’s End – the westernmost point of England with stunning scenery and great activities.
- The Isles of Scilly – an archipelago of over 140 islands, where most are uninhabited. The stunning beaches with shallow turquoise water will blow you away.
- Walks in Cornwall – there are many beautiful walks in Cornwall. Find one spontaneously in the area you´re in or find inspiration here.
Tips On The Unique Cornish Food
- Yarg cheese – did you know that there are around 60 varieties of cheese produced in Cornwall? The best known is Yarg cheese, originally produced by a couple named Gray (spelt backwards = Yarg)
- Pasty – originally in the lunchboxes of the miners, this local delicacy is now popular in all of the UK. The Cornish pasty (called oggy in Cornish) is often made with diced beef, potato, and onion, but is found in many different varieties.
- Cornish Cream tea – a fresh scone cut in half with strawberry jam and clotted cream on top. It is important to put the clotted cream on top and not the other way around, as that is the way it is done in neighbouring Devon.
- Breweries – did you know Cornwall has over 30 breweries, which is more breweries per person than any other county in the UK.
Interesting Facts On Cornwall
- The Cornish language, Kernewek, was actually declared extinct in 1777 with the death of the last speaker of the Cornish language, but it has had a revival and is now taught at some schools
- There are sharks in some of the waters of Cornwall
- Cornish pasty contributes to around 5% of the local economy
- Cornwall has over 30 breweries
- Cornwall has its own form of wrestling and it is still played
- In the 1900s 50% of the world’s tin came from the 2000 mines of Cornwall. A few of these mines can be visited today, see a list here.
Where In Cornwall Can You Surf?
You can find places to surf all around Cornwall, but we recommend surfing on beaches with lifeguards.
- Fistral Beach, Newquay. Perhaps the best beach for surfing Cornwall.
- Gwithian Beach.
- Polzeath Beach
- Porthmeor Beach.
- Praa Sands Beach
What Is The Best Beach For Surfing In The UK?
There are many places to surf in Cornwall but UK’s best surf spots are
- Thurso East, North East Scotland.
- Fistral Beach, Cornwall.
- Portrush East Strand, County Antrim.
- Saltburn, North Yorkshire.
- Llangennith, Gower Peninsula.
- Porthleven, Cornwall.
- Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset.
- Dalmore Bay, Isle of Lewis.
- Sennen Cove, Cornwall.
- Saltburn, North Yorkshire.
- Woolacombe, Devon.
Where To Find The Biggest Waves In Cornwall?
The Cribbar on the north end of the Fistral Beach in Newquay creates waves up to 9-10 meters. The big waves only appear a few times a year when the wind and the swell are just right.
What Beach Is The Best For Surfing In Cornwall?
Cornwall’s top surfing beaches are:
- Fistral Beach, Newquay. Perhaps the best beach for surfing Cornwall.
- Gwithian Beach, near Hayle.
- Perranporth Beach, Perranporth.
- Polzeath Beach, Padstow.
- Porthmeor Beach, St Ives.
- Praa Sands Beach, Helston.
Cornwall is an amazing county. It has enough beaches to choose from so you can find the best surfing beach in Cornwall for your taste and skill level.
And if you want to improve your surfing skills, there are plenty of surfing schools where you will learn from the best.
There are so many stunning beaches with turquoise or emerald water, lovely walks along the long coastline, numerous activities in and outside the water, a great climate – and the great food that is also known outside of Cornwall.
The stunning scenery and the many activities are the fundamentals for a great stay in Cornwall. So pack your bag (and board), get travel insurance, and go!